I have always considered the Super Bowl to be the last non-baseball related sporting event I need to concern myself with before baseball’s spring training.
Why not indulge? By this time of year all the hot stove hand-wringing is over. Regardless if I had a vested interest in either of the team involved, it was a spectacle worth a few hours of my attention on a Sunday afternoon.
But it’s pretty hard to invest any emotion in the National Football League this year if one is a St. Louis area resident.
It’s a common misconception that people buy tickets and dedicate time because they like to watch the greatest athletes of the world demonstrate their skills in competition.
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People actually fork over their hard-earned money to pay to watch other people play games to enjoy the passion and the drama of being a fan.
They become emotionally invested in rooting for “their” team to win. A lot of folks spend crazy amounts of money buying expensive tickets and memorabilia because they’re tied to their team like its a member of the family -- or at least like a beloved pet.
And there’s the rub when it comes to the supporting NFL for St. Louisans.
It’s pretty obvious that the league doesn’t want anything to do with St. Louis. As it bends over to help Oakland and San Diego keep its franchises, the commissioner and his cronies snatched the Rams away from St. Louis despite it was the only city in the four involved in the fight over the Rams, Chargers and Raiders that actually stepped up and pledged to build a new stadium for one of the teams.
While the league pushes its “football is family” slogan, St. Louis has clearly been uninvited to the Fourth of July barbecue and Thanksgiving dinner.
When the Browns left Cleveland a few years back the league stepped in and told owner Art Modell that he had to leave the Browns name and all his team’s records behind because Cleveland was going to get an expansion franchise to replace what was stolen from it.
St. Louis got no such promises. It pretty much got a big middle finger from the league for even trying to remain in the pro football’s exclusive club.
When Missouri and St. Louis leaders survived a pair of last-minute efforts on the part of the league to derail the local stadium project by changing the terms just before a city council vote, commissioner Roger Goodell fumed that St. Louis was asking for $100 million more than league policy permitted. Then he offered the same $100 million to San Diego and Oakland to aid their “efforts” to build a local stadium for their teams without those cities even asking for the money.
To sum it up:
▪ The league did nothing to prevent the St. Louis Cardinals from moving to Phoenix.
▪ It stole an expansion franchise planned for the city of St. Louis away to Jacksonville, Fla.
▪ It then tried to prevent the Rams from moving to St. Louis after taxpayers here built a stadium on faith only to be jilted.
▪ Then it violated every point of its own policy on stadium relocation and rejected a nearly unanimous recommendation of the relocation task force to allow the Rams to move away in order to “right a wrong” with no plans to help the city to get a replacement team. (And zero consideration to the fact that the Rams and Raiders both left LA 20 years ago because the teams were so poorly supported during their previous tenures there.)
One-way relationships are never healthy. And when someone realizes they’re being played for a sucker, the only sensible thing to do is to walk away.
Did I rush to throw away my Marshall Faulk jersey and my Super Bowl 34 sweatshirt and ballcap? No. But I don’t see myself running out to buy any more NFL gear anytime in the near future.
Am I angry St. Louis has been left without a team? Sure.
But that’s not why I have decided to discontinue my annual Super Bowl party that I’ve traditionally hosted for the past two decades.
It’s because, as we learned when the Rams were taken and local fans were cast back out of the NFL’s family, this isn’t about passion, sport or loyalty. It’s only about business.
All of the reasons I had to be interested in the game -- things that were already strained by the obvious efforts of the Rams to untangle themselves from St. Louis since Stan Kroenke got control of the club, the league’s problem with turning a blind eye to the unscrupulous and illegal acts of talented players, it’s risking the lives and health of players for the love of making the all-mighty buck... are gone, allowing these ugly parts of the game to bubble to the surface.
I deal with “business” Monday through Friday. Sunday is my day off. So I’d rather spend some time doing something with my son than handling “business.”