Thursday, February 10, 2011

The week Sean Payton drove everyone mad

Posted By on Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 8:04 AM

Sean Payton, seen here on the field in the Superdome, drew a lot of attention when he moved his family to Dallas.

Sean Payton is a bad person.

Imagine reading that a year ago and people's reactions. Nobody would care, because the Saints just won a Super Bowl. Nobody would believe it or care very much for the person that wrote that. It wouldn't matter much to anybody if it were true or if there were facts to support the statement.

Now Payton may be the most controversial head coach in the history of the NFL (that is, for a coach that's just a year away from winning the Super Bowl) and, certainly, nobody would be quick to argue that he's a bad person. After all, people in the New Orleans area feel betrayed. It's more than just a coach commuting to work, he's moving to another city entirely, one with it's own NFL franchise, and to a city that immediately draws comparisons between Payton and a certain ex-mayor of New Orleans.

People are very upset about this. So much so that the Governor had to weigh in. Payton is testing the New Orleans faithful. After all, how can Payton be "all in" if he lives 90 minutes away by private jet? And what about all those rumors that he could leave the Saints for the dreaded Cowboys?

Here's a thought: what if this is only a big deal because Sean Payton brought home the Saints first Super Bowl? Or because he didn't bring home a second this year?

Try this on for size: Sean Payton is a good person.

A lot of people might struggle to say that. Payton, after all, cited his family for the move. They spent a lot of time in the Dallas area when he worked for the Cowboys under Bill Parcells. Paytons's moving into an area populated by other sports figures and enrolled his kids in a small Christian school. He also announced that they're keeping their house in Covington (and presumably paying property taxes on it). Not to mention, Payton explored the idea of commuting from Dallas when he first joined the Saints. The team said no then, but now the Saints have a Super Bowl trophy because of him and have backed the decision.

Also, Sean Payton is not the first to do this. And we're not talking about a professional head coach, we're talking people in New Orleans and the surrounding area who have made the same decision. Take, for instance, musicians who moved their families to Texas for the better schools and also make a commute to gigs. Who's to say they're not committed to New Orleans?

The obvious counterpoint is that those musicians were forced out of New Orleans because of Katrina, and that's fair. Payton and his family are willfully choosing to move, but Payton hasn't been without problems in Louisiana. His home was infested with Chinese dry wall, which led to a massive lawsuit and Payton being the local face of it. Then there was the time he was accused of stealing pills by a former employee. Oh, and he was conned out of $144,000 by a film company scam.

It's entirely possible that the New Orleans-Metro Area is just not agreeing with the Payton family. They'd much rather live in an area surrounded by other multi-millionaire athletes and send their kids to small private schools and not have to worry about Chinese drywall or of being taken advantage of or the crime rate or hurricanes or any other number of things that they don't want to deal with.

Or maybe it's something else entirely. Maybe Sean Payton's move says more about Saints' fans than it does about him. It's no secret that New Orleanians (and Louisianans in general) are fiercely loyal and borderline-defensive about their home. This is the land of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest and second lines and crawfish boils — who could not love it here? (As a transplant who practically volunteers for the Tourism Board, I know how you feel).

Or maybe it's this: Sean Payton isn't a good person or a bad person. He just a person looking out for the best interests of his family and to hell with what anyone else thinks.

The New Orleanians that consider their fellow citizens part of their extended family — and who have fielded so many disparaging questions about those relatives — should know exactly how that feels. And maybe that's why this is so hard, because it's like seeing your favorite relative move away.

But in the end, that favorite relative isn't really moving away. After all, Sean Payton is still the head coach of the Saints and, as an NFL head coach, the truth is it doesn't matter where his house is because head coaches all sleep in their offices, anyway.

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