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To the nth degree

Sports

Issue: "Stand in the gap," Nov. 5, 2005

Though New Orleans officials are scurrying to rebuild the Superdome, there may be no need to hurry. While the New Orleans Saints play out the NFL season in San Antonio and Baton Rouge, there were quiet rumors that the team planned on leaving the Crescent City in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In the weeks since, the rumors have done nothing but grown louder.

This, even as team owner Tom Benson tried to downplay the rumors, saying, "No decisions have been made regarding our future plans." Mr. Benson added: "There are many factors that will affect the future location of our team. That is also true of many other New Orleans--based companies that are faced with deciding their future homes."

Mr. Benson's Oct. 21 statement came just days after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin criticized Mr. Benson, saying stealing the Saints away from the city following the hurricane would be a shameful act. Mr. Nagin has reason to feel nervous.

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His comments came after Mr. Benson fired Arnold Fielkow, an executive with the team who lobbied for the franchise's return to New Orleans. Then press reports revealed the team's lawyer told state officials that the team wanted out of its lease on its headquarters in suburban New Orleans. All the while, San Antonio mayor Phil Hardberger says Mr. Benson wants to meet him to discuss the team's future home.

The messy public-relations dilemma means Mr. Benson has become something of a public enemy in New Orleans. Across the city, large appliances on sidewalks waiting to be hauled away have been spray painted with anti-Benson messages. One read, "Do not open. Benson inside."

The outspoken mayor has jumped in too. "Who's going to buy [Mr. Benson's] tickets? I'm not buying one," the mayor said. "I'm not listening to him on the radio. I'm not doing anything with him. I'm just appalled."

Fed up with Mr. Benson, Mr. Nagin even said he'd be willing to say goodbye to the Saints if they agreed to leave the team name and records in New Orleans-a deal similar to the one reached with Cleveland after the Browns moved to Baltimore. But even before the hurricane, the Saints seemed primed for a move. And with the mayor's estimates that the city may only reach 250,000 residents when things get back to normal, the NFL may want to pass when it comes to granting the city an expansion team. That's why some sports analysts say New Orleans would be wise to hang on to what it has-no matter how much they dislike the owner.

Around the Horn

While Chicago White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik may be known for his spikes, his bat may have earned him a spot with Carlton Fisk, Kirk Gibson, and Joe Carter. Mr. Podsednik's walk-off home run in Game 2 of the World Series not only gave the White Sox a 2-0 lead in the Fall Classic, but also gave Mr. Podsednik a place with other players who hit memorable postseason homers. All this for a fleet-footed outfielder who stole 59 bases in 2005 and hit no home runs in the regular season.

When Germany hosts the 2006 World Cup, it won't just be good for European soccer fans, it will be good for business. Experts predict the international soccer championships will create 100,000 new jobs in Germany-a nation struggling with high unemployment and a stagnant economy. The tournament is also expected to draw 3 million visitors for the 64 matches.

Lincoln High School in Charleston, W.Va., has found its kicker. Of course, she also happens to be the homecoming queen. Darby Lentz traded in a gown for a football uniform as she was crowned homecoming queen during halftime of an Oct. 14 game. She's the only girl on the boys' football team, and though she's attempted no field goals, Ms. Lentz has converted 14 of 16 extra points so far this season.

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