“I think, number one, St. Louis is a top-tier fanbase – for all sports.” – Battlehawks’ head coach Anthony Becht.

I was a kid when the NFL returned to St. Louis, and I remember hearing a tale that is surely apocryphal but nonetheless foreshadowed what was coming.

Busch Stadium hosted the Rams’ first home game – a 17-13 win over New Orleans on September 10, 1995. Rams’ marketing guys who had relocated from Los Angeles were puzzled by the crowd’s tepid response to Jock Jams meant to fire them up.

Someone local suggested playing Anheuser Busch’s anthem Here Comes the King. The West Coast transplants stood aghast when the crowd snapped to life.

What sort of backwater Midwestern Cowtown is this?


It’s the same one that packed Busch Stadium before first pitch yesterday to greet the annual rendition of Here Comes the King, complete with trotting Clydesdales. Contrast the scene with Los Angeles’ home opener last week when the best baseball player in the world – $700-million-man Shohei Ohtani – stepped to the plate at Dodger Stadium for the first time with hundreds, maybe thousands, of ticketholders sitting on the 110 freeway.

The Greatest Show on Turf bobbed-and-weaved to success they’d never reached in Hollywood. Ticket and merchandise sales soared. Warner, Faulk, Bruce, and Holt lit up the scoreboard. Mike Jones’ tackle won Super Bowl XXXIV.

But read the relocation application Stan Kroenke submitted to the NFL or the infamous “AMF Letter” penned by Rams’ executive Kevin Demoff, and the meaning of the story from 1995 becomes clear.  The Rams’ brass never understood – or maybe never wanted to understand – the Lou’s sports market.  They considered themselves an adopted member of the family.

The Dome was nothing more than a foster home.

The Battlehawks (0-1) host the Arlington Renegades (0-1) at the Dome on Saturday night, a pivotal game in Week 2 that is part of a packed sports schedule expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators downtown.

APRIL 8, 2023: The Vegas Vipers against the St Louis Battlehawks at The Dome at Americas Center on April 8th, 2023 in St. Louis, MO.
(© Scott Rovak/XFL)


More than 35,000 of them will file into a charmless concrete edifice that somehow looks older than its 29 years. The video boards and amenities are antique. In press row, there’s a jack for a phone line cable with a peeling label that says “Post-Dispatch”. The faded green turf will mercifully be replaced following the 2024 season.

None of that matters to the throngs of faithful because St. Louis fans don’t require amenities or gimmicks or giveaways or promotions. They don’t need Jock Jams either.

When the XFL brought football back to St. Louis in 2020 it proved to be a fleeting glimpse. The Battlehawks played just two home games before COVID-19 killed the season and the momentum. The league resumed in 2023 and resilient ‘Hawks fans flocked back to the nest.

St. Louis thrashed Arlington, 24-11, in the last spring’s home opener – a game that began with XFL owner Dany Garcia telling a record crowd she was “proud to be here” and featured chants of “S-T-L” after each first down and Nelly’s 2001 hit Ride Wit Me over the ancient speakers when the ‘Hawks hit paydirt. “Ka-Kaw” signs were everywhere.

Was it cheesy? Yep.

Was there a little bit of pandering, perhaps? Maybe so.

But the message from the XFL to St. Louis couldn’t be clearer: We care about your city and your traditions. We need you and we’re giving it our best.

The league – now the United Football League (UFL), a merger between the XFL and USFL – hasn’t stopped courting its most important market.

“Selecting the championship game location is more than just the stadium, but the community and the fanbase that surrounds it,” UFL President and CEO Russ Brandon said when St. Louis was selected to host the league’s championship game on June 16.

“This is why we are proud to bring our Championship to St. Louis – a city that has loved and embraced spring football from the start.”

The embrace may have been born from anger and disappointment but it’s no surprise that it’s evolved into genuine affection.

St. Louis wanted a football team, and the fans deserve to be valued and respected. Starting on Saturday night, the UFL will once again deliver on all counts.

Enjoy the opener, S-T-L.


Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505