Who Dat Most Influential in New Orleans Sports?

The Times-Picayune/nola.com ran a piece this morning called New Orleans sports' 25 most influential people. Their morning coverage also included a Nakia Hogan feature profiling the #2 man on the list, Doug Thornton. 

And while our very own Dave Cariello did not make the list (FEEL MY OUTRAGE!), the Who Dat Nation was well represented. This shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone, but seeing exactly who made the list, in what rank order, and who did not make the list makes for some fun. 

Click over the jump for more.

(HansDat note: It's now 2:00 pm EST - is anyone tuning into the 2011 Women's World Cup Final? USA vs. Japan...go you fighting Lady Patriots! Uncle Samanthas? Betsy Rosses? What is the embarrassingly ridiculous feminized nickname of our national sports teams? Heck, do we even have a stupid USA nickname for the guys' national sports teams?)

Perched atop the list is New Orleans Saints team owner, Tom Benson, who has been in this spot for three years in a row.

In recent years, Benson has silenced critics by putting a winning product on the field and becoming one of the leading local philanthropists.

Benson's decision to agree to a long-term lease deal with the state in 2009 appears to have been a win-win situation for both sides, as his and his team's popularity continue to grow and the state's direct obligation to the team decreases.

His clout should only increase as his franchise is nearing the $1 billion mark in value and his organization readies for perhaps another Super Bowl run. Previous rank: 1

Doug Thornton, Louisiana Superdome manager and senior vice president of SMG, moved up from seventh to #2 on this year's list.

Drew Brees came in at #3...

Brees experienced a bit of a letdown during the 2010 season after his magical 2009 season that culminated with the Super Bowl MVP trophy. But his star still shines as bright ly as ever. A year after a whirlwind offseason, spent writing a book and making numerous television appearances, Brees was busy again this summer.

Considered one of the NFL's best players (the NFL Network ranked Brees ninth in its list of Top 100 Players), Brees added more clout this offseason when he became one of the 10 players who were plaintiffs in the class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.

Brees also organized and funded the Saints' offseason workouts during the lockout. Previous rank: 2

...while Sean Payton was fifth:

Payton's star power took a bit of a hit after last season's wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. It dimmed a bit more in the wake of revelations that his family was moving to a Dallas suburb, causing a mini-controversy locally. An offensive mastermind, Payton routinely has his name mentioned among the NFL's top play-callers. With a Super Bowl ring in 2009, he validated himself atop the coaching hierarchy. Serving as an ESPN analyst during the week of this past Super Bowl only increased his national exposure. Previous rank: 4 

Mickey Loomis' spot at #6 gave the Saints five out of the top six spots (Chris Paul at #4 was the only non-Saints-related person):

While Benson, Brees and Payton get much of the credit for the Saints' success, don't underestimate the role Loomis, the Saints' general manager, played.

Loomis routinely has put the Saints in position to win by making all the right moves, including the re-signing of running back Pierre Thomas and landing talented free-agent defensive tackle Shaun Rogers to a low-risk, high-reward contract this offseason. Loomis was aggressive in April's draft, trading back into the first round to select Mark Ingram, the Heisman Trophy-winning running back from Alabama.

Loomis, the league's Executive of the Year after the 2006 season, is entering his 10th year in his current role and is responsible for the Saints' entire football operations. Previous rank: 6

The remainder of the list contains other New Orleans-area figures you know or may not know (Les Miles, Monty Williams, Jac Sperling, Rod Mickler, Paul Hoolahan, Joe Alleva, Jay Cicero, Hugh Weber, etc.), and I encourage you to check the list and learn some more about New Orleans sports figures.

Rita Benson LeBlanc and Dennis Lauscha came in at 13 and 14, respectively, completing the roster of Saints names on this power list. 

Check out these folks who fell off last year's list (previous ranking in parenthesis):

George Shinn, ex-Hornets owner (4); Bobby Hebert, radio personality (16); James Carville and Mary Matalin, Super Bowl host committee chairpersons (17); Jim Henderson, TV anchor (18); Archie Manning, ex-Saints QB (21); Gregg Williams, Saints defensive coordinator (22); Tommy Fonseca, former head of Fore!Kids Foundation (23); Paul Mainieri, LSU baseball coach (25).

Let's speculate in the comment section as to why these people didn't make it this year. Some New Orleans-area CSCers (or well-read ones) might better actually know the sports news of the year that may have led to it. So if you've got it, share it, and if you don't, then have fun making it up!

I'd also like to hear what you think of those that made it, and about any others who should have made it, but didn't.

Fire away!

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