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I was a diehard fan, until the St. Louis Rams broke me

Dear future fan: The NFL isn't worth your money.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON -- One glorious summer day in college I got bit in the ass by a German Shepherd while loafing under the Wyoming sun. A while later, I watched my favorite team, the St. Louis Rams, lose a Super Bowl, on Feb. 3, 2002, the day Patriots dynasty began.

So I know something about pain (like a dog's teeth sunk into the fatty part of my posterior) and loss (like watching Tom Brady's game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXXVI) and that no matter how much you consider their possibility, or even see them coming, you can't do a damn thing about it when pain and loss actually happen.

In ninth grade, my friend Kyle had a red t-shirt with the words "future fan of a St. Louis football team" ironed onto the front of it. Bill Bidwill packed up the Cardinals and left for Arizona a couple years before that. Like my father's family, Kyle's family had deep roots in the city. I didn't have much of a connection to the Cardinals, but Kyle did. The shirt was enough to get us talking at the time about what a shitty thing it was to pull up stakes and move a team like that. There'd be another team soon enough. Eventually. Maybe.

We finally got our "future St. Louis football team," in 1995. By the time 2006 rolled around, I was trying to convince Tyler Bleszinski that his sports blog network definitely needed a blog about the St. Louis Rams.

Watching the Rams over the last 12 years became a special kind of punishment.

"How can you write anything about that team," people would ask when I told them I ran a Rams blog. I never had a convincing answer, but I didn't care. I liked my terrible team and there were a lot of other people who liked it too.

But relocation was hanging over the team's head even back in 2006. The issue didn't build to a fever pitch until 2012, the same year the Rams hired Jeff Fisher and launched yet another era of dull, mediocre football.

At Fisher's introductory press conference Stan Kroenke, the owner, made one of his rare appearances in front of the media. The team was barreling toward a showdown over its lease on the Edward Jones Dome and the infamous "first tier" clause that opened the door for Tuesday's decision to officially let Kroenke pack it all up and move to greener richer pastures in Los Angeles.

"I haven't taken a lot of jack out of the market. I have put a lot of jack into the market," Kroenke said when asked that day about the team's lease situation.

Obviously the guy didn't buy the team to run it like a non-profit. But when he said that, you knew what was eventually going to happen.

I watched his damn team play anyway, one disappointing season after another.

Something was different though. The frustration caused by the team's previous losing efforts -- even a miserable 2-14 run in 2011 -- was replaced by a growing disdain for the whole operation. The product on the field didn't mean anything to the owner. It was just another thing to put in his portfolio, like a tacky mansion dropped onto the side of ski run.

The team sucks and the owner is only interested in maximizing his investment. My cynicism metastasized fast. I wasn't alone either. Friends and family and fans I'd never met walked away in droves; legions of empty seats at every home game made that clear.

I thought I was ready for what was coming. I wasn't. There's not much to like about this Rams team anymore, but once it was clear that the NFL was going to let the Rams become the second team in my lifetime to leave, I felt things again.

I'm infuriated by the fact that the league's only real gauge of winning is pushing further toward Roger Goodell's goal of making it a $25 billion a year business. The Rams' move was just a means to get there.

There's disbelief that it actually happened, not that you ever buy into the lip service about a fair process and selfless people doing everything they can for us fans. In the end, I just felt sad.

I've never really looked at dogs the same way after one put its teeth into my ass. Every time the Patriots go to the Super Bowl, I get a little uncomfortable. But I don't really care how far the Patriots go into the playoffs, and I still love dogs.

There's probably a screen printer somewhere in St. Louis working on an updated version of that "future fan" t-shirt. Don't waste your money.


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