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St. Louis Rams' New Owner Offers Hope
St. Louis Rams' new owner offers hope
Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The pending sale of the Rams to Shahid Khan is cause for optimism. Khan represents the classic American success story. It's the kind of story that's made America so great. It's the kind of story that we traditionally root for, and point to, with pride.
Born in Pakistan, Khan arrived in the U.S. in 1967. He was a teenager then, and St. Louis was Khan's landing spot, his first stop on American soil. Khan went on to earn an engineering degree at the University of Illinois. He married his college sweetheart. He built a successful career and a blissful personal life in America's heartland, living in the Champaign-Urbana, Ill., area for more than 40 years.
And that bodes well for St. Louis and the Rams' future in our town. Khan has roots in this region. He didn't take his fortune and move to Malibu, Napa Valley, Aspen, the Hamptons or some other trendy spot. Khan remained in the Midwest. And that gives us a legitimate reason to believe he'll want to keep an NFL team in St. Louis.
Khan is a football fan. He has a luxury suite at Illinois home games. Khan has helped Illinois football coach Ron Zook by giving Zook use of Khan's private jet for recruiting trips. He's been generous in his support of academic and athletic programs at Illinois. ShopSTL Marketplace
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In an interview with Mike Owens of KSDK-TV and Marc Cox of KMOV-TV, Zook praised Khan as "a competitor and a winner. He's a very successful man. He's been very successful in everything he's done and there's no reason to think he won't be successful in the National Football League."
As a bonus, Khan is a Rams fan. He's made that Sunday trip from Central Illinois to attend games at the Edward Jones Dome. Like you, Khan has watched the Rams at their best, and he has seen the Rams at their worst. And that's valuable. Khan figures to have a handle on what needs to be done to pull the Rams from the ditch.
Provided that there are no glitches or unforeseen problems — and Khan still must gain clearance from NFL owners — he'll be in position to make a positive impact on the franchise.
And I give lots of credit to Rams majority owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. From the beginning, Rosenbloom told me he would strive to sell the team to someone who wanted to keep the Rams in St. Louis. Someone who, at least from what we can tell, has a favorable view of the city.
Khan fits that description. And his presence is timely; no wealthy individuals from the immediate St. Louis community stepped up to make a bid to become the majority owner, so Khan can save the day.
OK, now that we've covered the pleasantries, let's switch gears.
No one can predict the future, and no owner — including Khan — should be taken for granted. Even if he has the best intentions, we shouldn't assume anything. There are obvious issues and problems in the market.
In many respects, Khan couldn't have picked a worse time to take over the Rams. The team was 1-15 last season and may not be much better in 2010. Fan support is eroding. There's also the looming labor war between the NFL owners and players and the threat of a lockout that could wipe out the 2011 season. And if that happens, good luck selling tickets in 2012, or whenever play resumes.
And there's also the potentially contentious lease issue. The Rams most likely will be able to opt out of The Edward Jones Dome after the 2014 season. There is no conceivable way that the stadium will rank among the top 25 percent in the NFL by 2014, as stipulated by the lease agreement. So unless there's a compromise, the Rams would likely have the freedom to bolt after five more seasons.
And there's no public money — or sentiment — to fund a new stadium. Somehow, Mr. Khan and civic leaders will have to forge a comfortable arrangement. A stopgap deal to keep Khan happy and keep the franchise in place beyond 2014.
"I'm not sure that anything can be done to the Dome to make it one of the best stadiums in the league," said our town's Dan Dierfdorf, the CBS football analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer. "Which means that the only way the Rams are going to stay in St. Louis is if there's some cooperation and some give and take from both sides.
"The community is probably going to have to step up and do more than maybe they would like, but the new owner of the Rams is also going to have to be willing to settle for less than what the lease actually says they're entitled to. And if you can get that meeting in the middle somewhere, if you can get that spirit of cooperation, that would be the best thing in the world."
It won't be easy.
The best thing that Khan can do is to connect with local power brokers in an effort to build a network of allies to help him solve the stadium issue. And the surest way for Khan to enhance the organization's revenue flow is to improve the team and create a demand for Rams football.
Said Deirdorf: "I think this town wants to hear Mr. Khan say, 'I desperately want to win, and I will do whatever it takes to win.' And that means hiring the best football people and putting together an organization that's really devoted to the city and devoted to winning."
That's sound advice. The Rams have an alluring opportunity for a fresh start under a promising new owner. That alone provides a reason for renewed hope.
Re: St. Louis Rams' New Owner Offers Hope
Now that chip won't be in charge anymore, does that mean we can go back to the 'disco' gold pants?
Re: St. Louis Rams' New Owner Offers Hope
A potential owner who is a life long rams fan himself, sweet!
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