Acro-gymnastics demands a partnership that combines strength and technical precision with the musicality of dance. credit: wikipedia

As work continues on the longer-form topics mentioned in previous posts, here are two notes about local sports news:

1) New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson purchased the New Orleans Hornets basketball team last week, having convinced NBA commissioner David Stern that he represented the best local ownership option to maintain the team’s future in New Orleans.

Recalling Benson’s flirtation with other cities before and after the Federal Flood, Jeffrey at the Library Chronicles blog wrote:

Benson’s first instinct was to leverage the flood of 2005 as an excuse to execute his already-in-the-works plan to remove the Saints to San Antonio. But that was shut down after much arm twisting by an NFL uncharacteristically sensitive to shame.

Sometimes the decisions we’re forced into making are the luckiest ones, though. Benson went on to benefit from the ferocious love for the Saints exhibited by the recovering city he had no faith in. He now enjoys a package of concessions from the taxpayers of Louisiana more lucrative than what he had hoped for prior to the flood. When the Hornets signed a new lease that includes state-funded stadium enhancements, is it any surprise Benson would want in on that?

Free money from the state is Tom Benson’s business. He has long understood the importance of protecting that business. The importance of being “the only game” in a small market has been a point of emphasis in Benson’s talks to other NFL owners. He has taken aggressive steps to protect his monopoly in the past. When the creation of the Colorado Rockies displaced the AAA Denver Zephyrs in 1993, Benson scrambled to prevent the Zs from relocating into his territory.

Read Jeffrey’s entire post. It’s bold, and makes points that few other local sports writers are making. Judging from the media’s football-related questions to Benson and Stern during two recent NBA press conferences, they’d like to treat this Hornets ownership news as a happy off-season Saints story. Gross.

In that vein, a recent caller to Kaare Johnson’s local talk-radio show suggested the Hornets change their name to the “Latter Day Saints.” I chuckled, because it would balance out the absurdity of the Utah Jazz team name, which was never changed after the team moved there from New Orleans in 1979.

2) The World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships are being held this week in Orlando, and the Finals are being televised this afternoon on ESPN. Acrobatic gymnastics enthusiasts tell me that it is an “awe-inspiring Olympic Sport which combines the beauty of dance with the strength and agility of acrobatics.”

Whoop-de-freakin’-do, you might reply. What does that have to do with the Saints?

Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with the Saints (Sacre bleu!). But– stay with me– it does have a lot to do with our city because New Orleans’ own Crescent City Gymnastics has seven local athletes on the U.S. National Team!

Pretty darn impressive, right?

In recent weeks, I’ve learned a little about the sport, which includes choreographed dance combined with acrobatic tumbling, pyramid-building, and flight elements. To appreciate it better, one should think of it in terms of Cirque du Soleil.

I’m told that this will mark the third trip to a World Championship for national elite women’s pairs
champs Beth Landeche (from New Orleans) and Nicole Barrilleaux (from Metairie). The pair placed seventh and fourth in their last two championships, and are considered the strongest women’s pair that the United States has had in five years. Bravo to them!

Here is video of Landeche and Barrileaux practicing a routine.

A release penned by local fans of acro-gymnastics touted our local athletes and their coaches. Here’s an excerpt:

The level 8 Jr. Trio consisting of Allyson McPhaille, Nya Jones and Carol Crochet are alternates to the World age-group team. Again, this is no small feat, as they have been together for less than a year and impressed the US technical committee so much they were honored to earn this alternate spot. Only seven American athletes qualified for this competition.

The New Orleans Area has a rich history of very successful showings in Acro-Gymnastics, a sport that is much more prominent in Asia and Europe. This resurgence of world class athletes bodes well for New Orleans and is a tribute to the first generation of Gymnasts that put New Orleans on the map for Acro-Gymnastics 20 years ago. Louisiana’s second generation of acrogymnasts are now coaches. Crescent City Gymnastics owners and coaches Julie Dupree-Desantis and Gawain Dupree are New Orleans Area natives and competed internationally themselves. They are now turning out world class athletes in their own gym.

ESPN3 will air coverage of the USA Gymnastics World Acrobatic Championships beginning at 3pm today. You can also stream it online.

Disclosure: Last year, my youngest daughter took lessons at Crescent City Gymnastics.

I’ll footnote a bizarre event in the history of New Orleans acrobatics that precedes the reference in the quote above. This one reaches back 50 years, and comes from “Mr. New Orleans” the vastly entertaining memoir of Frenchy Brouillette– French Quarter pimp (and Edwin Edwards cousin)– co-written by Matthew Randazzo V:

[Mob boss Carlos Marcello], in those days, occasionally liked to take in the shows at the go-go joints — but he wasn’t ogling the showgirls. Whatever his faults, I don’t think I met a single man in New Orleans more devoted to his wife and more monogamous than Carlos. He sincerely seemed uninterested in other women.

On the other hand, Carlos was [expletive] obsessed with acrobats and flamenco dancers, two breeds of entertainers that frequently performed as warm-up acts in the burlesque bars. After an acrobat or Spanish dancer performed, Carlos would deafen the entire room with his whistling, clapping, and rabid shouts of approval. Afterwards, you could see him cornering an acrobat and peppering him with questions like an eager schoolboy. “Man, how do ya even get dat limber?”

Our local acro-gymnasts haven’t received the press they deserve for their accomplishments. We should be very proud to have such high-caliber athletes representing our city (and country) in world-class competition. So, even if you assume that the sport might not be your cup of tea, why not check it out anyway?

Do it for Carlos.

Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and...