"Playoff" Experience

Yesterday, I went to the Rams game against the San Fransico 49ers.  I've been to about six games this year and it was obvious judging by the crowd what this game meant.  Granted, I am a smart enough fan to not have to use the crowd to realize the implications but I think you get the picture.

Let me tell you.  I don't know how it came across on the television, but the crowd was plenty riled up.  I haven't beenw to a game involving a competitive team with playoffs in the distance in my recent memory so I am comparing my experience yesterday to my experience the last few  years.  My experience the last few years has generally been expecting a loss, not getting much in the way of noise, and a collective group effort to make fun of the opposing fan.  [Greatest memory: In 2008, the Rams faced the Dallas Cowboys and this extremely overconfident and loud fan made it known where his interests lied.  By the second half, the Cowboys were getting killed and his mouth was shut and the insults were flying.  The most satisfying and hilarious defeat to date.  Best Rams win of the 6-42 era for me.]

Anyway, it was clear the difference between what we got yesterday... and what we got in the first seven games.  I would say that the crowd noise level on a "big" play in a typical 2010 Rams game was about the same as a regular play in yesterday's game.  Double it for the 3rd down plays and triple it for the potential game-changing plays.  I think the crowd may have influenced two false starts and Troy Smith was over-throwing receivers all day - perhaps mostly due to talent, but the crowd had to be in his head.

This made me wonder why there was a collective doubt that St. Louisians supported the Rams.  I think the answer lies with the product on the field.  When the Rams win, the fans will show up.  My excuse for the first seven games is that the Rams were always a sub-.500 team that just happen to play more bad teams than good teams.  Your average fan is smart enough to know this.  Would you rather see a potential loss on your big HD television or face the fury of defeat in front of opposing crowds?  I faced defeat everytime, but I can see the logic especially when games become unwatchable.  [And they certainly reached that point in agonizing losses].

You guys surely have heard that it was "Fan Appreciation Day" and it most certainly made me feel appreciated.  They gave out free jerseys to random seat numbers [My section was on the board twice, but my row and seat number were not close].  They made the soft drinks HALF-PRICE.  When I found that I out, I about sprinted out of my seat and got a souvenir cup for $3.00.  I even missed the cheerleaders!  Alas, they also gave out a free Ipad, free camera, and $2 hot dogs.  Amazingly, they would still be overpriced in regular society.  But I'd be damned if I pass up a $3 drink at a football game.  

What's funny is that throughout the entire game, I thought the Rams were receiving generous spots and the 49ers were receiving bad spots.  I thought I was supposed to be biased. I come and read the gamethreads and find out nobody thought the same.  Weird.

My actual game experience was extremely fun.  I am higher up in the seats, but every seat has a relatively good view of the game so I'm not going to complain.  The first half was frustrating to say the least.  We dominate in every statistic but rushing (which we were equal) and are losing due to two fluky plays.  

The first punt return was the fault of the coverage unit.  They seemed to clear out of the way of the returner and the blockers obliged giving him a huge hole.  The first guy that missed ran to the side expecting the returner to try and juke him.  You are supposed to run at the returner!  For the rest of the game, I had to heard these stupid fans talk about hitting it out-of-bounds to him.  Guys, he's not Devin Hester!  It was a fluke!  He's not going to return every punt for a good run and sure enough he barely gets ten yards combined the rest of the day.

The big TD pass was the definition of fluke.  Go ahead - check your dictionaries (twiddling thumbs).   See?  There was a picture of the TD pass under fluke!  Smith overthrew his first receiver and it went right to the receiver behind him.  What the hell?  What kind of luck do the Rams get if a QB overthrows his initial target and there just so happens to be a receiver behind him who has an open hole to the money bank.  That shit is just not fair.

The Rams meanwhile had a decent enough run game up to this point with a smooth-flowing passing game.  The defense had caused a safety (Correction: Troy Smith's hands caused a safety) and was putting Smith under pressure all day.  The pressure - and maybe the crowd noise - caused Smith to have bobbling hands and overthrow nearly every receiver.  He couldn't even catch the ball out of the shotgun.  That's a Tim Tebow mistake right there Troy. (Too far?)

In the second half, the fans around me became annoyed.  This one fan in particular was unclever and unfunny.  He goes to all the games and I normally find him funny.  But not yesterday.  First of all, he started yelling, "Fire Shurmur," which I can accept.  He said it about 15 times, but he has at least some evidence.  At the end of the first half, he yelled for the Rams to use one of their three timeouts when the 49ers had the ball with under 2 minutes left.  Hey dumbass, let's not help the Niners move the ball.  They had five yards to go for a first down and although hindsight says that they did not get a first down, a timeout gives them time to fool our defense.   

Then he clamored for us to use our tight ends more and to never run.  The Rams used their tight ends pretty effectively at the end of the first and third quarters since everyone was silent and staring at the big screen.  Oh!  Not that tight end?  Well, they did use their actual tight ends well I thought.  And to never run is just inconceivable.  The worst part was that all the fans around us were bowing down to him.  While they were drinking the Kool-Aid, I decided to drink a Pepsi.

I felt like the Rams let the 49ers have way too many chances.  I don't particularly agree with running THREE times at the goaline after that huge kick return.  I understand you want to waste some clock, but after the first two times it was clear our run game was not working.  Up until that point, i was trying to ignore the cat-calling voices around me and agreeing with the Rams' decisions.  But on third down?  Hell no.  Go for a touchdown!  That pissed me off.  

The run around to Gibson was great playcalling towards the two minute warning.  I don't think people realize that Gibson made a bone-headed play.  He was about three yards from the first down and he decided to literally hurdle the defender.  It didn't really work as he was knocked down and out of bounds.  He did get the first down though.  It was going to be third down though if he didn't make it.  The clocked got stopped at 2:07 and the 49ers end up getting the ball back with over a minute left.  Try to run over the defender and stay in bounds at all costs.  I trust Steven to get a third and one for us.  I am saying this even though the run game was about as effective as a bank robber with seven cops there.  And yes I felt like Steven got the ball and seven guys surrounded him.  Just awful.

Hypothetically, you have a catering job starting at 6:00 pm.  You are the buser.  You are guaranteed to get a $100 tip in addition to your regular salary.  The job should be easy with only 77 people there.  The boss says there is a reasonable chance you can leave by 9:00 pm, but at the same time it could be later.  The game starts at 7:20 pm.  Do you risk missing out on the whole game, but cashing in?  Or do you have to ABSOLUTELY see this game and miss out on about $130?  I lied.  This isn't hypothetical at all, this is the situation I am in.  HELP ME!  Vote on the poll below for me.

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