Pseudo-wild card: A relocationary tale

Given the recent relocation decisions made in the National Football League, I thought it would be apropos to look at historical relocation in the Big Four pro sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada. As a St. Louisan, I’m well aware of the franchises we’ve lost since the St. Louis Browns first left town in 1953, but surely there are other cities that have suffered more, right?

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For the purpose of this topic, I’ve used the following start years:

  • Major League Baseball, 1901 (elevation of the American League to “major league” status)
  • NFL, 1920 (league’s founding as the American Professional Football Conference/Association) and American Football League, 1960 (inaugural season)
  • National Basketball Association, 1949 (merger between Basketball Association of America and National Basketball League)
  • National Hockey League, 1917 (league’s founding after the suspension of the National Hockey Association)

I also elected to ignore teams that simply went belly-up and folded; this list consists solely of teams in one of the aforementioned leagues that migrated from one metropolitan area to another^ since the years specified.

Without further adieu, the list

… and my observations…

  • Though it’s a little difficult to pin down in the form I chose, the following franchises have moved on three occasions:
    • Tri-Cities Blackhawks → Milwaukee Hawks → St. Louis Hawks → Atlanta Hawks
    • Rochester Royals → Cincinnati Royals → Kansas City Kings → Sacramento Kings
    • Cleveland Rams → Los Angeles Rams → St. Louis Rams → Los Angeles Rams (considering this, it’s a good thing the NFL owners didn’t approve a move that would have allowed for Oakland Raiders → Los Angeles Raiders → Oakland Raiders → Los Angeles Raiders)
  • Los Angeles…
    • … lost three professional football franchises to relocation, and none in the other three sports. Things that make you go “Hmmmm…”
    • … has acquired six teams via relocation
    • … evidently has no originality when it comes to relocating anymore. The three NFL teams vying to move there over the past couple years–the Chargers, Raiders, and Rams–all previously called the City of Angels home
  • I’m a little perturbed by franchises that renew a defunct nickname that was active less than a generation ago, and I’m not sure which is more confusing:
    • The Winnipeg Jets left for Phoenix (Coyotes) in 1996; the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg and became the Jets in 2011. Both teams bearing the “Winnipeg Jets” name are separate entities that played no more than fifteen years apart
    • The Cleveland Browns moved their roster to Baltimore in 1996 and became the Ravens, but the NFL retained the history and records of that name for the “expansion” Browns in 1999
    • Similarly, but even more confusingly, the Charlotte Hornets fled for New Orleans in 2002 and kept that nickname until 2013 (including a two-year post-Katrina stint as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets), at which time they changed their nickname to the Pelicans. Meanwhile, the “expansion” Bobcats began play in Charlotte in 2004, but retained the history and records of the old Charlotte Hornets; after a season of obsolescence, the Bobcats rebranded (or is it re-rebranded?) themselves as the Hornets
    • At least in Milwaukee’s case, the two baseball teams named the Brewers were nearly seventy years apart
  • Baltimore took on two franchises in two different sports nicknamed the Browns
  • Milwaukee lost two franchises to St. Louis, albeit before 1960
  • St. Louis has actually obtained five franchises through relocation, though one folded and the other four have since re-relocated; that last number is also the greatest for any metro area on the list
  • For all the New York area’s teams (two apiece in the NFL, NBA, and MLB, and three in the NHL), they’ve only lost two additional teams.
  • Twelve metro areas have lost more than one major league franchise, though Chicago and Boston shouldn’t be too upset by their losses. Cleveland, too, since they’re accustomed to losing:
    • The NBA’s Zephyrs are the more recent team to depart the Windy City, all the way back in 1963
    • Boston’s Braves left their hometown a decade earlier, in 1953, and their two former NFL teams left even earlier than that
    • The Rams left Cleveland in 1946; the Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars nearly forty years ago; and the Browns, given the prior point, never relocated, as per NFL records
  • No city has been spurned, at least with relocation, by all four leagues. So that’s good
  • Baltimore, Kansas City, and St. Louis have lost franchises from three different leagues:
    • The American League’s first edition of the Baltimore Orioles moved to New York and wound up becoming the Yankees; more recently, the Bullets and Colts left town, though the former moved a mere thirty miles to a suburb of Washington, D.C.
    • Kansas City lost the Athletics, Scouts, and Kings in 1967, 1976, and 1985, respectively. They did receive the expansion Royals in ’69, and all four leagues were represented from ’74-’76; they’ve been at two since the NBA left over thirty years ago
    • The St. Louis Browns, second in their city in quality of play and attendance, moved in ’53; with the arrival of the NFL’s Cardinals from Chicago for the 1960 season and the Blues beginning play in 1967, St. Louis was a four-sport town for precisely one season (1967-68), after which the Hawks departed for Atlanta. The Big Red left nearly twenty years later and, while the arrival of the Rams from L.A. brought the metro area back up to three teams, that franchise’s departure after 21 seasons reduced that number to two.

So, all that said, sports fans in St. Louis (and those who make money off sports) are justified in being miffed by the latest team to spurn the town, especially given that Los Angeles has been somewhat flaky in the past in its support of the three pro football teams it once had.

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^ As such, teams splitting time between cities (e.g. Kansas City/Omaha Kings and New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in the NBA); moving to a(nother) suburb in the same metro area while retaining name (e.g. San Francisco 49ers moving to Santa Clara, ); and moving to a(nother) suburb in the same metro area and changing the name (e.g. San Francisco Warriors moving to Oakland and becoming “Golden State,” Los Angeles Angels moving to Anaheim and becoming “California”)

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Wild card: Reasons to boycott the NFL

Pretty self-explanatory list, really. This is my petulant, free-flowing, self-censored reaction to this unfortunate news.

  • Greedy owners. A particularly greedy one has an estimated net worth somewhere north of $7 billion, but that’s not quite enough. Also, part of the reason why the NFL simply didn’t expand to Los Angeles by creating two expansion franchises–if you divide more than $10 billion by 32 (owners), that’s more moneys than if it’s divided by 34.
  • Publicly-funded stadiums. Don’t give me the crap about good for morale in the metro area (especially when a certain team has been irrelevant for over a decade now); taxpayers end up footing the bill for multi-millionaire and -billionaire owners (not to mention the tax breaks and subsidies they receive down the road) when budget crises in their own states suggest the millions of dollars being diverted could be used elsewhere–education, infrastructure, etc. Oh, and despite what the official numbers tell you, watch a regular season game (or, don’t, since you’re boycotting it!) and tell me there aren’t plenty of empty seats.
  • Concussions and CTE. So many reputable sources to link to, so little time… Basically, the NFL has attempted to gloss over the serious head trauma experienced by players, and even sought to get out of helping former players, on whom the league made their billions, with their medical bills. And the repeated bashing of skulls into legs, torsos, and other skulls isn’t good for skulls and their contents.
  • The commissioner. The guy hasn’t seemed to get anything right the past few years… the lockout, the Ray Rice suspension fiasco (first too lenient, then too harsh), bungling the Deflategate punishments… Of course, one of his first controversies he had to clean up the whole Spygate mess. And clean it up, he did. Also, his wife used to work for FOX News.
  • Various other discrepancies between punishment and non-punishment of players. Ray Lewis (murder, no suspension). Ben Roethlisberger (rape, six game suspension reduced to four for good behavior). Josh Gordon (pot, suspended one year without pay).
  • Redskins. SeriouslyWhat. The. F***?! (now, with added historical irony!)
  • Player conduct. Another issue with far too many potential links. Domestic violence, animal abuse, drugs, etc., etc., etc.
  • PEDs. Are we just going to believe, like we all did ca. 1998, that players now are bigger and stronger than ever before solely because of advanced training techniques? Remember in 2006 when Shawne Merriman was suspended four games for testing positive for steroids, but still finished third in the Associated Press’ Defensive Player of the Year vote? Maybe baseball writers have gone a little overboard in collectively excluding PED users from the Hall of Fame, but that near-win for Merriman seemed absurd to me at the time.
  • Ignoring their own rules and guidelines. I recall some legislators in Missouri threatening legal action over that document’s content and the stadium-related decisions made on behalf of keeping a team in St. Louis. We’ll see if they follow through.
  • Machismo. The show-boating, taunting, excessive celebrating, destruction-minded hitting when a defensive back tries to knock out a receiver instead of tackling him to the ground… it’s all a bit much, no? Especially considering the amount of protective gear most players wear…
  • Ignoring their own rules, pt. 2: See “various other discrepancies between punishment…” and “The commissioner.”
  • Tax-exempt status. So they voluntarily gave it up over a year ago because they figured the relatively small amount of money they (technically, the league offices, and not the whole league and all its teams) were saving wasn’t worth the PR headache caused by the misrepresentation of said tax exemption. But still…
  • Their main causes. Breast cancer awareness. Military appreciation. All just another means of playing on the sympathies of fans (and/or trying to reach out to women) just to make money. But when Cam Heyward wrote a little message on his eye black in memory of his father, well… that’s too far! Same for two other Steelers.
  • Socialism. Greedy captains of industry notwithstanding, it’s odd that they readily embrace a system in which revenue is shared, the worst teams one year get the first crack at the top rookies the next, and the amount of money that can be spent is restricted. That’s about as un-American as it gets.

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I’m going to do my best to avoid the NFL at all costs–even changing the radio and TV stations (once the vitriolic anti-Kroenke rants die down) when pro football comes up. If you must support a team, here’s some choices:

  • Whoever’s playing the Rams
  • Green Bay Packers–a community-owned franchise that isn’t quite as hell-bent on making some extra cash.

 

Any other suggestions, either for reasons to boycott, or teams to support? Comment away!

Wild card: Poor Stan Kroenke

Okay, he’s obviously not poor in the “I’ve got enough money to buy a freaking indoor lacrosse team”-sense, or in the sense that he deserves our pity, but in the “inferior / deficient / inadequate / lacking” meaning of the term. I do kind of like the middle definition, though, when used for some painful irony.

So I’m a little sore about the petulant scorched earth tactic to which Kroenke is resorting in a last-minute effort to convince his fellow NFL owners that his team is the prime candidate for relocation to Los Angeles. How would you feel if, less than six years ago, after taking over as the team’s majority owner, he indicated not even the smallest hint of ill will for our fine metropolis, and pledged his fidelity to the St. Louis region?

St. Louis Rams

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The NFL named Kroenke the full owner of the Rams in August 2010. Since, his Rams are 36-59-1. He’s pretty lucky to have dodged the 3-13, 2-14, and 1-15 seasons that came immediately prior to the beginning of his supreme reign. Overall, attendance at the Edward Jones Dome hasn’t been spectacular since then, but in looking at the five seasons prior as well, there’s a tiny bit of evidence as to why.

You’ll notice, first, from 2005 through ’07, all 8 Rams home games each year averaged a sellout each, or pretty darn close (the Dome’s capacity is about 66,000). Even in dreadful 2007, when they went 3-13, did the Rams fill their home to about 94% of capacity every week. Obviously some fans got pretty sick of watching losing football (remember, last winning record: 2003), and attendance hasn’t topped 60,000 per game since.

Another figure that stands out to me is the lowest two attendance figures actually came during some almost-.500 campaigns, in 2010 and 2015. You’ll see that the first was immediately preceded by the abominable 1-15 outing; the ’09 Rams went 0-8 at home, to boot. So, as you can imagine, even after landing Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, confidence wasn’t exceptionally high. And while this year may be a little more difficult to quantify or represent, especially given the playoff expectations back in late summer, the pall of relocation undoubtedly caused a significant decrease in attendance at the Dome.

But that’s just one team, in one city. Certainly a vibrant four-sport (six, if you count the Major League Soccer and National Lacrosse League franchises Kroenke owns there) town such as Denver sells out every game, right? It’s certainly not Stan’s fault, right? Right???

Colorado Avalanche

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Kroenke bought the Avs, along with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the Pepsi Center, home to both teams, in the summer of 2000. It’s imperative to know, when reading this chart, that there’s not a whole lot of need to go all the way back to the 1995-96 season, when the Quebec Nordiques first moved to Denver. The team sold out its eighth game of the season at McNichols Sports Arena; it continued when they moved in to their new digs at the larger Pepsi Center in ’99, all the way to October 2006, spanning an NHL-record 487 consecutive games.

Though the Pepsi Center is now on the smaller side for NHL arenas, the team’s attendance would still rank in the mid-teens (of 30 teams) if they continued to average a sellout a game for the season. Instead, they’ve consistently been mired in the mid-to-low 20s for eight consecutive seasons now.

So, to recap:

  1. Team relocates from the Great White North & almost immediately starts selling out every home game.
  2. Poor Owner buys team, sees immediate success with a Stanley Cup title in his first team (though he did mistakenly think the trophy was named for him) and makes playoffs the following four seasons as well.
  3. Team misses playoffs for first time (’06-07) since moving from the Great White North after ten consecutive trips; sellout streak broken, but attendance still near capacity.
  4. Two seasons later, attendance begins freefall; as of 2015-16, still has not recovered.

So, in the Colorado Avalanche’s first five seasons of existence (1995-96 through 1999-2000), they sold out all but 7 home games, made the playoffs every year and the conference finals on four occasions, and won one Cup. The next five seasons after the Poor Owner took over (2000-01 through ’05-06, owing to the ’04-05 lockout), the team continued its playoffs and sellout run, advancing to two conference finals and winning one Cup.

In the nine completed seasons since that (’06-07 through ’14-15), the team has consistently ranked in the bottom third of the league in average attendance and only made the playoffs three times–a second round exit and two in the first. Looking again at the table and chart I created for the Avs, it’s pretty clear that there’s a correlation between the team’s success on the ice and the number of people over the lengthy span of the 6+ month regular season. And Kroenke hasn’t done his team or, presumably, his pocketbook any favors over the past nine seasons.

Denver Nuggets

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Kroenke’s ownership of the Nuggets, co-tenants with the Avalanche, is a little more difficult to pin down. They generally weren’t very good for the decade before Kroenke took over, and attendance even dipped below 12,000 on a few occasions in the late ’90s. The team struggled, and attendance along with it, for the first few years of Stan’s stewardship.

But the Nuggets did a complete 180 after selecting Carmelo Anthony with the third overall pick in the 2003 draft. They found unprecedented success, making the playoffs in ‘Melo’s rookie campaign and the next nine seasons thereafter, including the three playoffs following his mid-season departure in February 2011.

Following the 2012-13 season, which saw the franchise’s highest winning percentage since joining the NBA in 1976, a certain owner had at least some say in the firing of head coach George Karl. They also lost their general manager and vice president, who was expected to assume GM duties, to other franchises during the offseason.

Now in their third season after the shake-up, the team is far from success on the court; that is very readily reflected in their attendance figures for the 2013-14 through current seasons. Indeed, as strong as the link between winning percentage and team quality appears to be for the Avalanche, it may be even stronger for the Nuggets. And that means, as long as Kroenke pussyfoots around with a bad team, as many fans probably won’t attend games.

Colorado Rapids

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Doesn’t Pablo Mastroeni have a magnificent mustache? Certainly better than that goofy porn-stache a certain Poor Owner sports.

Kroenke purchased the Rapids, along with the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth, from Anschultz Entertainment Group in late 2004. Their attendance figures are a little wonky for their first decade in existence, given that they played in the same stadium as the Denver Broncos: first Mile High Stadium, then Invesco Field at Mile High (now Sports Authority Field at Mile High). This is largely because their annual July 4th game drew in excess of 40,000 fans between 1997 and 2005. As you can see in this table I created, average attendance for league matches during that time was almost always well under half that figure. In 2000, almost four times as many fans attended the Independence Day game as what the team averaged throughout the season, which means that fewer than 10,000 fans attended each of the club’s other home games. But I digress…

Since 2007, the Rapids have played in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, whose regular capacity is a hair over 18,000. Interestingly, from 2007-2011, (including their lone MLS Cup in 2010), when the team accumulated nearly half of all points available to them (for a point of reference, the two 2015 conference champions both accrued just under 60% of possible points), they averaged under 14,000 per game and never exceeded an average of 15,000 in a single season. Over the past four seasons, while their percentage of points amassed has actually fallen below 40%, the team has averaged over 15,000 fans in attendance per game.

Ultimately, the correlation between winning and attendance for the club hasn’t been particularly strong throughout its history, especially when compared to Kroenke Sports & Entertainment’s other holdings among the professional ranks. So perhaps Kroenke knows what he’s doing when it comes to soccer, which should be encouraging to supporters of Arsenal FC.

Colorado Mammoth

Colorado Mammoth v Vancouver Stealth

Stan’s other property in American pro sports is a member of the indoor National Lacrosse League; they occupy the Pepsi Center and were acquired along with the Rapids from AEG in 2004. With Kroenke paying the bills, they’ve won one title (2006) and been among league leaders in attendance every year, even in spite of a 60-72 record since 2008. Furthermore, the eight times in nine seasons in which they’ve qualified for the NLL playoffs since their lone championship have each resulted in a first round exit. And that’s with eight teams making the playoffs in a nine to thirteen team league or, as currently constituted, six of nine teams advancing.

Kroenke, however, has hit upon the formula for stability in the NLL (and other similar, lesser-known leagues): namely, ownership by the Colorado Avalanche and the ability to use game day employees from the Pepsi Center with the NLL has helped to trim costs that other independently-owned franchises must absorb after ticket, concession, and merchandise sales and any advertising and television deals.

Conclusion

Given the relative success (or lack of substantial failure, as in the case of the Colorado Rapids) of his non-Big Four holdings, Enos Stanley Kroenke just probably isn’t cut out for owning a franchise in one of the Big Four leagues. The Colorado Avalanche have had some unprecedentedly bad seasons for attendance in recent years; Denver Nuggets fans appear more fickle than any, given the high correlation between winning percentage and attendance since 2000; and St. Louis Rams fans finally stopped showing up after several years of sub-par football.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind if St. Louis was rid of Kroenke, so long as it meant we could keep a football team (preferably the one we already have). Likewise, Denverites should be wary of the recent lack of success by the Avs and Nuggets. I hope, for their sake, that he doesn’t resort to similar threats in order to get a brand-new publicly-funded stadium to replace the tiny, decrepit, almost-twenty-year-old Pepsi Center.

 

2016 Hall of Fame class

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced the results from its balloting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame earlier today. Senior writers accounted for 440 ballots this year; players that appear on at least 75% (330) of ballots will be inducted in Cooperstown, NY this July.

This year, only Ken Griffey, Jr., in his first year of elgibility, and Mike Piazza, in his fourth, were fortunate to receive enough support. In fact, Junior set a record by appearing on 437 of the 440 ballots–99.3%! Tom Seaver held the previous record when he was inducted with 92.84% of the vote (425/430) in 1992. Piazza’s entry was clinched with 83% of the vote.

Also in their first year on the ballot, Trevor Hoffman received 67.3% of the vote; Billy Wagner, 10.5%; Jim Edmonds, 2.5%; and Mike Sweeney, David Eckstein, Jason Kendall, and Garret Anderson, each less than 1%. Clearly the two guys who voted for Eckstein automatically vote for World Series MVPs…

Jeff Bagwell (6th year on the ballot) and Tim Raines (9th) both fell fewer than 30 votes short of induction; Bagwell’s trend from the 2015 ballot (55.7% to 71.6% this year) indicate enough writers may finally be looking past a theoretical connection to performance-enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, too, appear to be rebounding, if only slightly, from more substantial connections to PEDs. In their four years on the ballot (both were eligible beginning in 2013), Clemens has finished immediately ahead of Bonds. After hovering in the mid- to upper-30s the first three years (36.2, 34.7, 36.8 for Bonds; 37.6, 35.4, 37.5 for Clemens), both took a significant leap, with the former pitcher still finishing slightly ahead, appearing on 45.2% of ballots to Bonds’ 44.3%.

Mark McGwire, who has seen his percentage slip from nearly 24% over the past ten years, saw a slight uptick to 12.8%, but with the procedural change in 2014, McGwire will not appear on future ballots. Alan Trammell and Lee Smith were both grandfathered in under the old rule (15 years of eligibility instead of 10), but while the latter still has one last chance in 2017, the former, like McGwire, will be removed from the ballot beginning in 2017.

Piazza, however, was able to overcome any suspicion of PED use (he, after retiring, admitted to using androstenedione, which McGwire also used openly and MLB banned in 2004) to become the 16th catcher elected. Behind the plate, Piazza was fairly average; he outdistanced himself from his peers by establishing himself as one of the best-hitting catchers in Major League history. A twelve-time All-star and 1993 Rookie of the Year, he also garnered ten Silver Sluggers en route to a career .308 average with 427 HR and 1335 RBI.

Griffey, of course, blew those numbers out of the water: 630 HR (6th all-time) and 1836 RBI (15th) to go along with a .284 average over 22 seasons. The 1997 American League MVP is also well-remembered for the ten Gold Gloves he won in Seattle, the spectacular plays he made in center field throughout his career, and the most glorious upper-cut swing you’ve ever seen.

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For me, Griffey’s induction is bittersweet. He was my favorite player as a kid, such that I even owned a Seattle Mariners hat at one point. He hit more than 50 HR in a season twice (1997 & ’98), made it to 40 on five other occasions, and was never, as far as I can recall, marked by the taint of alleged PED use. But, in playing 22 seasons, it’s remarkable that he played in *only* 2671 games, or about 121 per season. Even if you throw out the strike-shortened 1994 (which derailed his chase of Roger Maris’ record 61 HR in a season) and ’95 seasons, he still only averaged about 125 games per season for the other twenty he played.

Had he played a full slate in each of his 22 seasons–unlikely for anyone, including Cal Ripken, Jr.–his career average of 38 HR per 162 games would have pushed him over 800 for his career. Past Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds, which would have been nice, because then we could avoid the argument about who the legitimate home run king is. Had he even played 140 of 162 games each year, the 38 he averaged per 162 still places him between Aaron and Ruth on the career leaderboard.

One of the more remarkable aspects hank-aaron-belts-no-715-39daf64985d8af3d
from Junior’s career that I recall is thinking he was washed up and close to retiring after suffering season-ending injuries in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Through 2001, at age 31, he had accrued 460 home runs, which was enough to keep him in the conversation for catching Hammerin’ Hank.

Unfortunately, those injuries left him just over 500 and in his mid-30s by the time the 2005 season began. Even though his injuries had reduced the quality of his play in the outfield–over half of his appearances as a designated hitter came in his final two seasons in Seattle, 2009 and ’10–and he never played more than 144 games a season after 2001, I like that he still came back every spring several years past when I would have completely understood if he’d chosen to retire.

One final connection to The Kid: Cardinals. Reds. Busch Stadium. Father’s Day 2004. Ken Griffey, Sr. in attendance. Sitting on 499 career home runs.

Congrats, again, to Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. on becoming the newest inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wild card: Rams fans and our possibly-soon-to-be-former team

Today at work, a couple co-workers and I got in to a kerfuffle with another fellow employee about the lack of attendance by fans of our current home team as the primary reason for the owner’s intent to move the team to Los Angeles. I was aghast that she, while a recent transplant to our area, was so naive as to the circumstances surrounding the team’s impending departure. But it also made me wonder whether that’s the predominant view outside our fine metro area.

It is true: the Rams’ home attendance has been dreadful this season. Last in the NFL whether you’re sorting by total, average, or percentage filled to capacity per game (Oh, look! The Raiders are #30 and the Chargers, #26! Rumors of relocation are great for attendance!). Of course, that last figure is misleading; if you watched any of the Rams/Niners regular season finale from the gorgeous 2-year old Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Cal., you know that what’s reported as a sell-out doesn’t always correlate to actual number of butts in seats. For the record, that stadium, capacity 68,500, reported 70,799 in attendance Sunday. Plenty of empty seats:

I also recall several occasions on which the Rams fans in attendance were quite vociferous in response to penalty decisions and the like.

“But,” you say, “the Niners were dreadful this year and had nothing to play for!”

Nonsense, hogwash, and poppycock!

First, that stadium isn’t even two years old, and it’s quite pimped out, even in comparison to Jerry Jones’ (inferiority) complex in Arlington, Tex.

Second, the 49ers have been competitive the past several seasons: four consecutive seasons at .500 or better; an average of 11 wins in each of those seasons; three straight appearances in the NFC championship game.

But if a franchise’s futility is legitimate cause for lack of attendance, then fans in St. Louis definitely have a more justifiable claim than those in the San Francisco Bay Area. Long-term, too: the Niners have had greater success–five Super Bowl titles is nothing to sniff at, after all. Sure, the Rams have one championship to their names during their 21 seasons here in St. Louis, but plenty of losing seasons. And don’t forget the abysmal Big Red, who called two iterations of Busch Stadium home for 28 years, from 1960-1987.

By now, you may have heard that the Rams’ most recent non-losing season was 2006, and that the most recent season was back in 2003, when they went 12-4 in the last prolific season for the Greatest Show on Turf. In the 21 years the Rams have called the Edward Jones (formerly Trans World) Dome (and Busch Stadium, for part of ’95) home, the franchise has posted four winning seasons, two .500 seasons, and fifteen losing seasons.

There’s also that league record-worst 15-65 stretch from 2007-2011. Since, they’ve posted a 27-36-1 record, which is significantly better, but still not good enough to extend the season beyond the first weekend of January.

Success by the Arizona Cardinals over the past decade seems to have warped the memories of some people, but when that franchise was located in St. Louis, they were between mediocre and bad more often than not. Twelve winning seasons, two .500 seasons, fourteen losing seasons, and 0-3 in the playoffs and Bill Bidwill relocated the team to Phoenix.

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Perhaps more than anything, though, Rams fans are sick of tolerating a(nother; see Bidwill, Bill) bad owner. Stan Kroenke appearances at home games in St. Louis have been non-existent for several years now. If I was missing four fingers on one hand, I could still use that hand to count the number of appearances he’s made here: Jeff Fisher’s debut home game as the Rams head coach.

Also, despite underwhelming results in Fisher’s fourth season, Kroenke has stuck with his average head coach; whether or not it’s solely because of his experience in coaching a relocating franchise (the 1996 Houston Oilers) remains to be seen.

Given how much work the St. Louis Stadium Task Force has put in over the past year, especially relative to any possible developments in Oakland or San Diego, it’s obvious Kroenke’s intent all along has been to move the franchise to L.A. solely to increase its value and, therefore, his own net worth.

It seems that the two likely outcomes of the relocation discussion will result in still more disappointment for Rams fans: either Kroenke will take the team with him to southern California, or an owner, embittered by the rejection of his proposal, will continue to ignore the fans here until he can get out, whether by selling the Rams and buying the Broncos, getting an expansion franchise in Los Angeles, or changing tactics and threatening to move the team to London or Toronto or somewhere else until he gets his way and the money he covets.

One footnote, with a little help from a fan group seeking to return the Rams to L.A.:

  • 1973-1989: 14 playoff appearances in 17 seasons, anywhere from 2nd among 26 teams to 18th of 28 in average attendance ranking
    • 1980: 11-5; 8/28 in attendance; coming off Super Bowl appearance the previous season; 62,000 average attendance with a capacity of 69,000 → 10% empty!
  • 1990: 5-11, 12/28
  • 1991: 3-13, 22/28
  • 1992: 6-10, 25/28
  • 1993: 5-11, 25/28
  • 1994: 4-12, 28/28

Dead last in the NFL. Makes you wonder how quickly fans in Los Angeles will disappear when things inevitably go south for a season or two. Hopefully, if Kroenke’s wildest relocation dreams come true, the team will continue to stink and fans will stop showing up midway through their inaugural season.

[sarcasm]

But, by all means, continue to blame football fans in St. Louis for the possible relocation of the team they’ve come to love.

[/sarcasm]