Note: I originally posted this article here, on Daily Norseman on Jan. 13
Dear Rams Faithful,
I can only imagine what is going through your minds tonight, after the news that the National Football League has approved the relocation of your beloved Rams back to their roots in Los Angeles. Your city has not been treated well by the NFL over the years. You were betrayed in 1987 when the Cardinals moved to the desert, and now, two and a half decades later, the league has again sent your team packing.
Since the Rams moved to town, there have been more downs than ups, but some exciting players and teams have graced your Sundays. The Greatest Show On Turf was - for a period - exactly that. Kurt Warner became an NFL legend in St. Louis. Marshall Faulkwas perhaps the most perfectly utlilized all-around back in NFL history. Isaac Bruce,Torry Holt and Az Hakim were electric and incredibly fun to watch.
But life as an NFL city is rarely fair. We here in Minnesota are very fortunate to be looking forward next season to playing our games in the new U.S. Bank Stadium. There were several times over the past couple of decades that the future of the Vikings was in doubt. Former Vikings owner Red McCombs flirted with San Antonio, Texas for a time while trying to get a stadium deal done. Zygi Wilf rattled his saber while pointing to Los Angeles as a landing spot for the team before finally getting a deal done to keep the team in Minnesota. We know of stadium struggles. We know of the feeling of betrayal when "our team" suddenly turns on us. The players are "ours." The experience, the anguish and ecstasy are "ours." The wins are "ours." The losses are "ours."
But unfortunately, that is all that is "ours." Because in today's NFL, teams are owned by multi-billionaires with no real sense of emotional community ties. And billionaires didn't get to be billionaires by making emotional decisions. They look at numbers. They make deals that benefit themselves first. And they don't give a damn if you got a tattoo on your left arm of the team logo. Or if you named your first born after your favorite player. What they give a damn about is how many more millions they can make.
And that is why "your team" is moving to Los Angeles.
The Edward Jones Dome was opened in 1995, and has hosted many big games and big events. But it is not without its faults, either. Time Magazine once rated it the 7th worst sports venue in the country. Heck, even the fans themselves rated it dead last in the NFL for the overall experience of going to a football game. Since 2008, the Rams percentage of attendance versus capacity has ranked 29th, 29th, 30th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and most recently 32nd out of all 32 NFL teams, averaging a paltry 85.7 percent over those years. By comparison, our Minnesota Vikings - playing in one of the worst venues in the history of the NFL, and then in a temporary home on the UofM Campus - averaged 98.6 percent of capacity over those same years.
Ownership issues can certainly cloud a fan's view of a team. Heck, I still despise the Dallas Stars after Norm Green moved my beloved North Stars to Texas. Ask anyCleveland Browns fan how they felt about Art Modell. Stan Kroenke is certainly no saint. He married Wal-Mart, which is very telling in this case. I've read that he hasn't spoken publicly to the St. Louis Rams fanbase in years. It sounds as though there is a total disconnect from owner to fan. So perhaps that's part of what led to the low attendance numbers. Al Davis was welcomed back to Oakland in 1995 with open arms after moving them to Los Angeles in the early '80s. Art Modell was a hero in Baltimore for bringing football back to the city. The Wilfs were vilified by many in Minnesota after holding the State's feet to the fire over the stadium situation. Already, Kroenke is being treated like a hero for returning the Rams to Los Angeles. Perspective, I guess.
But for all their warts, NFL owners still hold the keys to the castle. Only the folks in Green Bay can claim that they have no need to fear relocation. Heck, I can already predict with great sincerity that I will be watching a push for a new Vikings Stadium at least once more in my lifetime.
I wouldn't blame any of you if you never watched another NFL game. Unfortunately, the NFL doesn't need you to. The Los Angeles Market will have a shiny new toy to play with. St. Louis as a football town will sit and wait for another chance at a team, because - and this is the truth, harsh as it sounds today - every major city in America wants to be a part of the NFL. Maybe with the stadium proposals that the St. Louis area has put forth, a White Knight will emerge and St. Louis will finally have "its own" team. After all, both of the franchises that called eastern Missouri home left another fan base behind when they moved to the greener pastures of the Gateway to the West. The original Rams fans in Los Angeles and fans of the Chicago Cardinals both had their hearts broken. With the right stadium agreement, expansion is always a possibility. It happened in Cleveland. It happened in Houston. Cities get teams back. Hell, it happened in Los Angeles and Oakland twice!
So while these are most certainly dark days as a St. Louis football fan, it isn't the end. It's simply a case of a very rich person trying to become a very very rich person and moving his herd to a new pasture. But we feel your pain up here in the cold North. We nearly lost "our" team, and we may someday have to face those fears again.
A Vikings Fan