My Take: Completing 'Circle Game' of Cardinals and Rams

The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams play Sunday, two teams that played in St. Louis for a combined 49 seasons.

The seasons, they go round and round.

And the painted ponies go up and down.

We’re captive on a carousel of time.

We can’t return, we can only look.

Behind from where we came.

And go round and round and round in the circle game.

                                                                               --Joni Mitchell

The circle might not be complete, but it’s getting close.

For obvious reasons, Sunday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams has extra significance beyond what it means in the NFC West for the two teams.

For 42 years of my life spent in St. Louis, the two teams there were the Cardinals and Rams. There were 18 months in that span where my home was Las Vegas, but that was after the Cardinals had departed for the desert in 1988 and St. Louis lost an expansion bid in 1993 to Carolina and Jacksonville, thanks in part to current Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

Eighteen months later, Kroenke joined Rams owner Georgia Frontiere in bringing the team to the Gateway City and I beat the team’s moving vans to St. Louis by about a month. There was a remarkable Super Bowl title in the 1999 season followed a few years later by abysmal football while Kroenke still promised he would do his “damndest” to keep the team there even though he was already plotting a move when he said those words. He then, of course, pulled up stakes from his home state and took the Rams back to California in 2016.

Many of those shenanigans will come out in court in about 10 months unless there is a settlement of the lawsuit filed by St. Louis that the Rams and NFL tried vociferously (even hoping the Supreme Court would hear their arguments; it didn’t) to keep the case out of the courtroom, instead wanting it decided behind closed doors in arbitration.

But that’s a subject for another day.

The current story line is the Rams at 7-4 coming to Arizona to play the possibly reeling 6-5 Cardinals. After seeing these two teams play numerous times in person in St. Louis, now it will be in Glendale with little remnants of what they left behind.

The Rams love to claim the Lombardi Trophy from the 1999 season, but other than that, they have mostly purged their minds of the 21 seasons played there.

This is the fifth season they have been back in Los Angeles and only seven players remain from the last season in St. Louis: Defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, cornerback Troy Hill, tackle Rob Havenstein, running back Malcolm Brown, punter Johnny Hekker and long snapper Jake McQuaide.

If the truth be known, St. Louis fans still have a place in their hearts for the Cardinals franchise even though the Rams won a world championship and have been gone almost five years and the Cardinals more than 30.

They know then-owner Bill Bidwill and his family didn’t want to leave and Bidwill shed tears when they did. Kroenke departed amid lies and deceit and trashed a proud town as he slammed the door in its face.

So, yes, there was emotion when St. Louis was in my rear-view mirror in September, and Sunday’s game will surely include some.

Still, the seasons do go round and round in the circle game, and perhaps one of these ahead will end with a championship the Cardinals and their fans everywhere deserve.