A year ago today, Jan. 12, the NFL owners voted to approve the Rams’ relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
A corrupt process was rigged through the final hours, when the normal rules and protocol were changed to allow the owners to vote anonymously as part of a successful ploy to pick up votes for Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
The NFL abandoned St. Louis, choosing to walk from $400 million in public dollars allocated for a new riverfront stadium here. And the NFL pulled the Rams out of St. Louis after commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly lied, with his frequent claims of the league’s fervent commitment to keeping franchises in their current markets.
It was disgusting business. Once that Goodell and the more powerful members of the NFL billionaire club were aroused by Kroenke’s offer to fund a $2.6 billion stadium, the league couldn’t resist a chance to reestablish a presence in Los Angeles at virtually no cost to the other owners. Because league owners will collect relocation fees, they profited from the dirty deed.
St. Louis never had a chance to keep this team. And the dishonesty bothers me to this day. The process wasn’t fair. The fix was in. Then again, I was terribly naive to believe that St. Louis could trust Goodell and his hustler accomplices to conduct themselves in an honest, forthright and ethically consistent manner.
How foolish of me.
As I learned, again, the hard way: Cartel gonna Cartel.
My question to you: A year later, are we better — or worse — without the Rams?
There’s no clear answer … at least not with me. And I can only speak for myself here.
— As a general philosophy I think it’s better to have an NFL franchise than not have one — especially after the city and state invested a considerable money to build the Edward Jones Dome, the stadium that also serves as an extension of the downtown convention center. We’re still paying off the dome, but at least it remains active as a convention venue. I think it’s better to keep the team you have — but then again, the St. Louis stadium task force made a genuine effort to do just that, only to be misled and then slapped down by Goodell and his goons.
— However, we’re talking about THIS franchise. And as a product, the Rams remain a poorly operated disgrace, and a league laughingstock, having failed to field a winning team since 2003. It didn’t take long for Kroenke and clown-car driver Kevin Demoff to turn off the fans in Los Angeles. As columnist Bill Plaschke wrote today in the Los Angeles Times: “Look at how many fans fled the Rams after they won only four games in their dismal return season here.” And now the San Diego Chargers are going to Los Angeles, to further weaken and dilute a market that’s lukewarm on pro football. The NFL television ratings will undoubtedly decline in LA again next season; with the Chargers crowding in, a far more popular team, the Oakland (or Las Vegas) Raiders, will have their games bumped from Los Angeles TV on many game days. And as Plaschke points out, wait until that first Raiders at Chargers game in Los Angeles. Raiders fans will fill the place and embarrass the league and the Chargers.
— And what of the long-term future? Away from the field, the Rams made no effort to market itself in St. Louis and connect with the fans. The opposite was true; Kroenke and his minions worked to alienate the fans. Winning — games and support — wasn’t a priority. And the situation would only get worse through time. But now that I’ve said that, it’s also true that Kroenke won’t live forever … at least I don’t think so … a Rams’ revival in St. Louis may have happened in 20 years or so. But staying in the moment, you just have to think of the Rams staying here instead of moving and ask: given the overriding circumstances — perpetually bad ownership — what would be the point of keeping the Rams here?
–– As a side note … and again, I speak for myself … I don’t miss the Rams. Not when I now have weekends off, and can build my Saturdays around watching as much college football as I please, and set up my Sundays by having every NFL game available in my home through satellite television. The Rams’ leaving actually enhanced my leisure time; my weekends are now reserved for making, grilling and smoking delicious food (come on over and have some pulled pork), enjoying time with my wife and our friends, and relaxing.I didn’t want to have to worry about fixating on their games because I knew I’d have to spend a lot of time talking (and writing) about them to fulfill my professional obligations. I like the wider range of NFL viewing, I like being able to choose to watch what I want to watch. I didn’t need the Rams to have a good weekend. And not having the Rams here … well, I now I know I will have great weekends. And it’s also been liberating for me to know I don’t have to care about these despicable people who run the NFL — or the bad guys that own some of the teams. I’ll watch their games — and I’ll care — but only on my terms. Not theirs. And I am able to separate my respect and admiration of NFL coaches and players from the league executives and owners.
— Would I be saying these things if the Rams were here and winning and preparing to compete in a playoff game? Of course not. But that’s irrelevant … completely irrelevant … because (again) there was no chance of this team staying. So it’s silly to speculate on what might have been. There’s no place for fantasy here. The Rams were gone … even when they were still here. We’ll never be an NFL occupied territory again, but the trends are changing.
— On a more serious note: there’s also the longstanding, complicated question of what sports franchises mean to a city. Not just financially. Not just from a pure business and investment standpoint. It’s never that simple. There’s a lot more to this than dollars and cents. The sports haters never have and never will understand the bigger picture. How do pro sports franchises impact a city’s national image and reputation? How do sports franchises enhance the quality of life, and even general happiness, in a particular city? I’d say that the Cardinals are a tremendous source of joy and pride and good times in St. Louis.
What is the intangible value of having sports teams? What role do sports — a viable and coveted entertainment option — play in marketing your city and winning the competition with other towns in the pitch to convince companies to move the headquarters to St. Louis? If you don’t think it’s important, then we should just shut everything down, stay locked into our homes every day and night of the year, and refuse to spend a single dollar of public money on anything that has to do with entertainment.
Is that a plan? That point aside … the Rams are no longer an entertainment option in STL.
Well, on second thought, that isn’t quite true. As one of the callers to “The Bernie Show” noted Thursday morning: watching the Los Angeles Rams get pounded on TV was a helluva lot more entertaining than paying for tickets to watch the feckless St. Louis Rams play on the ground here over the last 10+ years.
Thanks for reading …