I don't know about the rest of you, but the Rams hold a special place in my heart.
Growing up in Central Illinois, I was surrounded by Bears fans (including my own father). I started getting into the NFL when I was 15 years old. I associated myself as a Bears fan early on, but the ties weren't strong. Heck, Bears games were the only games on in my house! Then, one Sunday, everything changed (10/17/1999). My Uncle, who lived in Belleville, called me and asked if I wanted to go to a St. Louis Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons game with him. As a growing NFL fan, I couldn't refuse. I had no idea what I was in store for.
Begrudgingly, my Dad gave me permission to go, and we made the hour and a half trip down to St. Louis. We met my Uncle in the parking lot of a Metro Transit station. We parked on the east side of town and took the Metro to the game. The metro was packed with people wearing those beautiful blue and yellow Rams jerseys, which remain my favorite NFL uniforms to this day. Having never been to an NFL game, this was all very new to me. The enthusiasm was infectious.
Fast-forward to the game.
We got to the game and entered the EJDome. Do any of you remember the first time you stepped inside an NFL stadium? Do you remember that first second inside where time seems to stand still and your whole being is consumed by something much bigger than you? Well I do, and it was breathtaking. The players were larger than life and the buzz within the stadium was addicting. We took our seats and I soaked it all in. My Uncle made sure to seat me in a specific seat which was odd. The stadium filled up quickly and I realized why my Uncle made me sit in that specific seat. I was seated by a lady my Uncle liked to call "Large Marge". Large Marge was an avid Rams fan who occupied her seat, and portions of the seats to either side of her. She even asked if she could finish my nachos once I set them down. Needless to say, I didn't refuse her.
The game started and the intensity in the stadium ramped up a notch. After the Rams scored their first touchdown the crowd celebrated with chants of "We're gonna beat the "crap" out of you...you...YOU YOU YOU". I was in love. My Bears fan father could tell and realized the battle had been lost. The Rams went on to beat the Falcons 41 to 13, but my ride was not quite over.
We left the stadium and headed towards the Metro. Once down in the subway, I was surprised as the celebration continued. My side, the east side, of the subway yelled in unison "WEST SIDE SUCKS" and the west side responded accordingly. It was all in good fun and I couldn't get enough of it.
I was hooked, addicted, obsessed, and I never looked back. I grew up an avid Rams fan and my Uncle took me to two games every year. My Uncle passed away recently and it made me reflect on WHY I became a Rams fan. I became a fan because a man took the time to introduce me to a community. I wish I could go back and tell my Uncle how much I valued everything he did for me.
People in St. Louis do care about the Rams. It may not show all the time in attendance numbers, but just remember what it was like in 1999 and know that it can and will happen again.
If you took the time to read this, thank you, but I think I wrote this for myself. My Uncle meant a lot to me and the Rams were our special bond.