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How to speculate about the Rams and relocation

The Rams may or may not be moving after the 2014 season. That's all we know, but it's not stopping the world from jumping to conclusions. In the interest of facilitating better discussion, here are some handy tips for the armchair speculator.

Shaun Botterill

The Rams may or may not be moving after the 2014 season. They may or may not be moving from the Dome to a new stadium somewhere in the metro area or even further away, like several time zones. All of these possibilities are things that could happen. But we just don't know what's going to happen.

All that can really be done is to speculate, and there's plenty of that going on right now.

That speculation isn't just coming on page six of some internet slide show. Some of the biggest names on the NFL media circuit are throwing out the possibility.

Facts and an almost endless array of possibilities aren't going to stop the speculation about the Rams moving. And I'm not going to waste my time standing around with a finger in the dyke of reason (yeah, phrasing, my apologies). Instead, I'm going to offer a more generous public service for folks out there ...

A lesson in speculation.

For this demonstration, we'll use a pair of short pieces written for the web that nicely contrast the finer points of taking facts and projecting an unknown.

Let's start with post that appeared on the web site for everyone's favorite Midwestern lifestyle publication, St. Louis Magazine.

1. "CVC Officially Rejects Rams' Dome Proposal; L.A. Likely to Target Team"

This one's from Alvin Reid, who starts off by conflating the CVC's decision and the mayoral election in L.A. The new mayor, you see, is excited by the prospects of having an NFL team ... just the like mayor he replaced. That mayor, Eric Garcetti, and long-time city councilman who was reelected said some things that caught old Alvin's ear.

During a campaign event - yes, a campaign event, where truth oozes - Garcetti said this:

"Yes, professional football is a uniquely popular attraction that draws fans from across the region. Big games, like the Rose Bowl and Super Bowl, draw huge interest in our city and encourage talented individuals to move to L.A. In fact, my friend Jan Perry decided to move to L.A. after attending the Rose Bowl!"

OMG, YOU GUYS, HE PRETTY MUCH SAID IT ALL IN ONE INNOCUOUS CAMPAIGN PLATITUDE. Congrats, L.A., you're getting a team for sure now.

After that, you'd probably expect Reid, billed as a long-time newspaper vet, to provide some more evidence as to Los Angeles' NFL plans. You would be wrong.

Reid just goes on to say that the city has NFL backers in high places. That's it. Oh, he does add a short graph on the city's three potential stadium projects, but he fails to note the potential, significant hurdles those all face, including the NFL's own trepidation about them.

Ok, so what else makes Reid so sure that the Rams are out the door come 2015?

Politics, man, politics. This time in the state of Missouri.

This talk of the state and Gov. Jay Nixon sitting down to talk turkey with Kroenke is pure folly and foolishness. Regardless of what Nixon could offer, the Republican dominated legislature is going to say no. This legislature can't stand St. Louis for the most part, and it proves as much on an almost weekly basis whenever it's in session.

But wait? Los Angeles' mayor has more pull than Missouri's governor as a stadium backer? That's essentially what Reid is arguing here. Obviously, both conclusions are unsupported speculation that ignore the larger, more complex picture in favor of easy scaremongering. L.A. has had stadium backers before, from the state house to the city council.

In Missouri, like L.A., partisan politics are rarely as simple as they seem. And as for his "the state hates St. Louis" argument, he might ought to note that Kroenke is an active political donor (with lots of GOPers on his list), a Mizzou backer and a man whose business interests in the state go way beyond the Rams and St. Louis.


2. "Where Could The St. Louis Rams Move If The City Refuses to Build a New Stadium?"

Our second entry comes via Matthew Yglesias at Slate. He's not invested in the Rams or St. Louis per se, not like Reid and his various regional stumps. This entry is textbook short-form blogging. The author takes an idea, looks at the nuts and bolts of it, weighs it against the evidence and draws his own conclusion.

The obvious destination for any NFL team looking to relocate would be Los Angeles, America's second-largest city. However, L.A. and the NFL have a longstanding fraught relationship around the city's repeated-and admirable-refusal to pony up any stadium subsidies. If it's absolutely impossible to get a handout from the taxpayers anywhere, then it does seem like you'd be better off paying for your own stadium in LA than anywhere else.

Yglesias isn't speculating about the various moving parts of a complicated political scene in L.A. Instead, he's going on historical precedent, also known as THE FACTS.

L.A. has tried for decades to get a new stadium, long before the Rams ever left town. It hasn't happened yet. Stadium projects have come and gone over the years, so have supporters of those projects. But here we are with the second largest media market in the U.S. still without a professional football team.

I'll grant Reid this: the conditions in L.A. seem better than they have in a long time. Yglesias doesn't note that, and he doesn't really have to. Until we see tangible progress toward moving a team to L.A., there's no evidence it's happening. Precedent is all we have to go on, and that includes Reid and Yglesias too.

This piece goes on to look at the other possibilities for NFL relocation. He notes London's problems, and points out Toronto as the most logical international market for a permanent team. But the Bills lay claim to Canada.

The next largest U.S. markets without a team are Portland and San Antonio ... both of which happen to be smaller than St. Louis (though I'd be curious know whether or not they're more lucrative from a corporate and demographic standpoint, since, you know, you don't have to squint to see economic progress in both of those cities).

Which means that all else being equal there's a very strong case for the Rams staying exactly where they are.

Note the word "case" here. The author can use that because he actually bothered to make one, citing precedent and evidence as opposed to his gut and previous columns.

And that, my friends, is how you speculate with pride!

(Mandatory footnote: People are speculating because they don't know what the hell is going to happen. The Rams could very well move to L.A., Moonbase 423, London or Fenton, Mo. All we know right now is that the CVC and City are not spending whatever share of $700 million - nor should they - to fix up the Dome, thus freeing the Rams from the softest lease ever conceived after 2014. God, this is already tiresome.)