Jan. 13, 2016

Goliath Wins Again

RamsLA Cf

The NFL and Stan Kroenke reminded St. Louis that David is always left to pay the price of doing business.

There’s honor in that. Around here, it’s a saying. One of those Midwestern niceties that’s the butt of coastal jokes. There’s honor in tidying up the houses that belong to the parents of your children’s friends for a few extra bucks. There’s honor in stomping through cow shit at 5 a.m. every morning. And, of course, there was honor in rooting for the Same Old Sorry Ass Rams. Sundays were an excuse to bombard my big brother with text messages. We always said we couldn’t keep doing it, the losing. But we did for whatever reason. And now we can’t.

As you’ve probably heard, Enos Stanley Kroenke – a Missouri native named after Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial of St. Louis Cardinals lore – is moving the Rams to Los Angeles. Silent Stan said not one word to the local task force attempting to build him a stadium with public money. Not one word to the fans supporting his shitty team. He spoke, at last, after five years, to the NFL in his proposal to move the team, saying that a team – any team – in St. Louis would place the league “on the road to financial ruin.” He made us get on our knees to beg, only to cum all over our faces in order to ensure that no one else would ever even try to love us.

Scam is a cute word, but it suggests a single scheme. This is the system. St. Louis is just the latest victim, joining Seattle and Cleveland and Baltimore and whoever else. There will be more, and I apologize in advance for the pain you will go through when it happens to you. You’ll remember the Cinderella season. The Tackle. Spygate. Letting Kurt go too soon. Suffering alongside Steven Jackson. Celebrating Sam Bradford’s rookie passing attempt record. His ACL. 7-9. Those text messages to your big brother.

Business is predictably ruthless like nature. There’s not much you can do about a twister or hereditary heart disease. And there’s not much you can do about greed. Bailout money becomes a comical Christmas bonus. A corporate voice in the election renders all others mute. Kroenke’s word means nothing and he couldn’t care less. He has no reason to deal in any currency besides cold, hard cash. Money talks. (Oh my god does money talk.) It’s why Stan remained Silent. It’s why Occupy Wall Street was nothing more than a gnat buzzing around the boardroom.

When I rubbed my eyes after the news broke – the Rams would officially be moving to Los Angeles – I didn’t know if it was tears or fatigue. Fatigue from watching the same goddam thing happen over and over. It’s pretty funny walking in on a different family member naked every morning, as you all share a single, rented bathroom. It’s pretty nice not having to bring lunch money to school because the government knows that you can’t afford rubbery chicken nuggets. But it gets old real fast.

You weather the bad because it’s yours. The heartbreaking losses, the season-ending injuries, the missed draft picks – they’re all fertilizer for greener pastures. You tell yourself that someday, when you have a family of your own, you’ll have an individual bathroom for everyone. It’ll feel better because of all those times that you saw your dad’s wrinkly balls while brushing your teeth.

We compromise our concept of success out of necessity, eagerly fighting for the scraps of wealth that Kroenke and his friends toss into the kennel after dinner. They own so much of the Monopoly board that we kill each other for a chance at owning Water Works. If you kill enough people, you just might get Mediterranean Avenue. Regardless of what team ended up in Los Angeles, there would be a little brother who would never again bombard his big brother with text messages on Sundays. And in this, I find comfort that it was my team who moved. I’m tired of hurting y’all because a billionaire wants more billions.

I want to say that they fucked the wrong guy this time. That I’ll do this or that. But I can’t do shit. I can channel a PTA mom and write this strongly-worded letter. Maybe a few people will read it. And then I can go home to the same unsatisfying marriage, with the same credit card bills, and work my ass off to get by. There’s honor in that.

Franchises in professional sports are empty shells. They can move, just like a McDonald’s. It’s the connections forged between fans on Sundays – at tailgates and over text message, through victory and defeat – that gives these franchises their anti-trust exemptions and astronomical values. The NFL has forgotten this and, while I hope it comes back to bite them, it probably won’t.

Stan Kroenke can have the Los Angeles Rams. He can have the throwback snapback I wore in high school and he can remove the electrical tape above the R-A-M-S that covered the L-O-S-A-N-G-E-L-E-S. Have it. I knew then, as a 16-year-old coming of age during the Great Recession, that the motivations of rich men were as inevitable and cold as a Midwestern winter.

Kroenke will never again have the St. Louis Rams, a team that now – at last, in memory – belongs to the people. My big brother and I are part-owners.


Benjamin Jeffery (@jawcuzzi) is a big, strong man.