Louisiana Leaders Are Sports Fans At Heart

If football can speed up the inauguration of Louisiana’s governor, who am I to write about anything else this weekend? Everyone may not be caught up in the frenzied gridiron pace, but they are definitely in the minority.

The major attraction is the BCS national championship game Monday night featuring the LSU Tigers vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Saints playoff game last night against the Detroit Lions shared equal billing, but this column couldn’t wait around for the outcome.

You will know who won that one by the time you read this. My wife and I planned to be there.

Gov. Bobby Jindal decided he wasn’t going to alienate anyone by holding up their opportunity to get to New Orleans and the Superdome Monday. They want time to take part in a multitude of BCS tailgating taking place all over the Crescent City.

LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory over Alabama in the regular season was billed as the “Game of the Century.” The only way to top that was to call this one the “Rematch of the Century.” Game time is 7:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN.

The Saints-Lions game was the second of four NFL wildcard playoff matchups. The Cincinnati Bengals faced the Houston Texans in the early game Saturday.

Two NFL games today will see the Atlanta Falcons at the New York Giants (noon on Fox) and the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Denver Broncos (3:30 p.m. on CBS).

Football fans were treated to five New Orleans Saints victories while LSU and Alabama were waiting a month for their title match. My wife and I saw the Saints defeat the Lions on Dec. 4 by a 31-17 score. In successive weeks, they rolled over the Tennessee Titans, the Minnesota Vikings, the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers to chalk up a 13-3 season record. The Saints were undefeated 8-0 at home, a franchise record.

Gov. Jindal, who has become an avid Saints and LSU fan, knows you don’t mess around with football in the Pelican State. The inaugural ball was moved up from Monday to Sunday evening. Monday pre-inaugural ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. at the old State Capitol, and ceremonies start at 11 a.m. The governor will be sworn in for a second term at noon, deliver his inaugural address and then it’s off to the BCS.

Jindal invited four former governors to the ceremonies, but only two will make it. Former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards and his new bride plan to attend the ball, but a BCS invitation has top priority Monday. Former Gov. Buddy Roemer will be campaigning in New Hampshire in his longshot bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Former Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Mike Foster said they plan to be there. And that’s fitting since the two of them and Jindal have taken Louisiana in a new direction from the old politics of the past. All three have also helped keep the Saints in New Orleans and the Superdome, site of the BCS game, in top shape.

Foster negotiated a deal to keep the Saints in New Orleans in 2001 that gave the team $186 million over 10 years. He defended the agreement when critics complained.

“The last thing I did before signing this agreement was to check with a noted, reputable economist to verify that this agreement would not only keep the franchise in our state but would continue to make the state money into the future,” Foster said. And that is exactly what’s happening.

When evacuees wrecked the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was Blanco who got it back into playing shape. The Times-Picayune said her decision to fast-track the renovation was controversial at the time, but it was the right decision.

Doug Thornton, the president of the company that runs the Superdome, said the BCS game is the first of many big events scheduled for the stadium, ending with another Super Bowl in February of 2013.

“I don’t ever recall a time at the Dome when we had so many big events back to back,” Thornton told the newspaper. “There’s no doubt sports have been a catalyst for New Orleans and its recovery (from Hurricane Rita).”

Additional renovations to the Superdome have enhanced revenues, should wipe out future state payments to the team and ensured the continued presence of the Saints in New Orleans for years to come.

Our thanks to Gov. Jindal for moving up the inauguration because of the BCS game. It makes life much easier for fans trying to cram so much into so little time. And the governor won’t have to worry about what would happen if they to had to choose one over the other. Like the rest of us, he knows how that would turn out. There will be plenty of time for more politics than we need during the rest of 2012.

Go Tigers!

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