Government & Politics

New Orleans politicians look to bask in glow of popular, and not so popular, athletes

Saints win! Fans swoon!

Politicians think: How do I get me some of that popularity?

It’s no secret that New Orleans is stricken by Saints fever and hallucinations. Only every once in a while can a team coax an already sports-obsessed city to go all the way, to untether itself from professional dress codes on Fridays, to participate in an orgy of car-honking, chant-screaming, and merchandise-splurging.

I myself am in a Facebook group called Jews for Breesus.

And I’m an Eagles fan first.

Last week, I was wondering about the city’s use of recovery money and whether any candidates for office had any idea about the processes for spending that money. The Lens reported several instances in which federal disaster grants were appropriated for a certain purpose only to have the Nagin administration make changes without any observable oversight.

But now?

Now, I’ll do whatever any professional athlete tells me to do.

So seems to be the assumption of many aspirants for mayor and City Council.

As Clancy DuBos pointed out for the Gambit, Troy Henry came under heavy fire  last week. But after the big Saints win, it might have been the best week of his campaign to date. Henry has Saints legend Deuce McAllister doing commercials for him! Deuce has been a big emotional boost for the Saints in the playoffs and presented Saints owner Tom Benson with the NFC championship trophy after the game Sunday. Henry would be wise to increase the rotation of Deuce’s endorsement.

Have other candidates been as successful working the fields and courts?

James Perry scored aging basketball star Grant Hill, now of the Phoenix Suns. Hill’s family comes from Louisiana, and he explained his support for the civil rights non-profit leader in an e-mail to Perry supporters. He called Perry a “rising star,” but Grant Hill hasn’t been an effective pitchman since his days hawking FILA and Sprite, back before he blew out his knees a million times while with the Orlando Magic.

I like Grant Hill, but he’s no Deuce McAllister as far as the average New Orleans voter is concerned. Perhaps this explains Perry’s struggle to gain traction in the polls. Maybe he could have gone after the endorsement of former Saints special teams star Steve Gleason, who famously blocked a punt in the Saints’ first game back in the Superdome after Katrina. Gleason was known for his work in the non-profit community, and as I recall, led a bio-diesel workshop for the Green Project.

Meanwhile, while driving earlier today, I heard an advertisement on the radio for Arnie Fielkow, who is trying to maintain his at-large seat on the City Council. Fielkow used to work for the Saints, and has been relatively popular, as far New Orleans politicians are concerned, since first being  elected in 2006. I was expecting something big, like an endorsement from Sean Payton or something.

Instead, I heard Ron Washington make the pitch for Fielkow.

You might be asking, “Who the hell is Ron Washington?”

Washington is the manager of baseball’s Texas Rangers, a team that finished a respectable six games over .500 last year amid a long playoff drought. He is also a native New Orleanian.

I’m a huge baseball fan and really like the effort Washington received from a team that was not expected to be as good as it was.

Still, Ron Washington?

Who’s next, some minor league lacrosse player?

Maybe the use of celebrity-athlete endorsements is less about trying to ride the Saints bandwagon and more about the deep unpopularity of local officials that would usually cut campaign ads for their political allies.

The endorsements of Aaron Broussard or Ray Nagin still would be worthless even, or especially, with matching fleur-de-lis facial tattoos.

I do really want to see that though.

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.