- A year on from their move to Los Angeles, the Rams are good for the first time in more than a decade. But for the spurned fans of St. Louis, the team is already all but forgotten
As they come off of their bye to face the Giants this Sunday, the Rams are 5-2 for the first time since 2003, the last year they won the NFC West. Of course, back then the team was based in St. Louis. So what do fans in Missouri think of the Rams’ resurgence now that they’re (back) in Los Angeles?
A year after traveling to St. Louis to see what a post-Rams world looked like there, we checked back with some locals to assess their current relationship with their former team, and with the NFL as a whole. The participants:
Chelsea Osterby. After moving to St. Louis from Wisconsin in 2012, Osterby fell in love with the Rams as a way to connect with her new friends and neighbors. When they left, she said, “There’s just a big hole in my heart.”
Jim Thomas. A reporter at the St. Louis Dispatch since the 1970s, Thomas covered the NFL there for 21 years, including the entire lifespan of the Rams in the city. He has since been moved to the paper’s hockey beat.
Randy Fauth. Fauth has lived in St. Louis for more than five decades and has owned and run local sports memorabilia shop Sports Card Dugout for 27 years.
Bill Consoli. Consoli followed the Rams from Los Angeles to St. Louis in the 1990s as the team’s head of IT. But age 52 he did not want to uproot himself again when the team relocated last year.
Justin Boyd. The marketing director for St. Louis’s largest sports bar chain, Hotshots, Boyd is a 37-year-old St. Louis native.
How have feelings towards the Rams and the NFL changed in the last year?
Osterby: How do I feel about the Rams? I don’t even know them anymore. The team has changed so much. There are all these new players, a new coach. All of the players who I was really invested in have left the league or are on new teams. They feel like an ex-boyfriend who I don’t even know anymore.
I went through last year trying to find a new NFL team. I wanted to still be an NFL fan. I went to a Chiefs game but the game-day experience was not for me. And with all of the controversy last year with Kaepernick and everything, a lot of people in my circles were already moving on from the NFL. It wasn’t as fun. I never got to the point where I chose a new team.
Thomas: Some people have gotten on with it and moved on with their lives. Others are still bitter and upset. The Rams have been on local TV once or twice. There’s still a lot of hate-watching, including my wife. She hasn’t stopped. And whenever someone in the paper writes about the lawsuit against the team, it gets a lot of hits and a lot of attention. We ran a wire story about a billboard in San Diego that mentioned St. Louis in attacking the NFL, and for three or four days it was the most read thing online. You don’t get over a 21-year marriage that ends in a messy divorce—you definitely don’t get over it in a year.
Fauth: I still haven’t watched an NFL game. I refuse to. Obviously it was the Rams that did it, but it was the support of the other owners that allowed it to happen, especially Jerry Jones. The hatred level is about where it was [last year].
Consoli: It’s a different thing after all these years to get to watch a football game and not have the emotional involvement. I’m a football fan again, back to where I was in college when I watched football because I loved football. And I can watch the game and when it’s over, I can disconnect from it, and go on with a non-football part of life. One doesn’t affect the other anymore. I watch whatever’s on. Most of the time I sit on the RedZone channel.
Boyd: It’s interesting how almost apathetic the fan base in St. Louis seems, to be not only towards the L.A. Rams but towards the NFL as a whole. St. Louisians have turned their noses up on the NFL. There are pockets of fans and fan clubs that do really well, but outside of that St. Louisians had their team snatched away from them, and they’ve been left as orphan fans. I was hoping that teams like the Chiefs or the Titans or even the Colts would make some sort of push to try and connect with a fan base that has loyalty and numbers but doesn’t have a team to root for. I don’t know why the Chiefs especially haven’t looked to come over to the eastern side of the state and pick up fans around here.
The Rams were so bad for so long by the time they left, people started to lose interest, and it didn’t necessarily drive much traffic. If the Rams had been a good team that people were fighting to watch and be behind, it would be a different story. But they were so bad for so long it just didn’t move the needle all that much.
With the benefit of hindsight, what was the biggest loss as the result of the Rams’ departure?
Osterby: For me personally, it was a big part of my identity. The Rams were something I could always talk about, something I could always connect with people over. It was the first team I was really a big all-in fan of.
Thomas: There was some economic loss, and I guess there was some loss always with the prestige thing, especially in a mid-size market, to have as many pro teams as you can and just the people that love football not having the game in your town, Sunday just didn’t seem the same.
Fauth: It’s a loss of dignity for the city. It’s bragging rights to say you have an NFL team.
Consoli: There are people that still work [with the Rams] who I truly care about, and not seeing them every day, that’s certainly a loss, those folks that I truly care about—they are out there and I’m here. I miss them.
Boyd: The game experience isn’t the same without having a dog in the fight in the NFL. Now people are not able to take their kid down and see Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers when they come to town, or have Todd Gurley to root for. All those things are taken away, especially for younger St. Louis fans who will never know the Rams days. There’s a missing link to connect us to football. Obviously we have Mizzou in college, but they haven’t been good.
And what, if any, have been the benefits?
Osterby: I have my Sundays back, that’s for sure. I do think to have that saga over with, there was so much tension and anxiety whether we’d keep them, it’s like, that’s just over and it’s a lot more peaceful. St. Louis has plenty of other problems; that one just isn’t one anymore.
Thomas: Maybe it helped the Blues hockey team get more fans. Mizzou football has gone south. I don’t know if many people felt like there were many benefits. Some people maybe went to the park or the art museum on their Sundays.
Fauth: The more I think about, these guys are jerks, absolute jerks, for [owner Stan] Kroenke to leave and say the things that he’s said upon leaving, he showed his true colors. I’m going to be brutally honest with you—from a business standpoint, it’s been a negative for me, but personally I actually find it almost liberating. I don’t feel tied to the TV on Sundays. I have more free time now.
Consoli: With the job I have now, my work-life balance is so much more in balance, and the stress level in my life is much reduced. I’m still working hard and putting in hours, but they understand that people need a life outside of work and that’s far and away the biggest difference.
Boyd: There’s been a comedic nature of the way they are portrayed [in L.A.], watching them rightfully fall on their face with their attendance, even with a much better team on the field than we ever had. St. Louisians, or a segment, do take some enjoyment in seeing those tweets of 40,000 fans in a 90,000 seat stadium.
What kind of hold do the Rams or the NFL have on the St. Louis sports scene?
Osterby: I haven’t heard anything about the Rams in a year. I don’t hear anyone talking about them. No one really cares. People have pulled away from the NFL, in large part due to the Kaepernick controversy. I tried to watch a game this year, but it was so boring. There were so many stoppages. And then so many great players have been injured. It’s just not as compelling as it was, now that I don’t have a team.
Thomas: People have found it hard to figure out who to root for. Even my wife, if it’s Seattle and Washington playing, will ask who to root for. It’s really been splintered: Titans, Colts, Bears, Chiefs, plus you have fantasy people
Fauth: People have moved on. Obviously we’re talking about the NFL and all the protests going on, but outside of that it’s like we’ve dealt with it and it’s over.
Consoli: I couldn’t tell you. I don’t sit and watch the local sports shows. At work we talk about work.
Boyd: The sports talk stations still touch on it. It’s not something to be ignored. Some stations carry Cowboys games or Cardinals games on the radio. People still have an appetite for it. They’ll drop in how the Rams did or a story about their crowds or lack thereof. It’s just been scaled back quite a bit. I feel bad for some of the sports guys who have shows and have to fill three or four or five hours and don’t have the football piece to talk about, especially with Mizzou being terrible.
How has the Rams’ promising start this year affected St. Louis’s relationship to them?
Osterby: I think we’ve already moved on. It helps because you don’t even know the team anymore. It’s a totally different team. I do have to say, about their success, I’ll believe it when I see it. Plenty of Rams seasons have come and gone where they’ve been really promising to start. I’m skeptical.
Thomas: A solid majority if not the vast majority would prefer it if they finish 4-12 ever year. Some fans have felt, Just let L.A. have 13 straight non-winning seasons, let them have that. So this makes it a little harder to cope. But there is a silent minority that still likes the team.
Fauth: Last year a lot of people were hate-watching and hoping they would do poorly, so with their success I think people moved on. At this point, why would anyone around here still be talking about the Rams?
Consoli: It’s a coach I never knew or worked with and a QB I never saw or met. It’s a different thing. It’s now just one of those teams that I see on TV.
Boyd: I think there’s quite a large segment of people who are still Todd Gurley fans, so I’m happy for the players. I have a few buddies who still have their Rams stuff up in their houses. They’re not going to give up their team because of a villainous owner. We’re still offering beer discounts after the Rams lose. We’ve added Roger Goodell’s face to Kroenke’s on our urinal screens.
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