Countdown to Super Bowl XLVII – Roger Goodell and the Big Uneasy

The highlight of Roger Goodell’s year is set for Sunday afternoon at New Orleans Superdome, Sunday February 3. If not for Roger Goodell, Super Bowl XLVII likely would have been played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale (a Phoenix suburb), or Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. New Orleans was awarded the game during the NFL's Spring Ownership Meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 19, 2009. Goodell and Goodell alone is why Super Bowl XLVII is heading to the Big Easy!

This will be the tenth time that the city has hosted the Super Bowl, by far the most by an individual city and once again tying with the Miami area for the most Super Bowls hosted by a metropolitan area. It will be the first Super Bowl to be held in New Orleans since the Superdome sustained damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Roger Goodell worked to save the Hornets following Hurricane Katrina, as former commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s deputy. Goodell was very proactive in New Orleans being awarded Super Bowl XLVII, believing the Super Bowl would deliver a resounding post Katrina message to the world about New Orleans recovery.

"I know everybody in the city is belly aching about the last year, but here's the thing: Roger Goodell has always been a friend to the City of New Orleans," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said last week.

Once a hero to the city of New Orleans, Goodell is now a villain, one of the most despised people who will be in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Worshipped one day, hated the next, Roger Goodell sadly has become a storyline at Super Bowl XLVII, for all the wrong reasons. The New Orleans Saints hoped to become the first host team to play in a Super Bowl. The Saints 2012 record, 7-9, out of the playoffs, the blame placed on Goodell, largely because of the fallout from bountygate, which included Saints coach Sean Peyton yearlong suspension, believed to be a key in the disappointing Saints 2012 season. Goodell reinstated Peyton last Monday.

“They believe he completely used the Saints as an example of something that was going on league-wide,” said Pauline Patterson, co-owner of Finn McCool’s, an Irish Bar in the Mid-City neighborhood where the words “Go To Hell Goodell” are visible over the fireplace in a Washington Post report.

Goodell has been hung in effigy, bars and restaurants throughout the city and the French Quarter are displaying signs “Refuse to Serve Roger Goodell”, none of this is good for the image New Orleans wants to project throughout Super Bowl week.

“We had a real shot of being the first team in history to host the Super Bowl in our own stadium,” Parkview Tavern owner Kathy Anderson said. “He can’t give that back to us.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu hopes that people in this city, known for its hospitality and history, will mind their manners and remember the not-too-distant past.

“Roger Goodell has been a great friend to New Orleans, and it’s a fact that he’s one of the people instrumental to making sure that the Saints stayed here after Hurricane Katrina,” Landrieu said in a statement. It was a reference to the days after the storm, when 80 percent of the city was underwater and the damaged Superdome became a shelter for thousands of the displaced. Saints owner Tom Benson a San Antonio native was packing his team ready to move the Saints to San Antonio.

“If not for Roger Goodell, we would not have this Super Bowl,” Landrieu added. “And we will need him since we want to host another one.”

Saints quarterback Drew Brees critical of Goodell throughout bountygate offered this from the Pro Bowl Friday.

“There’s no question, yeah. And I think people will see that when they come down, as soon as people come down that haven’t been there in a while,” Brees said while in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. “The city knows how to entertain, knows how to treat people right. The tourism industry’s huge, so we’re excited to host this big game. Obviously it’s the biggest sporting event in the world, and the city will be ready for it.”

No Roger Goodell, New Orleans would have likely lost its NFL team and certainly wouldn’t be hosting Super Bowl XLVII.

“Whether I have Roger Goodell’s face on my dart board is not going to change anybody’s mind about the Super Bowl,” Anderson said.

"Roger was with us when it counted," said Doug Thornton, vice president of stadiums for SMG, the company that manages the Superdome for the state in a report. "He worked and sweated here. People don't realize how granular he was down here. He was in the weeds with us."

There are been more than a few suggestions Roger Goodell should bring a food taster with him wherever he goes in New Orleans during Super Bowl week. Roger Goodell had issues with the New Orleans Saints football team, those issues as Goodell has shown time and time again have nothing whatsoever to do with how Roger Goodell feels about how important the New Orleans market is to the National Football League.

"Roger was very supportive and played a critical role in so many different ways," former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue told the New Orleans Times Picyaune in a phone interview last week. "He was a major player in executing what we had decided was going to be the policy to keep the Saints in New Orleans, in Louisiana and in the Gulf Coast region. He was the guy who managed the process."

Tom Benson and the Saints management team worked at breaking their Superdome lease with the state of Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, tried to sue FEMA for supposedly destroying their training facility, collected negative information about New Orleans and distributed it to the other 31 NFL owners and advised members of the Saints to buy homes in the San Antonio area in anticipation of the team’s planned move.

"It was clear there were things being done by San Antonio and things being considered by the Saints which were clearly focused on San Antonio," Tagliabue told the New Orleans Times Picayune. "When I told the team that they were moving back to New Orleans, some players stood up and asked me, 'Who the hell are you? We're the ones who have to get our kids in school and find doctors for our families.' The assumption of a lot of the players was they were going to buy homes in San Antonio. I told them the team is going to be back in New Orleans. That is the decision of the league. A team can only relocate if three-fourths of the membership approves the move and there is no such support. I told them they better stop negotiating (real estate) because you're expected back in Metairie by mid-February.

"We made it very clear from the start that we were not going to leave an NFL city in the wake of a national disaster and tragedy," Tagliabue said. "It was like throwing a Hail Mary pass and somebody had to catch the pass."

Roger Goodell should be hailed as the hero; Roger Goodell should be regarded as the biggest and most important reason why the City of New Orleans will be the center of the universe this week. How easily those who support the Saints, are ready to vilify the man who saved their Saints.

"It hurts," Thornton said. "It saddens me to see that Roger would be thought of in that regard after all that he and the league has done to help us.

"If it weren't for the inspiration, motivation and vision of Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue to push us, this project drags beyond 2006 and then who knows what happens," Thornton said. "I don't want to overstate it, but it could have literally altered the course of history here."

With more than 3,000 media people in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII, if anything happens that paints New Orleans negatively because of the short-sighted view of Roger Goodell, the tremendous steps New Orleans has made in the years since Hurricane Katrina will be lost. The good citizens of New Orleans would do well to remember how Roger Goodell has respected and treated their community.

"I love the city," Goodell said. "Being a part of that work (post-Katrina) was real important. ...To see the way that community (in New Orleans) rallied around their team and rallied around the disaster, you can't have anything but the highest respect for the people and the people we work with down there. We're seeing the same thing in our community with (Superstorm) Sandy. People pull together. People move forward"

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom