St. Louis Wins Settlement vs. NFL. So Now What?

Last Wednesday, the city of St. Louis settled its long-awaited case against the NFL, claiming that the league violated its own relocation rules when it allowed the Rams to return to Los Angeles in 2016 after having played under the golden arches for 21 years.

The settlement, which avoids a trial — and we all know how horrendous the NFL's past record in those babies has been! — is in the amount of $790 million.

Whether Rams owner Stan Kroenicke — whose wife is an heiress to the Walmart fortune — will be on the hook for the whole enchilada, as those in his team's new home town would put it, or the damages will be divided equally among the NFL's 32 owners, is not immediately clear, as ESPN reported.

Also not immediately clear, ESPN added, is whether or not St. Louis will get an expansion team to replace the Rams, as both Cleveland and Houston did when the "Cleveland Browns 1.0" and the Houston Oilers left those respective cities bereft of professional football in the 1990s.

With that in mind, the answer would appear to be yes — and suffice it to say that there were millions of fans in the San Diego area who were anything but disinterested onlookers in this matter; and the same can be said for Oakland, which lost their beloved Raiders last year.

New teams in all three cities would increase the number of NFL teams to 35 — which would not suit the suits that run the league indefinitely.

Therefore, a 36th franchise would need to be created, sooner or later — and among the candidates for that 36th team, there is no close second to San Antonio.

The nation's-seventh largest city, with a population of 1,434,625 as per the newly-minted 2020 census, and now more populous than Dallas (population 1,304,379), San Antonio could easily support an NFL franchise — after all, Green Bay, with less than 1/13th San Antonio's population, can. The only thing that might stand in San Antonio's way is the fact that it is 64.5% Hispanic — Green Bay, by contrast, is 75% white.

And why not slide down this slippery slope?

It is likely to take several years to get to 36 teams, assuming that St. Louis and San Diego get their expansion teams in the first round of expansion — in the first two years these two teams can play each other once in both years, alternating which team plays at home, and all 16 of the established teams within their own conference once each in both years, also alternating home and away vs. each established team, same as Seattle and Tampa Bay did in 1976 and 1977.

A 36-team league can also be realigned into three six-team divisions in each conference. The major virtue of doing this is that with each team playing 10 games within their own division, it is far less likely that every team in the same division will finish below .500 (as happened last year in the "NFC Least") or above .500 (quite possible this year in both the AFC North and the AFC West). And a further increase in the regular-season schedule to 18 games would not be necessary.

Assuming that the four new teams are indeed St. Louis, San Diego, Oakland and San Antonio, both St. Louis and San Antonio can be easily added to the NFC East, as the then St. Louis Cardinals played in that division from 1970 through 1987, and San Antonio would provide Dallas with a natural geographical rival, something the Cowboys haven't had since New Orleans was part of the old Capitol Division in 1967 and 1969 — and San Diego and Oakland would be even more obviously headed for the AFC West.

And as in the case of the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the alignment of the AFC's three divisions would be a no-brainer:

AFC East — Baltimore, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, N.Y. Jets — and if the Ravens don't like being moved, it can be pointed out that no one held a gun to Art Modell's head and told him that he had to abandon Cleveland 25 years ago.

AFC Central — Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Tennessee.

AFC West — Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, L.A. Chargers, Oakland, San Diego.

At a guess, the NFC's divisions might work out as follows:

NFC East — Dallas, N,Y. Giants, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Antonio, Washington.

NFC Central — Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa Bay.

NFC West — Arizona, Atlanta, L.A. Rams, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle.

(In terms of pure longitude, Atlanta is actually further west of both Charlotte and Tampa — plus the Falcons and the Saints, with more than half a century of history as division rivals, will die on the proverbial barricades lest they be split up — in addition, the Buccaneers played in the NFC Central from 1977 through 2001).

Assuming that St. Louis and San Diego would go in first, the NFL would have ample time to hit San Antonio's majority-Hispanic community with a huge advertising blitz in advance of the arrival of its new team — if they feel the need to "hype" the Super Bowl by having an off week after the conference championship games, why not? — and the "woke" crowd can actually do something helpful for a change, by accusing the NFL of being "racist" if they don't create a team for the city.

Plus, the relatively small but growing number of Hispanic former NFL stars, from Anthony Munoz to Tony Gonzalez to Roberto Garza — and hey, even Mark Sanchez and Jeff Garcia (the latter is a fluent Spanish speaker, by the way) — can be counted upon to do their part for the cause.

An NFL team beats a Modelo any day — and no pun intended, twice on Sunday.

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