By Andrew Both
(Reuters) – Three years after leaving St. Louis for the glamor of Tinseltown, the Rams are going to the Super Bowl, adding an extra sucker punch for many fans in the team’s old hometown.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke seems to be particularly reviled in St. Louis, so much so that one chain of sports bars has gone to extra lengths to give erstwhile fans an avenue to flush away their anger.
Hotshots will install 35 urinal guards sprinkled through their nine locations, each with a mugshot of Kroenke in the center to help their male customers aim.
They will do similar with their Kroenke-pictured dartboards, giving female patrons a chance to get in on the action too.
Beer will also be discounted each time New England scores a touchdown, in the “Slam the Rams” promotion.
Hotshots director of marketing Justin Boyd said the light-hearted promotion was a response to the void felt by football fans since the Rams left town.
According to Boyd, it was not so much losing the Rams franchise that upset St. Louis fans as the manner in which it happened that created so much bitterness.
The Rams left St. Louis even though the city council had approved the construction of a $1.1 billion stadium, which would have included $150 million in city money, with the rest coming from the state of Missouri, the NFL and Kroenke.
“Stan quite frankly treated our city poorly and really projected us in a negative way to get to his end game to get out to LA,” Boyd said in a telephone interview.
“He and his gang of henchmen went scorched earth on us, said St. Louis wasn’t a city for any team, not just the Rams.
“We had a new stadium ready (to be built). It wasn’t so much the end result as the intent, that left us holding the bag. He drove the product into the ground.”
Boyd said there were still small pockets of Rams fans in the city, but he did not expect many at the company’s bars for Super Bowl.
“The Super Bowl is not a huge bar day anymore. It’s much more a house party day,” he said.
St. Louis still has two major league sports teams — baseball’s Cardinals and ice hockey’s Blues — and the Cardinals especially have a connection to the city, having been in town for well over a century.
Moreover, they have enjoyed plenty of success, winning the World Series 11 times, while the Rams ended their two-decade stay in St. Louis with nine consecutive losing seasons.
“The Cards were always the top dog, even when the Rams were still here,” said Boyd.
Nevertheless, the NFL is the undisputed king of American sports leagues — based on television ratings and rights-fees — and not having a team hurts.
A replacement of sorts will come to St. Louis when the revamped XFL, which shut down after one season in 2001, starts back up next year, not so much a serious rival to the NFL but more of an off-season curiosity for fans who can’t get too much football.
Eight teams will contest a short 10-game season that will start only days after the Super Bowl next February.
St. Louis is the only city with an XFL team that does not also have an NFL franchise, and Boyd thinks there could be a market.
“Football fans in St. Louis are starved,” he said.
“I think there could be some real viability to serve fans who still want to enjoy football.”
Whatever success the XFL team has, though, is most unlikely to fill to void left by the Rams’ departure.
“He really stuck it to us,” Boyd said of Kroenke.
“There is a large hole missing not having a football team.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond)