JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 01: Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams attempts a pass during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 1, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
It started during the Green Bay - New Orleans game. Seeing two of the teams the Rams will be facing this year playing "lights-out" football in the first game of the season made me smile for a while. Then it happened. I felt small beads of sweat at my temples and noticed I'd curled into the fetal position on my couch. In a schizoid battle royale, my right hand fought to keep left hand thumb away as it crept closer to my mouth. Closing my eyes, I ran to the kitchen. Tripping on the edge of the area rug, I flew the last to few feet, sliding all to slowly on the tiles floor to a painful stop. Crawling the last couple of feet, I blindly reached up and slapped at the water faucet's lever. Standing to my full height, I began splashing water on my face, then stopped... To scream... Hot water not being what I had hoped for, I moved the lever to cold and began again. I moved to the bathroom to see how badly I'd scalded my face. "Not too bad?" A bit of color to my cheeks and forehead, nothing more. But the beads of sweat remained...
My momentary tempest was caused by the end of hoping the Rams are once again a great team and the reality, the test, that Sunday brings. Will all I hoped, and written about, come true? An end to the innocence of the preseason faces me with denial or truth. Who will my Rams be?
Has the Rams defense added the pieces to step up to the next level? Can Sam Bradford really step up to elite status with a cadre of new wide receivers and take their place among the great past Rams offenses? Did Billy Devaney bring in great players or work me like that last car salesman, who convinced me a Yugo is every bit as good as a Mercedes-Benz? At this point I decided to jump in the Yugo and take a drive to Walmart as I contemplated the meaning of Ram football.
Since the car stereo's one station was having an "Achy Breaky Heart" marathon, I turned it off and continued my thoughts on the Rams' future. Is Steve Spagnuolo building a future Super Bowl team that can go into Green Bay and win? What about New Orleans? Can he handle a Drew Brees led team and does he know that "Who dat? has as much to do with Paul Lawernce Dunbar as it does bad T-shirt grammar? What about the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve...?
I didn't take the lack of welcome from the Walmart greeter personally as I headed to the one place where I could find solice. The Ice Cream Section! Standing before the wall of glass doors, I felt a momentary bliss. Then a kid walked up and stood next to me wearing a #7 Philadelphia Eagles jersey. The beads of sweat returned as I returned the child's satanic and quizzical stare. OK, I was staring at his reflection in the glass door, but I didn't break our pseudo eye contact.
"Eagle's fan?" I said, still not looking at him.
"What? Uh, yeah I guess so. Why?" The kid reached for some God aweful creamery contusion called "Banana Sundae Cookie Dough Fruit Swirl".
Not wanting to show my obvious superiority, I held back from reaching for the "Caramel Crunch Chocolate Swirl". "The Rams are going to beat them like a red headed..." I changed tack when I notice the child had red hair and he started to glare at me. "Er, uh... I meant to say the Eagles are going to lose Sunday."
"Michael Vick is is great and the Rams suck!" He turned and ran from my soon to be formulated verbal retort.
Not wanting him to have the last word on the subject, I reached for a pint of Ben and Jerry's whatever and threw it at his receding form. I missed and hit a huge and poorly engineered potatoe chip display, causing it to fall over in slow motion. In that moment, I knew that all would be right in my world. After grabbing my ice cream, I walked quickly in the opposite direction. I rounded the corner as two Walmart employees headed to the noise of the still falling display. They looked puzzled when I told them "Michael Vick did it", and moved on.
As I pounded the ice cream container on the scanner at the self check out counter, I knew the Rams would be OK. My team would play Sunday with more than the idea of winning just that game against the Eagles. The moves the front office have made are the right ones. The Rams are my team, no matter what comes. We will win or we will not. The season has sixteen games. There will be weak opponents, and strong ones that will send us away a little scathed. What made my world right itself and my self doubt fade was the fact that other teams are "Banana Sundae Cookie Dough Fruit Swirl" and the Ram aren't. As I walked to the Yugo, I felt a cool breeze. Right there and then I knew that no matter what happened Sunday, I'd still get to breath my share of air and eat ice cream as I write, just as I'm doing right now. So screw wondering about the next's next. Enjoy the game!