Daily Bits: Rams Fans Aren’t the Problem

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Good morning.

Here’s your serving of daily Bernie Bits, only on 101sports.com.

The Lead

Losing 24-17 to our neighbors from Kansas City, the Rams finished the exhibition-game schedule with an 0-4 record.

Thankfully this especially dull preseason is over, and we can turn our attention to something that matters, something that will increase the pulse rate: the NFL regular season and the Sept. 13 opener vs. two-time defending NFC champion Seattle.

That game against a division rival and high-profile opponent will be played in St. Louis, and under normal circumstances we’d expect a colorful and energetic atmosphere.

But given the sparse crowds at the Edward Jones Dome over the last two weeks, with about 25,000 showing up for each game, I’m not sure what to expect when Seattle comes to town.

Maybe we should expect a lot of Seahawks fans.

It’s a tough time to be a St. Louis-based Rams fan.

You have been beaten down more than Marc Bulger circa 2007-2009. You’ve run into more walls than Steven Jackson. At the end of the game, you’ve limped out of The Ed more often than Jake Long.

Your team hasn’t had a winning season since 2003, and has been denied entry into the NFL postseason since 2005. Over the past 10 seasons the Rams are the only NFC team to fail to make the playoffs, with 11 of the other 15 NFC teams competing in at least five postseason games over that time.

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St. Louis stadium task force leader Dave Peacock addresses the media outside a Rams preseason game September 3.

Over the past eight seasons you’ve been treated to 20 victories at home.

Twenty wins in 64 games, with a home scoring average of 19 points per contest.

You’ve sucked it up, and averaged close to 60,000 per home game during the worst five-year stretch (15-65) by an NFL team in league history … instead of receiving praise for showing up with more support than the Rams deserved, you’ve had to listen to idiot pundits and other hopelessly inattentive goofs repeatedly malign St. Louis as a football town.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke has turned his back on the fans and his home state. He desperately wants to load up the trucks and move the franchise to Beverly (well, actually Los Angeles), and won’t even take a phone call or a meeting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and stadium task force co-chairs Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz.

With three teams (Rams, Raiders, Chargers) angling for a spot or two in Los Angeles, the NFL can’t be trusted to conduct a fair process and could easily give Kroenke permission to rip the Rams out of St. Louis, a market that’s on the verge of developing a second new NFL stadium in fewer than 25 years.

And when people ask me how many fans will show up at Rams home games in 2015, I usually respond with another question: will the Rams show up, and will Kroenke show up, and will winning football show up, and will an entertaining product show up, and will the NFL postseason show up here in St. Louis?

It’s remarkable, really, how the onus is put on the fans … with the St. Louis football fans being the only folks being held accountable by the league executives (that would be you, Eric Grubman) that are trying to make a case to justify a move based on a lack of support here.

With all of the losing and fan alienation that’s gone on here over the last 10+ years, the absurdity is astounding.

Kroenke isn’t being held accountable. The general managers, coaches and players that have produced a .309 winning percentage over the past 10 seasons aren’t the problem.

No, instead of putting the blame for declining attendance on the people who have drained the energy and joy from the St. Louis NFL experience, let’s rip the fans and tell them how lousy they are.

Sure. It’s the fans’ fault.

I hope that fans will turn out for home games this season. The players and coaches are working hard, the team has a chance to be good, and just remember that Kroenke isn’t out there on game day slamming into 300-pound bodies, tearing a knee ligament, getting sacked, suffering a concussion, or having a nose rearranged by a forearm. I don’t know of any time in NFL history where fans showed up to root for an owner. When the games begin, it’s all about the players and the team on the field, and the Rams do represent St. Louis. They’re worthy of support, even if you’re understandably mad-as-hell at Kroenke.

But I’m not going to criticize the fans that have had enough, and won’t go back to the Dome and make a commitment to Kroenke and the NFL unless they see Rams ownership and the NFL make a commitment as well.

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a bit staggered as they enter Busch Stadium for a three-game weekend set against the Cardinals. The Pirates have lost four in a row, including three in Milwaukee. The Pirates’ mediocrity in games played against NL Central rivals is one the most perplexing developments of the season. After being swept by the Brewers the Pirates are 21-32 in division games this season, and that includes a 7-21 mark on the road. They’ve gone a combined 10-18 vs. Milwaukee and Cincinnati, the two worst teams in the division, and really it makes no sense. But the Pirates’ frequent missteps in NL Central play is the No. 1 reason why they trail the Cardinals by 6.5 games after being down by only 2.5 games at the All-Star break .”This is the one area we’ve not done as well as we believe we should,” manager Clint Hurdle told reporters in Milwaukee. “The numbers are what they are.”

The other reason why the Pirates have lost ground to St.  Louis: Bucs’ starting pitchers have a 4.62 ERA and only 16 quality starts in 45 games since the All-Star break. … the Pirates have had a miserable time at Busch Stadium in recent seasons, going 6-19 here since the start of the 2013 season, with 17 losses in their last 20 games at Busch going into the weekend… the Cardinals can’t get hurt in this series unless they lose all three games … I’m looking forward to seeing Carlos Martinez pitch for the Cards tonight after getting a brief rest to freshen up. 

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Rams receiver Tavon Austin

Oh yeah, the Rams-Chiefs game: The enigmatic RB Isaiah Pead looked good, running hard and with an elusive style, gaining 52 yards on 12 carries and delivering a nice down field block to help Tavon Austin shimmy for extra yards. Pead should be on the opening 53-man roster, at least for the first four games, with RB Trey Watts serving a league suspension for abusing some sort of substance that evidently makes a player feel extra happy _ at least until the drug-test results arrive… Austin’s 43-yard catch-and-weave was a tease; can the Rams make this happen more often during real games? … Cody Davis, safety and ballhawk, has been making plays during camp, and did it again with a nifty pick-six INT on Chiefs QB Chase Daniel

As for the disappointing stuff: rookie QB Sean Mannion has some skill, but he often looked like a rookie QB, which is understandable because he happens to be a rookie QB. And those guys tend to force passes into coverage, and get all jumpy and skittish _ looking like a cat that realizes that it’s unsettling to get sprayed with water after the kitty wanders too close to a shower, and unwisely decides to inspect what’s behind the shower curtain … the Rams offensive line and the backup O-line remain a work in progress, which means the Rams offense remains a work in progress, just as it’s been since 2007 … you just hope we won’t still be saying saying that about the line and the offense seven weeks from now … Rams averaged only 2.7 yards per rushing attempt … I hope that Jared Cook’s ineffective preseason play can be attributed to boredom; the highly compensated tight end hasn’t exactly been Spartacus out there if you know what I mean … WR Kenny Britt must be saving himself for the regular season as well.

Austin Davis, nice knowing you. The Rams QB certainly appears to be headed to the waiver wire. He didn’t get much of an opportunity this preseason, which means the “come see coach and turn in your playbook” post-it note was on his wall. In some ways I’m confused as to why Davis was iced out of this competition for a backup role. Last season he received extensive reg-season action for the first time, made a lot of plays, and brought an exciting style of play to the field. Turnovers _ mostly fumbles _ were certainly a negative. But over a four-game stretch that began Sept. 14, Davis completed 63 percent of his passes, averaged 7.24 yards per passing attempt, threw for 7 touchdowns and only 3 INTs, had eight pass plays of 25+ yards, posted a passer rating of 91.4, and helped the Rams put up 31 points on Dallas and 28 on Philadelphia.

I’ll have a piece on Mizzou football later here today, which I will author after my 7-10 a.m. show.

Until then: as always, thanks for reading …

-Bernie 

Read More: Rams Owner Stan Kroenke Could Learn a Few Things from Blues Chairman Tom Stillman