Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Put on Helmets: Fans Needs to Call Nfl's Bluff

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Put on Helmets: Fans Needs to Call Nfl's Bluff

Article excerpt

As the Rams soap opera foams on, St. Louisans can pride themselves on a civic first.

Most towns lose a pro team because they lack money. This town lost the Rams because it had too much. St. Louis put up a domed stadium, a lease worth over $20 million annually for 30 years and $70 million in cash from a tax on season tickets (personal seat licenses).

It was more than enough. It was too much.

Local fans howled at the NFL's argument for keeping the Rams in Los Angeles. This veto was not about logic. It was about loot. The league wants a cut of the ransom money.

The motive does not stun Bob Roesler and Rick Dodge, two grizzled franchise chasers.

Roesler, 67, spent 40 years as sports editor and columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayne. He has seen the NFL come and almost go, pro basketball come and go and almost come again, and big-league baseball never come at all.

"The world spins on the dollar bill," says Roesler, who now works for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "And one of the big things is the television money."

Dodge, 50, is city administrator for St. Petersburg, Fla. He led a 10-year quest that recently, finally, won a baseball expansion team.

"If you want to understand a pro sports league," Dodge says, "follow the money. It's ALWAYS about money."

The issue with the Rams is the PSL swag, which never should have become an issue. PSLs were the brainstorm of FANS Inc., a non-profit group for everyone but Rams owner Georgia Frontiere.

The NFL is doing unto the Rams what the Rams did unto St. Louis. Drum up a phony urgency, make outrageous demands and hope desperate people cave in.

The downtown dome will open next fall, and an empty stadium is a political football waiting to be kicked. So the politicos who lead FANS Inc. cut a fast-and-dirty deal with the Rams. The fast part - the excuse for the PSL hustle - will screech to a crawl if the case goes to court.

The NFL is running a bold bluff that it won't. It's betting that Frontiere will move soon at the league's price, or stay and take an easy $200 million from an LA buyer. …

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