With the league's relocation window not opening until January, the never-ending game of multidimensional chicken over which NFL teams will or won't move to Los Angeles has settled into a slow simmer. In the meantime, we've been getting a steady stream of non-news — first NFL VP Eric Grubman's bizarro "this is not a dog and pony show" listening tour of involved cities, followed Thursday by the release of two brand-new stadium promo videos, offering the latest in vaportecture from San Diego and St. Louis in hopes of wooing back the Chargers and Rams.
First up, San Diego:
The Sporting News calls the video "breathtaking," and I, for one, certainly couldn't breathe while watching it. The sun! The sky! "Rozelle Award winner Dick Enberg," in case you don't know who Dick Enberg is, but do know what the Rozelle Award is! Sea lions! Purple trees! "Sponsor activation zones for increased revenue"! There's eventually something in there about actually watching football, but who cares about that, when we can watch this trailer instead?
On to St. Louis, which is hoping to keep the Rams through its own composition of computer wizardry and soaring music:
I can picture the conceptual design meeting now:
Let's start with the concepts that we want the NFL to think of when defining St. Louis, something like "LEGENDARY" and "LOYALTY" and "LEGACY."
Um, you know "legendary" isn't a concept, right, it's an adjective?
I don't care if it's a conjunction, so long as they stop thinking "LOSERS," okay?
We then get a tour of all the exciting spaces that National Car Rental Stadium will have to offer: the seven "premium club venues," the two separate tailgating areas, the "upscale contemporary club spanning from river to field" (which I don't think is proper use of "spanning," but grammar went out the window a while back here), the ... you know, I can't help like feeling something is missing here. I can't put my finger on — oh, right: football! Where San Diego's video shunted off all the actual sports until the end, St. Louis (or really stadium designers HOK) have managed to put together a promo video for a football stadium that features no actual football at all, unless you count the players briefly visible on a TV screen at a stadium club.
Which is as it should be, I guess, since NFL execs have already suggested that the future of going to a football game is watching on TV from a stadium bar. That's fine as far as it goes — football has always been a sport that's better watched on TV, and you can argue that the league is just giving the people what they want, even if what they want is a three-story brewpub that faces away from the field.
Still, it's awfully strange to threaten fan bases with losing their teams if they don't agree to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on new stadiums. San Diego's plan for a Chargers stadium is too much of a mess to even try to quantify — the two sides have mostly settled into insulting each other rather than even trying to discuss financial specifics — but the one in St. Louis is now pretty clear:
• $201 million from the state by extending the hotel taxes that paid for the Edward Jones Dome — the brewpub-deprived stadium that Missouri built for the Rams 20 whole years ago — for another couple of decades.
• At least $50 million in state tax credits.
• $75 million from the city's share of those same hotel taxes.
• $75 million to be raised by having Rams owner Stan Kroenke hand over naming-rights money to the city to pay for stadium costs, which the city would then hand right back by rebating $75 million in future sales and income taxes paid by the team, in hopes that no one in city government will be able to follow the money.
(Grubman's response to this last gambit, incidentally, was to insist that the taxes teams normally pay are "an NFL asset in the way we view the world," and insisting Kroenke should be allowed to keep them and get city subsidies on top of that. Just in case you thought he was going soft after that listening tour.)
All this public cash is being justified as giving Rams fans "state-of-the-art" facilities for watching the game. But if it's really all about finding ways to charge fans to have the same old big-screen TV experience, there's a simpler solution: Maybe the NFL should just leave the old stadiums where they are, and open a chain of NFL-themed sports bars and sell tickets to those. It'd save everyone a lot of time and money — and we'd still always have the sea lions.