March 28th, 2015
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-1216
Dear Mr. Goodell:
I trust your pre-draft planning and last-minute logistics are taking up a great deal of your time. I am looking forward to the 2015 NFL Draft as much as any fan of the National Football League. My team has several gigantic holes to be filled in their 53-man roster, but I am growing increasingly concerned over matters that happen outside the lines, away from the playing field. We are in the part of the off season that is typically calm and stagnant. That is certainly the case for 27 NFL cities that are confident in their franchise stability, viability and support from the League. The three obvious outliers are St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland. While this is troubling during an overwhelmingly great economic time for the league, the best in its history, I want to take an opportunity to discuss the first city named above. Speculation is running rampant via national networks on where these three proud franchises will be competing, starting with the 2016 season.
The St. Louis Rams, for whom I am a season ticket holder, arrived in St. Louis in 1995 when I was 12-years-old. The remarkable way in which the city absorbed the team into its fabric and showed support thought attendance vindicated the decision to move the franchise from a market that had grown apathetic to professional football. The Rams quickly, through trades and hiring Dick Vermeil as their head coach, vaulted from an annually average team to Super Bowl XXXIV Champions on the strength of their thrilling 23-16 last-second victory over the Tennessee Titans. The franchise was, in my mind, single-handedly responsible for the now pedestrian offensive explosion. “The Greatest Show on Turf” mesmerized defenses and fans across the country. St. Louis finally had the NFL success that had eluded them for so many decades. The Rams were the hottest thing going in the city, and the Edward Jones Dome was as intimidating and dominant as their offensive prowess. We, as St. Louisans, proved a winner showcased how great of an NFL city St. Louis actually was, despite being home to the greatest National League franchise in Major League Baseball history. The market could support three major sports teams, as showcased by the vehement support for the city’s third professional franchise, the St. Louis Blues.
I do not write this letter to bring light to new statistics or stadium issue updates-although those are progressing rapidly and with prejudice-but rather to show some radiance to a league that professes to do what is best for its fans. You know what the attendance was at the Edward Jones Dome this year. The Rams finished another injury riddled season at 6-10. The support for the franchise is truly a paradox when compared with success on the field. I am not a successful business man, or a millionaire or billionaire at that. I am an average NFL fan who loves his team, with no regard for my personal well-being monetarily or emotionally. I do not expect complex explanations of Collective Bargaining Agreements, NFL By-laws or television contracts. However, I do expect, and think I deserve, as do all Rams’ fans, an explanation as to why the St. Louis Rams seem to be on the proverbial chopping block after the 2016 NFL season.
St. Louis deserves an NFL franchise, and it deserves to keep the one it has currently. If the goal of the league is to truly do what is best for its fans, prove it. It seems impossible for me to fathom current owner Stan Kroenke deciding in the last few months, or even years, that he would possibly like to move the team to Los Angeles. For me, and many like-minded individuals, the Rams current dilemma seems calculated in unison by Mr. Kroenke and the National Football League. I understand, as many do, that Los Angeles is the biggest media market in Amercia and the opportunity for the League to increase its financial and social footprint is undeniable. I do not agree with the tactic of using that market as a bargaining chip to current NFL cities in an effort to extort taxpayer money. If the League would like a franchise in Los Angeles, put one there-through expansion or by moving a team that has a fan base already located primarily in the greater Los Angeles area.
I assure you that the future of Rams Nation is as strong as the St. Louis Arch. I am 32 and have a daughter who is turning 8-years-old this very day. My close group of friends that attend Rams’ games regularly all have children and are advancing their professional careers and beginning to acquire disposable income. Our kids are all Rams fans. We are all Rams fans. The generational gap of loyalty to the Rams is being bridged literally daily. I love the Rams without equivocation and unapologetically. We have supported this team through much more thin than thick. I encourage you to look at it from our perspective, instead of just through the lens of a League financial profile.
The current market assessments being executed for St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland are nothing more than plausible deniability for the league. The NFL is smart. NFL owners are smart. Each has a lot of money. Numbers lie all the time, and undoubtedly these market assessments will be sure to empirically demonstrate and quantify whatever the league and its owners wish, to further their agenda and falsely propagate that agenda to the public. I do not trust them, and I do not think any reasonable person will. Much like an interview for any job, the applicant can say and show you whatever they would like. A facade can easily be created to fool a prospective employer, as we can all attest to having worked with the people that get hired by perpetrating that false facade only to reveal their true identity shortly upon being hired.
Current Rams owner Stan Kroenke could do little, if anything, to grasp local support of the St. Louis Rams. Mr. Kroenke seems available only to other NFL owners only when a large market NFL team, like the New York Giants, are in town. He does not owe me any explanation for his silence, or his vocal parcel purchase in Inglewood, CA. In my opinion, Mr. Kroenke has demonstrated the ability to only see the St. Louis Rams as another investing venture in a long line of other investments he has made in his professional career to amass exorbitant sums of money. At least a minuscule emotional investment should be required to own an NFL team. When the bottom line of the league perpetually trumps the best interests of the League’s fans, the slope will become so slippery that not even the comportment of The Shield will be enough to save the predictable plunge off the proverbial precipice. I am not short-sighted enough to suggest that moving the Rams from St. Louis will somehow hamstring the League in the immediate or long-term future. Financial stability and prudence should always be a focal point of any business or industry, but not the focal point for every decision. Doing some quick research into the NFL financial landscape, it reveals that the National Football League seems to not be operational on a check-to-check existence. Legitimate transparency in any process with outcomes of the magnitude that involve relocating an NFL franchise are paramount.
Thank you for you time and thank you in advance for putting yourself in my shoes for even a few seconds. I do not trust the process, but I do trust that St. Louis will literally and figuratively do everything in its power to prove once again that we are worthy of an NFL franchise. Had the franchise not been run so poorly for a decade, St. Louis NFL fans and corporate partners would not be faced with this current arduous and superfluous remonstrance. Do not punish the great NFL fans of St. Louis for mistakes made by upper management of the franchise during a period of historical futility on the field. To have League upper management display as poor of judgement as the St. Louis Rams upper management did in the 2006 NFL Draft would be the biggest travesty of them all, and the Rams selected Tye Hill in the 1st round that season, as a reminder.
St. Louis is a National Football League city. We will prove it. Again.
Brandt I. Dolce
Arch City Sports Featured Columnist