Since 2007, the St. Louis Rams are 1-51 when trailing after the third quarter. One win and fifty-one losses. That isn’t a typo. One and FIFTY one.
You would think that over the course of five seasons that number could have been fudged. Maybe they were down by one heading into the fourth quarter, but had the ball at the three yard line, getting ready to go in? Or maybe there was a close game tipped in the Rams favor by a defensive score? Hell, you’d just think that this is the damn NFL and games are pretty close—couldn’t they pull out more than ONE?
Of course not. These are the St. Louis Rams, the worst franchise in all of sports. Somehow they still have people possessed of free will spending money on this very painful form of entertainment.
What’s the incentive for the Rams to get better over the next two seasons?
Last week the NFL re-upped their network TV deals with NBC, FOX and CBS for up to 11 years. The contracts call for an up to 63-percent increase in their values over their terms, meaning billions more dollars will be flowing into the coffers of the NFL and, by proxy, team owners.
Unlike any other professional sport, if the Rams don’t have a single person buy a ticket for the 2012 season, they still won't lose money. And it’s the reason the Rams still have hope to stay in St. Louis past 2014. The NFL can put this franchise in Salt Lake City or Des Moines and it will be a profitable enterprise, just not as profitable as in a huge city. The Cardinals or Blues do not have this luxury. When they stink, the profits stink. It’s in their best interests to be good. Emotionally and financially.
I’m by no means suggesting that the Rams exist only to be a profit center for Stan Kroenke, or that he doesn’t care about winning, but I think it’s important to understand that this is his reality—he can push hard or he can stay complacent, and the books will balance in his favor at the end of every year.
Let’s look at the two options:
Option A—Sign some quality free agents, replace the coaching staff and front office executives, draft smart, contend for the NFC West.
In this option, the fans get recharged. Season ticket sales spike, in-game concessions are bought more frequently and merchandise is much easier to sell. People love the NFL in St. Louis and all over America. It’s one thing to be a big deal in the MLB or NHL nationally. It’s another beast to have 24/7 ESPN coverage and every network working hard to buff your image.
However—now 2014 comes around. The St. Louis Convention/Visitors Bureau gives the Rams a very fair offer to help restore the dome to Top 50% status in the league, but can’t quite get it into the top 25%, allowing the Rams to vacate the lease. But all of a sudden, the people in St. Louis care again. They’re buoyed by Bradford’s resurgence and the new direction of the club. They know if they lose the Rams, then it’s a huge loss for the city. They’re passionate.
Option B—Stay the course. Keep doing what they’ve been doing since 2007. Lose, but give the appearance of doing things right. Never do more than is needed.
In this option, again, you’re still making money as the Rams owner. But instead of having to actually negotiate with the St. Louis Convention/Visitors Bureau on a new lease, you offer the buyout and the cash-strapped city will probably take it. Now you can build a stadium on your own (becoming a hero in STL) renovate and stay in the EJD (becoming a hero in STL) or move the team to Los Angeles (get paid massive amounts of money.)
Seems like a much more palatable situation to be in, right? Instead of public outcry, you get apathy. A resignation that the Rams weren’t ever St. Louis’ to begin with. You’re free to make the decision that makes you the most money and/or cements your legacy with the people you care about cementing your legacy with.
In the pie in the sky world, the Rams are going to be working their butts off to make sure that the franchise pulls head first out of this dismal tailspin. In the real world, they’re thinking about what the future holds.
Unfortunately for us, it’s better for the Rams to be losers.
And they’ve got the real-world experience to become proficient at that.