I lived in New Orleans during a dark time for the Saints franchise: The Mike Ditka years.
The love for the Saints was always there, but that feeling didn't extend to owner Tom Benson. Even the franchise's first playoff victory (under Jim Haslett) didn't change that feeling. Benson was widely seen as cheap, an obstacle to the team's success.
He was even less popular in the days before and after Hurricane Katrina. The flirtation with the city of San Antonio rankled Saints fans at their most sensitive time. But Benson ultimately doubled down on his support of the city, the team became more popular than ever in 2006 when Drew Brees arrived, and ultimately, Benson became a hero following the team's Super Bowl title.
Benson's purchase of the NBA's Hornets on Friday cemented his place in New Orleans: The 84-year-old owns the town. Most of the fan anger following the team's "bounty" scandal was vented at the league and media, not at Benson and the Saints.
New Orleans residents wouldn't have wanted Benson to own another local team a few years ago. Now the move is welcome and seen by Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune as a positive sign of stability for the franchise locally.
Benson originally gave the Hornets the cold shoulder when they hit town. Now he owns them. That transformation is similar to the one Benson has undergone publicly over the last six years in New Orleans.
Once reviled, now Benson might be the second-most popular guy in town. If Drew Brees holds out too long, Benson might rise to No. 1.