Let’s Be Real: The NFL Isn’t Coming Back To St. Louis, and That’s OK

We know that STL’s place in the NFL is gone forever when Mark Davis, the peculiar spawn of Al Davis, gets snobby when asked about moving the Raiders into a proposed $1.1 billion stadium on the St. Louis north riverfront.

mark davis
Raiders owner Mark Davis speaks to the media following the announcement of the Rams’ relocation to Los Angeles. Davis shot down the idea of moving his team to St. Louis.

“Absolutely not,” Davis told reporters — again — the other day in Houston, after the NFL cartel voted 30-2 to allow Rams owner Stan Kroenke to move the team to Los Angeles.

Think about this a minute.

Relative to the substantial wealth other 31 NFL owners, Mark Davis has about $1,219 in his checking account. His team’s home in Oakland is basically the world’s largest commode — but hey, a little raw sewage never hurt anybody.

Davis sports the oddball haircut. He drives a 1997 Dodge Caravan minivan. He still uses a flip phone that he bought in 2003. He wears a fanny pack. His big night out — according to a September 2015 ESPN profile  — is going to Hooters for a $12.99 all-you-can-eat wings special.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“They never charge us,” Davis told the writer Tim Keown. “But it just feels better to say you’re getting all you can eat for $12.”

Davis had hoped to team with San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos and take the Raiders to a shared complex in Carson, but the cartel went with Kroenke’s spectacular football-entertainment complex in Inglewood instead. By voting for Kroenke in a result that stunned the national media, the owners turned on the supposedly more popular Spanos. It was believed that the owners were on Spanos’ side because of his long, futile effort get a stadium built in San Diego.

For now, the Chargers remain in San Diego but have the option to move into Inglewood. Davis also has an option to put the Raiders in with Kroenke’s team, but only if the Chargers decline.

“We finished third,” Davis said after the vote in Houston.

Kroenke’s money won out, easily overcoming Spanos longstanding status as an owners-club “insider.”

(Message: serious cash money trumps good-old-boy popularity.)

Kroenke got everything he wanted.

Spanos may still get what he wants.

Davis has virtually no chance to get what he wants.

“We finished third,” Davis said.

Understand that Davis was also a factor in the cartel’s decision. By rejecting Carson, the cartel also kept Davis out of Los Angeles. The NFL wasn’t thrilled with the idea of putting the zany Davis in a starring role for the league’s critically important return to LA.

At the moment, Davis has no football home.

Oakland had assumed he’s gone.

Oakland has made no effort to come up with a stadium to secure the Raiders’ long-term future. If there’s any chance for a new stadium there, it will be built for MLB’s Oakland A’s.

“We don’t have a place to play,” Davis told reporters after the owners’ meeting. “We don’t have a lease anywhere.”

Commitment to Excellence?

More like a Commitment to Homelessness.

It won’t be difficult for Davis to go back to Oakland on a one-year lease, but that doesn’t solve his problem. He may be able to make a deal with San Antonio at some point. But from the very beginning, Davis has made it clear: he has ZERO interest in bringing his team to St. Louis — even with the funding still in place, at least temporarily, for a new billion-dollar stadium.

Look, when your football market is considered a step down — beneath the dignity of the short-money man that has the bowl-style haircut, the Nokia flip phone, the fanny pack, the Dodge minivan, and a team that plays its home games in a toilet … it’s probably a good time to just accept the reality here.

When the NFL — which lusts for taxpayer dollars the way vampires crave blood — walks away from at least $400 million in public money in St. Louis … it just isn’t meant to be. I don’t think we need to be bashed with another crowbar to get the point.

St. Louis has been under a bad NFL moon from the start, and it just isn’t going to work out. It’s nice to have an NFL team, but it’s not as if St. Louis will collapse and sink into the Mississippi river without one.

The NFL is already trying to set up St. Louis for another fall, floating the idea that our city has a chance to get another team. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it Tuesday in Houston. Cartel boss Roger Goodell implied it. An NFL’s lead lobbyist helpfully spinned the message too.

Stop it.

Stop with this right now.

I am in 100 percent agreement with St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, who on Wednesday said he had no interest in chasing another NFL franchise.

St. Louis already has taken enough abuse from a dishonest and devious NFL, and there is no sane reason to subject ourselves to additional beatdowns and humiliation. Most of the national media — co-opted by the league — doesn’t care, either. Very few people outside of our metro area give a damn about the way the NFL fixed the relocation process to make it impossible for St. Louis to prevail.

We have two excellent franchises here, the Cardinals and Blues. That’s more than fine. Let’s just appreciate what we have instead of getting trapped in another NFL con game. This town should never put itself in the position of slobbering for the NFL and setting ourselves up to be used for leverage by some NFL owner that wants the politicians to come up with public dollars for a stadium in his home market.

Enough already.

If the NFL wants to play ball with St. Louis, here are the terms:

If an existing team wants to move here — then move here, but there will be no public money for a new stadium, so you’ll have to build it on your own. (In other words: forget about it; no chance whatsoever of that happening.)

Or:

An expansion team, owned locally by men and women who are steadfast in their loyalty to St. Louis.

The idea of trying to lure another greedy owner here is sickening.

That’s been a big part of STL’s problematic NFL existence.

In 1960, the Chicago Cardinals moved here and became the St. Louis Cardinals, who left for Arizona in 1988.

In 1995, the Los Angeles Rams moved here to cash in on the new domed stadium with the lucrative lease, squeezed every last dollar out of the place, and headed back to Los Angeles 21 years later.

The transient nature of the NFL in St. Louis undermines stability and loyalty and a lasting bond between a community. The kind of community-team bond that makes moving away unthinkable, if not impossible.

dave peacock
St. Louis stadium task force leader Dave Peacock expressed doubt that the city will ever again be home to an NFL franchise.

St. Louis task force co-chair Dave Peacock worked diligently and effectively to save the Rams here.

Peacock’s effort was amazing, but he never had a chance, because the fix was in. With the Rams leaving, I asked Peacock if he thought we’d ever have another NFL team here.

“I never say never, but my personal opinion is (no) unless you’re getting expansion franchise or a team moving in like Cleveland went to Baltimore, and your rebranding it and that team was born from that community,” Peacock said.

“I think this thought of ‘We’re going to take another club from another market and try to rebuild that brand here’ (isn’t a solution.) You need 40+ years of consistency to build the brand in a marketplace because then you get multiple generations.

“But I think it’s better if it’s born in that community like the Kansas Chiefs, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, like the Chicago Bears. So my personal opinion is you don’t try to go take some other team and go through this process again unless if you do and you’re able to rebrand and really do it the right way and let St. Louis own it.

“And you have to have the right ownership; we’ve seen that in both occasions, this one (Rams) probably being the most challenging. But you’ve got to have as we’ve seen with the Cardinals and the Blues an engaged ownership that wants to be in St. Louis.

Peacock correctly believes St. Louis put itself at risk and squandered an opportunity for long-term NFL stability by botching the bid for an NFL expansion team in 1993. Carolina and St. Louis were the strong favorites to win the two-team expansion race, but a dispute over the lease rights to the proposed domed stadium knocked STL out, and Jacksonville received the second franchise.

Just like that, the St. Louis Stallions were gone — even before they existed.

And it set off a sequence of events, including the unbelievably bad decision to give the Rams an escape clause, that put us in the situation we face today.

“I kind of look back in retrospect, I think losing out on an expansion team was probably the death knell for football in St. Louis,” Peacock said. “Because building a team and a brand into the market is a better option than trying to take another team and think that you’re going to keep them long term. It’s a bit challenging.”

Some fans continue to cling to the idea that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan will bring his team here, but that’s a fantasy. And a fallacy. Just because Khan put in a bid to buy the Rams in 2010, it doesn’t mean he’s interested in being here. now or in the future. He purchased another team. He’s pumped a lot of money into the Jacksonville franchise, and the enhanced marketing efforts there have led to a dramatic increase in local revenue.

When asked by the Post-Dispatch about the possibility of moving to St. Louis, Khan said, “I don’t see that at all, OK?”

Sportswriter Jim Thomas said Khan was firm on the point. Thomas went on to describe how Khan cited concerns over STL’s changing economic landscape. Khan mentioned our town’s weakened corporate might.

“I mean I lived not too far from St. Louis for many, many years,” Khan told the P-D. “Just think about what St. Louis used to be.”

And that’s coming from an NFL owner who is  fond of  St. Louis personally.

That bad NFL moon over St. Louis isn’t going away.

If you think the cost of a new football stadium is outrageous now — the ‘dissed St. Louis proposal came in at $1.1 billion — try to comprehend the expense 10 or even five years from now. With Jerry Jones doing his grandiose thing in Dallas, and Kroenke taking the luxurious-glamorous approach to stadium development to another in Inglewood, the price of future stadia will be astronomical.

And in markets like St. Louis, the cost will be prohibitive. Good luck to any courageous soul that tries to get as little as $10 in taxpayer money in the quest to rejoin the NFL. Not after the recent debacle. The Edward Jones Dome was constructed at a cost of $300 million. Here we are, fewer than 25 seasons later, and a proposal for a $1.1 billion STL stadium was deemed inadequate.

We’re at the point of no return … an NFL return.

A bad NFL moon hovered over us 49 NFL seasons (Cardinals and Rams) that produced 16 winning records, eight seasons of making the playoffs, and six postseason wins. The Cardinals went 186-202-14 in 28 seasons here (a .480 winning percentage.) The Rams were 142-193-1 in their 21 seasons (.442).

We had an entertaining mid-1970s ride on “Air Coryell” with the Cardinals, and exhilaration joy with “The Greatest Show” Rams team that zoomed to two NFC titles and a Super Bowl. But other than a 64-32 record over five seasons (1999-2004) the Rams had a ghastly .327 winning percentage in their other 16 years here. The rest was poor ownership, stadium battles, almost constant turmoil and mostly a lot of rotten football. And at the end of the line: the NFL-orchestrated corruption that transported the Rams to Los Angeles.

The bad NFL moon is still there … and it will remain.

Don’t look up, don’t look back.

Let’s just move forward.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie 

Read More: Miklasz – The Rams Are Gone. Next: Who Will Benefit the Most?