O’Boyle: Rams deserve relocation karma
Daniel O'Boyle | Tuesday, September 20, 2016
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams did what the St. Louis Rams before them made a habit of doing: playing their best games against the Seahawks. It’s the third straight game and the fourth in five where the Rams have won the matchup, despite being the underdog each time.
For the first game in their new home, it provides some hope for the newly-relocated franchise. Hope that’s definitely needed after an awful 28-0 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.
I have no time for franchises that move to a new city. The residents of St. Louis have had their pro football team taken away from them by Stan Kroenke, and fans have to choose whether to follow the new Rams, choose a new team or give up allegiance to any NFL franchise. The Rams have, of course, been in LA before. For much longer than they had been in St. Louis, in fact, but relocating a team was more common in the last century. It was something that I had hoped the NFL was finished with, but apparently not, and as long as the threat remains real, owners will hold taxpayers hostage over stadium bills.
So naturally, I wanted to see the Rams crash and burn. I hoped that maybe there were sports gods who would deliver relocation karma upon the Kroenke and the city of Los Angeles. A victory in the home opener over one of the most consistently strong teams of recent years in the Seahawks wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.
But maybe relocation karma just works in mysterious ways.
It’s hard to talk about high-profile team relocations without mentioning the Seattle Supersonics. The Sonics were sold by Howard Schultz and left Seattle for Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t exactly crash and burn right away, but eight years on, the Thunder’s punishment has been delivered in a much more slow-burning fashion.
First, raise the team’s hopes. Draft a few stars that make it seem like the team is destined for a championship in the future. Picking Kevin Durant for the Supersonics, Russell Westbrook the summer of the move and James Harden for the Thunder is the perfect way to do that. It even resulted in a finals appearance. Raise hopes and make everyone expect a championship, but never quite deliver. That means losing one of those three to a trade and watching him become a top-10 player in the league carrying a team by himself. Never deliver in the playoffs. Get cursed by Lil B if at all possible, and then finally blow a 3-1 lead to the 73-win Warriors, before watching your biggest star of all go and join that team for what looks like a guaranteed championship. If the Thunder do win a championship now with Westbrook, Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams, at least their fans will have known what it’s like to lose it all.
So what about the Rams? The same plan could work, with young stars Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley forming part of the core that eventually disintegrates, but it would be boring to punish every team the same. What the Los Angeles Rams deserve is exactly what the St. Louis have had for years: mildly disappointing seasons with marquee wins over the Seahawks, landing somewhere outside the playoffs but away from the top draft picks. Just good enough to seem like they’re one piece away, every single year. Just enough for Jeff Fisher to continue to keep his job. Going 0-16 and replacing the staff with more competent options is just too quick and painless for the Los Angeles Rams: Give them perpetual 7-9.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.