Bad Breakup Still Stings for One-Time Rams Fans in St. Louis

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) – The overriding rooting interest St. Louis has in the new NFL season is whichever team might beat the Rams the Los Angeles Rams.

Monday’s late game at San Francisco is the Rams’ first regular-season contest since leaving its 21-season stay in the Gateway to the West for, well, the West.

Eight months after the league approved owner Stan Kroenke’s relocation request, jilted fans haven’t shaken the resentment. Not by a long shot.

“I definitely feel betrayed,” said 66-year-old Buzz Webb. The retired real estate agent figures that since his daughters live in Kansas City, he’ll take a shine to the Chiefs.

What about the Rams? “Whoever is playing them, I’ll root for that team,” Webb said. “I still love the Rams players that were here, but the Rams as a whole long gone to me.”

St. Louis is widely known as a baseball city, and rightly so given the Cardinals’ history of success on the field and in the stands they have topped the 3 million attendance mark for the 13th straight season. It wasn’t long ago that the Rams were at the top of the heap, too.

Hundreds of thousands lined the streets downtown in 2000 after the Rams beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl 34. The Rams sold out every home game from their arrival in 1995 until December 2006, a 95-game streak that ended due to a dreadful run of football that continued through their departure.

The Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003, and, along with Kroenke’s obvious interest in L.A., the fan base soured, dropping to the bottom of the league in attendance. Kroenke’s proposal to move the team west and build a $2 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, was met warmly by league owners.

At a “Turn or Burn” event Saturday, about 150 people came to the Elks Lodge in Oakville, a St. Louis suburb, with their old Rams clothing and hats. They could either burn it or have it shipped to Los Angeles and donated to needy veterans. Most opted to donate.

Bob Eckelkamp, 70, who helped coordinate the event, said one of the highlights of the night was shooting paintballs at a poster of Kroenke a native Missourian and public enemy No. 1 in St. Louis.

“I don’t know if people hate the Rams so much,” Eckelkamp said, “they mostly hate Kroenke.”

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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