St. Louis Rams to Billings Bighorns: Should Billings try to go pro? editorial by Michaela Shifley, photo courtesy of Billings Gazette

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The St. Louis Rams, a professional football team formerly located in Missouri, have recently decided to pick up and relocate themselves to Los Angeles, California. I don’t think the Rams really thought that move through – they should have instead chosen Billings, Mont., for their new home, thus becoming the Billings Bighorns.

From experience, I can tell you that Montanans love their football. Maybe it’s the thrill of watching guys hit each other really hard that intrigues so many of my peers and community members, or perhaps it’s the fact that there’s really nothing more exciting than sports games happening in this state. Regardless, sports – especially football – bring people together and create solidarity, at least for a few hours. Even I, someone

The Billings Bighorns' imagined logo

The Billings Bighorns’ imagined logo

who admittedly prefers more artistic forms of entertainment, can recognize the value of bringing people together from all walks of life and uniting them for one common purpose. A professional football team in Montana would pull us together as a community, and also foster state pride.

If we had a professional football team in Big Sky Country, I have no doubt that Montanans would be the most enthusiastic sports fans in the nation. Every time the Billings Bighorns scored a touchdown, the fire engines would blare their sirens and we would all drink a celebratory beer. Some of the more passionate individuals would most likely fire off a couple of gunshots into the air. All of us would proudly wear camo-colored football gear with our state’s team name and logo. The players themselves would become state heroes, similar to Dwan Edwards of Columbus (Carolina Panthers), Marc Marini of Havre (Chicago Bears), and Brock Osweiler of Kalispell (Denver Broncos).

The Billings Bighorns would also provide the Billings Bighorns’s imagined logo a much-needed economic boost to Montana communities that have been hit hard by the recession. The thousands of people that attend the games will flood into Billings, and along the way they will patronize local businesses, spend money at local hotels, and probably take in – and pay to see – all of the beautiful regional sites. Although I recognize that taxpayers may have to share some of the initial costs of developing the land and building the stadium necessary for a football team, the economic advantages the entire state would receive in return would be worth it. When the stadium is not in use, it could be used for other events, like outdoor con- certs, other sports games, and community gatherings. Hundreds of jobs would be created both during and after construction.

Some people I’ve talked to say that having a professional football team based in Montana could be disastrous. A few felt that the state wouldn’t have enough fans to make having the team here worth- while, while others said that the Montana mentality (slower paced life, friendliness, etc.) would be threatened. To the first, I would say that Montana has plenty of fans; after all, thousands upon thousands of people attend Cat and Griz games each year, and those are only college sports! As to the second, I feel that the Montana mentality is exactly the reason why a professional football team would succeed here. Montanans, being the friendly, open people that we are, would welcome a professional team into our community and ensure that it was imbued with the same tough, “get ‘er done” attitude that is a staple of this state.

Perhaps we will get a professional team to relocate here someday, perhaps not. Until then though, all I can say is: Go Billings Bighorns!

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