Sports Extra: Rams leave St. Louis with void,
By Eric Becker
Stan Kroenke was born in ‘47 and named after St. Louis sports legends Enos Slaughter and Stan the Man, but his legacy will go down in this area within the jurisdiction as Benedict Arnold.
Kroenke, a so-called Missourian and a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, leaves the NFL market in St. Louis vacant for the foreseeable future, and with it takes his fortune to Inglewood, Calif. to build an NFL empire in the second largest market in the country.
For the NFL, it’s just business. It’s a money-making business. It doesn’t care about the fans in cities where it feels the product’s home base, meaning the stadium, is inferior. Or whether or not fans show up to watch a team win 15 of 80 games under the total ownership of Mr. Kroenke.
The Edward Jones Dome was built in the mid-90s to attract a team, after the Cardinals bailed town following the 1987 season. The Rams gladly accepted the move to get out of Los Angeles following the 1994 season.
They started 5-1 in its first year at old Busch Stadium, before fading to a 7-9 record. The year’s 1996-98 were forgettable, but Dick Vermeil, in his third year as coach, said the Rams would rally around Kurt Warner at quarterback after Trent Green hurt a knee in preseason of 1999.
Little did anyone know what was about to be…the Greatest Show on Turf era began. The Rams won 13 of 16 games in 1999. They clocked the Vikings 49-37 in the divisional playoffs, then nearly lost to Tampa in the NFC Championship, beating the Bucs 11-6 on a late touchdown catch by Ricky Proehl to clinch the conference.
In the Super Bowl, Isaac Bruce’s long touchdown catch and run from Warner, and Mike Jones’ tackle at the one yard line led to the Rams only Super Bowl championship.
They made it back to the big game two years later, upended by the cheaters in the game. Made postseason appearances in 2003, 2004. Won a playoff game in 2004 despite an 8-8 record.
But, no winning record since the 2003 season. Quarterbacks, after Mark Bulger’s eight-year run, have been anything but impressive.
Since 2009, Bulger, Kyle Boller, Keith Null, Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis, Shaun Hill, Nick Foles and Case Keenum have all started at least thee games. Bradford, top overall pick, showed the most promise but got hurt and was traded last season.
They were very bad for a time and held the NFL’s worst three-year record at one point. Were 15-65 during one five-year stretch. Jeff Fisher was brought in during the 2012 season and with a strong defense, helped the Rams to a 7-8-1 record his first year, a vast improvement from previous seasons.
But his teams never progressed, especially offensively. Yes, they beat Seattle more than once, including sweeping the series this year. They played the Hawks’ and everyone else in their division very tough.
This year, they were 4-2 within the division, winning at Arizona and at Seattle. The Jeff Fisher special, some point out, was the divisional games and teams that were favored to beat the Rams. Against the teams evenly matched or worse, the Rams really struggled. Consistency, especially on offense, was the Rams downfall as far as not winning games.
It’s not the city, it’s not the fans, it’s not the fact that St. Louis is not a three-sport town. That’s a bunch of hooey, and Mr. Kroenke should know better.
His statements in 2010 were that it was not his intentions to make the Rams leave town. Well, a loophole in the lease agreement, the chance to double the franchise’s worth and build a sports/entertainment complex unlike any other were too much for Mr. Kroenke not to take the greed and run with it.
As far as I’m concerned, and I’m not a Rams fan but do live within 25 minutes of the dome, this whole process has been one big headache. The ups and downs and who’s going to move, who’s going to stay, other teams perhaps moving. I’m glad the whole situation is over and the owners got what they wanted.
I’m not upset with Los Angeles – I’m glad they have a team again, but this is all about how St. Louis and its fanbase was treated. I spent the weekend watching only the Seahawks-Panthers game. The only other play that I saw live from any of the other three games was Green Bay’s Hail Mary touchdown while waiting to watch the news. I then changed the channel.
This saga wasn’t going to end until the NFL got what it wanted. As far as me purchasing any kind of NFL merchandise in the foreseeable future, I say forget it.