It was Jan. 30, 2000. With the rest of my family and friends at a Super Bowl party, my father stayed home with his 3-year-old son to watch the Rams play for a championship. In the quiet of his own home, he watched the entire game as the Greatest Show on Turf fought for a ring, a banner and sports immortality.
The Rams led 23-16 with 5 seconds left in the game, but Tennessee had the ball on the Rams’ 10 yard line. Steve McNair completed a 9-yard pass to Kevin Dyson. Standing between the Titan receiver and the end zone was Mike Jones, who famously wrapped up Dyson just short of the end zone. “The Tackle” gave the St. Louis Rams a Super Bowl victory.
Only 3 years old, I didn’t understand what was going on, but I screamed, jumped and cheered around the living room with my father. It was an early father-and-son moment in my home and a joyous moment for the entire city of St. Louis.
Sixteen years, 11 months and 13 days later, 32 billionaires took the Rams away from St. Louis.
I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news: in Scottrade Center watching the St. Louis Blues in the first period of their game against the New Jersey Devils. After carefully following the stream of news coming out of the owners meeting in Houston all day, I drove to the hockey game with a cautiously optimistic attitude.
How naive of me. The Rams were gone before the first period was over.
Rules? What rules?
Some may be asking where St. Louis went wrong. But that’s the most painful part: St. Louis did what it could.
St. Louis’ stadium task force made more progress in a little over a year than San Diego and Oakland did in more than a decade. How was St. Louis rewarded for that? By losing its team. Meanwhile, the NFL promised an extra $100 million to San Diego and Oakland if they can build there. $100 million was the same amount the NFL’s committee on L.A. offered St. Louis so Goodell could later use it as an excuse to discredit the St. Louis stadium plan in its report sent to owners before the meeting. More on that here.
How about the NFL’s relocation guidelines? The guidelines state an owner is not allowed to move for merely personal financial gain. These same guidelines also say an owner must exhaust all other options in their current city. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay announced the week before the final decision that he had never even met Kroenke. Take a moment to think about that; it’s ludicrous.
The stadium task force tried to meet with Kroenke on numerous occasions and was denied. Governor Jay Nixon met with Kroenke about the stadium only once, and it was late in the stadium task force’s process. There’s no way he can honestly say he exhausted every option in St. Louis. But that didn’t matter to the NFL.
The NFL also has a rule that an owner may not own a professional sports franchise in a city other than the city he/she owns an NFL team in. Kroenke is in violation of these cross-ownership rules. The billionaire owns the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids and oh yeah some team in Europe named Arsenal. This wouldn’t be an issue if he owned the Denver Broncos, but he doesn’t. He can shuffle papers and transfer the official ownership to his wife or son all he wants, but the practical fact remains that the man owns professional teams in other markets. But that didn’t matter to the NFL either.
It was encouraging to hear that the NFL’s committee on L.A. recommended the Carson project at the owners meeting. Unfortunately it didn’t actually mean anything. The committee was just another gadget the league used to make itself look good.
Dean Spanos has waited more than a decade for a new stadium deal in San Diego, but the city has been unable to give it to him. The Rams built the Edward Jones Dome only 20 years ago. An insignificant time period when you’re talking stadium lifetimes. He will now be forced to either join Kroenke as a tenant or a “partner” in his Inglewood palace. Even I am not naive enough to think Kroenke will really give Spanos true 50 percent control in Inglewood. Why is Spanos receiving the shorter end of the stick from the NFL? Because he isn’t rich enough to build his own palace in Los Angeles.
As Bernie Miklasz said, what really mattered was Kroenke’s deep pockets.
What may be even worse than the NFL not following its own rules is the fact that Kroenke and Kevin Demoff, Rams COO, have been lying to the city of St. Louis this entire time.
Before his press conference this evening, Kroenke hadn’t spoken to St. Louis media since 2012. In the meantime, Demoff has done the lying for him. Kroenke’s front office leader assured St. Louis that the team had no intention of leaving. Lies, lies and more lies. As Benjamin Hochman said on Twitter, Demoff’s lies to St. Louis’ media were like initiation into a fraternity. One semester of <less-than-satisfactory conditions> before the hotel-like luxury. Kroenke’s puppet has survived the hard part of his job, lying to St. Louis, and will now benefit from the team’s years in Los Angeles.
The Post-Dispatch listed just a few of Kroenke’s lies:
“I’m born and raised in Missouri. I’ve been a Missourian for 60 years. People in our state know me. People know I can be trusted. People know I’m an honorable guy.”
“I’m going to attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis.”
“There’s a track record. I’ve always stepped up for pro football in St. Louis. And I’m stepping up one more time.”
In his press conference — a rarity for Silent Stan — Kroenke said he has been working on this for quite some time, proving that he and his minions have been lying this whole time.
If his intention this whole time was to leave St. Louis for a place where he could make more money, he could have at least had the honor to be honest and say so.
Instead, he had the gall to continue to insult St. Louis with lies as he bumbled his way through the press conference. He even claimed to have been honest with the market. Some St. Louis reporters asked him tough questions, and he continued to lie. To top it all off, he then released this hilariously offensive statement.
The whole press conference was outrageously offensive. His lies are wrapped in lies.
There’s no doubt the NFL has done a great injustice to the city of St. Louis.
Now we are left to wonder whether St. Louis’ stadium task force moves forward with the stadium. If they do move forward, will it be for an NFL team or only for an MLS team? The latter would be much cheaper, but it would close the door to future NFL expansion/relocation teams.
More dishonesty ahead
Speaking of the future of the NFL, the rich man’s league has set a bad precedent with this decision.
By turning down the public money offered for the stadium in St. Louis and ignoring the city after it followed the rules the league set out, the NFL has created a problem for the future. Why would other cities work to gather public money when the league has shown that it is going to do what it wants anyway?
St. Louis gathered $400 million in public money to build its second stadium in less than 25 years, an unheard-of accomplishment. But the league didn’t care, and I think other NFL cities will remember that in the future. The days of public money being put into stadiums may be over.
The league has already reached its peak. It has issues bringing people to games because it has priced out families. The average middle class family can’t afford to go to a game. The quality of gameplay is also dropping as college players have a more difficult time transitioning to the NFL. The officiating on the field is awful. After every big play fans and players alike look for a little yellow flag over some tick-tack foul. It’s no longer a big-play league; it is a don’t-get-penalized league. Officiating off the field is even worse. Ray Rice is given a three-game suspension for domestic violence while other players lose an entire season for a drug that is legal in some states. Now the league has proven it only cares about money, not its own rules.
As Dave Peacock of the stadium task force said, the city did all it could as the league constantly changed the rules of the game.
Failure ahead for Silent Stan’s team
Most other NFL fans probably want me to shut up and quit complaining. Most other NFL fans probably don’t care and won’t care until the league comes for their team.
Kroenke may double the value of his team with this move, but he will fail miserably if he runs this team in Los Angeles the same way he ran it in St. Louis. Los Angeles has some of the most historic franchises in all of sports, yet passion for their teams is dictated by play just as much, if not more, than it is in other cities.
The City of Angels wants to see a show, something flashy. They’re getting an owner who only cares about the bottom line. Guys like that don’t win championships.
I can’t help but thinking about my childhood and the football that I grew up with. I’ve never known a good football team.
As I already said, I was too little to remember the Greatest Show on Turf. All I can ever remember is miserably bad Rams teams. I’ve always assumed that these miserably bad teams are why I was a relatively late to become an NFL fan. I watch stars like Aaron Rodgers in awe because I see how entertaining this game should be. It’s an entirely different world.
There are a plethora of sad aspects about the way the Rams left St. Louis. Not just today but throughout the last decade plus that they have been trying to leave.
No longer will I be naive enough to think human decency will trump greed.
I hate that other fan bases will have to go through this.
Tweets of the Day:
It was a wild day of rumors and actual news on Twitter. To serve as both a record of the day’s events as well as a timeline, here is a collection of the day’s tweets in somewhat chronological order:
Build-Up Mostly good news for St. Louis
Voting Starts Things starting to look a little worse…
The End is Nigh
Decision Made – Reactions
^^ Early tweet of the year candidate for bringing much needed humor to a dark moment.
Oh and here’s a link to a petition for Kroenke’s removal from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame:
Featured picture from @mattsebek on Twitter.