So Stan Kroenke has, as part of his machinations to get the Rams back in Los Angeles, made some acerbic remarks about the fan support here in St. Louis. And I can believe we’ve had shoddy attendance since 2010, fair enough. But then he basically said that any other team who moved to St. Louis would be doomed to failure.
Now, I don’t know when he took over the Rams, but the reason that fan support has been declining — and make no mistake, there are a lot of Rams rooters still around — has been not that St. Louis just isn’t a “football city”, or that we’re so obsessed with the Cardinals that we aren’t aware that other sports exist (what a stupid thing to say). It’s that, approximately since losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Rams teams have been consistently boring and bad. And maybe, just maybe, St. Louis has enough self-worth and intelligence to not just blindly follow anything with N-F-L stamped on it.
We’ve had a few good individual players since the Greatest Show on Turf disbanded — and I’m sure there are still people sore about the team letting Warner go, justified or not — but mostly it’s been continuous, unexciting submediocrity since then. And here’s the thing: this is St. Louis. We like flashy superstars just like everyone else, but what we value is effort. We love the scrappy guys, the David Ecksteins and Tony Twists and others, who come in and give it all their heart and play above their level, because they’re excited to be here, because they’re fighting to keep their spot in the major leagues, because they want that championship bad. If the ownership is clearly trying their best to win, if the players are giving it their all on the field every single week, we might disagree with the moves, there might be little hope for a winning season, but we’ll probably stay engaged.
Well, from my point of view, the damage was done during the ’00s. The Lawrence Phillips draft pick and others suggested the ownership was just flailing around, hoping to guess brilliantly and win the lottery rather than build a solid team. The offense was always unexciting and inconsistent at best. And oh, the defense. I’m sure there were a few individuals I’m forgetting, but it was like nobody wanted to actually tackle anybody. The greatest moment in Rams history was Mike Jones in the Super Bowl, one-on-one with the Titans receiver, grabbing on tight and hauling him down short of the goal line as time expired. If Jones had played for the Rams about five or ten years later, he wouldn’t have bothered to close his fingers. He could have been squarely in front of the receiver, and he would have just stuck his arms out and hoped the guy would be nice enough to fall over and then nobody would have to get hurt. I am not exaggerating. I watched the Rams often, back when I still watched sports with any frequency, and I saw the same thing from the defense again and again, down after down, series after series, game after game.
That is not how you win my affection, and that is not how you win the hearts of . . . well, any city, really.
No effort. No heart, no excitement, no desire to be there from half of the team. And if the players, who are paid millions to show up, don’t want to be there, why should the fans pay to show up, or even bother to tune in?
Oh, but we had a punter and field goal kicker who was pretty good. That’s gotta count for something, right?
I want to see the Rams stick around. I’d like to see the team improve, find a way to win games. I still root for them to win, I probably will even if they leave town. But fandom is a two-way street. If you want me to be a fan, to the point that I’m paying you money or tuning in so that networks and advertisers will pay you money, then you have to show me something to be a fan of. That goes for any city, any audience with the slightest bit of discernment. If you just keep phoning it in, eventually people will tune you out.