In recent years, there have been several media misconceptions, particularly on a national level, in regard to the St. Louis Rams football team and the organization as a whole.
In my estimation, there are four major media misconceptions regarding St. Louis and the Rams that clearly stand out above any others that might exist.
In today's piece, I will take a look at the first of four media misconceptions that I often see in relation to the Rams.
St. Louis Is a Baseball Town Rather Than a Great Sports and Rams Town
Although some die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fans would disagree, the Rams were, by the accounts of many unbiased observers, the top dog in the city from 1999 through 2004 in spite of the fact that the Cardinals had already been in town for well over a century and have tallied the second most World Championships ever (11), second only to the New York Yankees (27).
The Rams went to the playoffs five of six times during the aforementioned time frame so one would expect that they received a ton of love.
However, the Cardinals themselves were in the midst of a terrific run, too, going to the playoffs in four of those six years with three culminating in trips to the National League Championship Series and one in a World Series appearance.
The point is, both teams were among the best in their respective sports at the same time but, according to many neutral observers, the NFL Rams were the toast of the town, trumping Major League Baseball's second all-time most successful franchise during a mutual period of excellence.
L.J., a long-time St. Louis native, sums it up like this:
Cardinals baseball is a century old establishment in St. Louis. People have been born, generation to generation, as Cardinals fans.
But when I look back at those greatest show on turf years with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce, it was the Rams who had this town's collective heart, this town's heartbeat and this town's attention, imagination, energy, excitement and love. The Rams took this thing over. The Cardinals were still loved, of course, but the Rams were the hot ticket and the big show in town, clearly, during that time frame.
This city suffered for so long with mostly horrible football with the Big Red and then the first few years with the Rams. Finally, we had some good NFL football and almost everyone seemed to be rabid for the Rams and so proud to have a good and overjoyed to have a good NFL team in the city.
St. Louis was recognized as the country's best sports city in 2000. As much as I hate to admit it, outside of the aforementioned 1999 through 2004 greatest show on turf era, the Rams on field performance has been repulsive.
The Rams greatest show on turf run, beginning in 1999, was sandwiched by the worst record in the league for the 1990s (with 1995 being their first in the Gateway City) and then an abysmal 29-83 mark from 2005-2011.
If that were not bad enough, the record from 2007-2011 (15-65) represents the single worst five year winning percentage in NFL history (at under 19 percent.)
It is quite amazing, then, when considering the awful football that St. Louis has endured outside of the brief G.S.O.T. era, that the Rams have only sustained nine blackouts in the last seventeen seasons.
According to this from stlsports.org, St. Louis put together 95 straight regular-season sellouts from 1995-2006.
Outside of the 1999-2004 run that saw St. Louis go 56-40 for a .583 winning percentage, the Rams have been atrocious, going 51-125 and winning under 29 percent of their games.
For the entirety of the 17 seasons, the Rams have won just 39 percent of their contests.
Astonishingly, 2011 was the first year the Raiders sold out every game for an entire season since their return to Oakland.
Admittedly, the Raiders, like the Rams, had just one short run of great football since 1995, a short stretch that saw them earn three consecutive playoff berths, two AFC Championship appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl. They were decent in five other campaigns, winning eight games in each of those seasons.
To put it bluntly, the Raiders were bad during the past 17 seasons, winning just 113 games. However, the Raiders had 82 blackouts during the same stretch that saw St. Louis win even fewer games, 107, while enduring a comparatively tiny amount of blackouts, nine.
If St. Louis is not a great NFL city, as some foolishly say, then what does that say for Oakland?
The fact of the matter is, St. Louis does indeed love the tradition-rich Cardinals. However, St. Louis is far more than just a great baseball city. It is a great sports city, period.
St. Louis is a town that has always supported the Rams tremendously through what has been almost two decades of mostly awful, putrid and uninspiring football.
When rapper Nelly was winning Grammy and American Music Awards at the time when he was one of the biggest pop icons in the world, the St. Louis native and baseball lover himself was painting his video car in Rams colors, not Cardinals red.
St. Louis has not just supported the Rams and Cardinals, but also possesses a great track record of supporting the NHL's St. Louis Blues (since 1967) and is one of the top soccer hotbeds in the entire nation.
It is amazing, when considering how other teams like the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings have had to request extensions to attempt to sellout playoff games in recent years, that St. Louis gets a rap as a baseball city, a label that is absolutely false to those in the know who pay attention rather than nodding their heads in agreement with misinformed urban legends.
It is easy, when looking from afar at St. Louis and its' historically rich baseball tradition and over 100 years of roots in the city and when looking at the team that has been aided by the mighty KMOX AM radio signal (which helped the Cardinals develop one of the most far-reaching national audiences of any sport long before cable TV and regional baseball broadcasts), to think of St. Louis as a Cardinals city or a baseball city.
It is easy, too, when realizing the Rams have only been here for 17 seasons and seen only modest comparative success, to view St. Louis as a baseball town. However, that is absolutely not the case.
When the Rams have even been remotely competitive, they have never had problems selling out their games. On the other hand, other cites who have had good teams, like the San Diego Chargers for so many years, have had several blackouts during playoff seasons.
Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals went 9-7 but came in last in attendance and had six blackouts, two- thirds the total the Rams have had during 17 seasons in the STL.
The point in bringing up other cities attendance woes is this: none of the previously mentioned get the rap of being something other than an NFL city like St. Louis does, yet many other cities have done worse (in regard to attendance) when having similar or better teams and traditions than the Rams in the Gateway City have.
In short, if the team is competitive, the stands will be full in St. Louis. That is not the case in other cities that are sometimes deemed better NFL cities than St. Louis. For a so-called baseball city, St. Louis and the state of Missouri sure has supported football, and mostly atrocious football, exceptionally well.
In 2011, the Rams preseason games (yes, preseason) doubled the Cardinals, who went on to win the World Series, in the ratings department. The Rams preseason games were the highest rated of any programming in St. Louis during that month.
In fact, the highest rated 2011 Cardinals game drew an 18 rating. The average Rams game, in a 2-14 season, was well above that figure. Last year's home opener (as another head to head comparison) outdrew the pennant chasing Cardinals game, on the same day, by nearly a four to one margin.
Although this should not be unexpected since the NFL only has a 16 game schedule, we are talking about some phenomenal numbers if one is to go along with the thought of this merely being a baseball town.
If this is just a baseball town, is it not a slap in the face for the sorry Rams to draw nearly four times the viewers as one of the historic pennant chasing games of the Cardinals? I guess a whole lot of people were accidentally watching the awful Rams of 2011, thinking they were watching a baseball game, rather than the eventual World Series winning Cardinals?
Obviously, that was not the case. For a baseball town, people sure as heck like to watch them some Rams football, even horrid Rams football, even at a time when the Cardinals were going for the gold and playing some amazing baseball.
All of the above, in relation to the TV ratings, is all the more impressive for a team in the midst of the worst five year winning percentage of all time.
Just like anything in life, though, perception seems to become reality. At one time, most people thought the sun moved around the earth because that is what they were told.
However, as we now know, that was not actually the case.
We could name example after example of how error laden perceptions take hold, sadly, but you probably get the point.
St. Louis is not just a great baseball city, it is a great sports city, one of the best in the nation.
Next week, we will look at the second of four media misconceptions about St. Louis and the Rams: that the Rams are not playoff contenders in 2012.