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Bernie: Give NFL a victory, Kroenke a defeat ..

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  • Bernie: Give NFL a victory, Kroenke a defeat ..

    Thursday, March 29, 2012

    Rams owner Stan Kroenke failed in his high-stakes attempt to make a winning bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A group put together by Magic Johnson won the auction and shocked the sports world with a successful, if crazy, $2 billion offer.

    This may have been a loss for Kroenke, but it was a win for multiple parties.

    This was a win for the NFL.

    I don't think the NFL wanted Kroenke further distracted by adding yet another toy to his collection of sports franchises. The NFL would like to see Kroenke do his best to fix the Rams and come up with a resolution to the stadium-lease issue.

    I don't think the NFL was much interested in getting into another rules skirmish with Kroenke. Had he purchased the Dodgers, Kroenke would have been in violation of the league's cross-ownership policy, because the NFL controls the LA market. The NFL gets to avoid that potential conflict.

    It was also a win for baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. His trusted ally, longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten, is part of the winning group. Kasten will run the Dodgers; MLB got to keep this in the family.

    Kroenke did pass muster financially to qualify as one of three finalists for the Dodgers. But MLB wasn't enthusiastic about handing a crown-jewel franchise to a largely absentee owner who has so many other teams and business interests. The Dodgers occupy a special spot in baseball's heritage and deserve undivided attention.

    Moreover, MLB probably didn't want the Dodgers and Chavez Ravine to be in the middle of Kroenke's potential maneuvering for an NFL franchise in Los Angeles.

    It was a win for Dodgers fans, who are happy to have an LA sports icon in place at Chavez Ravine. Magic Johnson didn't fund the $2 billion purchase, but he recruited the money men, and he'll be on the ground in LA as the constant face of the franchise. Kroenke was no match for Johnson's LA's cachet, connection or vast popularity.

    OK, so what does Kroenke's defeat mean for Rams fans?

    Answer: to be determined.

    Kroenke lost a little leverage in St. Louis when the Dodgers slipped away from him. Rams fans and some uninformed pundits already were in a frenzied state, convinced that Kroenke (A) would get the Dodgers and (B) move the Rams to Los Angeles approximately 18 seconds later.

    It was never that simple, because the NFL plans on being doggedly protective of the LA market and will tightly control the process of putting a team there. The price on the Dodgers' sale only reinforced how valuable a LA-based NFL franchise would be for the owner, and the league isn't just going to allow anyone to sweep in and cash in. That's obvious, but the reality did nothing to prevent the paranoia from festering in St. Louis.

    It only strengthened Kroenke's leverage to have the Chicken Littles clucking and shrieking in St. Louis, fearful of his potential Dodgers-Rams parlay.

    Sure, owning the Dodgers could have gotten Kroenke dreaming of building an LA sports empire. I reject the notion that a Rams move was inevitable in this scenario, but we'll never know for sure. The Dodgers got away from Kroenke.

    However, the same old reality remains in place: Kroenke can still try to move the Rams. Unless he can make a deal to extend the lease at the Edward Jones Dome, Stan the Businessman almost certainly will have an escape clause to leave St. Louis after the 2014 season.

    So nothing's changed. Dodgers or no Dodgers, Kroenke can attempt to move the Rams if the two sides can't agree on a lease.

    I'm still among the seven or eight people in St. Louis who believe Kroenke will stay. As one NFL owner told me recently, Kroenke still has one of the best lease arrangements in the NFL.

    So what's the problem? Kroenke is a cold guy, but he isn't a bad guy. Stan just can't help himself; tough negotiations, and the art of the deal, excite him. So he'll push hard to get the necessary stadium improvements here.

    Even if Kroenke tries to move, he won't receive a speed pass from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

    What continues to get lost in this conversation is the NFL's ambivalence about the LA market. The NFL isn't close to being sold on the two flimsy LA stadium proposals.

    The NFL doesn't need LA right now. The league has a long-term labor deal in place. Late last year the NFL reached agreements with its television partners that guarantee a massive jump an estimated 60 percent in TV revenue. The new deals are triggered in 2014.

    The NFL can't make money on an LA team. Not now, anyway. These monster TV deals already are in place. And it actually helps the league to have fans in the Los Angeles area unattached to a local team. Instead of being stuck watching the same team on TV each week and being subjected to blackouts LA fans are free to watch a larger variety of televised games. That's good for ratings in that huge LA market. The networks love that.

    It also helps NFL owners to keep Los Angeles open; it provides leverage as they haggle for new stadiums or enhanced leases in their current home markets. Why give up that leverage? Owners need the threat of LA to frighten politicians and fans at home. That's another reason Goodell is unlikely to allow any team to rush into Los Angeles.

    In the end, this will probably come down to Kroenke making his best deal with St. Louis.

    There are hopeful signs. Take the lease negotiations, for example. An important part of the Rams' objective is to make the gloomy dome a more fan-friendly and appealing venue. The Ed was poorly designed, and I like it that Kroenke sincerely wants a better place for fans. The Rams should be commended for that.

    Kroenke is trying to improve his chronic loser of a team. He spent a small fortune to hire Jeff Fisher as coach. He brought in a new GM in the promising Les Snead.

    The rookie GM made a great trade, sending the No. 2 overall draft choice to Washington for three No. 1 picks and a second-round selection. The Rams and Kroenke also spent a bunch of money to sign three impact free agents.

    Positive things are happening. There's a long way to go, with too many roster problems to solve in one offseason. Anyone with a functioning brain understands that this will take time. You don't dig out of a five-season disaster (15-65 record) in one year.

    But Kroenke deserves credit for giving the Rams a fresh start by aggressively installing new football leadership. And chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and the Rams' staff continue to work hard to make this a better franchise off the field.

    Until Kroenke agrees to an extension at the dome, he can't completely reinvent the Rams. It's not possible. The fans won't trust Kroenke, or embrace him, until they know he's staying.

    For now, at least Kroenke is trying to improve the Rams' on-field product. That's a start. And now that Kroenke won't have to worry about the Dodgers, he can focus even more on the Rams.

  • #2
    Re: Bernie: Give NFL a victory, Kroenke a defeat ..

    I try not to read Bernie's articles anymore. I can actually feel my brain cells dying with each word he writes. Mommy, mommy, make it stop. Make it stop!!!!!!
    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!


    • #3
      Re: Bernie: Give NFL a victory, Kroenke a defeat ..

      Originally posted by Truth View Post
      I try not to read Bernie's articles anymore. I can actually feel my brain cells dying with each word he writes. Mommy, mommy, make it stop. Make it stop!!!!!!
      You need to try harder .. Next time you see a thread starting out with "Bernie" .. ya know .. ;)


      • #4
        Re: Bernie: Give NFL a victory, Kroenke a defeat ..

        Oh, come on...

        Its not like Bernie's articles are useless.

        Sometimes, I suffer from insomnia.


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