St. Louis Rams merchandise has become St. Louis Rams memorabilia. Look for big markdowns in sporting goods stores for jerseys that say “Gurley” on the back. Don’t bother calling Stan Kroenke and the National Football League all kinds of nasty names. They don’t care and while you’re thinking up creative new epithets to apply to the situation, time is a-wasting.
Mayor Slay wants to pout and says he’s through with the NFL. And Offensive Line Coach Nixon says the league talks out of both sides of its mouth. Get over it. There are worse things than hearing the NFL say St. Louis is not an NFL town. One of the worse things is accepting it. There’s got to be a better answer to the NFL blasting St. Louis as “inadequate” than saying “am not!”
There’s a line in Meredith Willson’s Broadway musical of years ago, The Unsinkable Molly Brown “Nobody wants me down as much as I wants me up.”
St. Louis will survive and thrive without a pro football team. They’ve done it before.
But if St. Louis wants a replacement NFL team, it has to regroup immediately and be aggressive. And go get the Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders are the odd man out in the Los Angeles sweepstakes. They probably feel bruised, too. Speculation already is being offered that the Raiders will move to San Diego to replace the Chargers, who are likely to become Kroenke’s alternate-weekend tenants in his new stadium in a Los Angeles suburb. St. Louis needs to nip that San Diego talk in the bud. After all, the NFL has dissed San Diego, too,. And there are all kinds of good reasons fans should be going to St. Louis Raiders games sometime in the future and some good reasons why the Raiders should want to play in St. Louis.
We know the Raiders don’t want to be in Oakland. Heck, they’ve already left it once to go to Los Angeles from 1982-1994 and (believe it or not) decided to return to Oakland. So we know the Raiders have shallow roots. They also share a stadium with the Oakland Athletics, a team that once was the Philadelphia Athletics before they were the Kansas City Athletics and then the Oakland Athletics. And the city of Oakland has refused to commit any taxpayer funds for a new football stadium.
Think of some other NFL history. Think of the great Chiefs-Raiders rivalry. Think of the marketing opportunities that could come if that rivalry was a cross-state rivalry that would make the annual Governor’s Cup competition TWO regular season, inter-divisional contests, not just an exhibition game.
Stadium? St. Louis already has one. It’s domed so the first Chiefs-Raiders game could be played in the sunshine early in the NFL season in Kansas City and the second one could be played as a season-concluding, everything is on the line on a frigid day game—indoors.
Remember that Stan Kroenke felt the dome could be a top-tier stadium worthy of keeping the Rams in St. Louis if it got a $700-million upgrade, which now looks like an offer that shouldn’t have been refused. So instead of the Raiders moving to Los Angeles to play in a $1.9-billion dollar stadium they wouldn’t be able to call their own, they could move into the domed stadium in St. Louis that would be upgraded to top-tier quality and they would be the only football tenants. And St. Louis can be an NFL city again with a Kroenke-certified top-tier facility for a price that is in NFL terms reasonably sane, not the financial disaster Kroenke claimed the riverside stadium would be.
The team could keep its “Raiders” name because it would be appropriate to St. Louis. Let’s not forget that Lambert-St. Louis Airport was once a world-class airport until a corporate RAIDER named Carl Icahn got his hands on TWA and messed around with it until TWA disappeared into American Airlines and the St. Louis hub just disappeared. Don’t forget that some folks in Los Angeles might think of St. Louis as a city that pulled a raid on LA and took the Rams away to begin with. We could probably find other examples of raids (including prohibition times in the city once called “Anheuserville” by some critics).
ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez, who covered the Raiders for eight years, says the NFL has declared San Diego and St. Louis “non-viable” for an NFL team (which might preclude the Raiders from moving to San Diego if the NFL is consistent). He suggests San Antonio and Portland, Oregon might take a run at the Raiders. But the “non-viability” of St. Louis was based on comparisons to Los Angeles and the St. Louis plans for a new stadium that raised questions about financial viability from the NFL. But if Oakland WANTS to move to St. Louis to play in a stadium renovated the way Stan Kroenke would have found acceptable—-well, we know the NFL is sometimes not a synonym for “consistency.”
Don’t waste time crying in your foreign-owned beer, St. Louis. Regroup. Raid the Raiders. Convince them you’re much better than what they have and what they get can continue to improve. And start squirreling away cash for the entirely new stadium you know will have to be built someday.
IF, however, the name of the game is to spend an INSANE amount of money for a new stadium, then do something that fits with the city’s history and spreads the costs around. Such as?
A new stadium OVER the Mississippi River, not next to it.
Don’t bloody your nose snorting over this “impossible” idea. One hundred and forty years ago or so, there were plenty of people who told James B. Eads that his idea of a bridge over the Mississippi of the kind he proposed to build was impossible. Eads, not being an engineer, saw no reason to listen to his critics. His impossible idea is now one of the symbols of St. Louis.
There was a time when the idea of building a 630-foot stainless steel arch on the riverfront was ridiculed. Yet, there it is and the city and the federal government are spending a lot of money to rehab it and the area around it. It has turned an eyesore of a riverfront into one of the world’s great entrances to a city.
A stadium over the river. It would never work, you say, because it would weigh too much. Not if you built it out of carbon fiber and industrial grade aluminum (if industrial grade aluminum is good enough for the Ford F-150 built in Kansas City, it’s good enough for a footballs stadium at St. Louis) or titanium. What an engineering marvel that would be! What an international symbol of a city forging a new technological identity in the 21st century it could become!
The Eads Bridge is a 19th century symbol. The arch represents the 20th century. The stadium over the river would say so much about the 21st century people that we are, and it would be right in the middle of the nation, a draw for thousands, maybe millions of people, to see and visit on the other 41 weekends a year.
Why build it over the river? To spread the costs around. Think of the Stan Musial Bridge. Missouri didn’t pay for all of it. Illinois paid for some of it. Another Missouri-Illinois project that could lead to immense economic development on both sides of the river would revitalize both St. Louises and their surrounding areas would offer economic opportunities that would make the Lumiere Place and the Alton Belle casinos look like penny arcades when it comes to economic benefits.
Need an example? The Kansas Speedway has been a huge economic development success just across the border from Kansas City. And every time something new happens in that area there should be increased embarrassment on the Missouri side because our legislature had a chance to provide incentives for that track to be built near the Kansas City airport. Legislative shortsightedness cost Missouri big-time then. St. Louis suffered the same disorder with the Rams (the same way it did with the Football Cardinals). Time to get a new prescription.
Sure, you’d have to consider what would happen in flood times. But that’s an easily-addressed matter, really. This is a time for boldness, not bruised egos. Floods? A small, occasional annoyance. They can be dealt with.
It’s halftime and St. Louis trails but the game is not necessarily over. Coach Slay and offensive line coach Nixon need a stirring clubhouse speech.
“There’s no time to sit around licking wounds. They’ll heal anyway. Get a couple of stitches, put a piece of tape over it, put the helmet back on, and get out there. We aren’t playing for tie and we’re not going to accept a loss.”
In the end, the city still might be on the short end of the fight but there’s no dignity in getting knocked down and deciding to pout on the canvas instead of getting up to punch back.