for those of you who don't pay attention to these kind of things, let me give you a quick summary of what happened. two weeks ago in the week leading up to the saints first home game in the superdome since hurricane katrina, the game was hyped up by the league as a way of showing off how new orleans has rebuilt itself. the ESPN announcers of course, went over the top with this angle and could not stop talking about how the saints were a beacon of hope for the ravaged city. they especially hammered home the point that the superdome, which we most remember as the make shift shanty town for the displaced of new orleans was now all shiny and new and full of people in the city that had rallied around it as a symbol of its survival. espn's TMQ has gone so far as using the moniker, "the United States Saints" when referring to the team (although i can't tell if he's being sarcastic). mayor ray nagin probably summed up public sentiment about the saints when he said
Psychologically, the Saints mean everything to this community right now. We need them now more than ever -- at least until we get back on our feet.how does this make any sense whatsoever? you wannna know what would really lift people up psychologically? if someone would spend the money to clean up the poor neighborhoods so that people could start with the process of rebuilding their lives. and by all accounts, the only place that is fixed up are the downtown areas and the nice nieghborhoods that didn't have that much damage to begin with. i've heard first hand accounts that the most damaged neighborhoods still look like war zones.
however, peter king's column from two weeks ago is most instructive however as we learn:
The federal and state governments poured $180 million into a new roof and massive rehab at the Superdome.while king uses this as a warm and fuzzy story, we as american citizens should be offended by this. how can it be that the freakin' saints get 180 million dollars to fix the superdome, and the people in the 9th ward can't get the debris removed from the streets? the disconnect between this and what actually happened is amazing to me. and the NFL has been ruthless in taking advantage of the situation to generate profit for themselves.
nothing would have been worse for the saints, and by extension the league overall than the saints having to relocate to baton rouge, where they played some games last year, or to another city. attendance would have been down, the saints would have probably eventually relocated and football starts to resemble more a business and less like america's favorite and most important sporting institution. so somehow, they con the state and federal governments to use funds that should clearly be used to fix the levees, clean up the streets, and get people back on their feet, to instead fix a stadium for a completely troubled franchise. furthermore, they encourage people to spend money on season tickets instead of say donating to organizations that would help to rebuild the city. the saints have sold out every home game. so not only does the money from the government go the profit margins of the NFL, but they also get people to spend their own money on the saints as well, who by the way sucked worse than any team in the league last year (although i must admit they look ok this year, but trust me, the 3-1 saints...that's not gonna last.). this is the definition of ludicrous.
that's enough of the emotional stuff, let's talk sociology. this actually shouldn't be that big of a surprise. the NFL has co-opted other causes in the name of trying to make more money. most recently, they've turned themselves into the support the troops league, especially with the over the top honoring of pat tillman. in many ways, the NFL has perfected the process of manipulating the public's perception of the league into something that is nothing but pure goodness. by selectively choosing these causes (katrina, pat tillman) and then distilling them into simplistic notions of helping people, when in fact no one is getting helped, it is able to associate itself with the core values of those who consume most of its product: dumb guys who don't read the front page of the newspaper and only read the sports page. the end result is a brand that is even stronger than ever and can generate more revenue than ever.
even more masterful is it's manipulation of the press via PR blitz into turning the return of the saints into feel good event of the year. i can't find a single columnist who was angry about the situation. even tony kornheiser, the most cynical of sports columnists wrote
It will take years and years for it (New Orleans) to come back whole again. But the great elixir of sports, the great shot of adrenaline that sports gives you, is in those few hours when you can lose yourself -- and put your worries aside -- and if you get lucky your team wins and you go home happy. The problem in New Orleans, of course, is that not everybody has a home to go to. Still, nobody walking out of that Superdome on Monday night felt anything but hope. It's a script that was perfectly written and a moment that was perfectly lived.can you think of a better commercial for the NFL? neither can i.
anyways, what i guess i'm trying to say is that NFL is trying to say that they are helping someone, when in fact they're just really helping themselves. if they really wanted to help out new orleans, they could have just used the money that was used to fix the superdome to help out those folks that are still homeless in the 9th ward. but instead, they're gong around promoting the idea that "hey look how the NFL saved the city from ruin!" which really just means that they're essentially just saying very loudly, "what about me?"