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The Full Court Press: open letters to Commissioner Goodell and former Rams fans

March 12, 2017

Dear Commissioner Goodell…

photo courtesy of Wikimedia under the Creative Commons License

Five years ago, if I’d been told the NFL may soon see its demise, I would’ve said that’s as likely as the Cleveland Browns sticking to one quarterback. Impossible. Could never happen.

Now, if I were told the NFL won’t exist in five years, I’d flash the same expression as if I’d been told Brett Favre was planning another comeback.

“Uh huh, I can see it,” I’d say.

But this is all just hypothetical, right? We can’t seriously expect the most profitable league in America to just crumble, can we?

We can, and here’s why.

1. Concussion lawsuits have recently hit the NFL like a raging Ray Lewis. Dave Duerson (former Bears defensive back, age 50), Ray Easterling (former Falcons safety, age 62) and Junior Seau (former Chargers linebacker, age 43) were all found dead from suicide between February 2011 and May 2012. They all suffered from CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. You don’t need to master the Wildcat formation or the Statue of Liberty to know that parents now are waiting to let their kids play football until they’re older, or not letting them play at all. If you’re not convinced, check out Will Smith’s 2015 blockbuster, Concussion.

2. Millennials simply don’t care about the sport as much as older generations do. According to Business Insider, 61 percent of millennials identified the NFL as “sleazy,” and teenage interest in the league dropped from 26 percent in 2006 to 19 percent in 2016. With a growing reliance on technology at their fingertips, they have about as much patience as any logical owner has with Rex Ryan.

3. The biggest reason the NFL could topple is coming from within. The relocation frenzy started by the St. Louis Rams (now in Los Angeles), continued by the San Diego Chargers (also now in LA) and hopefully finished by the Oakland Raiders (who, pending approval from 75 percent of NFL owners in March, will move to Las Vegas) has exiled fans into a state of confusion Ron Jaworski can’t even analyze.

When I found out the Rams were relocating to Los Angeles for the 2016 season, I was perplexed. What did we steady fans do wrong? I attempted to stay loyal to the team, but when the NFL Draft came around in late April and I didn’t even care who they wasted their number one overall pick on, I knew it was time to jump ship.

And after the Oakland Raiders officially filed paperwork for a move to Sin City Jan. 19 and became potentially the third team to relocate since January 2016, I realized it may soon be time to abandon the NFL altogether.

Los Angeles was of course bound to be a much better home for the Rams than St. Louis. The fans there are so considerate, they even decided to leave Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum partially empty during games to remind the team of all their recent success in the Dome.

The Chargers had the lowest home attendance in 2016. Doesn’t it make sense to move a team featuring a potential Hall-of-Fame quarterback and a budding star running back to a city that has no significant connection to the franchise? It’s about as obvious as a goal-line rush in the closing seconds of the Super Bowl, of course.

And how about a city that has not only never hosted an NFL team, but has never hosted any major sports team and has never proven it can support one? Why, Vegas deserves nothing less than a playoff team whose fans have remained loyal through years of miserable 5-11 seasons.

So you’ve lost St. Louis, you’ve lost San Diego and you’ve lost Oakland. That’s pretty low, Roger, isn’t it? While you and the rest of your slimy NFL barons are up to your old tricks, I have some relocation suggestions to consider.

Los Angeles 49ers: The Niners are now the only California team not in Los Angeles. They want to join the party, too.

Louisville Colts: Wouldn’t it be more fitting for the Colts to play in the home of the Kentucky Derby, instead of a rusty stadium that looks like an oversized grocery store?

Guantanamo Patriots: Brady and Belichick deserve nothing less than a good waterboarding after what they’ve done to the integrity of the NFL.

Moscow Redskins: The best way to get rid of a team whose name is racially degrading and offends the native population of our country? Just give ‘em to Russia, red means something completely different over there.

London Jaguars: They play across the pond so often it’s practically their home already, chap.

Baghdad Oilers: The Titans continually rank toward the bottom of the league in attendance, so let’s send them back to their Oiler roots. Maybe playing in the Middle East can help out their defense, too.

Stockholm Vikings: Why not?

West Virginia Browns: Shhhh… let’s see if anyone notices.

All in all, I’d like to congratulate you, Mr. Goodell. Keep this up, and you may soon lose a fan who remained loyal to the worst team of them all, year after year. And that, my friend, is not hypothetical.

Good luck,

The NHL’s newest fan

Dear former Rams fans…

photo courtesy of Holden Foreman

We all love to hate. It’s human nature. But what we direct our hatred toward ultimately speaks of our character. The kind of hatred that leads to violence, exclusion and discrimination deserves no place in our world. The kind of hatred that leads St. Louis Rams fans to start a GoFundMe campaign to send Stan Kroenke an actual box of sh**? That I can take.

And yes, the National Football League has granted fans many occasions to display such hatred this season. Don’t believe me? Ask the Rams fans who crowded bars in 2016 just to root against their former team. Ask the San Diego Chargers fans who took to Twitter in order to blast their own former franchise’s horrid attempts at logo design after moving to Los Angeles (the same place to which the Rams relocated, mind you). And finally, ask the Oakland Raiders fans who just watched their bottom feeder of a football team evolve into a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and then pack its bags for Las Vegas, all within the same season.

“It’s that bad?” you may ask, and I can’t say I’d blame you. From the perspective of a St. Louisian, the idea of football teams abandoning their loyal fans seems cruel. After all, the St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland faithful deserve better. The problem: those faithful fans are far and few between. The Raiders will survive without fans known for getting themselves arrested; 56 arrests, in fact, took place during just two Raiders games in the 2014 season. The Chargers will survive without fans who were outnumbered 3:1–at a home game–against the aforementioned Raiders in 2016. And the Rams will not just survive, but thrive, without the fans who finished with the NFL’s lowest average attendance in 2015: only 52,402 per home game.

Believe it or not, I am also upset about the Rams leaving. But the NFL means business, and the numbers don’t lie. The value of the Chargers franchise rose 36 percent last year in anticipation of a move, and the Raiders franchise increased its value 47 percent on similar grounds. Oh, and the Rams doubled their value to the tune of $2.9 billion just for moving to LA. The NFL isn’t on the decline. In fact, with a revenue of $12.15 billion in 2015 (nearly double the revenue of $6.16 billion in 2005), the league is raking in more money now than ever before.

As for the dwindling interest of some longtime fans, I cannot relate. My mom and I drove 238.95 miles last year to see the Chargers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs on opening day. I watched as my favorite football team (the Chargers, of course) took a commanding 21-3 lead into halftime, and then I watched them crumble, allowing 17 points in the fourth quarter and falling 33-27. The trip was a celebration of my eighteenth birthday, and despite the loss, I left with a smile on my face. Regardless of the heated rivalry between our teams, I found a welcoming crowd in Kansas City, brought together across lines of race, gender and wealth to watch the game of football. “Typical Chargers,” I muttered after watching another lead evaporate, but it’s that frustration that keeps bringing me back to see them play.

Now, with the Rams gone, it makes sense to cheer for another city’s team. But I don’t cheer for just one football team. I cheer for football. I cheer for initiatives like the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which encourages children to make healthy food choices and live an active lifestyle. And I even cheer for players as commonly hated as the Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton, after witnessing his visit to a 10-year-old Auburn fan stricken with advanced pulmonary hypertension; if you haven’t seen the video, look it up now to witness a Christmas dream come true.

So, for the former St. Louis football fans who hate Stan Kroenke, hate the Rams and even hate the city of LA in lieu of recent events, please realize this: the NFL remains the best outlet for unleashing such feelings, and, judging by its profits, it won’t go away anytime soon, so let it all out the right way and enjoy some football.

Sincerely,

An NFL fan forever

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