How the NFL saved St. Louis…by leaving.

@DerekKingSports

So, I grew up just outside of St. Louis during the 80’s when baseball was king. Whiteyball was in full swing and the Big Red football Cardinals were an after thought.

Terrible football and St. Louis go hand in hand, kind of like coffee and gooey butter cake. The football Cardinals had suffered from long tenures of losing with brief glimpses of success. Yet we showed up to games, we supported a sub-par product being shuffled out onto the field from time to time was rightfully embarrassing to all the fans who were still supporting it.

William “Bill” Bidwell, owner of the St. Louis Football Cardinals had long been dissatisfied with playing second fiddle to the baseball Cardinals, although the latter had very little to no success during the 70’s when the Big Red were at the heights of success winning 2 division titles and 3 playoff births in 27 years in St. Louis.

Mr. Bidwell petitioned the city of St. Louis for a new publicly funded stadium to where he no longer had to share facilities with the baseball Cardinals. The city balked on the idea of a perennially bad football team pushing for millions of public money for a new stadium in St. Louis. The city had issues of their own to address during that time besides giving a millionaire millions more to build a stadium for a bad football team. It was egos at work at its finest.

Instead of negotiating with Bidwell over terms of a new facility and lease terms, the city, in all their infinite wisdom decided to not negotiate with ownership and force Bidwell to find other avenues. City administrators thinking the whole time he’d never go. Much to their chagrin, he did.

Phoenix, Arizona

I was devastated to say the least. Even as a child football was everything to me. It felt like as I had lost my best friend. I became jilted and eventually got over the loss by rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs, at the time they had just landed Joe Montana and were a very successful team. Only problem was, they weren’t my team. My team left me for a desert, A DAMN DESERT! How could they do that?!

So you see my dilemma, I had no team. I had in all terms and purpose, became a free agent. During this entire search for my football soul there were talks between the NFL and St. Louis about the NFL returning to the city. Officials passed a bill to build a new stadium in downtown that would be christened the Trans World Dome at America’s Center.

This new expansion team would be called the St. Louis Stallions. It was a done deal, at least we thought. My father worked for Paramount Headwear and Apparel at the time and they were running hats and shirts for the Stallions. They couldn’t talk about it, take pictures of it, wear it or otherwise let the product see the light of day. They had an entire setup at the headquarters in St. Louis, they even had a Stallions cake, this is how close it was.

In the 11th hour due to potential franchise owner issues with Chuck Knight, Stephen Brauer, Charles Cella, Sam Fox, Fred Kummer, and Andrew Taylor, as well as the late John Connelly from Pittsburgh, the city introduced none other than Stanley Enos Kroenke as another financial backer, but the play was much too late and the NFL chose Carolina and Jacksonville over St. Louis for expansion. We all know what happened next, so let’s fast forward to 2018. St. Louis has an identity crisis at hand. A county city divide, dilapidated city infrastructure that is in desperate need of repair, dwindling city population, businesses disappearing from downtown faster than a pair of expensive sunglasses. We know this, Stan didn’t have to make such a scathing report on the matter. Fact is now the city can focus on these glaring issues, as long as they stay out of their own way, but that’s always been the issue hasn’t it? St. Louis city officials are more worried about getting their hands greased then doing what’s best for their constituency. Not to get onto a political stump, but this is how things need to get done. Stop fighting over who getting paid and do what’s best for the region. The city is getting there, everyone just has to hold those responsible accountable for their stewardship. Politicians don’t own the city and county, you do. All that being said, would I like to see another NFL team in St. Louis? Without a doubt! Only time will tell. The only thing everyone in St. Louis can do is work together to make their city, the best city they can.

Thank you for reading.

Derek King

N The Zone Network contributor

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