Image Thanks to Jonathan Bachman, Photoshopper Extraordinaire
I only got a chance to go to one Voodoo game since I've moved to New Orleans. It was impressive in an extravagant, circus-like way. Arena Football takes the most attractive parts of the NFL (high scoring, big hits) and combines it with the NBA's flair for in-game promotions. The VooDoo seemed like a perfect fit in New Orleans people here love football and they love theatrics.
Unfortunately for the team, Tom Benson, owner of the VooDoo and the Saints, didn't share in New Orleanians delight in both these things and has decided to cease operations. The announcement game in the form of a four-paragraph statement on the team's Web site:
Today, Mr. Benson informed the Arena Football League of his plans to terminate operations of his Arena football team: the New Orleans VooDoo, said Saints Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel.
Bensel also stated that Mr. Benson, who is attending NFL meetings in Florida this week, stressed that this is not an indictment on this marketplace and that he clearly believes in New Orleans, but knows this is the right decision based on circumstances currently affecting the league and the team.
"The VooDoo fans have been the best in the AFL. Their passion, enthusiasm and support made it possible for us to bring two consecutive Arena Bowls to benefit New Orleans. It is a sad day for our community and our organization but circumstances prevented us from continuing in the AFL," said Executive Vice President - Owner - Rita Benson LeBlanc.
"This was a tough decision. We have a very fine football staff led by Head Coach Mike Neu, who I think is one of the finest young coaches in this league. Circumstances have led us to this decision, but I would be remiss if I did not recognize the hard work that the many people on our staff here have put into the VooDoo," said Executive Vice President/ General Manager Mickey Loomis.
There are many questions that can be asked in the immediate aftermath of the demise of the franchise that hosted that last two Arena Bowls. What is to become of the players and coaches that were involved in the organization? Why, if the VooDoo has the best fans in the AFL, did ownership decide to cease operations? Most importantly, how is this "not an indictment on this marketplace and that [Benson] clearly believes in New Orleans"?
Hopefully, in time, these questions will be answered. For now, all VooDoo fans can do is wonder if the Hornets' success had something to do with this and what to do with all that VooDoo merchandise they bought over the last five years. Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, will point to how this is yet another example of how Tom Benson doesn't believe in this city.
I, for one, will miss the VooDoo players. Unlike in the NFL, Arena Football teams practically fall over themselves to grant access to players and coaches. It's how I was able to talk to Henry Bryant about his troublesome upbringing and how he's turned that into a successful football career. It's also how I got Derrick Lewis to sing me the theme from "Good Times".
Regardless if you were a VooDoo fan or if you could care less about the AFL, every New Orlenian should be troubled by the VooDoo folding. Because regardless what Tom Benson says, every time a large, muli-million-dollar operation in New Orleans closes up shop, it brings up questions about the recovery of this city and who has comitted themselves to a New Orleans rebirth.
Moreover, this is an indictment of the ownership's charecter, of their willingness to so suddenly decide to end the life of a franchise without warning. After all the controversy after Katrina with the Saints and with the Hornets last season, the Bensons could not have picked a worse time to abandon faith in the New Orleans marketplace.
You'll have to forgive New Orleanians who may be wondering, "What's the next team to skip town?"
God's speed, Rodrigue
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