Professional football returns to St. Louis, only to have the season cut short

Former+Missouri+Tiger+and+current+St.+Louis+BattleHawks+wide+receiver+L%27Damian+Washington+%282%29+jogs+down+the+field+Sunday+in+St.+Louis.+%5BMathew+Kirby%2FFor+the+Tribune%5D

Mathew Kirby/For the Tribune

Former Missouri Tiger and current St. Louis BattleHawks wide receiver L'Damian Washington (2) jogs down the field Sunday in St. Louis. [Mathew Kirby/For the Tribune]

Since the Rams left in 2016, St. Louis has had to live without professional football; however, the Xtreme Football League (XFL) has brought the sport back.

In 2018, Alpha Entertainment announced the creation of the ten team league, which included the St. Louis Battlehawks. After five weeks of playing, and a 3-2 record, the XFL has shut down its season due to COVID-19.

“It sucks honestly,” sophomore Sam Nordstrom said. “I was excited for this season and just to have football again.”

After the first home game for the Battlehawks against the New York Guardians at the Dome at America’s Center, Feb. 16, the XFL announced that St. Louis had the best attendance in the league, with a sold out home opener of more than twenty-nine thousand fans in attendance.

“I would say our fans get a lot more angry with the other teams,” Nordstrom said. “I’ve lived in New York [and] been to a game in California, but nothing compares to St. Louis. It almost felt like the game was to prove a point to [Los Angeles Rams owner Stan] Kroenke after he trashed our city, and we showed out and proved him wrong.”

A former season ticket holder for the Rams, English teacher Dan Barnes used to have decorations all over his classroom walls. The day after the announcement that the Rams were leaving, the decorations were gone.

“I actually came into school early the day after the announcement and took them all down,” Barnes said. “I had gone to all the rallies and done everything I could to get them to stay, and I felt lied to when they left.”

Junior Griffin Snyder, who moved from California to St. Louis, has never followed the Rams like the rest of the St. Louis natives in the school.

“I actually was a [Detroit] Lions fan, but I went to one or two [Rams] games a year back in California,” Snyder said. “I was disappointed when we moved last year because football is a big part of my life, and the closest football team is four hours away. At first, I wasn’t super excited, but I’ve started to follow the [Battlehawks] team more; they’re definetly my favorite XFL team.”

When the Rams left, the Dome at America’s Center downtown was left with no purpose, but now, it can be the home of the Battlehawks for at least the next two years. The XFL was given a start-up for the first two years from the NFL, and after that, the XFL is on its own financially.

“I think a lot of people were angry about the Rams leaving for a lot of reasons, but one of them was definitely because it left the dome with nobody to call it their home,” sophomore Gavin Stolz said. “The energy at the Battlehawks game was crazy though, and I think everybody is content with the new home team.”

After five weeks of football and building their fan base, the Battlehawks inaugural season was cut short.

“It was really disappointing,” Stolz said. “When the NBA closed I wasn’t too sad, and even when the MLB shut down it wasn’t as bad as hearing that a league in its first season was already done because of something they couldn’t control.”

Having developed their fanbase over the short season, the XFL have amassed more than 602,000 Instagram followers, and the Battlehawks have gained more than 126,000 followers.

“When they said we had the best attendance in the league, I knew we were going to have a great season,” Nordstrom said. “You hate to see what happened, even if it was for the best. Hopefully, they can come out next year an even better team than the year before.”