Twenty-one years of suffering has come to a close for Rams fans in Los Angeles. With a little strong-arming and a lot… A LOT… of money, the NFL gleefully welcomed E. Stanley Kroenke, his team, his magnificent stadium design and most importantly, his jack back to the City of Angels.
The relocation vote that occurred on Tuesday, January 12 (70 years to the day of the Rams being given permission to move from Cleveland to Los Angeles) also ended an era in St. Louis that witnessed two Super Bowl trips, one Lombardi Trophy, The Greatest Show On Turf, a stretch of the worst football in NFL history (a 15-65 record over a five-year span) and more than a decade of decadence.
The on-field product has been atrocious for eleven straight seasons, yet St. Louis supported the Rams unlike few cities would. Despite an owner who hadn’t spoken publicly since 2012 and uttered words only once before then, when he took full control of the team in 2010 and reiterated his devotion to St. Louis, the fans supported the building of a new stadium in hopes of keeping their NFL dreams alive. That was all for naught.
This story is about much more than St. Louis twice losing teams. It’s about Los Angeles in 1995. That was the year the Rams arrived in The Gateway City, a move that shouldn’t have occurred either. It’s also about Cleveland. The Browns bolting for Baltimore and becoming the Ravens was an abomination. And, the Raiders moving from Oakland to Los Angeles back to Oakland wasn’t right; Neither was the Colts move from Baltimore to Indianapolis.
I could list every franchise move in the history of the NFL, but the ones pertaining to St. Louis, Los Angeles and Cleveland were the most preventable. As much as I hate to see the Rams leave St. Louis, they never should have been here. They belonged in Los Angeles and an expansion team belonged in St. Louis. At a minimum, the name “Rams” should have never left the west coast.
Nevertheless, the Rams reached a point that the franchise was St. Louis. The Super Bowl victory, The Greatest Show On Turf, as well as the unparalleled fan and tax dollar support make the 2016 relocation disgraceful.
But, that’s the real world. The are no safe spaces in the NFL – for fans or owners. The billion dollar industry that continues to grow weekly has unchecked authority to do whatever it pleases, whenever it pleases. Unfortunately for St. Louis, and perhaps San Diego and Oakland, NFL fans are just pawns in a war of world domination where mutiny is impossible.
Make no mistake – Other cities are also vulnerable, in one way or another, as the years go by. The NFL is a regime unlike any other. A more appropriate term for it came from one of St. Louis’ great sports writers and talk show hosts, Bernie Miklasz. He refers to the NFL as a cartel. Tuesday night’s press conference seemed like a mafia gathering, rather than an American professional sports league explaining it’s doing what’s in the best interest of fans, which it didn’t pretend to do.
Tuesday was all about what is best for the NFL “partners.” Those are the owners. The select group of 32 individuals, who as a whole, care more about squeezing one more penny out of any given situation than the fans who grease their multi-billion dollar printing machine.
It’s a time of mourning in St. Louis, and the words of NFL owners and executives pretending to console the city ring hollow. On a weekend that should be celebrated nationwide by NFL fans, we must recognize the atrocity that wrecked the forever home of The Greatest Show On Turf.
While the Rams and the NFL have officially begun celebrating the land of milk and honey, fans need to recognize the football injustice in St. Louis. More importantly, they should never forget this, especially those fans in cities who are vulnerable to the same fate as The Gateway City. There is no eternal gatekeeper.