At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Heading West

By now, you've either heard the news or read it on Twitter or somewhere, but yes, the NFL's Rams are heading back west from St. Louis to Los Angeles.

Twenty-one years in St. Louis. Including a Super Bowl win in 1999. Gone.

I'll tell you this: That's business. Relocation happens in professional sports. The almighty dollar is king in professional sports. If you're expecting owners like the Rams' Stan Kroenke to measure up to some standard of idealism, you're living on a planet without oxygen.

But I digress. If you want my fast points on this, here goes.

(1) Stan Kroenke was determined to move the Rams to LA since the day he bought the club. The fact that some people don't realize this befuddles me.

(2) The Rams were bleeding St. Louis dry. This is primarily due to the stadium lease deal of the Edward Jones Dome, in which city money was going into a huge pit, not to mention the maintenance costs had long been an albatross around the neck of St. Louis City.

(3) Revitalization over pigskin: Rather than cry in our Budweisers (for St. Louis natives, that is; I prefer something authentically German), why not use this as an opportunity to spearhead a renewal of downtown St. Louis? Atlanta revitalized its downtown area into something worth going to. Pittsburgh stopped an exodus of people and businesses with a recent urban renewal. Heck, even Louisville, Kentucky and Chattanooga, Tennessee have been models of how to rebirth its city scape and population, be it through reinvestment, technology startups, aquariums, transformation of subsided housing into loft districts, etc. Why in the world can't St. Louis get that ball rolling? We need to attract even more business (Twitter has hunkered down here) and reverse population decline and get a better, more consistent tax base.

(4) Think about what you can do as a sports town: St. Louis has had two NFL teams, losing both, although the football Cardinals jetted in 1988 following abjectly horrific attendance that was worse than the Rams' turnstiles. The circumstances of the Rams leaving are different than the football Cardinals, but losing a second team--while not a fatal wound--might give the NFL pause before giving St. Louis a crack at round three. It's the same reason the NHL won't take a chance on Atlanta again (after losing the Flames in 1980 and the Thrashers a few years back). 

Seriously, consider a place like Kansas City. Two major "Big Four" sports teams in the Royals (baseball) and Chiefs (football). Both have passionate fan support that is solid and consistent for a media market of KC's size, but Kansas City doesn't try to push it past that point. They had an NBA team in the 70s and 80s and lost the Kings to Sacramento. They had an NHL team in the 1970s and the Scouts moved to Colorado (and then to New Jersey). Kansas City has a successful Major League Soccer team (Sporting Kansas City) that plays on the Kansas side of the metroplex and enjoy uber-passionate fan support. That works. St. Louis has to figure out if another professional team can work. If so, what kind? 

(5) But about Kroenke...don't crap all over the city of St. Louis like you've been doing. It's showing what little character you have. I'd rather live in St. Louis than a LOT of other places. And that definitely includes Los Angeles.

(6) One more thing: To my fellow St. Louisans, I'm sure it hurts to lose the Rams, but there are worse things. At least you're not the people of Baltimore in 1984, losing the Colts in a fiasco that makes today's news seem like small potatoes.

Life goes on. As for me, I'll look forward to the day when St. Louis gets an MLS franchise or an aquarium. Because those will be changes I will embrace.

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