It never ceases to amaze me how much love there is for the Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona/Phoenix Cardinals or Big Red around the world. I was in Hawaii on the big island last November and I was walking the beach in my 1983 Neil Lomax away jersey and I had countless people ask me about it.
Where did I find it?
Are there anymore like it ?
People all over tell me when they see a jersey or piece of memorabilia that its a shame they still aren't in St. Louis or that they shouldn't have left. That being said, we cannot change the past and all we can do is move forward.
Bill Bidwill is not innocent by any means but, he wasn't the sole benefactor of the Cardinals move to Arizona. HE was the VERY FIRST owner in the NFL to EVER ask for public funds for a stadium, so if you want to blame anyone for starting it, blame Bidwill.
After decades of losing and a sub-par product being trotted out onto the field year after year with the exception of the mid '70's, why in the blue blazes would St. Louis put up millions for an owner that was penny pinching players after taking over from Stormy Bidwill in '72?
Mr. Bill Bidwill is known as a notoriously cheap owner, he was also a very anxious man that was very uncomfortable around players, fans ,and the media. Which if you ask me is not a very good combination in an NFL owner. Funny enough that is the same person Stan Kroenke was as an owner in St. Louis or was that the plan? Point is Bidwill was wanting St. Louis to pay for a stadium when it was clear to the city, fans, and to be honest, anyone with a brain knew he had no intention of fielding a competitive team based on the money he wasn't willing to spend.
So when the opportunity arose for him to move to Phoenix where (he thought) he was promised a 70,000 seat palace that was going to be publicly funded he jumped at the opportunity. Problem was it was never promised to Bidwill that he would be getting a domed stadium in downtown Phoenix either.
The NFL didn't put up much of a fight to keep the team in St. Louis, to be frank, Pete Rozelle the NFL commish at the time actually tried to convince Bidwill to relocate to Baltimore instead which was viewed as a much more plug an play NFL city over Phoenix. Where Phoenix was viewed as an expansion city. Needless to say Bidwill didn't take the bait.
After a lot of hand wringing at NFL head offices in New York he (Bidwill) was finally approved to relocate to Phoenix whereas the NFL should have stepped in to help negotiate a solution in St. Louis in order for the team to be able to stay put but, it wasn't about doing what was right, it was all about money and how much they stood to make.
Whether you want to believe it or not Phoenix leadership quickly realized their mistake in offering a deal to a carpetbagging owner in Bill Bidwill that had very little interest in paying out money to players that could help his team to win. The excuse that was used for a stadium not being built was the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late 80's early 90's.
I really feel that was a bunk excuse due to other municipalities building stadiums with no issue which would explain why Bill Bidwill was looking towards an LA move after the Rams bounced to St. Louis in '95 to rob them blind. Funny enough in an interview from 1998 where he was asked what he thought of the then TWA dome in St. Louis he said "Had this been done then (1987) this would be a local conversation" Problem was St. Louis was suffering from political infighting and power struggles over placement of the proposed stadium so it never came to fruition which could be viewed as a good thing in some respects.
When the Arizona officials who courted Bidwill eventually built the now known State Farm Stadium in 2006 which was named Cardinals Stadium then University of Phoenix Stadium until 2018 when their naming rights expired. State Farm signed an 18 year agreement in 2018. The Cardinals stadium lease fully expires in 2036 and then goes Tier to Tier in 10 year increments.
Michael Bidwill, son of Bill, has taken over duties as President of the team and essentially runs the day to day operations of the organization.
Since that transition he has cultivated a series of new relationships that his father wasn't capable of doing. He has begun rebuilding the bridge that was blown to bits by his father on the way out of St. Louis in 1988. Michael has given tens of thousands to outreach programs and charitable organizations in St. Louis since the Rams unceremoniously dropped a nuclear bomb on St. Louis' lifeless body on the way out town damn well knowing there wasn't anything St. Louis could do to stop them. Whereas Stan Kroenke, in his mind once buying the team in 2010 was already out of St. Louis and back to LA.
Michael Bidwill didn't have to do these things. How many other owners in the NFL came to the rescue?
I am asked regularly if I'd like to have the team back. My usual answer is "DUH!" "Who wouldn't?" especially since the old man is nearly out of the picture. I don't care if they usually stink.
I grew up watching the Big Red, I came to accept the Rams but, I have come to figure out that the NFL's intent was to fleece St. Louis out of millions and at the same time solve the LA conundrum which had been perplexing them for a long time.
Most don't completely know of the struggle the NFL had during the 70's and 80's in the LA market. It wasn't solvable at the time. Most don't understand that this was before the advent of go anywhere streaming services, NFL Network, ESPN, 24 hour news cycles, THE INTERNET! Need I say more?
In today's day and age NFL teams transcend their markets from a worldwide perspective. It became less and less about putting asses in seats and more about revenue sharing and NFL friendly, multi billion dollar TV contracts.
It gave them the time needed to find a solution That solution was Enos Stanley Kroenke and his billions to go into LA where they couldn't get a stadium built through public financing and just have him foot the bill.
Yes, Enos Stanley Kroenke brought football back to St. Louis first by trying to muscle his way into the 1993 expansion attempt then by moving the Rams out of LA in'95 to cash in on St. Louis' sweetheart lease at the then state of the art TWA Dome. St. Louis was a rental, collateral damage if you will.
St. Louis was never anything more than a stop-gap for the NFL who's ultimate goal was to milk as much money out of the football starved St. Louis market as possible, while at the same time trying to find a solution to the LA problem.
The original 1995 lease with the then CVC in St. Louis was a joke to say the least. We all know that story. Let me tell you another bedtime story for a moment, that '95 lease we speak of was revised or "amended" in 2003 once again "coincidentally" when rumors began to swirl in St. Louis about the Rams possibly relocating.
Oh! I forget, after the Rams moved from Anaheim in '95 John Shaw then president of the team always kept an office in LA during their entire stay in St. Louis. Coincidence? Come on folks, you know I don't believe in coincidence, not in something like this.
Some fans, especially die hard NFL homers have a tendency to overlook the fact that time and time again the NFL has looked to fleece fans out of millions in order to make millions more in revenue. People in St. Louis know, People in Oakland know, San Diego, Cleveland, Baltimore, Houston, or any other municipality knows the NFL mantra of "Hey, If you don't build us a new stadium, we'll move your team to another market that will." It's blackmail, it's holding cities feet to the proverbial fire to cough up millions, perhaps hundreds of millions they don't have in order to keep an entity that doesn't care to be there because they'd be more than happy to pull up roots, pack up the Mayflower moving vans and truck out of town through the cover of darkness.
Hey Baltimore, Remind you of anyone?
*COUGH! Colts *COUGH!
Here is the deal, St. Louis-2(Cardinals, Rams), Baltimore(Colts), Cleveland-2 (Rams, Browns), Houston(Oilers), San Diego(Chargers, Oakland-2(Raiders, Raiders), Los Angeles-3(Rams,Chargers, Raiders), are just some of the cities that have lost NFL franchises at some point.
There are many, many more that have been threatened by NFL owners for decades with the prospect of relocation. It has become a very lucrative business tactic by the NFL to maximize revenue streams by having municipalities build new venues or massively retrofit stadiums every 15-30 years if not sooner.
St. Louis for example is still paying off the nearly $300 million in public funding it took to lure the Rams from LA to St. Louis in 1995. St. Louis still owes approximately $80-$100 million with the former CVC now Explore St. Louis looking to spend an additional $170+ million to upgrade the convention center portion of the Dome.
The point that I am trying to make is that it is never enough for the NFL and it's owners. They will never be pleased with what they have. The NFL always wants more, like a parasite. It will feed until it explodes.
In today's day and age of 24 hour news cycles, 1000 cable channels, the big 4 TV networks and don't forget the internet. The NFL has a stranglehold on media and coverage within and outside their local areas. NFL revenue sharing that allow even the smallest markets an upside potential is astounding!
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones bought the 'Boys" for a cool $140 million at the time in 1989 the Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in sports valued at nearly or exceeding $5 billion.
Think about that!
An initial capital investment of $140 million that has nearly a 250% increase of investment?
Are you getting that kind of return on your 401k? I doubt it.
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for part 2