To Pan: To harshly criticize, to denigrate a performance, to give a poor review, to downgrade, to say anything about an opponent’s record while spinning your own performance to gain an advantage.
Stan Kroenke’s twenty-nine pages of vitriol aimed at St. Louis in his quest to move the Rams to more personally-lucrative Los Angeles is not anything new to those of us who have watched politics for very long. His document sent to the NFL owners to justify his effort to return the Rams to Los Angeles sounds like the kind of stuff we find contaminating our mail box during election cycles.
The NFL might decide next week if the Rams can move.
It’s important in politics to paint as ugly a picture of your opponent as you can, particularly if you can do it before your opponent has the chance to put his or her superior virtues before the public. In this case, though, St. Louis interests have been praising their purity to the NFL for several months. The thing to watch now is to see if Stan’s fellow NFL owners believe him or believe St. Louis interests.
He has come down heavily on a city that hasn’t seen a winning Rams season in almost a decade, accusing fans of failing to support a team in which he has heavily invested. He is critical of them because the team under his ownership has improved its win-loss record by fifty percent. We can’t call that “spin,” a political term, because we’re talking about football and footballs don’t spin unless the passer is really, really good. They wobble, flop, flip, bounce, go end-over-end. The fifty percent improvement means that the Rams who were 15-65, the worst five-year stretch in NFL history, before Kroenke bought the team, have “improved” in the last five years to 27-36-1 in the last four years.
Here’s a great truth about statistics. When somebody starts talking percentages, look at the actual numbers. A one-hundred percent improvement in nothing is still nothing.
Fans whose annual economic base is measured in tens of thousands of dollars and therefore have some trouble grasping the concept of the costs of a new stadium in St. Louis or in LA, can understand the nine-year total of 42-101-1 and should be excused if they question whether that’s worth their own financial investment—particularly when the owner of the team has earned the image of a flint-hearted, isolated, potentate who thinks the sport they love is nothing more than a bottom-line focused business.
The truth is, that’s precisely what the National Football League is. It’s a business. It’s all about money. And Kroenke is a shrewd bottom-line businessman who has not become a billionaire by being too cozy with people at the stadium hot dog stand.
We met his wife’s uncle one day. Briefly. Sam Walton was in Jefferson City to meet with the folks who worked at the local Wal-Mart store. Flew in in his little single-engine airplane. Wore a suit that looked like something he would buy at a, well, a Wal-Mart store. Mr. Sam looked like the kind of person who could stroll into one of his stores and nobody would notice him. And he had that public image. Mr. Sam seemed like the kind of guy who’d sit around a table at the coffee shop and talk with the folks.
Not his nephew-in-law, at least not to hear St. Louis interests describe him.
His request to move is a huge hatchet job on St. Louis and St. Louis interests are understandably outraged at some of the nasty things he’s said that are certainly open to legitimate challenge. But a lot of the pickle St. Louis is in is of its own making. Think back a few years when the city said it would spend sixty-two million dollars to upgrade the domed stadium where the Rams play football if the Rams would cough up an equal amount. When the Rams countered by demanding SEVEN HUNDRED MILLION dollars in improvements, city officials gagged, coughed, snorted, and choked, “No way!” Sixty-two million was it. Final offer.
An arbitrator ruled in favor of the Rams. Seven hundred million or Stan Kroenke could move the team. Outrageous, said the city and the state, which helped finance the domed stadium twenty years ago at a total cost of $280 million.
The city that did not want to spend more than sixty-two million dollars to upgrade the dome has now decided it can find $1.1 billion to build a whole new stadium for somebody and they sure hope it’s the Rams.
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise. There IS blood in that turnip. Seven-hundred-million dollars was off the charts. One-point-one-billion is a four-hundred page document with some really pretty pictures of a football stadium that St. Louis hopes NFL owners will consider one of the greatest books ever written.
Think back, though, to 1989-1994. St. Louis had no NFL team. The city did not shrivel up and blow away. People did not flee from the city appreciably faster than they have been dashing to the suburbs for decades anyway. People still visited St. Louis for the reasons people visit St. Louis now—except several thousand didn’t go there for a specific purpose ten days of the year.
Remember a few years ago when the Cardinals wanted a new stadium? There was talk that the new owners were looking at a site in Illinois and somebody said, “You know what St. Louis would be without the Cardinals? Omaha.”
St. Louis should be so lucky as Omaha, a city without a major league baseball team, a National Football League team, or a National Hockey League Team. But it does have more than 100,000 more people than St. Louis has. And as far as we know, the city of Omaha and the state of Nebraska have not had to endure the financial agony of finding millions and billions of dollars so some millionaires and billionaires have new playgrounds. Yes, we are aware that the Omaha metro area has half as many people as the St. Louis metro area. In fact, the St. Louis metro area has one million people more than the whole state of Nebraska. But Omaha as a city without major league sports seems to have something that St. Louis, a city with three major league sports, doesn’t have. So let’s not belittle Omaha.
For just about everybody, except those who think saving the Rams for St. Louis is a holy quest, the entire struggle is not a meaningful part of their lives. That would be, probably, something more than five-millions of Missouri’s six-million-plus citizens, some of whom like to go to Omaha and do go because it’s a whole lot closer to them than St. Louis is.
If the Rams go, they go. St. Louis will survive.
And to think all of this anguish could have been avoided for the bargain basement price of just seven-hundred mil.