Los Angeles Chargers and the NFL’s Continued Self-Destruction

When the world finally invents time traveling, yesterday – January 11, 2017 – will be the day that NFL people travel back to and try to alter. Yesterday was the day that the San Diego Chargers announced their intended move to Los Angeles, and the NFL continued to implode on itself.

There will now be two teams in Los Angeles, including one that just feels wrong, to put it nicely. The Chargers flat out do not belong in Los Angeles. No one from the area wants them there and no one from the area will support them. Period.

The NFL will have to wait no later than week one to find that out, because in week 1 the Chargers face the Oakland Raiders and when the 27,000 seat StubHub Center is painted in 90% black and silver, the NFL and the Chargers will realize just how badly they’ve messed up.

Ever since the Rams and Raiders moved from Los Angeles in 1995, the NFL has desperately been looking to move a team back to LA. It’s why commissioner Roger Goodell ignored every rule in the rulebook to allow Rams owner Stan Kroenke to snatch his team out of St. Louis and move straight into the presumed open arms of Los Angeles.

Except LA’s arms weren’t open for a losing team.

The Rams suck and they’ve sucked for a long time now. But, being buried in the small midwest market of St. Louis, the NFL and everyone else has been able to mostly ignore how badly the Rams have sucked. But after a 4-12 season, they can’t anymore.

In their grand return to Los Angeles, the Rams finished 4-12 and somehow managed to be even worse off the field than they were on it. There was drama between now fired head coach Jeff Fisher and team legend Eric Dickerson. Unnamed team personnel were taking shots at each other anonymously in a Sports Illustrated article. The same Sports Illustrated article detailed an anonymous head coach calling the Rams a “Junior High football team.” Star running back Todd Gurley openly complained that the team was running a “pop warner offense.”

The list goes on and on and on without even mentioning that General Manager Les Snead traded away a bounty of draft picks to trade up to #1 in the 2016 draft and select the presumed franchise quarterback Jared Goff, which has turned into an absolute dumpster fire of a situation.

After a 4-12 disaster of a season, the NFL can no longer ignore the facts of the Los Angeles situation. LA has a market for the Rams, but that market will not accept losing and will not accept another team.

The attendance for the Rams’ home games at the Coliseum noticeably diminished all the way to the point that the stadium looked pathetically empty in a 42-7 blowout at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. As far as television goes, the Rams averaged a 9.4 rating. While in St. Louis, a much smaller market, the lowest rating the Rams ever got in their 21 years of playing there was a 10.4, and that came during the 2013 season when a St. Louis Cardinals’ World Series game was being played simultaneously.

Like I said, while the Rams were in St. Louis, the NFL was able to mostly ignore how bad the team was and bury them underneath all of the other teams in bigger markets. In St. Louis, sports are our thing, so on a Sunday afternoon we really had nothing better to do than watch our football team lose week after week after week after year after year after year.

Los Angeles is not St. Louis and they will not tolerate losing football.

LA is a sports market that already includes two baseball teams, two hockey teams, two college football teams that are more popular than the Rams or Chargers will ever be, and two basketball teams. The sports market was stacked and set in LA before the NFL even came knocking on the door a second time around.

However, the move of the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles at least made some sense. The Rams were born and raised in LA, spending nearly 46 years there before being uprooted and sent to St. Louis. There was a holdover Rams fan base in LA, and it was extremely plausible that the Rams could succeed there. Putting their disastrous first season aside, the Rams’ move to Los Angeles at least made a lot of sense.

But, the Chargers? Yikes.

I have long been saying that the NFL’s insatiable appetite for money will be their ultimate downfall, and it’s starting to manifest itself in an ugly way that is making my prediction look startlingly true. It wasn’t enough to just move one team into the untapped Los Angeles market to try and take as much LA money as possible and put it into NFL owners’ pockets; no, the NFL had to take a second team and move them there too.

In an article written by Albert Breer this morning for Sports Illustrated, he points out that the NFL didn’t want the Chargers to move to Los Angeles and, “some owners feel bad about taking the team out of its home in San Diego.”

As much as I love Albert Breer, he seems to have been blinded by the NFL machine.

You really think the NFL doesn’t want a second team in Los Angeles? That they actually wanted to keep the Chargers in San Diego? If the NFL actually wants something, they make it happen. That showed last January when the Rams were moved to Los Angeles, and it’s the kind of power that the NFL just inherently has in our society.

The NFL can do what they want, when they want, so to paint them as some sort of victim of circumstance and say that they didn’t want to move the Chargers to Los Angeles is just a giant load of crap. The NFL wants to suck as much money out of LA as possible, and Dean Spanos is leading the charge after getting spurned by NFL owners in a vote last January that gave Stan Kroenke rights to the coveted Inglewood plot of land to build his $2.6 billion palace of a football stadium.

Spanos got rejected last January and is now rejecting the city of San Diego. When the NFL ultimately succumbs to financial ruin and is rejected from our society, we’ll look back on this day as the beginning of its long and slow descent into oblivion.

We have long been able to simply enjoy the game of football without any of the behind-the-scenes greed that the NFL has always been run with. But now that greed is being pushed to the forefront of the picture, and fans are no longer able to simply ignore it.

Attendance numbers were down across the league this year. Television ratings were down so far that the NFL panicked and began giving away games for free, live streaming Thursday night games on Twitter in an effort to “understand and cater to the modern NFL fan.”

The NFL is beginning to fade, they have nobody to blame but themselves, and allowing a vengeful Dean Spanos to move his Chargers from San Diego to Los Angeles is simply a microcosm of the problems that are so deeply rooted in the NFL’s culture it will be impossible to fix them.

In an extremely compelling and honest article, Jack Dickey of Sports Illustrated writes that, “An observer from outside the sports world could reasonably conclude that the NFL is actually a trade group for land barons, and that the game of football is just used as a front to disguise that.”

Dickey carries on, “Most owners seem to aspire to little more than keeping up with the Joneses – Jerry and Stephen, in this case. Each new stadium and each renovation pushes existing stadiums toward supposed obsolescence, hence the recent remodeling efforts at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Arrowhead Stadium, Bank of America Stadium, and at New Era Field. Lambeau Field has been renovated twice since 2000.”

The article is finished when Dickey writes, “Recall, also, that the supposed decrepitude of the Edward Jones Dome—it had fallen out of the “first-tier” of NFL stadiums—allowed the Rams to break their lease in 2015. What’s better than a new building when fans are footing the bill? A rising tide lifts all boats; construction seems to spur only more construction.”

Owners don’t care about winning football or the fans that love their game or anything of that sort. Owners care about how much their “business” – in this case, their team – is worth and whether or not they look better and richer than the guy next to them.

It’s the reason why the Rams refused to give the city of St. Louis even a remote shot at keeping the Rams, because Stan Kroenke didn’t look good or rich by owning a team in St. Louis with a stadium that looked pathetic next to the stadium the Dallas Cowboys play in. So he needed to move to Los Angeles and build a palace.

And now it’s the reason why Dean Spanos refuses to stay in San Diego. Spanos is willingly forking over nearly $650 million in a relocation fee just so he can move to Los Angeles and share Kroenke’s palace with the Rams when it opens in 2019.

Spanos wanted a new stadium built in San Diego, but he wanted the San Diego taxpayers to foot the majority of the bill instead of himself and his family – which is worth $2.1 billion, might I add. The NFL gave Spanos an unprecedented $300 million grant in an effort to help him build a new stadium in San Diego, but he refused to pay his share, and is opting to move the team to LA instead.

Spanos had a choice, he could either have used his $650 million to build a new stadium in San Diego and keep the team there, or he could use it to make a glamorous and bold move to Los Angeles and share the Inglewood stadium. We all know what his choice was, and it is a brutally bad one.

The Chargers’ move is doomed to fail before it even gets going.

The Chargers have been in San Diego for 56 years and have an extremely loyal fanbase that sell out Qualcomm Stadium every single Sunday to watch a team that has won 4 playoff games in 22 years and has only made 1 Super Bowl ever, which it got blown out in. By ditching those fans for Los Angeles, Spanos is essentially alienating one of the NFL’s most loyal fan bases while still counting on them to support his team in Los Angeles.

The Chargers have no fan base in Los Angeles. As LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke pointed out, “the Chargers aren’t even the second team in town behind the Rams. The Chargers aren’t even the third team of interest here behind the Rams and Raiders. The Chargers might not even be in the top-five favorite NFL teams in Los Angeles.”

Like I said, when the Chargers play the Raiders in week one of the 2017-18 NFL season, and the 27,000 seat StubHub Center where they will call ‘home’ is sold out in 90% black and silver, the NFL and Dean Spanos will realize just how badly they’ve messed up.

And there’s no looking back. Once the Chargers begin to fail in Los Angeles, there is no way the city of San Diego will welcome them back. As a citizen of a city that had an NFL team ripped away, the city that the NFL leaves behind has no interest in wanting a team back. The NFL is dead to us, and it’s now dead to San Diego.

Without even getting into the nitty gritty of the financial aspect of this move, I can already guarantee that it will fail just from the simple fact that the Chargers have no fan base in LA and alienated one of the most loyal fan bases in a city that smartly wouldn’t fork over hundreds of millions of dollars for a stadium that would simply benefit a room full of billionaires.

Dean Spanos and the NFL got greedy and impatient, but what’s new?

The NFL has long survived on their greedy business model because they’ve been able to bury it under heaps of football that the masses eagerly gobble up. The NFL’s greed is coming to the forefront, and it will be the result of their ultimate demise.

Yesterday was simply a continuation of the NFL’s ruin, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love every second of it.

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Los Angeles Chargers and the NFL’s Continued Self-Destruction

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

One Final Ode to the St. Louis Rams

Ryan’s Rants: The NFL’s Culture of Ignorance in Favor of Talent

Sunday afternoon, my dad and I were watching the Cowboys-Giants game. Following a sterling Dallas victory, the Fox postgame show came on. After the highlights, host Curt Menafee harmlessly urged the rest of his panel, “Guys, let’s talk about Greg Hardy for a second.”

I immediately switched the channel to Formula 1 racing, much to the surprise of my dad. He looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face, silently asking me, “What was that for?” I explained, my exact emotions regarding Greg Hardy.

“I don’t even want to hear them talk about Greg Hardy”

Every time I hear his name or watch a Dallas Cowboys game, I find myself asking these questions constantly. There aren’t a lot of human beings on this earth that I’m just totally and completely disgusted by. Greg Hardy is one of these human beings.

What the hell is Greg Hardy even still doing in this godforsaken league? Why is he still allowed to play football under the tag of one of the biggest and most powerful organizations in the free world?

Look, we all have qualities about us that we’re not proud of and would love to change. None of us are perfect, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever met anyone as half-hearted and genuinely awful as Greg Hardy.

My first contact with Greg Hardy came from an October, 2013 version of Sports Illustrated, in which he was profiled by Greg Bedard, (I believe, don’t quote me on that).

The article was written during Hardy’s 15 sack breakout campaign in 2013, while he was in Carolina.

Hardy sporting his trademark eyeblack for the Panthers. Photo by Chuck Burton for AP
Hardy sporting his trademark eyeblack for the Panthers. Photo by Chuck Burton for AP

The on-field brilliance was well documented – and don’t get me wrong, Hardy is an extremely talented pass rusher. But, briefly mentioned was something that really got my attention and raised some red flags for me.

While at Ole Miss, Hardy was frequently late to practice and meetings, and had a tendency to mix it up at practice a little bit; but would still produce on the field. When he got to Carolina, those things persisted.

The line that really got me was this. Paraphrasing, Hardy was described as being “brilliant when he wanted to be.” Basically, if Hardy didn’t feel like playing hard or giving his best, he flat out wouldn’t.

Does that just sound disgustingly selfish to anyone else?

I know that in any sport I play I’m always getting on guys that I don’t feel are giving 100% effort. I’ve got your back, I fully expect you to have mine. And particularly in football – an already tough game where teamwork is absolutely imperative – the thought of someone not going to war for you because they don’t feel like it just repulses me.

So red flags were going up all over the place for me. I usually like to give the benefit of the doubt to athletes because I know, contrary to popular belief, their jobs are quite difficult. But with Greg Hardy, who I hadn’t even known until this article, I had already taken that liberty away from him.

Fast forward about a year. The article had come and gone; Hardy had been brilliant on the field in 2013, but suddenly his 2014 season was abruptly halted by a bit of a shocking revolution.

A report came out last September that Hardy was being accused of domestically assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Considering the recent escapades of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, domestic violence and the NFL were going together like peanut butter and jelly. And the Hardy news only contributed to the epidemic.

Was I particularly surprised? Considering my opinion of Hardy, absolutely not. But when further details were released that a part of Hardy’s assault was allegedly throwing his girlfriend down violently on a couch full of assault rifles, I was shocked.

How can one human being treat another this badly? Especially when that human being is the one that you’ve given your heart and soul to? It just hurt my heart to think about, and made me angry as well. But the psyche behind domestic violence is a totally different subject for a different day.

Anyway, following the allegations – which Hardy was acquitted of, but never publicly denied – Roger Goodell did his typical Roger Goodell thing and waited around on making a decision. Why? Because Greg Hardy’s a good football player that sells jerseys and tickets and makes Goodell a lot of money, so Goodell won’t immediately suspend him even if his actions are absolutely despicable.

It was typical Goodell, and just completely follows suit with the NFL’s culture of ignorance in favor of talent.

Hardy didn’t play another down in 2014 and didn’t play another down for the Panthers, and rightly so. I began to think that maybe the NFL was making a change for the better and actually taking a stand against domestic violence.

I was wrong.

I was in a hotel room in Tampa Bay this past March when I flipped on SportsCenter to discover some news that I wasn’t at all happy about. Greg Hardy had been activated from the NFL’s restricted list and had been signed by the Dallas Cowboys.

You’ve got to be kidding me. We’re really going to pull this shit again NFL? Greg Hardy is just too talented and makes too much money for the league for us to really care about the fact that he showed no remorse for allegedly, (I have to say allegedly because he was acquitted only because of a lack of evidence I might add), committing one of the worst crimes I know of.

In staying true with their typical policy, the NFL suspended Hardy for the first four games of 2015, because they have to at least pretend they care, right?

Photo by Associated Press
Photo by Associated Press

So, for the most part, we all forgot about Hardy. We all went on worrying about bigger and better things. But, when Hardy was activated before week 5, he re-entered all of our minds in the worst way possible.

In his first access to the media, Hardy was asked how he would play. His response? “I’m gonna come out guns blazing.” He then proceeded to make misplaced and disrespectful comments about Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele.

After coming back from an incident in which he was accused of throwing his girlfriend down on a couch full of assault rifles, the first words out of Greg Hardy’s mouth were “guns blazing.”

At this point, we’ve crossed the line between poor media comments and just genuinely being an absolutely awful human being.

Greg Hardy had to pretend to respect women and be sorry for what he did for 12 minutes. TWELVE MINUTES. And he couldn’t even do that. But what did the NFL do about it? Absolutely nothing. No fines, no suspension, no public comments, nothing. And the Cowboys? All they did was “talk sternly” with Hardy to let him know that this wasn’t okay.

What are we, in pre-school? Talk sternly? Are we going to put him in timeout next? Come the hell on, this is the NFL, Greg Hardy is a fully grown man, you really think he’s going to positively respond to a stern talk? Once again, Hardy is given a pass by his employers because his talent is just so immense that the significant issues he brings are effectively ignored.

And then a new chapter was written in the Greg Hardy this past Sunday. It was normal football stuff, with Hardy getting into a shouting match on his own sideline with the special teams coach and anyone who would listen to him. How bad was it? Dez Bryant played the role of peacemaker; that’s right, Dez Bryant.

And after the game, as Hardy was talking to the media again, he interrupted every question with “no comment, next question.” So instead of handling the issue and addressing it like a man, Hardy simply acted like a little kid and avoided all questions.

But I’ve written enough words to give you an accurate impression of how awful Hardy is, let’s move on to the other side of the issue.

As reporters asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about Hardy, he responded with, “He’s one of the real leaders on the team and he earns it. That’s the kind of thing that inspires.”

Holy shit you can’t be serious with me right now.

You’re telling me that throwing a massive sideline tantrum earns you the tag of being a leader and inspires your teammates? As the kids these days would say, I can’t even.

When they initially signed Hardy, the Cowboys – and specifically Jones – emphasized that they’d “done their homework” on him and that there would be no more problems. Well guess what, there are still freaking problems guys.

Hardy’s actions are awful, and he clearly has no place in this league, but he really isn’t the real issue here. It’s everyone that gives him a damn job and lets him be an awful person in the limelight.

The NFL’s culture of ignoring big time issues because a player is immensely talented has to change. The fact that Greg Hardy continues to be enabled by Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and Roger Goodell is unacceptable. After all he’s done he has never paid a single dollar in fines to the NFL for reasons off the field, and the worst thing that’s ever happened to him is a stern talking to.

That is not okay at all. But nonetheless, as Jones’ comments showed, Hardy will continued to be mollycoddled, endorsed and enabled because he’s good at sacking the quarterback. And further, Jerry Jones came out today and said that the Cowboys hope to work out an extension for Hardy, which means he’ll potentially be guaranteed a spot in this league for even longer.

There aren’t enough words for me to accurately express just how hurt and angry this makes me as a man.

NFL, you do enough awful things as is, and with your bullshit breast cancer “Crucial catch” campaign every October you even pretend to give a rat’s ass about women and how they view your league. So do them another favor and stop enabling a man who gives shows less respect toward them than few people I’ve ever seen.

Fire him and keep him far away. He has no place in your league and you need to realize that. You will make plenty of money without Greg Hardy, I promise. I say that because I know that’s the only thing you greedy blowhards care about.

His talent should not even matter when you stop to consider the things that he has done. Overlook it and remove him from your brand.

If you continue to enable Greg Hardy, you will continue to lose fans like me, and we’ll all look like one of the reporters listening to Jerry Jones’ mind-bogglingly insensitive tirade.

Hardy 1
Did you really just say that Jerry?

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Ryan’s Rants: The NFL’s Culture of Ignorance in Favor of Talent