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St. Louis Rams: The Relocation Cha-Cha Begins - Part 1

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And here...we...go...

I'd like to think moving an NFL team requires an owner to think broadly, but it really doesn't... Before I dive into this, let me just say I'm a Rams fan from waaaaay back. I'm talking Deacon Jones-Roman Gabriel era kind of fandom. I've walked on the L.A. Coliseum grass after a Rams game as a child, standing perfectly still as Merlin Olsen smiled at me as he walked by...

I didn't want the Rams to move to St. Louis. Like every Rams fan I've ever known, Georgia Frontiere will be forever despised. In all honesty, she makes Stan Kroenke look like a kitten. She was flat out awful, and don't even get me started how this former Miami night club singer ended up destroying L.A. Rams fans' dreams...

I often wonder why fans so easily slide sideways into the "business decision" acceptance mode? It happens in the market the team plans to move to, and - for the most part - not where the team plans to leave. It's a "safe mode" default argument that's hard to deny. Still, it bum-fuzzles me how quickly we often demur to money as a reason for a team leaving one market for another, when in point of fact there wouldn't be any $$$ without the fans owners quite literally take for granted. In a business deal, there's a term: "Blue Sky". It's a descriptive for an intangible asset like a customer base, or reputation earned in a particular marketplace...

The value we as fans place on our "Blue Sky" love of a team doesn't mirror what an NFL owner thinks. They only need us when they need us. When they don't, all we are is just so much noise, and bother. We buy tickets, jerseys, ect... We offer up community money for places a team can play... But it's never going to be enough to scratch beneath an owner's skin to meld with his soul. This may be too general of a statement, since I know there are NFL owners who'd sooner cut of their right arms than disappoint their fan-bases. It's too bad the Rooneys and Maras of the world are so rare. The rest of the NFL fan universe is stuck with Snyders, Jones, Irsays... You know the ones I'm talking about, right? The ones who know just enough about football to make them think they know about football... Some have done alright, with Dallas' Jerry Jones building onto his fabled franchise as he mugged for enough media time to challenge "His Trumpness"...

I bet you think I've spun off on some kind of tangent? OK, I did for a second, but now I'm back! You see, there's another kind of owner NFL fans have to start getting used to. Ba-jillionaires like Stan Kroenke - who buy an asset, not a team with adoring fans - don't really seem to care about the actual game of football? This type of owner ties himself only to profitability, or asset value enhancement. The practical side of me can't fault him, but the fan side of me finds this limited view more than a little sad. A wily business man, Kroenke slid his way into part ownership of the Rams when they moved to St. Louis. Biding his time, he scooped up the rest of the team when the opportunity presented itself.

I often wonder why an owner doesn't get tarred with the same vicious brush as his team's coaches or players? In Kroenke's case, his "hands-off" approach to ownership is more akin to a landlord, who buys a building and offsets the deterioration of his property against appreciation of value based on any number of factors?

The ceremonial start of the relocation dance seems to be over. St. Louis stepped up with - to me, anyway? - a very viable offer to induce Stan Kroenke to stay in St. Louis. In his relocation application filed with the NFL - and released on January 6th ahead of the NFL owners meeting in a few days - he basically said St. Louis isn't worthy of having an NFL team of ANY KIND, much less his own? I can't disagree more, but then, I didn't agree with Frontiere when she turned her back on Los Angeles for a sweetheart deal thrown at her feet by St. Louis two decades ago.

With this "burning bridges" approach, Kroenke seems to be challenging St. Louis officials to back off their pledge to try and keep the Rams? I mean, if you insult the people who are going to have to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars, the odds are they'll tell Kroenke to stick it? His NFL owner brethren may not be happy with him though. They aren't dumb; nor will they be likely swayed by his little P.R. hi-jinks. It's just my opinion, but I think he's basically telling his fellow owners he's moving his team, regardless of any league vote...

If true, can you imagine the owners of the San Diego Chargers or Oakland Raiders wanting to share a stadium with Kroenke? Maybe that's Kroenke's plan so he can go it alone in Los Angeles? What if the NFL calls his bluff, but says they want two relocation fees for the L.A. market; regardless of if there's another team there, or not? Would Kroenke fork over two $550 million fees, plus spend $2 billion on a stadium? It would be a gamble, since the #2 market in the U.S. failed to hold a team 20 years ago. Add in the L.A. sports teams available to split ticket dollars, let alone the very real fact soccer is enormously popular in Los Angeles. Remember, L.A. lost their team before all the concussion-CTE stuff hit the fan too. This is the very birthplace of the over-indulgent soccer Mom...

I think the biggest gamble for Kroenke is his reliance on former L.A. Rams fans. Many of us are 50+ years old. There's virtually an entire generation in the L.A. area who hold zero allegiance to my Deacon Jones-esk Rams. Add in the current "video game-A.D.D. challenged-me first" generation, then try to glean just where a solid fan base you can count on will come from, and whether it's worth a $3+ billion bet... If he thinks St. Louis "Greatest Show on Turf" fans will follow him, he's - in my opinion - very, very wrong...

*****

In Part 2, I'll dive into the market in L.A. itself, and maybe throw a bit of Rams history your way. Until then, let me be very clear about my thoughts on a Rams move from St. Louis: I don't think ANY owner should move a team, EVER. If the Rams do move, I'll still be a fan of the team, simply because my roots run too deep to change. I'm from the L.A. area; born in Fullerton, and raised in Laguna Beach, CA. I will feel the pain of the absolutely great St. Louis fans, especially since this will be the second time they've lost a team they've loved.