The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tagliabue to City Officials: Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

City officials are upset that NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue isn't going to be meeting with them as he comes into town to visit with Saints players and Tom Benson:

City Councilman Richard Perez said Tuesday that he was "taken aback" by word that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue would not meet with city officials when he visits this week with the owner and players of the New Orleans Saints.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tagliabue is expected to fly to San Antonio either Thursday or Friday.

There are no plans to make Tagliabue available to the media, said Aiello, who said the commissioner would meet only with the Saints.

Mayor Phil Hardberger had said he hoped Tagliabue would include a meeting with city leaders as part of his itinerary.

"I'd like to meet him, talk to him and show him the new San Antonio," Hardberger said shortly before Saturday's kickoff of the Saints' third and final game at the Alamodome this season.

Hardberger wasn't available for comment Tuesday, but Perez said he was surprised Tagliabue wouldn't meet with city officials after the hospitality the city has shown the Saints.

I think Perez is probably in the minority here in terms of surprise factor. The Saints won't be staying in town unless Benson gathers up the gumption to take them on himself. Which, according to this article, doesn't look like a good bet. But Perez does have one thing right:

"If the NFL doesn't come here, it won't be because San Antonio hasn't rolled out the red carpet and tried everything it can to make it happen," Perez said. "If they want to come, fantastic. If they don't, it's really their loss."

There's also some interesting statements further on down below by County Judge Nelson Wolff:

"Going back now from 12 years ago, I don't see a difference in their attitude," County Judge Nelson Wolff said, recalling how San Antonio failed to make the short list for NFL expansion in the early 1990s when he was mayor.

"They are adamant that this is a small market, and the truth is we are a small market," Wolff said. "In addition to breaking that barrier, you have to figure out how to build a new stadium."

In response to a question about San Antonio's interest in keeping the Saints, Tagliabue told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in September that the NFL wasn't going to expand to small markets. The comment disappointed many San Antonians, including Hardberger, who was quick to point out the city's booming corporate base.

But Tagliabue's characterization is accurate, considering San Antonio's television market ranks 37th in the nation.

"Regardless of what anyone says, we are a small market," Wolff said. "But we should be ready in the next five years or so for another major league franchise."

Of course five years or so is just about the general timeframe it would take to lure the Florida Marlins, finance and build a baseball stadium and then bring the Marlins franchise over. Should be interesting.