One Final Ode to the St. Louis Rams

Please forgive me, for my emotions are still rather raw following the brutally anticlimactic end of one of the most painful and heartbreaking sagas I have ever experienced. The Rams are gone. It is done, and it is not changing.

My emotions, besides being raw, are mixed. I’m enraged, spiteful and disgusted with the NFL and the whole process of how this all happened. But at the same time, I’m just sad and disappointed. My mom always told me that life wouldn’t always be fair, and this was a cruel reminder of that fact.

We never really had a chance. From the very beginning, this team was destined for doom. The NFL and the Rams lied and squirmed and connived their way back “home” to Los Angeles. The NFL heartlessly lied to St. Louis, promising them a fair chance in keeping their team, when in reality the game was rigged and St. Louis had as much chance of keeping the Rams as you do of winning the Powerball without even buying a ticket.

It was disgraceful and offensive, and the NFL will reap what they sow. Their motives will never equate to true success, and evil always comes back around. Believe that.

As I’ve thought about it over the course of the past 24 hours, I’ve gotten much calmer. I say good riddance to Stan Kroenke and the NFL, two of the most purely corrupt and evil entities in this world. The NFL is an absolute mess, and as I said earlier, they will be ruined in due time as they will reap what they sow and discover that their cartel-esque motives will not be rewarded long term.

This city has had a tough past 18 months; from Ferguson to flooding, the Rams leaving just feels like being kicked while we’re down.

But one thing that no greedy, corrupt organization can ever take away from our city is our guts and our resilience. We are a blue collar town full of people that earn every cent and earn every ounce of respect they gain. We’ve been pushed down before, and we’ll just keep getting up and pushing forward. We are proud and we are strong, nothing can take that.

I said to forgive my emotions earlier, so if you’re reading this cynically please forgive that last, rather cheesy paragraph. I am a proud St. Louisan, born and raised, and unlike Stan, I won’t abandon this city when times get hard.

But as much as I say “good riddance” to the NFL and Kroenke, I will absolutely miss the Rams; more than I’ll ever let on.

The first memory I have of any professional sporting event ever is from the 2004 NFL playoffs. The Rams were playing in Seattle, and the game had gone to overtime. I didn’t know much else, but I knew that the first score won the game, and I knew that the Rams were my hometown team and I wanted them to win even though this was my first exposure to them.

Sure enough, Rams’ QB Marc Bulger lofted a perfect, 51 yard touchdown pass to Shaun McDonald to win the game for the Rams. I went absolutely nuts and was immediately in love. The Rams had my heart.

Turns out, the first Rams’ playoff game that I watched would be my last.

The Rams would never even have another winning season, but that never mattered to me. I supported them through thick and thin, and almost never missed watching a game. I found reasons to root for them and reasons to hope, and when their diabolical owner Stan Kroenke gave us his word, in 2010, that he would never take the Rams from us I believed it with every fiber of my being.

Nowadays, the Rams have naturally been superseded by my love of the St. Louis Cardinals, Blues, and probably even Manchester City FC someday soon, but even still, the thought of not having football in St. Louis is completely foreign to me.

I grew up with the Rams, I fell in love with them, and I always hoped that all of my fandom would someday be rewarded in some fashion. Instead I feel like an idiot for supporting a perennial loser that’s now been ripped out from under my faultless feet like a carpet. I – and all of the other loyal St. Louis Rams fans – are now left sitting hopelessly on our butts watching the dirty carpet we stood on for 21 years be carried away from us without a second thought, and our tailbones are probably bruised from such a nasty fall, not to mention Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones showing up unannounced to give us a few extra kicks to the ribs.

I’ve been asked this multiple times since the news of a Rams relocation was made public, but will I still root for the Rams in Los Angeles? I wish I could say no, but I absolutely still will. The team has my heart, and probably always will in some fashion, and I can’t just snap my fingers and suddenly be completely detached from them emotionally; sports are a part of me and I just can’t let go of the first sports team I ever loved quite so easily.

For the city of St. Louis, this is the right thing. It hurts really badly right now and will leave an eternal scar on our city’s figure, but soon enough we will see and reap the blessings of this. So, instead of looking back I’m going to take a second to look forward.

For the time being, we’re down to two professional teams; the Blues and the Cardinals. Both teams are highly successful, both between the lines and in the community, and both teams have a genuine affection for the city they represent. And, best of all, between Tom Stillman and the DeWitts, we have two of the most loyal and sincerely tremendous ownership groups in all of professional sports.

Having both met, shaken hands with and conversed with Blues’ owner Tom Stillman, I can verify everything said in the above paragraph. We are in good hands.

As for the void left by the NFL, I have no doubts that it will be filled in very short order. The wheels are already beginning to spin on an MLS project, and that process could go very quickly and be here sooner than you might think. St. Louis is a voracious soccer market – as proven by the attendance numbers for both USMNT and USWNT friendlies in combination with St. Louis’ ratings numbers for World Cup games being among the highest in the country – and the MLS would be wise to bring a team here now.

Dave Peacock has expressed his interest in heading up a committee to make things happen, the city has proven that it can put the necessary money on the table to provide a stadium, and I can guarantee that any professional soccer team would be ravenously supported by the best pound-for-pound sports market in the world.

The Rams are gone, and it is very sad. But as we all learned when we were kids, you get back up after you’ve been knocked down; and get back up we certainly will.

I’m damn proud to live in this city and stand beside it during these recent tough times – as I mentioned earlier, beyond just our football team leaving.

The NFL – and Stan Kroenke – will get their punishment in due time. As I said earlier, they will reap what they sow; the corrupt never truly win. And as Batman states in the Dark Knight Rises when asked, “why do we fall?”

“Because we must rise.”

-Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

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One Final Ode to the St. Louis Rams

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (part 2)

            On the previous episode of, ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’, we took a look at some of the poor reasoning behind Kroenke’s relentless desire to move the (for now) St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles. On today’s episode of, ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’, we will continue to look at his poor reasoning and continue to be angry and sad and bullied.

At the very base of Kroenke’s argument is his claim that St. Louis cannot support 3 professional franchises, and that “Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed.”

He also had the nerve to declare that “The current Rams ownership’s investment in the on-the-field Rams team has been significant.” This “significant” investment has resulted in a 52% increase in wins over the 5 years prior to Kroenke obtaining majority ownership. “But despite these investments and engagements, Rams attendance since 2010 has been well below league average.”

The 5 years before Kroenke took over the Rams’ majority ownership, the club won a combined 20 games. In the 5 years since, the Rams have won 29 games. Besides the fact that this is a 45% increase and Stan clearly dropped out of math class, 29 wins is still bad, but it’s not quite as bad as 20 wins.

“I can’t believe that these damn St. Louis people won’t come watch my losing team; the prior losing teams lost way more often. What a terrible market!”

Somehow, this sentiment goes widely misunderstood. I don’t get what’s so hard to understand about it; if the team is historically and consistently awful, people naturally aren’t going to come out in droves to dish out their hard earned money. Have the Rams had bad attendance over the past few years? Yeah, there’s no defending that. But what I will defend is the fact that St. Louis will voraciously support a successful football team with loyal ownership.

As soon as 2007 – a 3-13 season that began a historically awful 15-65 five year stretch – the average attendance at Rams’ home games was 65,326, or 100.3% of the total capacity. Naturally, attendance has declined since then and in 2015 bottomed out at 52,402 (80.2% total capacity). But as I mentioned earlier, nobody wants to spend their hard earned money to go watch a consistently awful team with a horrible owner in a below average stadium. What’s so hard to understand about that?

Also, the statement that any NFL team that is based in St. Louis will be “well on the way to financial ruin” is way off, and I have math to support that.

On page 23 of the Rams relocation application, Kroenke cites the TPI (total personal income) that a market would need to support a sports team, based on team revenue and ticket prices. The TPI base needed to support an MLB franchise is at least $104 billion, while an NHL franchise checks in at $50 billion, NFL at $48 billion, NBA at $45 billion and MLS at $14 billion.

The report states, “St. Louis, with TPI of $132 billion annually, doesn’t have enough personal income to support the teams it already has. To support the Blues, Cardinals and Rams, more than $200 billion is needed, the report found, meaning St. Louis had a TPI deficit of $70 billion annually.”

As Forbes pointed out, both Pittsburgh (for comparison) and St. Louis have total personal incomes (population x median personal income) of $15.1 billion. Tack on the metro areas around both cities and St. Louis comes in with a TPI of $133 billion versus Pittsburgh’s $118 billion; and St. Louis has more Fortune 500 companies than Pittsburgh at nine and six respectively.

Pittsburgh has 4 professional sports franchises, so according to the math here, Pittsburgh’s deficit would be about $129 billion. Yet they’re doing just fine out there. Your thoughts, Stan?

Oh wait; he doesn’t know how to talk. Moving on.

So I bet you’re probably wondering where Silent Stanley gets all of his hard hitting information. You’d expect some hard hitting sources, right? Well…no.

Kroenke argues that the Edward Jones Dome is the worst venue in the NFL. He cites a Sports Illustrated readers’ poll from 2008 (!) and an ESPN NFL Nation report. Obviously, these reports claim that the dome is the worst stadium in the NFL. And if these remarkably credible sources weren’t enough, he cites a Time Magazine ranking from 2012 that says the Dome is the 7th worst stadium in the nation. Number 8 on that list? Fenway Park.

I get it, the Dome is certainly not ideal and it’s not state of the art, but it’s not a dump. Last time I checked there wasn’t raw sewage flowing into the bathrooms and plastic cups taped to the ceiling to stop leaks, (re: Oakland County Coliseum).

And as I briefly cited in the last episode of ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’, it’s not like the city of St. Louis hasn’t done its part in trying to upgrade the NFL stadium here. When construction began on the Dome in 1992, it was 100% funded by public money. The final construction cost was $280 million, which translates to $435 million in present day value. An additional $78 million was required to buy out the Rams lease in Anaheim and build an additional practice facility and headquarters in Earth City, Missouri.

In the new riverfront stadium proposal, the city has put $560 million on the table. $400 million in direct stadium construction money and $160 million in seat license revenue. So over the span of 23 years, the city of St. Louis has committed $918 million to two stadium projects. And what has that nearly $1 billion investment netted? A grand NFL tradition of 4 winning seasons in 21 years. Oh but how could St. Louis possibly ever support an NFL team?

And also, what in the world have Oakland and San Diego done to defend their proud NFL franchises?

San Diego: Nothing except for a sort of promise that they’ll have a plan by summer of 2016, which might fly if the deadline to submit a stadium plan wasn’t December 30th, 2015.

Oakland: Nothing. They’ve given the NFL the ‘come back to us’ signal.

Boy it must be really tough for all of those ethical NFL owners to tell which city has done the most to try and retain their NFL franchise.

And just because I’m not done bashing Kroenke, here’s one final note. Kroenke pats himself on the back in pointing out that the Rams won the Philanthropic Organization of the Year in 2010. The Rams players and staff have logged over 12,000 hours of community service in the greater St. Louis area and have made a real, lasting impact that has affected countless lives in a positive manner. But has anyone ever seen a picture, let alone even heard a story about Kroenke spending even a second working in the St. Louis community. It’s despicable to claim this award as part of his credibility is disgusting, deplorable, and only goes to further the notion that he’s a greedy Grinch who cares about literally nothing other than money.

Thus, on that note, we conclude today’s episode of ‘Stan Kroenke Sucks’. Stay tuned for Wednesday’s real life episode, where we potentially discover the real fate of the Rams. In case you can’t tell, I hope they can somehow stay in St. Louis while Kroenke can go to Los Angeles by himself.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

 

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (part 2)

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (Part 1)

Folks today is a good day. The official baseball HOF revealing is this afternoon and it is a time to celebrate the greatness of those selected. Unfortunately, today is also the day after Rams owner Stan Kroenke submitted his official relocation application the NFL. I have read all 29 disgusting pages, and I’m angry. So here we go with the latest installments of Ryan’s Rants.

I’m really not quite sure where to even start on this. I have such strong feelings about Kroenke that if I truly let loose on him it would be quite vulgar and not professional in the slightest, so I’ll try not to tear into him more than I really need to. That being said, good lord do I hate Enos Satan Kroenke, (pronounced ‘cranky’ if you’re Jim Nantz).

Kroenke 2
“I’m wearing a scarf in public, look how rich I am”

Whenever I see Browns fans complaining about how bad an owner Jimmy Haslam is, I shake my head and say to myself, “man, I wish we had an NFL owner that good.” Haslam’s biggest fault is that he wants to win a title for Cleveland so badly that he has almost zero patience with coaches and administrations and blows things up too often. Yeah it’s frustrating, but at least he cares.

And boy do I wish St. Louis had an NFL owner that even gave half of a rat’s ass about his team. ‘Silent Stanley’ has not once even remotely hinted at any sort of care about how the Rams do. He almost never shows up at games, he’s nowhere to be found for press conferences and he speaks publicly on the team maybe 5 times a year if he’s feeling generous.

So what’s he off doing?

Well, in case you didn’t know, Kroenke owns 4 other major professional sports franchises – the British Premier League Arsenal Gunners, the NBA Denver Nuggets, the NHL Colorado Avalanche, and the MLS Colorado Rapids. Now, besides this just being a recipe for disaster, the last time I checked the NFL had a rule that stated that no NFL owner can own a separate professional franchise. Somehow, Stanley is getting away with it.

And even though I don’t have personal insight on those other teams, I can almost guarantee you that he cares no more about them than he does about the Rams. Stan doesn’t care about the loyal fans that provide his franchises with the monetary support that eventually ends up in his pockets and he doesn’t care about the organizations under which his teams are run. No, Stan Kroenke only cares about one godforsaken thing.

Money

Kroenke 1
“I don’t know what to do with my hands. Yay Rams”

Now, I’ve criticized the NFL in the past for only caring about money, but to their credit the NFL does actually try to take care of its loyal fans because they understand that without fans there is no NFL. They have their obvious flaws, but the basis of that is somewhat admirable. You take care of the people that support you. Pretty simple concept, right?

Not for Stan apparently.

Between him and his wife – who freaking owns Wal-Mart, might I add – Stan Kroenke has $10 billion. Now, this could just be my middle class quibbling, but what in the hell could you possibly do with $10 billion? I’d run out of ideas after like $2 million. No one can possibly need every penny of $10 billion, that’s just a simple fact of living.

This is why the fact that Kroenke wants to move his NFL team to Los Angeles to make more money just hurts my head to think about. He’s 68 years old, he is worth $5 billion, he owns 5 professional sports franchises, and he wants more money. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GONNA DO WITH MORE MONEY?

Is he saving up for something? Does he need a new Nissan? Does he need to save up to buy razors so he can trim the Hitler-esque mustache that rests above his lips? What could Stan Kroenke possibly need more money for?

Just based off that statement, one might fathom that Kroenke could care about the fans in LA and want to return their Rams to them. But then one would have to go back and realize that Kroenke was one of the main driving forces behind the team originally coming to St. Louis. And, as I mentioned earlier, he does not remotely care about any fan base, which pertains to Los Angeles as well.

In the Rams official, 29 page application to the NFL for relocation, Kroenke sights that St. Louis has promised their fan base a top flight NFL stadium for “30 years” yet that the Jones Dome remains “one of the worst stadiums in professional sports.” While I will not dispute the fact that the Dome is outdated and does need to be replaced, I will dispute the statement that St. Louis has promised a top flight stadium for 30 years.

The Rams just finished their 20th season in St. Louis. Last time I checked, 20 was less than 30. And also, the reason St. Louis hasn’t been able to deliver is because building a new stadium requires significant contribution from ownership, something Kroenke either doesn’t understand or simply laughs off because he needs to spend his billions buying modern artwork or another yacht.

For reference, when Busch Stadium III was constructed in 2006 it had a final cost of $365 million. Granted, this is nowhere close to the $1.1 billion required to construct the Rams proposed new riverfront stadium – we’ll get to that later too – but bear with me. Cardinal ownership footed the bill for $200.5 million or 54.7% of that total cost.

At the time, Cardinal owners were worth roughly $600 million, so this was clearly a huge gamble. The result of this gamble was one of the most beautiful stadiums in professional sports and franchise growth that now sees Cardinal ownership worth over $4 billion. And by the way, the DeWitts are among the most revered and admired figures in St. Louis and the Cardinals basically run this city. We love that team because it loves us.

Kroenke refuses to provide the necessary funds to make the St. Louis riverfront stadium project a reality while still stating that St. Louis has done nothing to make good on its promise to deliver a top flight NFL stadium. Yeah, besides providing a complete and thorough proposal that only needs a thumbs up from the NFL to begin construction, St. Louis has done nothing.

Also, Kroenke calls out Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, citing the “many months of silence” the preceded Nixon’s announcement of a stadium task force. Yeah, the guy who hasn’t spoken to the media since he hired Jeff Fisher in 2012 (that’s 4 years ago, by the way) is calling someone else out for being too quiet.

Kroenke 3
What the hell are you smiling about with your Donald Trump-looking toupee

The Rams were routinely criticized for their lack of action on a stadium task force while Kroenke never met with Nixon regarding the task force until November 30th of this year, nearly 3 months after the force was formed. And that meeting only happened because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell nudged Kroenke into it.

As I continue to dive deeper into Kroenke’s comments in his 29 page report full of hypocrisy and filth I just continue to be disgusted and miffed that one man could be so horrible. But, such is the life of Stan Kroenke, the man who claimed in 2010 that he would do “everything I can to keep this team in St. Louis” and has now completely and unfairly torn the team from the city’s clutches without a second thought.

More to come soon, stay tuned.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Ryan’s Rants: Stan Kroenke, Worst Owner in Professional Sports (Part 1)

Todd Gurley and Enjoying the Rams While They’re Here

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images

When Roger Goodell announced Todd Gurley as the Rams’ 1st round draft pick this past April, my initial reaction was, “Really? A first round running back? With Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham already on the roster? Literally, why?” I knew Gurley was an outstanding player, but coming off a November ACL tear, suffice it to say that I had a lot of questions.

And I wasn’t alone. CBS’ Pete Prisco questioned it as well, saying, “Drafting a running back in the top 10 is always risky, but it’s also a luxury for teams and I am not sure the Rams can afford that.” ESPN’s Mel Kiper echoed that sentiment, adding, “Todd Gurley is a special talent…but I’ve said a 1,000 times I don’t think taking RB’s in Round 1 is a good strategy.”

But, as Kiper did mention, there was a silver lining among all of the questions. And that silver lining is the fact that “Todd Gurley is a special talent.”

I don’t think anyone doubted Gurley’s talent, and he showcased how special he was at the University of Georgia. In his freshman season he racked up 1,502 yards from scrimmage with 17 total touchdowns in 13 games. And the season after he racked up 1,430 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns in only 10 games. And the November ACL tear in his junior season ruined another sparkling campaign.

So unless you hadn’t watched him, there was absolutely no denying the talent. As the late Stuart Scott once tweeted:

Stuart Scott Tweet

But Todd Gurley as a pro? Nobody knew what to expect. Would we even see him in 2015? How much of the formerly dazzling Todd Gurley player could we expect? Would he just be a hurt shell of the player he once was?

Todd Gurley has heard all of our questions and is having none of it.

After missing the first two weeks of the season, and only seeing limited action in week 3 against Pittsburgh, Gurley has exploded onto the NFL scene during the past three weeks. Following impressive 146 and 159 yard games against stout Arizona and Green Bay defenses, Gurley shredded the Cleveland defense this afternoon to the tune of 128 yards on 19 carries with a pair of trips to the Promised Land.

I could throw all of the stats I want at you. I could tell you that Gurley was 12 yards away from being the first running back since Eric Dickerson to rush for 140 yards in his first three NFL starts. But I’m sure you already know all of that. And I’m really not here to spew out endless numbers on how great Todd Gurley is. You want to know how great he is?

Just watch him.

That’s all you need to do. All it takes is your attention to realize the rare greatness that is evident every single time he graces the field. As Mel Kiper said, he truly is a “special talent.” He runs with a grace, power, and ferociousness reminiscent of a young Adrian Peterson and even, dare I say it, Walter Payton.

Gurley does absolutely everything that elite running backs do. And he does it exceptionally well. Running the ball? Big check. Catching the ball out of the backfield? Yup. Picking up blitzes? With authority. And as he showed at Georgia, he can even return some kickoffs for you.

We really haven’t seen this kind of pure talent at running back in St. Louis since Marshall Faulk. Steven Jackson was good, but not this good. And Gurley might even be better than the immortal number 28.

Which gets me to my bigger point. With all of this shady Stan Kroenke relocation talk/speculation bullshit, we don’t know how much longer the Rams will be here in St. Louis. Which means that we don’t know how much longer we’ll get to enjoy the rare talents that the Rams currently employ; Gurley being one of them.

When I turn on my television to watch the Rams, I’m often maddened and frustrated by the inconsistency and the inability to ‘get over the hump’, if you will. But there are players that I do not take for granted that find a way to shine through all of the stuff that drives me crazy.

Robert Quinn two years ago was such a spectacle to watch week in and week out. Aaron Donald’s weekly breathtaking brilliance. The playmaking emergence of Alec Ogletree this season before his ankle injury robbed us of him for presumably the rest of the season. And now Todd Gurley’s name can be added to that list of things that I so enjoy about the Rams.

So on the one year anniversary of Oscar Taveras’ tragic death I say this, nothing is guaranteed. As cliché as that is, it’s beyond true. And these Rams are most definitely not guaranteed to us. So while they’re here, enjoy them. Watch them, cheer for them. Don’t act like you’re too good to be a Rams fan, because when this team finally ‘gets over the hump’ and starts making big time noise nobody’s going to be too good for this team.

Todd Gurley, I thank you for helping me enjoy the Rams again; keep shining. And to the rest of you I say this, enjoy the Rams while they are here, because someday Todd Gurley won’t be ours and when that day comes it’ll be a damn shame. But until then, turn your television on and enjoy his brilliance. We may never see anything like it ever again.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Todd Gurley and Enjoying the Rams While They’re Here