Between the two of us, my father and I have witnessed nearly every moment of the pitiful pro football on display in St. Louis over the past 55 years, first with the Cardinals, and then with the Rams. But for the first time in my life, we will not be renewing our season tickets with the Rams.
The Rams have broken my heart year after year, disappointed me, and left me wondering why I spend my money and my time watching them play. It’s been a part of my life since I was three years old.
Unfortunately, recent events have changed all that. I never thought I would stop watching the Rams, but what transpired over the past few weeks was too much to endure.
Stan Kroenke, owner of the Rams, has decided the team will be playing football in Los Angeles soon. While nothing is official yet, the Rams are as good as gone.
Kroenke has the money (he’s one of the richest human beings on the planet, and his wife “Princess Wal-Mart” is worth more than him), he has the land (a however-many-acre plot in Inglewood, California with space not only for a stadium but room to develop parking lots and mini malls to accompany the field and fatten his wallet) and he has the team.
People have tried telling me not to worry—that it’s presumptuous to think the Rams will leave, that there’s no need to fret yet. They say the NFL has ruled out submissions to relocate in 2015—true, but not in 2016. They say the NFL owners wanted to control the LA market and that they don’t trust or like Kroenke. They say the NFL’s own bylaws prohibit a team from re-locating unless they have negotiated “in good faith” with the home city. They say it’s too early to say anything for certain.
Please. To believe the Rams will be in St. Louis in five years is incredibly naïve.
Firstly, the other NFL owners may not like Kroenke, but they do like money. And a team in LA would mean more money for them.
The NFL has owned the LA market for 20 years and done virtually nothing with it. Never before has such a viable owner, location and team been available for relocation.
It’s hard to move a team to Los Angeles; the real-estate market is a mess and the taxes are astronomical. But Kroenke already has the land, and can afford the taxes. They might not like him, but he can make them more money. A team in the second-biggest TV market in the United States will bring in more cash than a team in St. Louis. It’s simple and unfortunate math. If the LA Clippers are worth $2 billion, how high might the Rams’ stock rise if they were to move?
As for the NFL’s bylaws, they aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. They were designed to keep people from owning professional sports teams in different franchises and thus tamper with different markets.
But the NFL is already making exceptions for Kroenke in terms of their “bylaws.” When Kroenke bought the Rams in 2010, he already owned professional sports teams in another market: Denver. He owns the Avalanche, the Nuggets, and the Major League Soccer team the Rapids. This means Kroenoke has violated the NFL’s cross-ownership laws multiple times.
To get around this, Kroenke bequeathed the teams to his son and daughter. How very generous of him. The NFL didn’t call him on this nonsense (it’s been four years), so to believe he has to negotiate in “good faith” with St. Louis is preposterous.
Besides, he already has a plan to deal with the pesky people who remind him of the relatively strong support in St. Louis. He’s alienated every fan with his plans in LA. The Rams will play 2015 in St. Louis in a nearly-empty dome. And then Kroenke will claim he has no support and will have to leave.
“Why would Kroenke agree to lease a stadium that isn’t his in a city like St. Louis, when he can own a stadium and all of the amenities around it in a city like Los Angeles?”
It’s amazing how transparent his plan is, but I’ve seen this movie before. (Maybe you have too—it’s called Major League.) If the NFL does stand up to Kroenke, he won’t hesitate to sue. And the NFL wouldn’t want to face a lawsuit. They’ve had enough bad PR lately.
Kroenke will throw money at the appropriate people (the Spanos family in San Diego comes to mind), and he will get what he wants. Multi-billionaires tend to get that.
And to those who look to Gov. Jay Nixon’s stadium task force leaders Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz to save the day: You need to adjust your expectations. Is it a nice drawing? Yes. But where is the money behind it? It’s mostly public money. If the public is called on to raise taxes to fund a new stadium, (for the second time in 20 years) the initiative will fail.
Furthermore, Peacock has already claimed the stadium needs an investment of at least $200 million from an NFL owner. They won’t get a dime from Kroenke.
Even worse, the city doesn’t even own all of the land necessary for the plan to work, and they plan for the stadium to be publicly operated. Why would Kroenke (who loves money) agree to lease a stadium that isn’t his in a city like St. Louis, when he can own a stadium and all of the amenities around it in a city like Los Angeles? Kroenke made his money in real estate. He buys land. He develops land. He does not lease.
My dad and I left the final Rams game against the Giants a few minutes early. We were rounding a concourse when we saw the Rams block a field goal against New York on the Jumbotron. We had the ball back with only moments remaining. Just the faintest chance of a comeback. I asked my dad if we could stop and see the end of the game. I wanted to see. Even then, I still believed. Maybe the Rams had a miracle up their sleeves.
They didn’t. Shaun Hill fumbled the snap from shotgun and the Giants recovered. I had to laugh. I was such a sucker. But not anymore.