Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fleet of Negatives Sank Football Bid Scrambling Act Stalled City's Drive

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fleet of Negatives Sank Football Bid Scrambling Act Stalled City's Drive

Article excerpt

Not the leadership, or lack thereof.

Not the luxury box sales, or lack thereof.

Not the unsettled stadium lease situation.

Not the specter of lawsuits.

None of those things by themselves sank St. Louis' campaign to land a National Football League expansion team. But together, they painted a picture of a fractured community, one unwilling and unable to do what was necessary to win a franchise. One that didn't seem to have the passion for football that was present elsewhere. One that simply didn't seem to have its act together.

So the NFL instead went to Jacksonville, Fla., a metropolitan area little more than one-third the size of St. Louis. In the aftermath of Tuesday's vote in suburban Chicago, the league went to great lengths to expound upon the virtues of the nation's 54th-largest television market.

"I know everyone's focusing on what went wrong, but I think the focus really should be on what went right," said Roger Goodell, the NFL vice president who spearheaded the expansion process. "It just turned out that Jacksonville had a lot of positives for it in the entire package. . . . That's why we went with Jacksonville."

Jacksonville is a growing market and has a strong ownership group - not to mention a unity of interest among fans, businesses and government.

Plus, as owner Rankin Smith of the Atlanta Falcons pointed out, "It's the only game in town."

Still, league sources say, if St. Louis had had its act together, the decision would have been a no-brainer. Instead of feeling blue, thousands of St. Louisans would have been wearing purple this week - as in purple Stallions T-shirts.

"Because of its market size, if St. Louis had everything else Jacksonville had, you would have been crazy not to go to St. Louis," said one league insider, who asked not to be identified.

In fact, San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos said as much in a television interview that never aired in California but was picked up later in St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn. Asked about his expansion team preferences, Spanos said that St. Louis was the clear front-runner and that the race for second place was between Charlotte, N.C., and Baltimore. …

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