Tuesday, June 2, 2009

As sale looms, Rams fans can do their part

If the Rams eventually move from St. Louis, it won't be because of the fans.
The customers have stayed loyal during hard times, buying up about 95 percent
of the seats at the Edward Jones Dome over the last two seasons. That's
outstanding support for a team that has won only five of the last 32 games.

With the franchise for sale, which opens up all sorts of possibilities, the
best thing Rams fans can do is stick by the team and continue to attend games
until help arrives.

That way, no Rams owner will have an excuse to pull the team out of here
because of a lack of support. And with sellout crowds filing into home games,
perhaps this will rally the business community and motivate potential buyers
from the St. Louis area.

There's no reason for fans to get mad or to boycott, just because owners Chip
Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez have decided to sell. Yes, this happened faster
than I had anticipated, but I'm in no position to understand the financial
pressures (taxes) that confront brother and sister as they settle the estate of
their late mother, Georgia Frontiere.

Rosenbloom was always straightforward about his vision. He never denied that he
would sell the team at some point. But rather than sell immediately after
Frontiere's death, Rosenbloom and Rodriguez took time to reorganize the Rams'
front office and football operations. They've installed new leadership in both
areas, and it was the necessary first step of a massive rebuilding project.

Rosenbloom has said often that he wanted to keep the Rams for as long as he
could, but he never put a timetable on it. He didn't actively shop the Rams in
his first year as the managing partner but volunteered that he'd sell if the
right buyer emerged. And that buyer profile included a willingness to keep the
Rams here.

To that end, Rosenbloom gave an individual or group in St. Louis the first shot
at buying the team. Rosenbloom held off interested parties from outside St.
Louis; he hoped that a St. Louis bidder would make an offer.

But it's not happening. And after waiting in vain for more than a year,
Rosenbloom has enlisted the Goldman Sachs investment banking firm to find a

I've received some e-mails ripping Rosenbloom for not sticking with the Rams
for as long as it takes to find a St. Louis-based owner.

What do you expect him to do, take hostages at the next Civic Progress meeting
and force St. Louis corporate titans to buy the Rams?

If no local interest materializes, then the decision has been made for
Rosenbloom. If no financial players from our area think it's worthwhile to buy
60 percent of the Rams to preserve the team for St. Louis — well, there's not
much more to say, is there?

St. Louis leadership still has time to prepare a pitch, but no ZIP codes will
be barred from bidding on the Rams now. It's possible for a Los Angeles
billionaire to swoop in and make an offer that Rosenbloom can't refuse. The
other reality is that a new owner will probably be able to take the team out of
St. Louis after the 2014 season.

But this hasn't changed: Rosenbloom wants to sell to owners who want to keep
the franchise here and work on a long-range stadium plan.

OK, here's what I don't understand:

St. Louis fans love their sports. We're passionate about the Cardinals, Rams
and Blues, who receive tremendous support. You can make the case — sadly, in a
way — that this is the thing we do best. There are problems all over the
metropolitan area, and all sorts of people out of work or suffering in a bad
economy, but we keep showing up en masse to Busch Stadium, the Edward Jones
Dome and the Scottrade Center. You can count on STL fans to give you their
money, their loyalty.

So why is it that the owners of St. Louis professional sports teams are based
in other cities and regions? Bill DeWitt (Cardinals) lives in Cincinnati; Dave
Checketts (Blues) splits his time between Utah and Connecticut; and Rosenbloom
and Rodriguez live in LA.

With St. Louis thriving as a sports town, and with our sports teams serving as
a big source of pride and positive identification for our city, why can't we
get a St. Louisan to actually own one of the teams?

It just seems bizarre to me. For more than a year, Rosenbloom has all but
begged for a St. Louis investor or group to make him an offer for the 60
percent share of the Rams, and this is what he hears in response:

(Crickets chirping) ...

That's why I hope that the great fans of St. Louis continue to pack The Ed for
the Rams in 2009. That's how you can do your part until a new local owner rides
to the rescue.

And a new local owner will ride to the rescue, right?

(Crickets chirping) ...


Rescue time!

(Crickets chirping) ...

Do you know that the Rams could move to LA?

Anybody there?

(Crickets chirping) ...

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