As all of you know—because you follow sports, know how to read, and are aware that California, the state, exists--my St. Louis Rams have fled my hometown, the New Rome, the place that made me what I am today for the glitz, glam, and "liberal propaganda" of Hollywood embodied by every celebrity besides the woman who played "D" in Clueless. As all of you also know—because if you clicked on the link on my Facebook page that took you here then you have, regrettably, clicked on a similar link that took you to a similar place at least once before—I have written about this event, or the possibility of it, Ad nauseam. I have dreaded this day, and cursed the man who brought it to my doorstep, through much of my recent past. I have spent the year of 2015 in a constant state of emotional oscillation. Sad one day. Pissed the next. Full of hope in some random moment. Then shattered and broken out of nowhere; shaken in disbelief just like that.
I was in denial when I first discovered that the Rams might leave, when Brian Burwell prophetically called it all back in 2010, when Enos Stanley Kroenke bought that 60 acres in Inglewood that couldn’t be for a stadium because, hey, Greater Los Angeles needs Wal-Mart’s too. My feelings shifted to rage once Stan Kroenke announced his stadium plans approximately 12 months ago, the time in my life when I suddenly starting having very vivid dreams of holding the billionaire down and plucking his mustache hairs from his upper lip one by one until everyone could see the penis shaped birthmark that God, poetically, decided to display as close to his mouth as possible.
After a short stint with bargaining—including, but not limited to, a speech I made in front of the St. Louis Board of Alderman where I basically begged them to use my tax dollars, to take food out of my mouth, in order to help someone worth $7.7 billion find the money necessary to feed his—I fell into full-on depression. Misting up when walking alone in the alleyway behind work. Wiping my eyes with the back of my sleeve every time I had more than 6.5 beers in the presence of my Robert Quinn fathead. Bawling like a baby at the thought of pulling up a Janoris Jenkins rap tune on Spotify. Weeping even more vociferously after discovering that the app didn’t carry a single one of the cornerback’s songs. The Beatles, Taylor Swift, and JJenks 21. This is the company the Rams are in. These are the only people that are too talented for Spotify.
And now I am here, on the very clearly marked trail of grief, at the acceptance stage I guess, only occasionally fighting the urge to kidnap Enos and force him to walk naked down Market Street while throngs of St. Louisans throw flour and orange juice—something has got to make the flour stick to his skin after all—onto his naked body as we all actively chant “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and try our hardest not to break out in song. The loss of the team doesn’t hurt as much on this Friday morning as it did the day before. I suppose that tomorrow, on Saturday, it will hurt even less. Because that is what happens. We are human beings. We adapt. We get used to things. We overcome.
I am thankful for that because, while I may accept my new football reality, I am not over it. It is not whatever to me. I am still bitter. I am a bit enraged. Sometimes, when I am alone, I still get overwhelmed with heartbreak. Looking through the windshield of my Volvo as I sit in the parking lot and stare at the snow littered sand volleyball courts of Wave Taco and wail for no good reason. “But no one is going to get to play today,” I’ll howl through my tears, trying to make sense of it all. “How am I supposed to recreate the scene from Top Gun when the courts are frozen!”
What Stan Kroenke did is not kosher. Professional sports are not “just a business” in my eyes. If they were then I wouldn’t feel so used, so betrayed. Professional sports are about the emotional connection they engender between fans, a community, and the game. Stan Kroenke could’ve built that here and he elected to pass. Not because we are not good enough for him, but because our money is. Not because we don’t support our team, but because he decided that he didn’t want his franchise to belong to us.
I have written before about the irrational and illusionary nature of professional sports, and how said nature, and its inherent foolishness, can be erased by one person capable of showing that it is the very notion of caring, that it is the feeling itself, which matters the most. I still believe that to be true. Stan Kroenke is the one who doesn’t. Stan Kroenke is the man who has reduced us all to dollar signs. Stan Kroenke and his cronies are the ones that are ruining the game.
I accept the Rams move because it is done. I accept the Rams move because I know that there are people out there who are not like the man who took the team away from us. I accept the Rams move because I watched the Blues game last Wednesday and saw the look in Tom Stillman and Bill Dewitt’s eyes when they walked out to center ice at Scottrade and ceremonially dropped the puck together in order to show us, in order to prove to our city, that everything was going to be OK (it was only us weak-kneed sports fans who needed this reassurance I know). There are men that win for their own glory and there are men who win for others. Don’t confuse my acceptance of both groups as some sort of acknowledgment that their very distinct members are all the same.
The fifth stage of grief is also the final one, and that is where I sit. From here there is no precipice from which to drop, no cliff to fall off of. There is just this. There is just the rest of my life. I no longer have a NFL team to claim as my own. There are worse losses I have, and will, endure. That perspective is not lost on me. But, in many ways, this is the most illuminating.
I see the path that can be gone down, and I see my own. Stan Kroenke has made his decision. And I have made mine too. He chose not to care. I choose the opposite. It’s just that his team is not the thing that I care about. Not anymore. Not ever again
So sayonara Stan, and good luck on the West Coast. I hope your bank account gives you as much joy as my team gave me. Something tells me that it won’t. Something tells me that it never could have in the first place.