There was some heartbreak and hard feelings in January when 30 NFL owners gave their blessing for Stan Kroenke to kick his home state in the gut and truck the Rams west to Los Angeles.
Thankfully, the St. Louis Blues were on hand to salve the city’s wounds with a run at NHL’s Western Conference championship (and ultimately produce more heartbreak).
But now that all 32 NFL teams are back in training camp, the scab has been torn off all over again. We’ve been inundated with comments out of the LA media, and even from the players, that appear to be trolling St. Louis fans.
Mediocre head coach Jeff Fisher was giddy at the crowd that showed up for the first day of training camp. There he stood, like a beauty pageant queen amid a group of reporters: “I’m not used to this,” he beamed.
(In a bit of irony, the team later the same day announced the cancellation of a Rams alumni game in California — ala the “Legends of the Dome” game held here last weekend — due to lack of ticket sales.)
Back in St. Louis, it’s been interesting watching some of you on social media or hearing you on sports radio discuss the merits of the NFL teams you now intend to support.
I’ve heard directly from some of you lobbying the BND to adopt one team or another to be covered as the new local favorite. Unofficially, the frontrunner seems to be the Green Bay Packers, with votes for the Chicago Bears, the Indianapolis Colts and, yes, even the Rams.
If I sound a little bitter it’s only because I am. My question to St. Louis football fans is: Why aren’t more of you? How can you support any of them?
Yes, Stan Kroenke was behind the wheel of the Rams’ moving van, but he’s not the only villain here. The NFL’s ownership cartel handed him the keys, exposing what a fraud their own league policy really is.
A task force led by David Peacock check listed everything the league stipulated in order to prevent the Rams’ from relocating. It moved the chains on a new stadium for St. Louis’ north riverfront even as Kroenke and NFL Commission Roger Goodell conspired to push the goal line further and further away.
In the end, the task force wasted $16 million predicated on the false hope laid out by the NFL’s policy for relocation — the one that says financial gain isn’t reason enough to uproot a franchise.
First, Goodell rescinded $300 million in stadium funding a league official had previously pledged, even though a committee he appointed to study Los Angeles relocation formally endorsed the St. Louis plan to the other owners.
Then he and Stan the Sham turned viciously on the city and the task force. Goodell called its proposed billion dollar stadium “inadequate” as Kroenke cried about lack of fan support.
He had the nerve to portray himself as the victim, spurned in his efforts to work with the city despite the steep (and imaginary) investment he made in players and coaches for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003.
Kroenke and Goodell then argued that the St. Louis region was in too steep a decline to support the NFL and lobbied hard to leave it as the largest U.S. media market without a franchise.
Meanwhile, two other NFL teams — the San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders — had tried for years to find the financing for new stadiums in their cities. With the help of Disney CEO Bob Iger, they partnered in the proposal of a shared stadium that would have placed two teams back in the LA market.
Twice in the last 25 years, St. Louis has stepped forward with top-tier stadiums to either lure the NFL or keep it here. Yet on Jan. 23, 2016 the owners sold out their own policy and made themselves complicit in Kroenke’s scheme.
The Chargers are in still in San Diego, the Raiders remain in Oakland, the Rams are all giddy out in Hollywood awaiting completion of Kroenke’s football palace, and St. Louis is shopping for a Major League of Soccer franchise.
Face it: We got hosed.
So what NFL team am I going to root for? You’re kidding me, right?
Any attention I afford the NFL will henceforth be considered an occupational hazard. For those of you who have a choice, might I suggest you scratch your football itch under the Friday night lights or maybe take in a game at McKendree or Lindenwood-Belleville. Champaign and Carbondale are both just a couple hours away, too.
College and high school football is entertaining, the atmosphere is great, and tickets are cheap. Best of all, you won’t have to sell your soul to a crooked organization that cares about you as much as I care about them.