Column: Bears,Chiefs & rest of NFL plans for St. Louis in post-Rams TV world

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- As the calendar turns toward July, and training camps get set to open, we’re about to get another heavy dose of reminders that St. Louis is no longer home to an NFL franchise. Football players and coaches will talk about how they’re optimistic about making a playoff run, that players are in their best shape ever. We won’t see any of it in person anymore, at least not here.

Despite the bruising the region took during the Rams’ departure for Los Angeles, the NFL is still banking on the fact that fans here will still watch pro football on TV. Viewers here will likely be treated to more doubleheaders than in the years we had a team, if the league’s treatment of the L.A. television market over the last two decades is any indication.  Full Disclosure/Shameless Plug Alert: FOX2 is still the home of the NFC package in St. Louis and is where you’ll see the Super Bowl in 2017 if you still care.

And today we announced this: FOX2 will carry four Chicago Bears games against the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Chiefs and Browns during the preseason.

The question now is what other team or teams wants to plant a flag here? Consider the battle joined.

You might recall that the Indianapolis Colts were eager to make a play for our affections just hours after the relocation vote.

More on the Colts in a little bit.

The Kansas City Chiefs team website reports that earlier this month the league told all teams that the Gateway City’s market was open for business. Kansas City President Mark Donovan shared that his team received inquiries from fans, business and community interests in St. Louis soon after the Rams left and that his club was one of several trying to make an inroads here.

“I think what you’re going to see over the next four of five years is a real resurgence of the Chiefs brand in St. Louis,” Donovan told the team’s website. “We do have some advantages over the other NFL franchises, not only in geography, but because it’s in the state of Missouri, we’re the only team that can actually market our corporate partnerships as well as our brand in St. Louis, so that’s a big advantage.”

The Chiefs have had several MU football alums on the roster in recent years, first with Chase Daniel and now Mitch Morse and Kirkwood grad Jeremy Maclin.  But thanks to the rise of fantasy sports betting, the NFL Ticket season package and more national television games over the air than we had twenty years ago, geography may be less of a factor for fan loyalty.

This author still doesn’t quite know what to do. I was born and raised in upstate New York and endured the Buffalo Bills’ run of four straight Super Bowl losses. As my career has taken me around the country, I’ll admit that I’ve become less attached to them-they’ve been largely irrelevant since a playoff loss to Jeff Fisher’s Tennessee squad the year the Rams beat the Titans in the Super Bowl.  Now, as I’m debating what to do with my loyalties, I know they won’t be with the Rams as a franchise. But guess what’s going on with the Bills? The team is in discussions about a long-term stadium solution to solidify a future in Western New York. I don’t think I can go through that again.

For some help, I turned to Konrad Faries, a longtime Colts fan here in St. Louis who admits to rooting for the Rams as a secondary team while they were here. But he said the Colts have made it easy for him to stay connected as a fan, even four hours away from Indianapolis, thanks to social media giveaways and what they do for fans who come see them in person.

“Just this month, the Colts held a mini-camp where they open the doors and allow fans to come on the field and play around,” Faries emailed to FOX2. ” I brought my two boys and one of their friends. After a few hours of play on the field, we grabbed a seat and the players came rushing out of the tunnel to sign autographs!

 

“The three boys got all the big name players autographs! The look on their faces was priceless! A loud horn blew and the boys came rushing back to their seat to show me their newly prized possessions. The players then began a mandatory practice. After the practice was over, fans were then invited to come back on the field to enjoy “The Lego Movie” on the big screens! The boys didn’t just leave with autographs, they left with memories. The boy we brought with us came as a Seahawks fan, but left as a Colts fan. I think that says it all!”

“The best advice that I can give a former Rams fan when looking for a new team is to find a team that is as loyal to their fans as their fans are to their team. Hopping on the wagon of the team that has the best record will only leave you wanting once again,” he said.