Let me eschew the cursory politeness and niceties one often shares in the beginning of this kind of “open letter” format and start this piece of writing with the most honest and sincere sentiment I could possibly share with my audience regarding my opinion of the person I am writing this letter to: Stan Kroenke, I hate your guts. I hate your money over everything attitude. I hate your ability to turn your back on anyone and everyone who has ever helped you to get to where you are today in search of an extra couple million dollars of net worth. I hate the fact that you lie in the weeds, in the background, with your mouth shut and your face away from the camera, acting as if your unwillingness to speak to the public, speak to your fan base, makes you any less of a deceitful blood sucker than, say, your pal Jerry Jones because no one can contradict you or question your ulterior motives or say that you lied to them because you can’t lie when you never say anything out loud, when you never say anything on the record, when you never said anything at all.
I hate how you treat us, how you take advantage of us, how our money is all well and good and nice until it isn’t, until you can make more money off of someone else, until the stadium we built for you literally for free, literally without you needing to put up a dime of your own money, literally without you risking a nickel of your precious 5 and a half billion dollar fortune, isn’t shiny and new enough anymore. Then you are gone. Then you are out the door. Then you are onto greener pastures. Then you flip us all the bird and hop on your private jet. C'est la vie. It’s all good baby.
I hate you, Stan; hate how you so clearly and obviously don’t give a fuck about anybody but yourself. I hate how you treat other people: like they are less than you; like they are not worth the time or attention or focus it takes for you to do things such as open your mouth and produce audible noises; like they are nothing but obstacles standing in your way as you strive to move up a spot or two on the Forbes list of richest people in the world. I know that many billionaires are, by their very essence, selfish assholes who only look out for #1 as they fill their bank accounts and stash money all over the globe in an attempt to do things such as not pay taxes or open up sweatshops in 3rd world countries that pay 9-year-olds $0.04/hour to stich mittens.
That’s how they get to where they are. That’s how they become who they become. No one can reach the top of a fiscal mountain without stepping on a few skulls along the way. I know that. I acknowledge it. I accept it for what it is. Let’s not confuse that acceptance however with the idea of appreciation, with the idea that all of us underlings like having our heads squashed by a dude with a shitty haircut and a distinctly unstylish suit as he makes his way up higher and higher on a pile of cash. That acceptance however should not mean that I am forced to lie down and concede my fate; that I am forced to prepare my skull for its inevitable squashing without saying a word about how the squashing is inequitable and unfair.
I hate that lying down and conceding my fate is exactly what you, Stan, expect anyone and everyone in your path to do. It’s what you expected the NFL to do when you attempted to buy the Rams in clear violation of the league’s cross ownership guidelines. It’s what you expected the city, county and state government to do when you countered the CVC’s renovation suggestions for the Dome with a ridiculous $700 million plan that would have effectively turned the Edward Jones Dome into some sort of spaceship that would require every road in downtown St. Louis to be rerouted in order to accommodate an insanely burgeoning and impractical facility. It’s what you expect from the league, from the city/state/county, and from the fans now Stan, now that you’ve all but announced your plans to move the Rams out to the left coast and turn them into a lame duck here in St. Louis just days before Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon were set to release their plans for a potential state of the art stadium that would theoretically keep the Rams here in St. Louis. A move which makes it clear that you never had any interest in waiting to see what St. Louis was willing to offer you in the first pace Stan. A move, which makes it clear that from the moment you bought the team Stan, you were never, ever, going to be willing to stay.
Which makes no sense to me Stan. You grew up in Missouri. You went to school here. You maintain your personal residence in Columbia. You were born here, in this state. You will probably die here too. You will almost assuredly be buried here. You built your fortune here. You raised your kids here. You married your college sweetheart here. You are named Enos Stanley Kroenke after two of the greatest Cardinals to have ever lived: Stan Musial, perhaps the most influential St. Louisan of all, and Enos Slaughter, one of the most forgotten. You had no choice when your roots were put down for you here, in Missouri, in the Show-Me-State Stan, but you had a choice to dig them deeper; you had a choice to reinforce them; you had a choice to stay. You had a choice to show us all that no matter how rich you got or how big-time you became, this region, this state, this place where we are from, this was a good place to be. You had a choice to show us all that no matter how rich you got or how big-time you became, there really is no place like home.
You had a choice to bring professional football to St. Louis Stan, a choice you made some 2 decades ago, first as the proposed owner for the potential St. Louis expansion team that illogically went to Jacksonville, then by buying 40% of the Rams on the provision that they would relocate in order to play their football in your home state, then by stepping up and purchasing the Rams when they hit the open market and vowing to do everything in your power to keep them in St. Louis, to keep them here, to keep them in their new found home. No one has done as much for football fans in this town. No one has believed in our city as a viable NFL market more. No one is more forgotten, and in some ways more responsible, for the St. Louis Rams bringing us a Lombardi Trophy; for the St. Louis Rams making the Gateway to the West the Gateway to the Best…football team in the world. To be denying this would be to deny you, Stan, your just due. You may not want the credit Stan, but you deserve it. You are the biggest reason why professional football returned to St. Louis in the first place. All roads back to the NFL led through you. You were the one that directed them here.
And now, it appears, you are the reason why professional football may be leaving our fair city, the reason why the road out of town suddenly seems to lead directly to Los Angeles and is paved in royal blue and Rams’ gold. You are the reason why we may have to endure crickets on Sunday afternoon and listen to pundits moronically spew at the mouth about St. Louis’ inability to support a NFL franchise. You are the reason why this city has to take one more hit, one more slap in the face, one more indignation and reminder of who we are and where we are supposed to fit in the world.
You, Stan Kroenke, are the second richest resident of Missouri. You are married to the third richest resident of Missouri. You have more money than just about every other person in this state, just about every other person who comes from where you come from, could ever imagine. And yet it is not enough. Will it ever be enough? You moved the Rams from Los Angeles to St. Louis in search of a stadium. You will at least try to move the Rams from St. Louis back to LA in search of an extra number being added to your ever-escalating net worth. In 20 or 30 years there’s a distinct possibility that you will move the Rams into outer space as soon as you realize how easy it would be to finance a new stadium on any one of Jupiter’s moons. You are not happy Stan. You are not satisfied. Enough is never enough. There is always more to be had.
That Stan is, at its very essence, its very core, the real reason why I despise you so much. There is always more to be had. More money. More stature. A bigger market. A fancier stadium. More rich guys who have to kowtow to what you want because you are just as rich, if not richer, than they are. More power. More greed. More influence. More. More. More. Whatever it takes to get it. Whenever you are able to grab it. Whoever’s heart you have to rip out to achieve it. There is what you want to obtain Stan and there is everything else. The everything else is acceptable collateral damage.
There is nothing we can give you to quench that thirst for more Stan, nothing we can give you to appease your desire to reach higher and further until the bounteous wealth of the entire world is sitting squarely in your hands. You wanted a stadium. We built you one. You wanted to make money off of it. We bought tickets. We filled your stadium for 2 decades, filled it more than LA ever filled their’s, filled it at or near 90% capacity even as the team has gone through a period of futility at times unheard of in the history of the National Football League.
You want a new stadium now, and you want us to pay for it, and before we can even tell you where and how and when we propose to do so you are dropping artist renderings of a new football palace in Inglewood, California that is supposed to be “just a real estate deal” that you will pay for your own damn self. You snap your fingers Stan and we hop to. I guess this time we didn’t hop fast enough.
Maybe this is just a “real-estate” deal Stan, or a leverage play, or a way to ensure that you get what you want here, that you get what you desire without being labeled as a traitor in the state you call home. Maybe you will flip this stadium deal to the league or Dean Spanos or whoever wants it once St. Louis appeases you, once St. Louis gives you exactly what you want. Maybe somewhere deep down, in your heart of hearts, in the one and only place where you may remain a human being, you hope that this plays out a certain way, a way that will let you keep the team you own here, keep your team in the place where Stan The Man and Enos Slaughter gave you your namesake.
Maybe you are a sports fan Stan, but you are a businessman first. And let me tell you something that, as a businessman, you will never understand: sports fandom defies logic. It defies convention. It defies social and societal norms. Sports fandom transcends culture. It transcends human nature. It transcends anything else and everything else that we are supposed to know about the world.
Because sports fandom unites us; it bond us; it brings us together. Sports fandom causes us to care about something that is bigger than ourselves. Sports fandom causes us to look down at the grown man on the field or court, that grown man who is doing things that we never ever do ourselves, and to hope and wish and pull, with everything we have inside of us, for his success, because his success is our success, even if in every conceivable and concrete way his success doesn’t impact our lives at all.
Sports fandom causes us to emit passion. Passion for the players. Passion for our teams. Passion for the communities that the players and teams represent. Passion for the communities that we, as fans, share with them. Civic pride. Civic togetherness. Civic solidarity. Glory not for me. Glory for everyone who cares about what I care about. Glory for everyone who’s from where I’m from. Glory for everyone who loves what I love.
That’s what sports fandom is ultimately all about Stan: love. I loved the Rams the instance that they step foot on a football field in St. Louis. I love the Rams right now. I have loved the Rams every minute of every second since. That love may not make sense. That love may be irrational. That love may not mean anything to anybody. Whether the Rams stay or go I am still here, still alive, still from St. Louis, still living my life. In every respect that love I have for a NFL team may be better devoted to something else. And yet it cannot be. And yet it will not be. And yet there is one thing and one thing only that I can love in this exact way: a professional football team that plays its home games in St. Louis, MO. A professional football team that plays in my hometown. A professional football team that plays in what I may irrationally and without reason consider to be the greatest city in the world.
That is why I hate you Stan: because I am stuck loving your team. Because I am stuck loving something you want to take away. Because I cannot comprehend how you cannot feel the way that I feel about the team that you own as well as the city and state that you so casually want to toss aside; I cannot comprehend how you can see a professional sports team as a commodity meant solely to enrich yourself and no one else; I cannot comprehend why you are so unwilling to be a part of something bigger than your own God damn bottom line. I cannot comprehend why you are so unwilling to be a human being, Stan. And I never will be able to.
The Rams may belong in St. Louis. The Rams may belong in LA. This is not a moral imperative. Either way one fan base will feel spurned while the other feels alive. There are way worse things that rich people, people in general, do every day than to move a football team from one city to the next. I do not care. I am not interested. I am not looking for perspective or point of view. I am a sports fan. And, as a sports fan, my team, and the illogical love that I have for them is all that I care about right here, right now, right in this piece of writing.
The national media can cast aspersions at us, using their supreme intellectual laziness and lack of attention to detail and context to surmise that St. Louis is a “Baseball Town,” as if an ability to support one professional sports franchise ensures an inability to support another. The casual fan can shrug their shoulders and say something along the lines of “well they were there before,” as if 20 years in a community is a blip on the radar, as if 2 decades of unconditional—and I mean unconditional—support, support far outmatching what the team got in their previous location, does not entitle a city to become a team’s true home. The economists can nod their heads and tell everyone that this is a “smart move money wise” as if increasing the value of a property you will never ever sell does anything for you other than create figurative wealth on paper that will change your life Stan in absolutely no conceivable way.
None of that matters. What matters is you Stan, due to the fact that you Stan are the one who is listening to them. You Stan are the one who is agreeing with them. You Stan are the one who has decided that we are no longer worth anything to you, that we are not even worth the mental capacity it would take to listen to our proposal as we prepare to show you exactly what we have to offer. You have marginalized us. You have maligned us. You have emaciated us. You Stan have cut us off at the knees. You Stan have told the entire world that this is not where you want to be. You Stan have told the entire world that we are not good enough.
You Stan have turned your back on us. Even if you stay you have showed us all just how little you believe us to be worth. Even if you stay Stan, you are already a traitor.
Above all else, that is where this hatred and animosity comes from, Stan. You have already gobbled up the chance to turn your back on us. And, due to our love for your team, in spite of everything you have done to us, we are still not ready to turn our back on you.
The dumper always wins the break up Stan. No matter what happens, you’ve already dumped us. No matter what happens, you’ve already won. The prize is the ability to live with yourself Stan. I hope you enjoy it because, no matter what happens, I cannot live with you anymore.
I have loved the St. Louis Rams. I always will. Even if the guy who owns the team has decided that love is worth less than a piece of paper with a dead president’s face on it. Even if the guy who owns the team has already decided that love is not worth anything at all.
Even if you Stan have decided that love, in general, is not something that you want or need to understand. There are a lot of words that we could use to describe the subject of this letter: petty, money hungry, selfish, greedy, conniving. Liar. You, Enos Stanley Kroenke are a liar.
Instead I’ll just say this. You Enos Stanley Kroenke are no longer one of us. Whether that matters in the long run is up to you and you alone. One thing that people say about money is that, when everything is all said and done and you are clutching to those final sweet breaths of life, when you’ve reached the end, when it's over, no matter how much cash you have piled up in the Cayman Islands, you still can’t take it with you.
You Enos Stanley Kroenke better hope that figure of speech is not true. Because, if it is, if you really can’t take your money with you, then, at the end of the day, you might just find Stan that you have absolutely nothing else left.
You might just find Stan, how painful it can be to lose something that you love. Something that matters to you. Something you can never ever get back.
Something that, most of all, you never deserved to have taken from you in the first place.