‘Like 20 Years of Your Life Has Been Canceled Out by the Stroke of a Pen’
Voice of the Fan

‘Like 20 Years of Your Life Has Been Canceled Out by the Stroke of a Pen’

Feeling furious and betrayed by the NFL’s Los Angeles money grab, St. Louis fans lash out at a league that pretends to care about the ticket-buying and jersey-wearing public, and at an owner who sabotaged his city in a dollar-driven quest for leave

Dan Palen and his family have been season ticket holders since the Rams first season in St. Louis.
Dan Palen

Football is Family?

Late on Tuesday night, when the news came out that the NFL had voted to relocate the Rams to Los Angeles, I heard a noise that sounded like a dog or something outside our house, so I went downstairs to go check it out. The strange noise turned out to be my 12-year-old son. I found him in his bed, wearing his Todd Gurley jersey and sobbing. That really affected me. It’s one thing as an adult to have your team taken away, but when you see how it upsets your kids, that really hurts.

My son is not old enough to understand that there is a difference between the players and team you root for, and the ownership and the league. I told him that it would be okay that the Rams left—it’s just football. It hurts now, but there is more to life than just football, and he knows that. It’s more about the family experience that is gone with the team.

The league has become expert at using our emotions to extract dollars. That is what matters most to them.

It hurts for our family because back in 1995 when the Rams came to St. Louis, my dad bought personal seat license tickets for us. It was more than football—it was family, something we were proud of. We had the same seats for 20 years. We have jerseys, coffee mugs, everything. I’m sitting in my office right now looking at all kinds of Rams paraphernalia. It just hurts. It feels like 20 years of your life has been canceled out by the stroke of a pen. It’s a weird, empty feeling.

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A young Rams fan reacts to the news that his team is leaving for L.A.

My dad founded our family business back in 1963. Our “Why We Do What We Do” message in our business is: It’s about family. We have always tried to live this out in our work and how we treat our customers. When I saw the NFL using a variant of this message in its “Football is Family" commercials, it struck me that the league has become expert at using our emotions to extract dollars—and that is what matters most to them. I could no longer accept their “Football is Family” hypocrisy, so I echoed it on Twitter with a twist on it that says it all: FOOTBALL I$ FAMILY.

I don’t think I can follow the Los Angeles Rams. It just feels like gut punch to Missouri and for people like me. And it’s not even about all the money we’ve spent on the Rams over the years. It’s the emotional investment, day in and day out. It was just totally disregarded, and I don’t know if I can be a fan of the NFL. I’m feeling betrayed, like my family’s loyalty at the end of the day stood for absolutely nothing. I don’t understand how the NFL can truly railroad good, supportive customers. I don’t know how they can say that St. Louis didn’t support the Rams, when the Rams have had such a pathetic product for this many years.

Back in October, I spoke at the NFL’s town hall in St. Louis because it felt like I was fighting not just for the city, but for my family. In reality, nothing anyone said that night mattered. It was absolutely an exercise in Kabuki theater. It was just a big, elaborate dog and pony show with zero substance. This decision was made a long time ago. The league just kept dragging it out long enough that they eventually worked out the outcome they desired.

And then to top it all off, Stan Kroenke, who hasn’t talked to anyone in the media for years, goes on TV and claims that he loves St. Louis and Missouri. I’m sorry—you don’t screw over someone you love. You just don’t. I don’t know what love means to him, but it’s not what love means to me.

— Dan Palen, Springfield, Mo.

* * *

Greed and Lies

The last two days have been some of the hardest that I’ve had to ever endure as a St. Louis Rams fan. And given the quality of the product that Stan Kroenke has put on the field since he became majority owner, I’ve endured many, many bad days watching them. But that’s what I did as a true fan, an original PSL owner who bought season tickets every year and actually went to the games. True fans support their team no matter what. This unconditional support does not, however transfer over to the greedy, heartless, owner.

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At the NFL town hall in October, Jill Bauer presented a case for the Rams to remain in St. Louis. Did any of it matter?

Obviously, losing my team is devastating enough, but how it went down has left me numb. The NFL showed a total lack of integrity in the relocation process. It was a Broadway show for the world! They made sure to hold hearings in each of the relocation cities to give fans a chance to voice their questions and concerns so that all the owners could take our opinions into consideration when making their decision. Really? This decision was made over two years ago! But I fell for it and spoke at the town hall meeting in St. Louis. I really thought that if the old school owners saw fans like me, they would remember back a few decades when the actual game of football mattered. And they would remember that this game is not only about making more “jack”—Kroenke’s pet name for his best friend. They would remember when they were fans and got their thrills from the action on the field. At the town hall, NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman cautioned us that nothing was certain. Even if St. Louis put a great stadium plan together, it didn’t matter. The NFL’s relocation guidelines (which they went to the trouble of actually putting in print!) were not actually rules that had to be followed.

It was a completely classless act by a little man who profited greatly by being in St. Louis.

In the end (actually in the beginning), none of it—the NFL town halls, the relocation guidelines, the lies told to fans like me—mattered. It was all a PR job by the NFL to pretend to show the rest of the world that they actually cared enough about this “very difficult” decision. The NFL and Kroenke did everything they could to sabotage the fans in St. Louis so that we would give up. Kroenke’s actions alone caused season tickets and attendance to decline, and then he was able to whine about the lack of interest that he created.

• THE RELOCATION RANTS: Rams, Chargers and Raiders fans let it all out at NFL town hall meetings

His proposal made the Inglewood complex sound amazing. And he was building it himself, with no public or NFL money. What more did he need? Inglewood was NFL Nirvana. To make it even worse, on his way out he decided he had to torch the city, saying “Any NFL club who signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin.This from a guy who was born and raised in “Missou-rah.” A guy who proudly claims he was named after two amazing St. Louis baseball players. A guy who, and I quote, “loves Missouri and St. Louis.” It was a completely classless act of revenge from a little man who profited greatly by being in St. Louis. He not only made himself look pitiful, he also made the NFL look like a heartless organization that only cares about money.

I would love to totally walk away from the NFL, but I truly love watching the games. I'll probably still be a fan, but I won't spend any more money on the NFL or the Rams. I will do my best to spend my money on companies that care about me as a customer. I hope the NFL and all 32 owners are okay with the message that was sent to all other NFL cities: That they, and only they, will decide where they want their teams to live, and no amount of effort, public funding or fan support matters.

— Jill Bauer, Columbia, Ill.

* * *

Second Cut is the Deepest

Twice. Twice now I’ve had my football team ripped away from me. First, the football Cardinals left in 1988 for Arizona, and now the Rams are moving to L.A. When the Cardinals (or Big Red, as we called them) left it hurt, hurt real bad. But this deal with the Rams has stirred emotions in me that I probably shouldn’t feel about a sports franchise. This time, as the saying goes, it’s personal.

And it’s personal because Enos Stanley Kroenke, the chatty Rams owner, and the mighty National Football League made it that way. Look, I can fully understand why a guy might want to move his business to a different location to make more money. I get that. But what makes me mad is how the St. Louis region and more importantly for this conversation St. Louis Rams fans were portrayed throughout the entire relocation process. All this crap about St. Louis being a “baseball town” just infuriates me. Yes, the rumors are true—we love our baseball Cardinals. But the reason the Cards are so well-liked is because they are a first-class organization that cares about its fans, the St. Louis Metropolitan area and winning championships! There: mystery solved. That’s how you win the hearts of your fans.

• THE NFL RETURNS TO L.A.: Why Kroenke's proposal got the votes

When Mr. Kroenke filled out the relocation application, he lambasted the St. Louis region and everybody in it. That was juvenile and pathetic. Real classy, that Stan. His lack of skills in filling out an application came front and center when he checked the “Lack of Fan Support” box. When I read that, I laughed and was enraged at the same time. Enraged laughter. An unexpected emotion and not one I’d recommend in the presence of children. How can even a liar, yes he’s a liar, like Kroenke say something like that? With the joke of a professional football team he put on the field it’s a miracle anybody attended the games. “What are you talking about, the Rams won the Super Bowl!” you say (whoever you are). Yes they did, and it was awesome. What a team. They were truly The Greatest Show on Turf. But other than that, here’s what St. Louis Rams fans have endured: Four winning records in 21 seasons in St. Louis. Last winning season: 2003. Last playoff appearance: 2004. They’ve had 12 consecutive losing seasons. And here’s my personal favorite: From 2007 through 2011 they had the worst five-year stretch in NFL history, with a record of 15 wins and 65 losses.

But it’s all over now. And even with the lousy football and the relocation thing hanging over my head, I’ll miss it immensely. And that brings me to my final emotion of once again losing my football team… sadness. Go Chiefs!

—Joe Marshall, St. Louis

* * *

Identity Crisis

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This sounds dramatic to say, but a lot of my identity was being a Rams fan. I only started getting into the NFL about three years ago, and I specifically picked the Rams as my team because St. Louis was my adopted town. The majority of what I follow on Instagram and Twitter is St. Louis Rams-related. Every Sunday I am watching a St. Louis Rams game to see how my team does. Anytime I’m networking or meeting someone I don’t really know well, I can always talk about the Rams, and they are always impressed with my knowledge of the team. Every year I go to a private reception at Rams training camp, and I always shoot my hand up in the air to ask a question. [Rams VP of football operations] Kevin Demoff will say, “Oh, Chelsea, of course you have a question. You’re the biggest super fan.”

Now the Rams aren’t a part of me anymore, and I feel really dramatically about it. My identity as a Rams super fan is totally changing. It is a huge change for me, and I don’t really know what I am going to do. I just can’t imagine Sundays without being a real fan of something. What is that even like?

Truly, I was stunned by the decision to move to L.A. I never thought this was really going to happen. Throughout everything, I just believed that it was political maneuvering and there was going to be some last minute surprise that no one saw coming that was going to keep the Rams in St. Louis. I really, really didn’t expect this to happen. It was so stunning that the NFL could just completely ignore everything that St. Louis did, knowing that St. Louis is a city that is always on the brink of something. We are always fighting to be better and get to the next level. To have this happen is devastating to the entire city.

I used to say that I’ll be a Rams fan wherever they ended up, but now I feel differently. After seeing the way Kroenke treated St. Louis throughout this process—he did not respect the city, he did not make any effort to engage, he did not follow any of the guidelines, and then wrote that report sh---ing all over St. Louis—I don’t think I can support his team. That’s what it’s about for me.

St. Louis is such an undiscovered gem, with so much potential, and there are so many people fighting to make St. Louis great. To have the entire nation hear Kroenke say that there’s nothing good here, that a team in St. Louis will end up in “financial ruin”—that is just so not true for those of us who believe in St. Louis.

I feel like I have to pick a new team because I am such an NFL diehard. But I don’t know what to do. Should I be a Chiefs fan because they are also in Missouri and close by? And then switch again in two or three years if St. Louis ever get another team? I think I’m going to have to take next season off as fan. Just sit back and see what happens. This process has been such an emotional roller-coaster.

— Chelsea Osterby, 31, St. Louis

* * *

We Are Strong

Stan Kroenke, we hate you. You called St. Louis struggling, but you're wrong. We are not struggling. We are strong. We deal with tornados, floods, severe ice storms—hell, even riots. But none of that compares to the strength we've needed to deal with your embarrassingly poor management skills and bad decisions.

You failed at leading a successful NFL team in a town voted the Greatest Sports City in America. Do you know how hard you have to work to screw up that badly? My 11-year- old could have managed the team better than you did. You intentionally kept the franchise without good resources and put a poor product on the field.

Stan, go look in the mirror. The team failed because of you. You were completely absent from the community from day one. We are a strong city and loyal to a fault. We rally around the leaders of town, community and teams. But you, sir, were not anything close to a leader.

We are mad that our kids have to grow up in a town without NFL football. We are mad that the players have to uproot their entire lives. And we are mad that you directly caused thousands of people to lose their jobs. Have fun sliding around on your millions like Scrooge McDuck while we are left to pick up the pieces.

Enos Stanley Kroenke... Just the thought that you were named after legendary St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famers Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial makes us sick to our stomach. From all of us here in St. Louis, you aren't welcome here anymore. I hope the door smacks that nasty toupee off your head on the way out.

— Kelly Manno, St. Louis
Using her podcast, The Kelly Manno Show, as a platform, Kelly raised money from listeners to send cow poop to Stan Kroenke's doorstep

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