Sports | March 5, 2020 3:07 pm

The XFL Has Found a Home in Football-Starved St. Louis

St. Louis LOVES its Battlehawks

St. Louis BattleHawks punter Marquette King daps up fans after a recent win against the Seattle Dragons.
St. Louis BattleHawks punter Marquette King daps up fans after a recent win against the Seattle Dragons.
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the early 2000s, Sports Illustrated published a cartoon that showed a horrified woman opening her husband’s closet. Hanging on his hooks were a New York Yankees jersey, a Los Angeles Lakers jersey and a St. Louis Rams jersey. The caption said something to the effect of “Discovering he’s a bandwagon fan.”

Twenty years later, it’s hard to say what the modern iteration of that cartoon would be. Twelve months ago, it would’ve been pretty straightforward: Houston Astros, Golden State Warriors, New England Patriots. But parity (and scandal) has had its say across the country’s three most popular pro leagues. The Yankees and Lakers, unsurprisingly, have both returned to dominance. The St. Louis Rams, though — who made the Super Bowl in 1999 and 2001, winning the first — no longer exist.

Sure, the Rams still exist. The franchise went to the Super Bowl just last year. But the St. Louis part doesn’t; the team moved to Los Angeles in 2016, returning to the city it had played in from 1946 to 1994. That move has been complicated for Los Angeles (the Chargers followed a year later, challenging the city’s appetite for football), but it’s easy to forget the city that got left behind. St. Louis loved its team. It’s making its peace lately, though, with a new XFL squad: the St. Louis Battlehawks.

So far, St. Louisans are all in on their Battlehawks. The opener was a sellout, and to make more room, the team is officially opening up seats in the upper deck for the next home game on March 21st. The team has almost twice the amount of Twitter followers as the New York Guardians (at 99.1K), local shops are selling out of official merch, and secondary tickets go for upwards of $100. Also helping: the Battlehawks’s punter is social media sensation and former Oakland Raider Marquette King.

As a recent ESPN features notes, some of this buzz is fueled by anger (piñatas of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who facilitated the move to LA, can be found at the tailgate). But St. Louis also just loves sports. It went bonkers when it got an MLS team, and anyone who’s seen the Cardinals play knows they have one of the most devoted fanbases in all of MLB.

The Battlehawks currently stand at 3-1 in a 10-game season. If they take home a trophy, expect the Mississippi to overflow with Budweiser.

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