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T.J. SIMERS

The Rams back in Southland? Be very afraid

The team's ineptitude, and the depressing atmosphere in St. Louis, are reminiscent of Rams' last days in Anaheim. Oh, and they could be free to move again in a few years.

October 12, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM ST. LOUIS — It's "Throwback Sunday," which is why I'm here, you know, just making sure no one gets the idea of giving us the Rams back.

So who do I run into to start the day -- John Shaw.

Alert the authorities, roadblocks on the freeways at the very least, and if you remember how he works, hold on to your wallets.

Not only are the Rams for sale, but the city of St. Louis, which provided $260 million in public money to lure the team here, must tell the Rams by Feb. 1, 2012, how it is going to make Edward Jones Dome improvements to make even more money for the team.

Keep in mind the dome is already a dump, an exhibition hall in a convention center with all the charm of a warehouse. From the top deck the Rams look pretty good. Or is that the Vikings?

There's a bunch of technical stuff in the Rams' lease here, but cutting through it all, if the city doesn't provide the Rams with essentially a new stadium plan by March 2015 to match the likes of palaces in New York and Dallas, the Rams will be free to move.

Holy Rush Limbaugh -- as one Rams official put it, "Five years from now we might be back in L.A. Just imagine that."

Kind of brings home what they're talking about when they mention the war on terror.

And did I mention Shaw is here, retired, he says, but overseeing the sale of the team and on his way to the NFL owners meetings representing Georgia Frontiere's children, Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, who make their homes where? In L.A.

No one is better at looking down the road and plotting a team's escape than Shaw, who still makes his home where? In L.A.

The escape clause, so to speak, in the Rams' deal with St. Louis probably makes the team more attractive to a buyer -- especially if Shaw includes a road map on how someone might hold up St. Louis for more money or move the team to L.A.

St. Louis has already shown it doesn't handle losing well. The NFL's Cardinals went 5-11, 4-11-1 and 7-8, as a result attendance dwindling and no one much interested in improving an outdated stadium, so the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988.

Seven years later the Rams arrived, but only after holding up St. Louis for a sweetheart deal, the team now losing again -- 5-32 the last two-plus seasons.

The Rams have lost 15 consecutive games, and in a break from tradition, none of it can be blamed on Georgia, who passed away. The team is so nameless and faceless, go ahead -- try naming three players, or the head coach.

They have averaged fewer than seven points a game this season, but more than that, this Sunday in St. Louis had that same empty Anaheim Stadium feel just before the team loaded up the moving trucks.

There were a bunch of empty seats, and that was with a large contingent of fans dressed in purple to see Brett Favre. As for Rams attractions, there was Kyle Boller, which explains the empty seats.

The Vikings waltzed down the field to score first, and back home in L.A. it was 10:10 a.m.

By 10:18, it was 14-0 Minnesota, and how about it, do you miss the NFL? At least you had a remote control in hand.

The Rams moved the ball inside the Minnesota 10-yard line in the second quarter twice and on both occasions fumbled it away. Another fumble was picked up and returned 52 yards for a touchdown.

I know, I know, you've seen all this before, Cleveland Gary fumbling, Chris Chandler being intercepted, only this time it was Boller going to the end zone only to be intercepted.

I wanted so badly to switch channels, but I was here, and as we've learned over the years, there's nothing worse than being trapped at an NFL game with so many better ones on TV.

This wasn't entertainment as much as punishment, linebacker Leonard Little, who killed a woman here while driving drunk a number of years ago, leaving the Rams' bench area in the closing minutes to confront a Vikings fan sitting in the stands. Just another example of what everyone is missing in L.A. since we don't have a team.

Talk about Throwback Sunday -- our old teams lost by the combined score of 82-17, bringing back memories of so many wasted Sundays in the Coliseum and Anaheim.

Consider the next few years here, the Rams trying to right themselves at the same time they are making a case that the booing locals better support them or they might be leaving.

Unlike the Raiders, who are run by an emotional bully who pulled out of L.A. after not getting his way in a Hollywood Park deal, the Rams had to move -- the deal just too good.

The NFL began auctioning off a pair of expansion teams in the early '90s, Shaw recognizing the cities losing the bidding war would be all cranked up to do whatever to still land a NFL team.

As a result, he turned a losing and depressing proposition in Anaheim into an annual profit of more than $20 million here. It was a deal so good it was considered the NFL model for a time.

Still might be if it turns out the Rams bled St. Louis taxpayers dry only to put themselves in the position to make a run at someone else's money when the turf here runs ragged.

Remember when the Rams were "thinking" about moving? They were Chris Miller horrible, some arguing the organization went belly up on purpose to convince other owners they couldn't make it financially in Anaheim.

I think I have a pretty good idea how ticket sales and sponsorships are going around here, the product on the field only as embarrassing as the one they have right now in Oakland.

Sooner or later, one of them just might try to come back, Sundays spent like this a reminder of just how good L.A. has it.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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