If you’ve ever been the victim of a robbery, you understand the feeling of loss and confusion. You know
the feeling of “how could this happen to me?” or “why me?” There is a process of shock, sadness, anger,
blame and acceptance that we all go through when something of great value is taken from us. We feel
violated. Last year I was the victim of a car break-in right in my own drive way, twice in two weeks! The
first time it happened I was in total shock. My thoughts flashed with what, who, why, and how. I could
not believe this could happen in my neighborhood and on my property. Our subdivision is small, quiet
and filled with stable families and older adults caring for their empty nests. In my mind there was no
way someone would break into my car. I was insulated from such criminal minds.
As sports fans we often feel insulated from the business side of sports. We don’t have to deal with
budgets, balance sheets, or ROI. Our job is simple: show up, yell our heads off for our team, and to
exaggerate the details to our friends. But there comes a time when reality invades our safe zone and we
get smacked in the face with the reality that every professional sport is a business, and at times, a
In 1987 we lost the St. Louis Football Cardinals who moved because the owner, Bill Bidwill, wanted a
football only stadium instead of sharing a stadium with the Baseball Cardinals. As a city, we couldn’t
meet his expectation and Bidwill made good on his threat and left our city, and took our team from us,
and he became enemy number one.
Miraculously, St. Louis got another chance in the NFL when the LA Rams moved here in 1995. But after
21 seasons of amazing highs (winning the Super Bowl in 1999) and amazing lows (nine years of losing
teams and historically poor performances), the unthinkable happened: Stan Kroenke, majority owner of
the St. Louis Rams, took advantage of a poorly constructed lease loophole, and decided to take our team
away from us and move to LA.
After a callous announcement by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the Rams are “returning home
to Los Angeles” the St. Louis community is left in shock and seemingly without recourse. How could this
happen again? Why us, again? How could Kroenke, who was born in Missouri, named after Stan Musial
and Enos Slaughter (2 legendary St. Louis Cardinal baseball players) betray his own people and rob us of
our Sunday pastime? Stan Kroenke has become enemy number two! Now, during the aftermath, we are
trying to determine who is to blame.
One of the details about my personal experience that I neglected to mention is that each time my car
was broken into, I had left it unlocked. Yes, even after my car was rummaged through by vandals the
first time, I made the same mistake of leaving it unlocked the next week around the same time, which
ended in the same result. So after the shock, and anger, comes the blame. Could I blame myself for
leaving the car unlocked? Yes, absolutely. I should have done everything I could to protect my property.
Can I blame the vandals who selfishly roamed our neighborhood seeking any opportunity to take
advantage of a hard working community? Yes, absolutely. Just because my car was unlocked I would,
perhaps naively, not expect someone to open it and take what’s mine.
As a city we left the metaphoric door to our city unlocked and Bidwill and Kroenke took what we
thought was ours and left us trying to figure out who to blame. In both cases we could have done more.
In both cases we could blame the owners who we view as selfish billionaire vandals. In the late 80s we
could have done more to get a stadium for our football team. I doubt that anyone really thought the
Football Cardinals would really leave. When the Rams arrived here from LA in 1995, civic leadership was
so desperate for a team, they wrote in an insane clause that promised the Rams a release from their
lease if the dome they played in did not remain a “top tier” facility. We could have done more by
eliminating this loophole but even after that, we could have addressed the issue sooner. Civic leadership
was fully aware of the imminent doom wrapped in that clause.
So who is to blame? There is plenty to go around. Despite the gallant efforts of former Anheuser Busch
exec, Dave Peacock, and the task force, who devised and miraculous plan for a new riverfront stadium in
what seemed like a Kurt Warner style 4th quarter comeback. Stan Kroenke was already familiar with the
offense we were running, and huddled with Commissioner Goodell for a 2 minute drill retort, which left
a dagger in the heart of St. Louis football fans, similar to Bill Belichik and Tom Brady in Superbowl
We’ve been here before. The numb feeling of defeat overtaking our rational thought patterns. The
anger of rejection now fuels our thirst for revenge. So who is the blame? Mayor Slay? Governor Nixon?
Stan Kroenke? The NFL? The architects of the stadium’s loophole filled lease agreement? Perhaps all of
the above are culprits. But as we stand here now, feeling violated, and abused, we are now more certain
than ever before: the NFL is about making money. It’s the nature of the beast. We left the door open
and our team was taken. Now the question becomes. What now?