No NFL…no Big League city

101 ESPN colleague Bernie Miklasz detailed the forthcoming sale of the St. Louis Rams in an exclusive story in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

As a NFL fan that lived through St. Louis’ most recent non-football era, I have some thoughts about the possibility of the team leaving.

First, without the NFL St. Louis is not a big league sports city. The Cardinals and the Blues are great, and necessary in our sports community. But the NFL is the biggest and most popular league going. If a mid-sized city like St. Louis can’t support the NFL at all levels: fan, corporate, government and ownership, then we just aren’t big league.

Secondly, it’s shocking that a city that just fifteen years ago was loaded with Fortune 500 companies and executives that could make things happen has nobody willing and able to buy a guaranteed moneymaker like a NFL team. You can’t lose in the NFL. What has happened to St. Louis is not only shocking, but it’s sad. We don’t have a single local sports ownership. Bill DeWitt lives in Cincinnati and Dave Checketts lives in Connecticut and Salt Lake City. Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez live in Los Angeles. We’re a city whose working class loves sports, but whose money people have little or no interest in owning.

Ultimately, nothing will happen until the community’s back is to the wall. That’s what happened in 1987 when the Cardinals left, and in 1993 with the failed expansion bid.

I have a bad feeling the Rams are headed back to Los Angeles for the 2015 season. And when the NFL leaves this time, it’s not coming back. St. Louis is on the decline in terms of population, corporate headquarters and financial clout. If we lose the Rams, we’re headed toward being Memphis rather than Boston in sports, too.