I saw your column in Thursday’s paper — first thing I read, always enjoy them — and was delighted to see you are about ready to join the Chicken Little Club. The sky is falling! The Rams are leaving!
As you know, I’m a charter member. I joined before Stan Kroenke officially got control of the team. In fact, you might remember we had dueling columns about this in April of 2010.
I wrote a column expressing concern that if Kroenke got control of the Rams, he might move them to Los Angeles after the 2014 season. In that same day’s newspaper, you had a column dismissing those concerns. You wrote that Kroenke had told you that his mother-in-law and her sister went to every home game. You wrote, “Kroenke didn’t finish the obvious point, but I’ll finish it for him: Why would anyone believe that he’d want to move the Rams away from beloved family members.”
An editor called me the night before the columns ran and asked if I wanted to make any changes in my column. After all, I had no sources. I was just speculating. I declined to make any changes. This is St. Louis. We’re a fatalistic people. What can go wrong will go wrong.
Besides, if Kroenke’s mother-in-law wanted to go to a game in Los Angeles, she could just go to the airport and buy an airline. That’s the way these people are.
In the ensuing years, you’ve sometimes snickered at the Chicken Littles, but always, I like to think, in good humor. Last year, when an arbitrator ruled that the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission’s plan to update the Dome was inadequate, the Chicken Little Club was in full throat. The sky is falling! You remained upbeat.
“The process of attempting to secure the Rams’ future in St. Louis can now begin in earnest, and that’s positive. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is committed to keeping the team in St. Louis, and he’s aware of the behind-the-scenes discussions that are underway in our town,” you wrote. You cited multiple sources who thought the likely site for a new stadium would be in the Bottle District just north of the Dome.
We were in full throat again when Kroenke bought a chunk of land in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, you made light of our concerns. You wrote, “Rams owner Stan Kroenke has added to his properties. He’s the proud new owner of the 124,000-acre Broken O Ranch in Montana. The asking price was only $132.5 million. I’m thinking the Chicken Littles will be clucking about the Rams moving to Billings now.”
Do you remember the famous Twilight Zone episode in which aliens landed on earth and began transporting some earthlings to their planet? The aliens had a book, “To Serve Man.” At the end of the episode, a cryptographer cried, “It’s a cookbook!”
This whole thing has reminded me of that episode. NFL commissioner Goodell is committed to keeping the Rams here. He wants the league to serve the people of St. Louis. It’s a cookbook!
Now the league has assigned an executive to oversee the league’s return to Los Angeles, and you have joined us. Actually, you have not quite joined us. All you said was, “This has my attention.” You expressed hope that “influential and powerful figures” will do something to keep the Rams. This is the time to act, you wrote.
I would ask, who are our influential and power figures? Brother Bernie, they are gone. We are a branch office town.
But finally, we have your attention. That is the important thing. Once you open your eyes to the possibility that “To Serve Man” is a cookbook, you will come over. That is why I already consider you one of us.
Let me welcome you in advance and share with you some of our secrets and rituals. The password is, “Bawk, bawk.” The countersign is “Cluck, cluck.” After the password and countersign are exchanged, we crunch the right hand up in a chicken claw and touch claws with each other.
We meet on Thursday evenings at Humphrey’s near St. Louis University. The Exalted Chicken himself — that would be Ray Hartmann — generally presides. In his absence, the Esteemed Chicken — that would be Alvin Reid — takes over. You are, of course, welcome to attend any time.
However, Brother Bernie, I have to express minor disappointment with some of the language in Thursday’s column. You wrote, “This goes beyond the usual shrieking from Chicken Littles who already have moved the Rams to Los Angeles 129 times.” Why take a swipe at the club? You are practically one of us.
Yours under falling skies,