Super Bowl Sunday means ads, ads, and more ads. Millions of dollars are spent by marketing departments to come up with memorable commercials designed to help move their product. On a personal note, it’s a bit depressing that the vast majority of the advertisements are spoiled long before their air date, but the quality of these ads seems to have dipped over the years as well. Then there are the local ads, the ads that few around the nation will end up seeing but are often designed to speak to entire communities.
That’s exactly what St. Louis lawyer Terry Crouppen did when his firm, Brown and Crouppen, filmed a commercial slamming Rams owner Stan Kroenke for moving the franchise to Los Angeles. Though some might call it a tad dramatic, the 30-second ad was simple enough. Crouppen highlights the fact that the city supported Kroenke losing season after losing season, but he shamed the city and then moved the franchise. Crouppen ends the commercial by stating that Kroenke’s right to move his own team doesn’t make it the right move.
To be honest, Crouppen does have a point. Losing an NFL franchise is a major blow to a city and it’s not hard to imagine investors like Crouppen feel like they were hard done. Seattle still hasn’t recovered from the loss of their Sonics and Los Angeles’ cries for a new NFL team had become so loud that they were impossible to ignore any longer. Whether it’s getting a team or losing a team, large numbers of individuals are affected when these franchises seek greener pastures.
Los Angeles fans will rightly point out that St. Louis is only experiencing half of what they went through when the NFL left L.A. 1994 was an incredibly dark year for Los Angeles. Not only would the Rams and Raiders move from Los Angeles, but O.J. Simpson would embroil the city in the most famous murder trial the city had seen in many, many years. It was a rough period for football in Southern California.
Crouppen is likely to receive a lot of backlash when this ad airs. Los Angeles isn’t known for its forgiving nature and it’s not hard to see Crouppen’s timeline being filled with Michael Jordan crying face memes when the whole Los Angeles find out about this advertisement. Such is the nature of schadenfreude and social media. That doesn’t mean Crouppen doesn’t have a point. The pain doesn’t suddenly go away because Los Angeles had the team first.
The fear of a franchise packing up and moving is a constant threat from teams looking for new stadium deals. Even though countless economic studies at prestigious universities across the globe indicate it’s a bad deal for anyone but the team, franchises know that the fear caused by threatening to leave is enough to scare politicians into action. There will come a time when Los Angeles is once again facing the threat of an NFL team leaving to a smaller market for more money.
There are only so many teams the fans and wallets will support. There is simply too much going on in Los Angeles for even the mighty NFL to sustain a losing franchise in the region. If the Rams continue to lose like they’ve been losing under Fisher and Kroenke, the fans are only going to be understanding for so long. It has nothing to do with being a fair-weather fan, it has everything to do with not throwing good money after bad. The band-aid of a new stadium will only hide the bleeding internal structure for so long, if at all.
Make no mistake, the fans will embrace the NFL with a passion and a fury like the league hasn’t seen in some time, but do not mistake their passion for gullibility. The denizens of southern California will not be taken for a ride simply because NFL owners know the region is starved for a team. As long as team owners prove they are making an effort to improve the team, fans in the area have proven they will support a struggling team.
It is only when those at the top of the decision-making process decide to pack it in that the fans decide to unpack and stay home. The Rams have been far too content with embracing mediocrity and excellence has always been the aim around these parts. Going into the 2015 season, the Rams were 31st in NFL winning percentage over the last decade. Only the Oakland Raiders were worse.
The Raiders and Rams ended up winning seven games, but even the Rams’ seven-win season was only good enough to bring them level with the Cleveland Browns for wins, and still tied for 31st in the NFL. Think about that for a second -- the Rams needed a seven-win season just to be as bad as Cleveland over the last decade.
Even Washington have had more progress over the last ten years. Since 2005, Washington have won eight or more games on five different occasions, twice winning ten games. The Rams have had a single eight-win season during that same stretch and zero seasons of more than eight wins. Until last year, the Rams were actually looking up at the Browns.
As it stands, they may be looking up at the Raiders well into the future. The franchise to leave Los Angeles in the ‘94 with the Rams endured a tumultuous period, but the passing of Al Davis saw new leadership draft extremely well, including a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr that the Rams could have drafted twice. That’s not to say the Rams have drafted poorly early, they haven’t the past couple of years.
It’s hard to argue with Aaron Donald’s career and Greg Robinson is only going to get better, but Derek Carr appears to be a franchise quarterback and those come along so rarely that the mind can’t help but wonder if the Rams couldn’t have used a quarterback in 2014 and Carr behind the Rams line would be a sight to see. As it stands, the Rams will have to address the position in the upcoming NFL Draft or through free agency.
Whether or not the gamble will pay off is uncertain, but what is certain is that the cost of being a fan in 2016 is often more than money. Terry Crouppen and the rest of St. Louis found that out when the Rams leveraged the NFL desert that was Los Angeles to get what St. Louis felt was something they’d built. Most young fans can’t remember a time when the NFL was in Los Angeles, but those old enough to remember can also remember the pain they felt when the NFL suddenly disappeared in Los Angeles.
Terry Crouppen is right; there is nothing right about teams leaving, but that isn’t going to stop losing franchises from trying to get what they want off the field without having to earn it on the field.