By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
There’s something heinous about a team that forsakes its home city for greener pastures elsewhere, no matter where it takes place.
The Rams, who called St. Louis home for 21 years, have gone back from whence they came, because owner Stan Kroenke came up with a plan that spoke a language mastered by all NFL owners.
The language of money — big money.
There’s a part of the sports world that should be at least a little happy, because they are now the Los Angeles Rams once again. (They started as the Cleveland Rams in 1937.)
This was once a glorious team, one that featured a pair of Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield, and had one of the most dangerous defenses the game has known.
That defense included the Fearsome Foursome of Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy and ex-Giant Roosevelt Grier, who later retired and was replaced by Roger Brown.
The image of head coach George Allen pumping his fists and clapping his hands on the sidelines when competing against Vince Lombardi and Don Shula (then of the Baltimore Colts) will not be forgotten.
But this move is not about righting the wrong that took place following the 1994 season. Not even close.
It’s about Kroenke and his ability make money for himself and the 31 other owners in the NFL by building an “NFL campus” on the West Coast. The complex will include a Hall of Fame extension, new headquarters for the NFL Network, a site for the draft and a new stadium for the Super Bowl rotation.
Jerry Jones, who built a huge and glittering palace for his Cowboys, does not usually gush over other teams’ plans, but he described Kroenke’s vision as “absolutely the greatest plan that’s ever been conceived in sports.”
St. Louisans feel angry and abandoned, something they also felt in 1988 when the Cardinals left their city to make a home in Arizona.
Those Cardinals played in Busch Stadium, the first of those cookie-cutter stadiums built in the 1960s and ‘70s that also housed their beloved baseball brethren. The football Cardinals, commonly known as “Big Red” around St. Louis, often played before empty seats and were only embraced during the glory era in the mid-1970s that included head coach Don Coryell, quarterback Jim Hart, two-way star Roy Green, offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf and cult figure Conrad “Dirty” Dobler.
Bill Bidwill, the owner who took the Cardinals out of St. Louis, was roasted at the time, but he was just a low-key NFL owner who wanted to make some money with his team.
Kroenke is a different kind of animal. He married into the Walmart family, and he has been angling to get his team to Los Angeles since 2010 when he bought 60 acres of land on the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack.
He is a true carpet bagger, who had one purpose in mind when he bought the team in 2010 from the estate of late owner Georgia Frontiere, no matter how the move gets spun.
There have been some brutal franchise shifts in sports, with football taking two of the top three spots. When the Colts moved out of Baltimore in the middle of a snowstorm in 1984, it took the heart out Babe Ruth’s hometown.
Art Modell did the same to Cleveland when he brought his team to Baltimore. Obviously, the Ravens have given Baltimore’s football fans something to cheer about, but old-timers will tell you it’s not the same thing.
The Browns got a franchise back that bears the same name as the old Browns, but one that has turned into the NFL’s biggest joke.
Of course, the worst move of all came nearly 60 years ago when the Dodgers left Brooklyn. A hole was ripped throughout Brooklyn and the New York metropolitan area following the 1957 season, and it was never repaired.
The New York Mets you say? A poor substitute designed to make up for the loss of both the New York Giants and the Dodgers.
The Dodgers were beloved, and like the football Rams, they were drawn by the lure of wide open spaces on the West Coast.
The Dodgers have gone on to great success in Los Angeles, but their Brooklyn legacy of Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Johnny Podres, Ralph Branca, “Dem Bums,” the Knot Hole Gang, the Dodgers’ Sym-Phony and the most intimate ball park ever — take that Fenway Park and Wrigley Field — was remarkable.
Older generations of Dodgers fans pass along that history, but a 10-year-old who went to Ebbets Field in 1957 is now 79. Those who had been to the bandbox in Flatbush are now in short supply and those who loved that team have survived with a little piece of their heart torn out for decades.
St. Louisans had the Rams for 21 years and the football Cardinals for 28 before that. It will sting for a while, but they will take comfort in the baseball Cardinals and the NHL’s Blues.
But it doesn’t compare with the pain that came when the Dodgers left Brooklyn.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy