This week Mole and Meares relocated to a new studio. Call it Mole and Meares studio 6.0. I was reflecting on Mole and Meares’ nomadic nature and I got to thinking about NFL franchises that have migrated to new cities. Out of curiosity I began to research and read about several NFL franchise moves. Breaking up is hard to do and in honor of Mole and Meares studio 6.0 I decided to chronicle six instances of NFL Franchises divorcing their respective cities.
We woke up and you were gone…
Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis
March 28, 1984 - Baltimore Colts fans awoke to an empty bed with their beloved team having left in the middle of the night to leave for a new home. The infamous images of snow covered Mayflower trucks leaving the Colts facility in the middle of the night would haunt Baltimore football fans until 1995 when the Ravens would come to town.
Of all the relocations in the history of the NFL, the Baltimore to Indianapolis move has to be considered the craziest in circumstance.
Stadium issues were the source of tension between the City of Baltimore and the Colts owner Robert Irsay. Irsay was seeking $15 million in renovations to their home stadium for the football facilities. In the spring after the Colts lease had expired; the Maryland General Assembly approved $15 million for renovation to Memorial Stadium but only half of that $15 million would go towards improvements for football. The other half would be used to upgrade facilities for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. In the aftermath of these events, Irsay contended that his intent was to keep the Colts in Baltimore but at the same time he was secretly discussing a move with six major cities. After it was leaked that Irsay was to meet with Arizona for a second time regarding a move to the Sun Devil state, Irsay cancelled the meeting. At that point the Colts went into “secret secret” mode and made a deal to move to Indianapolis.
March 27, 1984 - The Maryland legislature fearing a move by the Colts had one of its chambers pass legislation giving the city of Baltimore the right to seize ownership of the team by eminent domain. In reaction Irsay closed a deal with the city of Indianpolis to move the Colts to Indiana and the city of Indianapolis dispatched 15 Mayflower trucks to the team’s facility in Maryland. Irsay’s decision to move the Colts was made quickly and the decision to move overnight was due to a fear that the team would be seized by officials in the morning. The 15 trucks all took different routes out of town in case there was an effort by local law enforcement to stop them.
Despite the fact that the move was made without the NFL’s permission, the NFL did not contest the team’s relocation after losing in court to Al Davis on the same issue. (That case is noted below) In March of 1986, representatives of Baltimore and the Colts signed a divorce decree under which all lawsuits regarding the relocation of the franchise would be dismissed and the Indianapolis Colts would endorse a new NFL team for Baltimore when the time came.
How could you do that to us? Don’t ever show your face here again…
Cleveland Browns to Baltimore
Cleveland’s migration to Baltimore was very interesting for two reasons. The settlement reached between Cleveland Brown Owner Art Modell and the City of Cleveland set a precedent in American Professional sports and the settlement also resulted in Modell not being welcome in the state of Ohio.
The legal settlement between the NFL, Cleveland, and Baltimore resulted in the Cleveland Browns franchise being ‘deactivated’ for three years. Modell would retain the current contracts of players and personnel and be granted the 31<sup>st</sup> franchise in the NFL. This settlement proved to be a precedent in major American sports as nothing the likes of it had been seen before. In 1999 after a new stadium was built for the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland Brown franchise would be reactivated with the same uniforms, records, and player history.
As far as Art Modell, resentment towards him in the State of Ohio grew so intense that he was unable to attend a funeral of a friend in Northern Ohio out of fear for his safety. It is also believed by many that he has been left out of the NFL Hall of Fame due to it’s location in Canton Ohio.
In the end however, the two broken hearted cities in Baltimore and Cleveland find themselves happily ever after with their new franchises. Well Cleveland might need some marriage counseling but you know what I mean.
What a tangled web we weave…
Ok, bear with me on this one…..In 1952 the NFL Team of the Dallas Texans spent one year in the league and won one game. They were then dismantled. In 1960 the AFL was created and within that League the Dallas Texans were revived. After playing three seasons in Dallas and losing the 1962 AFL championship game to their in state rival, the Houston Oilers. Not wanting to share the Dallas spotlight with the NFL expansion Cowboys, the Dallas Texans decided to move to Kansas City where they would become the Chiefs. In their first season they would win the 1963 AFL championship game.
After 38 years in Houston, the Oiler decided that Nashville, Tennessee would be a better home in 1998. As it has been with many franchise relocations, stadium issues were at the source of the decision. After the Oilers move, the Great State of Texas was left with just one team, America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was at the beginning of a run of mediocre that is still going today.
When all the dust was settled, the history of the Texans team name came full circle in 2002 when the NFL expanded back into Houston. The creation of the Houston Texans franchise brought back the name of a team that started in the NFL in 1952 and had a 1-11 record. In the 2012 season after 12 weeks, the Houston Texans were 11-1. A tangled web weaved has led to a happy ending to this love story.
Please come back, I’ll do anything…
Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles then back to Oakland
Al Davis was the waffle king of franchise migration. In 1982 he decided that he would leave Oakland for a larger stadium (The Oakland Coliseum) and the number two television market in the country in Los Angeles. The move was initially rejected by the NFL owners and when Davis decided to move the team anyway he was blocked by an injunction. An ensuing lawsuit was ruled in favor of Davis and the Oakland Raiders became the Los Angeles Raiders.
In 1994 Oakland basically bought the back the Raiders Oakland by spending $220 million on stadium renovations and giving the Raiders a dirt cheap fixed rent. The renovations included a new seating section of 10,000 seats that was named after Raider owner Al Davis. The City of Oakland also built the team a training facility and paid all its moving costs. The Raiders pay just $525,000 a year in rent and do not pay maintenance or game-day operating costs. As of today the Raiders are the only franchise in the NFL to return to a former lover. It just goes to show that true love can be purchased at a price.
Everybody Leaves Us…
Los Angeles is the city with abandonment issues with regard to NFL teams leaving. In 1960 the AFL came to Los Angeles with the creation of the Los Angeles Chargers franchise. It was a brief romance however as the Chargers would relocate to San Diego a year later.
As noted above the Raiders came to the City of Angels and spent just 12 years in Los Angeles before going back to where they came from in Oakland.
In 1946 Cleveland Rams owner Dan Reeves fought the NFL and won approval to move his franchise to Los Angeles. The Rams would remain in Los Angeles until 1980 when they moved to Anaheim in nearby Orange County. The move was made by the Rams new owner of less than a year, Georgia Frontiere, for two reasons. Their current stadium, the Coliseum seated over 100,000 and rarely sold out, leading to television blackouts. Also there was a population trend in the direction of Anaheim. Fourteen years later due to stadium issues in Anaheim, the Rams followed the Raiders out of town to find a new home in St. Louis leaving Los Angeles devoid of any NFL franchises. If NFL.com had a section of their website for singles there would only be one member, the City of Los Angeles.
To have loved and lost, and loved and lost…
Chicago Cardinals to St. Louis, St. Louis Cardinals to Arizona
The Cardinals are the NFL’s oldest franchise and the only Charter member of the NFL still in existence. Formed in 1898 in Chicago, the Cardinals became a Charter member of the NFL in 1922 and remained in Chicago until 1960. In the 1950’s the Cardinals struggled greatly as a football team and their in town rival, the Chicago Bears completely overshadowed the franchise. The Cardinal owners wanted to relocate the team but did not have the finances necessary to relocate under the rules of the NFL. Attempts were made by several individuals to buy the struggling Chicago franchise but no deal could be made. The individuals attempting to buy the Cardinals reacted to their lack of success by starting a new league called the American Football League. The NFL, realizing this new league was a serious rival, quickly made a deal with Cardinal ownership to relocate the team to St. Louis. This revitalized the franchise and blocked the St. Louis market for the AFL.
The Cardinals would remain in St. Louis until 1988 when poor team performance, poor stadium conditions, and poor attendance led ownership to move the team to Arizona where they would become the Phoenix Cardinals. In 1994 their name would be changed to the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are the only franchise in the NFL to have loved and lost, loved and lost, and yet still find love again in a third location. Although after the way this season is going, they might be getting the silent treatment in Arizona.