January 31, 2014

Are the Rams headed "home"? Will St. Louis again be a two-sport town?

The Los Angeles Rams, whose "home" actually was Cleveland, soon adapted to Hollywood glamor with players like Bob Waterfield, Vitamin Smith, and Crazy Legs Hirsch, and their great nicknames helped by their 1950 offense, keyed by Norm Van Brocklin, actually being the best in NFL history, better than this year's Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.

(It's arguable that the Rams' move from Cleveland to L.A., planting the major-level pro sports franchise flag on the West Coast, was the first move in pro football replacing baseball as America's favorite sport.)

And, the Rams could be moving back again.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports current Rams owner Stan Kroenke has purchased 60 acres of L.A. land, definitely suitable for a football site, and next to the old-but-renovated Forum, ESPN reports. (That's in the same area as where another bazillionaire, Philip Anschutz, had eyed a stadium, the tentative Farmers Field, which has not been started, with the idea of possibly buying the Raiders.) And, since Kroenke and the city of St. Louis have failed to come to terms on paying for stadium upgrades stipulated in the team's agreement with the city when it agreed to build the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams have a contractual out clause that takes effect this year.

All of the stories note that the Rams would face some NFL hurdles to moving. But, seriously? If St. Louis and state of Missouri officials don't come to some agreement, at least splitting the $124M and $700M proposal and counter-proposal for upgrades, I can't imagine that those would be more than formalities.

Especially with the four-division lineup in each conference, now that the league has 32 teams, the NFC West would be much more geographically compact with a Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and L.A. Rams. Might also help stimulate an Arizona-L.A. rivalry, with both teams having old St. Louis ties, the number of L.A. transplants now in Phoenix and more. 

As a former St. Louisan who still is, of course, a baseball-first fan and Cardinals-first fan beyond that, it would be sad to see the Rams move back away, especially the way that football Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell screwed the city. (I went to one football Cardinals game in St. Louis and saw Roy Green have a dramatic pu nt-return touchdown.)

At the same time, per what I wrote above, the Rams have a classic history back in L.A. Besides the Hollywood era that started it all, you had Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy, Deacon Jones and Rosey Grier, at various times, giving the first name to an NFL unit as the Fearsome Foursome.

If the NFL is to be back in La-La Land, it should be the Rams. Not the Raiders, the Chargers or anybody else.

At the same time, as for city of Los Angeles costs, Angelenos and their elected representatives should look this gift horse very closely in the mouth.

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