Mississippians can at least dream of NFL

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 2, 2001

Who dat? Who dat say de gonna move cross da lake?

Truth is? Probably no one – at least not seriously.

Despite what New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson may be hinting, the likelihood of the team moving to Mississippi remains unlikely.

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But the notion is enough to make Mississippi sports fans salivate at the mouths. And who would blame us?

Our own pro team … imagine the possibilities.

Sure, Mississippi has been home to numerous pro teams such as the Jackson Mets (then Generals) baseball team, the Mississippi Coast Seawolves hockey team, the Jackson Bandits hockey squad and the Sharks a long-defunct pro basketball team.

But we’ve never been in the big time.

You won’t find too many Texas League baseball games or East Coast Hockey League games nationally televised week after week. And that’s kind of the point. Mississippi has always been in the minor leagues of professional sports.

But the Saints – and the publicity a National Football League team brings – would deliver enough publicity to fill, well, to fill the Superdome.

When Benson first hurled the idea into the air, Mississippians leapt off the bench like a rocket, eager to get some playing time in the big game.

Unfortunately, it looks as if Benson is using the idea as a motivating threat to the powers that be in Louisiana. His goal is to sweeten his deal in the Big Easy, and he doesn’t might getting Mississippians’ hopes up in the process if it will earn a bit of attention.

If you look at the situation objectively – taking money, power and political influence out of it (yes, I know that’s a bit like asking Congress to play well together) – Mississippi is the perfect home for the Saints.

Despite having had dozens of Superbowl-bound talent on its team the Saints can’t shake their underdog/loser moniker.

Mississippi’s the same way. The state has been home to dozens of unbelievably talented writers, artists and leaders. Ever hear of William Faulkner or Eudora Welty?

Or how about Morgan Freeman or Elvis Presley?

Yet, outside our state’s boundaries, Mississippi is often thought of as one of the country’s proverbial underdogs as well.

Neither the Saints’ reputation or Mississippi’s is accurate.

Through years of abuse and ridicule neither group has given up hope or given up moving ahead.

And despite the lasting reputation, neither is a loser anymore.

Year after year Saints fans refused to give up hope. Oh sure, they might bad mouth the team, the players or even the coaches a bit, but next season they’d be first in line to buy tickets.

Several years ago fans began using the phrase &uot;I believe&uot; on signs and banners.

The phrase sort of summed up everything. It showed the ultimate faith in the team and in eventual victory.

Will the Saints move to Mississippi? Probably not. But it doesn’t hurt to believe.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.