Posted by John DeShazier, The Times-Picayune March 31, 2009 1:01PM
Not a single tear will be shed here over the Saints’ decision to relocate their training camp from Jackson, Miss., to the franchise’s training facility in Metairie. And the dry eye has nothing to do with any distaste for Jackson.
The Saints, whether because of economics or sentimentality, simply have opted to return where they belong.
The franchise never should have been working out three hours away from home in the first place, all the necessary amenities they needed sitting unoccupied as the team prayed it didn’t rain and hoped the heat index wouldn’t prohibit a decent day’s work in Jackson, where there is no indoor practice facility.
Now, if the Saints ever could’ve managed to produce a scientific study that directly linked regular-season and playoff success to holding training camp out of town, that’d been one thing. Starved as Saints fans are for a winner, they’d have gone for that in a heartbeat, would’ve probably provided gas money for the trucks that transported the needed items from New Orleans.
If the Saints could’ve proven, or made the compelling argument, that they were better served by vacating during the summer the facility they told the state they desperately needed – the one constructed to counter the very obstacles that were presented in Jackson – then we all cheerfully would’ve understood why New Orleans was minus its Saints for training camp.
But the truth is, training away from home never has guaranteed anything.
In three seasons in Jackson, the Saints followed with regular seasons of 10-6 in 2006, 7-9 in ’07 and 8-8 in ’08: One NFC South Division title and playoff win, one next-to-last finish in the division, one dead-last finish, respectively.
In that, there’s no pattern of success to hang a helmet on, nothing tangible with which to claim that going through the paces in Jackson was critical to improvement.
There seems to be nothing there but the football-old theory that distance and isolation create team unity and a distraction-free workplace. As if a team can’t work just as hard at its own place, that players can’t be isolated as effectively in their home city, that more than a few distractions and temptations can’t show themselves or be located by Saints players when they’ve trained in Jackson, Miss., or Thibodaux, La., or La Crosse, Wis.
Meanwhile, the fans that have combined to guarantee the Superdome is filled to capacity with season ticket holders, that have created such a demand that a franchise with two playoff victories in its history and consecutive non-winning seasons has a waiting list for season tickets, had been passed over in favor of another city.
Rather than happily cramping onto sizzling temporary bleachers in black jerseys to watch their favorite players run through drills in the heat of the day in Metairie, the die-hards who are 10- and 20-year season ticket holders had to make a six-hour round trip for the privilege.
And that seemed particularly thoughtless of the franchise after Hurricane Katrina, when it seemed the Saints should have been doing everything possible to reconnect with fans who’d watched them spend a season in San Antonio.
During the Saints’ absence, the relationship with New Orleans especially was tenuous. Nerves still were raw after San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger declared that the Saints absolutely wanted to move to his city, the announcement hardly being a stunner after the Saints, on several occasions during past lease negotiations, had raised the prospect of moving.
Well, this is a good move, from Jackson to Metairie.
Saints fans should, and will, applaud this one. They probably are filled with glee, and it has nothing to do with slighting Jackson. It never was about Jackson.
Always, it was about New Orleans. The closer to it are the Saints for training camp, the better. Because it only puts the Saints where they should have been all along.