Emptiness Again for St. Louis Football Fans

By Howard Balzer

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

It seems hard to believe it was merely 18 days ago that this community experienced a cathartic moment that no one will ever forget. Surreal I called it then while trying to put into words the night of the home opener what had just happened.

Now, also late into the night, it’s again difficult to find the right words after fans, players, coaches and countless team support personnel that poured their hearts into this league had the rug pulled out from them because of a virus that hardly anyone truly knows about much less what the next few weeks and perhaps longer will be like.

It’s certainly a numbing emptiness, not unlike the emptiness I described in a XFL video about football’s return to this city and what it had been like for the 1,503 days it had been since the NFL allowed a mega-rich Missouri native leave this town without a team for the second time.

It was a little after 6 p.m. Thursday when the official announcement everyone was expecting came from the XFL that the season had been canceled at its halfway point.

The league did say that players would receive their base salaries and benefits for what would have been the final five weeks, while also insisting there is the commitment to play “a full season in 2021 and future years.”

Meanwhile, it is expected that players like BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who sent a heartfelt tweet Thursday, will be able to immediately sign with interested NFL teams.

Previously, the NFL had established a rule that no XFL players could be signed until the day after the April 26 championship game, but that will likely be shelved.

Players signing soon will be able to report to offseason programs that begin in April, assuming the health crisis will have abated by then and they will proceed as scheduled.

Still, St. Louis did itself immensely proud with the way the community rallied around a team that cared and came to love every minute they spent here while playing good football and putting themselves in position for a potential championship. Many others aside from Ta’amu tweeted their appreciation Thursday evening.

Tailgating and football returned to downtown St. Louis and it was gratifying to see the dome-field advantage rise again.

It’s also important for me to profusely thank 590 The Fan for committing to covering this team like no other media outlet in the city. BattleHawks Live was broadcast six days a week (unless there was an Illini basketball game) including before and after games.

So many contributed many hours to make it happen, often pulling rabbits out of their hat quickly to get shows on the air with professional imaging: Station owner Randy Markel, John Hadley, Jim Heuer, Nate Lucas, Joe Roderick, David Solomon, Matt Rocchio, Johnnie Lomax, Joe Davis, Patrick Kelly, interns Matt Pratt, Matt Ceriotti, Chris Rogers, AJ Dicandia and Austin Crick and all the daytime show hosts that talked BattleHawks football during their shows. I will never forget the dome personnel who worked overtime before the first home game to get a dedicated Internet line installed, and we learned it had been tested and worked a mere 16 hours before the start of the pregame show Feb. 23.

As I noted at the top, it was fun … no, it was a blast while it lasted covering a football team again. For me, someone that has been at this for more than 40 years, it was surely a memorable five weeks.

Here’s hoping the league can fulfill its promise and stay the course.

Weirdly, as Thursday turns to Friday, March 13, it’s exactly 11 months until what everyone hopes is the 2021 season opener on Feb. 13, 2021.

Hey, that’s only 337 days away. We just have to patient again.