Commentary: An open letter to the Rams owner
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 29, 2011 - Dear Stan:
Let me state at the outset that you seem like a nice guy. I, of course, don't know you personally but from what I can glean from your public persona, you strike me as an affable, smart guy whose even-tempered demeanor belies a no-nonsense approach to business.
Also, allow me to assure you that I harbor no resentment toward the rich, nor am I particularly impressed by their wealth. To me, money is a lot like toilet paper -- when I have enough, I rarely give it a thought; when I need some and don't have any, it's all I can think about. Luckily, I'm doing OK so I won't bore you with some populist lament about the injustice of you owning the Rams while I own two season tickets that nobody wants to use. Rather, I write to share perspective.
I recently read an op-ed piece in the Post-Dispatch by a writer named Kurt Ullrich. In it, he referred to history as a "convoluted, semi-factual morass." I found his description of our shared memory to be astute because, though we all might share a common experience, we each remember it from our own peculiar point of view. In a way, then, we're like the proverbial blind men trying to describe an elephant -- one's conception of the beast depends on which of its parts you happen to touch.
Here, then, is how the situation looks from Section 446 at the Edward Jones Dome: Your team sucks. It's not merely bad. The '62 Mets were bad but it was amusing to watch the imaginative ways they found to lose. The Cubs' collapse in '69 is the stuff of legend. Our last NFL franchise, the Big Red, broke your heart by always falling just short of greatness. Remember that missed field goal at the end of the Redskins' game that kept us out of the playoffs in 1984?
But those teams had character -- a certain charm that fans could relate to. That attribute was a byproduct of the characters on their rosters. Marvelous Marv Thornberry became an icon of ineptitude in New York. The moribund Cubs featured future Hall-of Famer Ron Santo at third base. And no matter what season you suffered through with the gridiron Cardinals, you could count on somebody like Conrad Dobler to enliven things by starting a fight.
Your team, on the other hand, is -- well -- boring. The brain trust that's running the operation has managed to convert a game renowned for excitement into a seductive opportunity for a long winter's nap. And suffocating indifference translates poorly at the box office.
It should also be noted that the worst record ever posted by the perennially disappointing St. Louis Grid-birds was 4 - 11 - 1. The Rams have managed to slink home beneath that low water mark in four of their last five campaigns.
Now we all know, Stan, that you will soon be able to relocate your franchise should you choose to do so. Most fans think you'll be released from your contractual obligation in St. Louis at the end of the 2014 season. That's when the Dome has to rank within the top 25 percent of league venues or you're free to boogie.
The only development less likely than the present stadium making the cut is the public agreeing to pay to replace it. Further, I'm told that your lawyers may sue for an anticipatory breach of trust as early as next February. Under that scenario, a court could rule that because one party (the city) can't possibly live up to its end of the deal, the other party (you) is released from further obligation. Should that occur, next Sunday's scheduled drubbing by the 49ers could be the Rams' last game in St. Louis.
But though you're soon to be free, where are you going to go? LA is the most frequently mentioned destination. It's the nation's #2 TV market and lacks a home team. I can see where the City of Angels might be a tempting prospect but it's not one without problems of its own.
For one thing, the much touted plans for a new stadium there are just that -- plans. Not a shoved of dirt has been turned to date. No way could the facility be ready by next August. For another, I'm told the developer wants to buy whatever team he lures to the coast. Do you really want to sell the franchise you just finally managed to acquire for yourself?
Besides, the Rams moved here from LA precisely because they couldn't compete with that area's other attractions. Do you really think an outfit that's managed to win 15 of its last 79 games is going to draw a reliable crowd in the foothills of Hollywood?
Rather than fret about what may happen down the road, allow me to offer some frank advice about the current situation. Rumor has it that you're planning to "blow up" the front office at season's end. Don't waste the dynamite, a fistful of pink slips should do the trick. Before selecting replacements, however, remember that the NFL is business for you but the fans are in it for fun.
Hire some colorful psycho like John "Chucky" Gruden to run the show and give him free reign. Make retired coach Jim Hanifan the team's spokesperson. He's no Walter Cronkite, but he is local favorite with a candid wit and a couple of Super Bowl rings. Next, draft some players whom you might not want dating your daughter, but who know what to do when they put on the pads.
Alternatively, you can stay the present course and hope that fortunes improve. If you choose that option and later leave town, you'll be remembered here as a civic hero because you'll have made it awfully easy to say good-bye.
Best wishes for the new year,
M.W. Guzy is a retired St. Louis cop who currently works for the city Sheriff's Department. His column appears weekly in the Beacon.