Sean Payton Floats Elaborate Plan to Get 50,000 Saints Fans in Superdome

In Thursday’s Hot Clicks: the Saints' head coach's wacky plan for creating a playoff crowd, a clutch performance from Austin Rivers and more.
Publish date:

His heart’s in the right place, at least

The Superdome is known for having one of the most boisterous crowds in the NFL, rivaled only by the fans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and Seattle’s Lumen Field in Seattle. The ear-splitting cheers of 73,000 people are hell for opposing offenses. It’s an atmosphere that just can’t be replicated by canned crowd noise.

So, for reasons both competitive and financial, all season long, the Saints have tried to come up with different ways to get more fans in the stands. When the mayor of New Orleans denied the team’s request to allow fans into the Superdome, the team considered playing games outdoors at LSU’s stadium in Baton Rouge. In October, the mayor agreed to a plan that would have seen attendance increase to as many as 15,000 fans by the end of season, but that was scrapped after New Orleans, along with the country, saw a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Saints have home-field advantage in their wild-card round matchup against the Bears on Sunday, but how significant will the advantage be with only 3,000 fans in the stands? Not even Mitchell Trubisky is going to be intimidated by 70,000 empty seats. A rocking crowd would be a godsend for the Saints, and so coach Sean Payton concocted a plan to test and quarantine Saints fans ahead of the game so that the Superdome could be a 50,000-person virus-free bubble.

“I brought up the idea of testing 50,000 people and quarantining them in a hotel and having the most safest Superdome known to man, scientifically,” Payton told reporters on Wednesday. “Bus them, they've tested every day, and you've got a COVID-free facility. I think that’s possible. I don’t know if it’s taken off or not.”

O.K., maybe “concocted a plan” is generous. This is an absurd and unworkable idea. How many hotel rooms would this require? Would the fans be expected to fork over several hundred dollars for their week-long stay in quarantine rooms on top of the price of their game ticket? Where would the Saints acquire enough coronavirus tests to swab 50,000 people every day for a week?

By dreaming up this ridiculous scenario, Payton has shown more interest in stopping the spread of the virus than the federal government. But an operation of this scale could be pulled off by only a government entity, not a football team. What Payton is proposing is basically what places like Hong Kong have done with incoming travelers. If Payton’s plan was easy enough that the NFC South champions could pull it off, it probably wouldn't be long before he was in charge of a whole lot more than a football team. 

The best of SI

The MMQB’s experts give their picks for the NFL’s top awards. ... The Sixers are off to really hot start. How? ... Here is what to watch for from an NBA draft perspective as the college hoops season continues. ... Fewer than two months after a career-threatening knee injury, Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth will return to the field

Around the sports world

Players across the NBA joined in protests before games on Wednesday in response to the rioting in Washington. ... Doc Rivers said what everyone was thinking about the people who stormed the Capitol. ... Chase Young is taking aim at Tom Brady before Washington’s playoff matchup with the Bucs.

Austin Rivers took over at the end for the Knicks, scoring 14 of their final 16 points

Maybe he thought the question was about the Wizards’ new star player

The Wizards’ old star went for 60 points against the Sixers in Philly

Snoop Dogg won’t be pursuing a second career in wrestling

Najee Harris seems like a cool guy

He’s Belgium’s Carlos Dunlap

Not sports

Danish parents are upset about a new children’s TV show featuring a man with a comically long penis. ... Astronomers have used a telescope in Chile to calculate the age of the universe. ... A former Microsoft executive says the company tried to pitch Nintendo on an acquisition and the other side “laughed their asses off.” ... A Japanese company claims to have invented facial recognition software that works on people wearing masks.

Creatures from the deep ocean are amazing to see up close

A good song

Email with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.