13 Years Later, Post-Dispatch Finds The Fine Print

Hey, who knew that the Rams built in an escape clause in their contract?

The Rams wouldn’t have moved to St. Louis from Southern California without the existence of the TWA Dome and its lucrative lease. The franchise’s move to the Midwest led to a second wave of relocation in the NFL, and sparked an unprecedented boom in stadium construction throughout the league.

And if the Rams could move from the nation’s second-largest market to a mid-level market in the Midwest, it could happen anywhere. Owners wanted to keep up with the revenue stream that a new stadium produced; cities worried about losing their team if they didn’t have a new stadium.

One new stadium after another sprung up around the league. Jerry Jones’ new $1.12 billion playpen in suburban Dallas opens next month. In 2010, when the New York Giants and Jets move into a $1.6 billion stadium, 22 of the 31 other NFL teams will be playing in new or massively renovated stadiums that were built after the St. Louis dome opened in ’95.

All of this might be of only marginal interest to the Rams — and to St. Louis — were it not for the “first tier” provisions of the relocation and lease agreement negotiated between the Rams and the CVC in 1994 and ’95. The first-tier provisions were the work of Shaw and are the envy of just about every other team owner in the NFL.

Huh, who could have known about the provision that the football team could break its lease if the stadium wasn’t one of the top ones in the league? Only opponents of the public funding of the stadium in 1995. I’ve snickered about it myself for over a decade now, pointing out that they could either hold the city up for more or take off.

But now the crack team of the Post-Dispatch is all over it:

So what are the first-tier provisions and the mechanisms that could lead to the departure of the Rams? The Post-Dispatch obtained a copy of the 1,700-page lease and relocation agreement from the CVC and with the help of a local attorney sorted out the first-tier language.

You know, perhaps if you’d read some opposition work from 1995, you’d have already known that. But the St. Louis paper’s institutional memory is shorter than most, what with turnover of reporters, editors, and ownership since then.

Hey, an inscrutable, thousand plus page document being waved in front of the people as a triumph without comprehension or attention? What does that remind you of?

The bottom line on the American health care system is that it makes absolutely no sense.

No one — not conservatives or liberals, doctors or patients, businessmen or humanitarians — would design such a system starting from scratch.

It’s paradoxical, pricey and porous. If President Barack Obama has his way, it’s about to get a significant overhaul.

Senate Democrats already have released several draft proposals that they hope will expand insurance coverage and control costs. That’s no mean feat. Even many who wish them well doubt that it’s possible.

In both cases, the paper will cheerlead the passage of something it only understands at a high level, and when the time comes and all the bad things shake out, it will run stories to gin up more.

In the case of the Rams, it will be more government money to improve the stadium and keep the underperforming, underloved team here.

In the case of a government health system, it will be more control or more money or maybe all of the above.

I hope I don’t prove right in 15 years.