I'll start by saying that I had never been to St. Louis prior to this weekend. As a Rams fan, only thrice had I ever seen the team live, and all three of those games were from FedEx Field in Washingt…Landover, MD. In my mind I knew the trip was long overdue, and now - Monday - I can say with certainty that I’ll be making up for lost time by planning trips to St. Louis annually.
The trip, which was predicated around Rams Twitter folk kicking off the 2013 season, was far more than "let’s meet outside the Edward Jones Dome an hour before the game." The group, which I believe was around 30 people, had plans to meet up on both Saturday and Sunday.
As a quick aside, I’ve resided in the Twitter-sphere for right around one year now. I’ll admit that Tevin initially sparked an interest in my now favorite form of social media, after doing a roundtable discussion and noting that I was the only member of the TST bunch that hadn’t joined the masses. Call it peer pressure, but it worked. Prior to that, I had read a few tweets, but found the application only useful for me during the NFL Free Agency and Draft periods. I was wrong, and I’ll give credit to Tevin for nudging me in the right direction. Just like TST, it’s great for friendly banter. More importantly, I wouldn’t have met a lot of great people this past weekend had I not joined. I’m sure there are a few Catfish folks out there, but rest easy, none reside in #RamsNation.
While a bunch of the "tweeps" met up on Friday night, most likely enjoying delicious libations, my wife and I went to a friends house in nearby Chesterfield, MO. It wasn’t until Saturday that I was to meet a group of folks who I’d been tweeting [or simply following] for more than a year.
The fun, and introductions, started at 4pm on Saturday. Location: Rams Park.
As part of our group ticket purchase, we were provided with a tour of Rams park and a Q&A session with a couple of the staff. The introductions were easy, and the tweeps [as expected] were as advertised. It was as if we were old friends. Sappy stuff aside, the tour started when the team’s Social Media and Research Analyst - Kevin Orris - greeted us at the front door, let us wander around snapping photos for a few minutes, and then providing us with the agenda.
We started off in the team’s class room…or at least that’s what I’m calling it. The auditorium had stadium style seating, and each chair had a fold-away desk top. There was a massive screen at the front of the room. I assume that’s where they reviewed footage of them beating the Cardinals today [sorry, but the win still feels good]. The walls were covered with giant murals, charts displaying this season’s opponents, and samurai motivation. This was probably the first thing that caught my eye. I love it.
After we received our tickets for the ensuing game [accompanied by $10 vouchers for food/merchandise], Kevin began our trip through the facility in the weight room. There were no small weights there. We kinda wandered around for about 5 minutes making jokes about lifting things that would hospitalize the majority of us, or stacking boxes so that we could provide our best Justin Veltung impressions. We continued through the training room, where there were plenty of small weights and plenty of tables and equipment to rehab the players. There was no one in it then, and I’ll hope that stays relatively vacant for the majority of the 2013 season…and postseason [sorry, but the win still feels good].
One of the many highlights of the tour was getting to go into the locker room, where the players had been a mere few hours before. We were told not to touch anything, and as difficult as it was not to, I obliged. I did, however, marvel at my favorite player’s lockers. My camera - of course - was acting funky, and with my iPhone nearly dead, I was only able to capture a few pics worth anything. I’ll tell you that I saw Chris Long’s locker, where he houses a packaged action figure of the Blackest Night. Surprise, surprise! Some of the lockers were messy. I saw Stedman Bailey’s undergarments…just air-drying. Yeah.
Tony, who I might’ve initially thought would’ve been relegated to expertise only in financing, was as knowledgeable about the team - and football as a whole - as they come. He answered every question without hesitation, and you could sense the sincerity in his responses. Prior to leaving, though, Kevin and Tony awarded the longest tenured Rams’ fan with two field passes for Sunday’s game.
I saw Tony leave the game in a suit last night and, as expected, he trailed a mere two feet behind Demoff. In street clothes - on his day off - he was kind enough to spend an hour with us at Rams Park on Saturday. I’m very thankful that he did.
And then… Sunday.
I woke up at about 4:30a on Sunday morning, and was unable to go back to sleep. The anticipation was killing me. So was the fact that it was 4:30a…ugh! First priority of the day? Find a sporting goods store in St. Louis that sells Rams jerseys. I have several, but found it necessary to spend $100 on one with a swoosh on it. I’ll tell you right now that if you’re heading to the Nike Outlet in the St. Louis, turn around. They don’t have what you’re looking for. Long story short, I had narrowed it down to Tavon Austin or Chris Long. Finding a Chris Long jersey in St. Louis appears to be as difficult as finding one of Craig Dahl.
So I’m all amped up. I’ve got my new #11 uni in the bag, I’m about 3 hours away from game time, and I’m getting into my gameday vibe. As a slide into my new jersey, I realize that one of my shoulders is lower than the other. No…wait. It’s not me. Shew! The bad news, though, was that my "11" looked more like a "=". Crooked! Not the way I was hoping to start my day. I’ll give Dick’s Sporting Goods credit, though. They handled my return quickly and sent me on my way.
The pre-game festivities for the Twitter crew were held at Lumiére Casino/Hotel. As I’m getting off of Route 40 [don’t make the mistake of calling it 64], I get a bit nervous. There are Cardinals fans everywhere…St. Louis Cardinals, that is. Despite some foul whether in the AM, the Cardinals faithful still made their way to the ballpark to see the Cardinals play the Pirates. It was a sea of red, and fans who I would’ve liked to have seen help #FillTheDome. I gained a better grasp on the meaning of "baseball town" at that moment.
Arriving to Lumiére, though, I quickly found the entire Rams’ population. I kid, but outside of a Arizona Cardinals jersey or two, the place was jam-packed with folks in blue and gold. It was at this juncture that I met the one, the only, TST’s finest… Daniel Doelling. I knew I was in the right place.
Upon arriving to the Dome, I’ll admit, I was a bit overwhelmed. I’ve watched the Rams on TV [aside from the aforementioned Rams @ Skins games] for nearly 15 years, and being inside the Edward Jones Dome provided a feeling like nothing I’ve experienced before. You could feel the energy. Football was back, and I was seeing the action live. And for the first time in my existence, I was surrounded by Rams fans. It’s not often - bordering on never - that I’m able to celebrate a great play - a TD - a win with people rooting for the same team I am.
We arrived early enough that I was able to run around and snap a few pics…of both Rams and Cardinals players [one of which punched away six points]. The nice thing was that security levels [in regards to seating] were slack. I walked into any section I wanted, and as close to the field as I liked. Try that in D.C. and see if you’re watching the game live that day.
It wasn’t as if I needed any more inspiration, but the Dome certainly provided some…
I won’t get into the details of the game in my post, and I’ll be more than happy to discuss the Rams 27-24 victory in the comments. What I will say, though, is that Sunday’s game is going down as one of the best live sporting events in my lifetime. I’ve been to countless sporting events in my life, but there might be none more enjoyable than Sundays’s game in St. Louis. Sure, to some it can be looked at as "just another game," or "only the first game of the season." For me, Sunday was a day that I’ll never forget.
The festivities, for myself and Twitter squad, didn’t stop immediately following the high-fiving and victory celebrating. The party carried outside quickly, and rightfully so. As you’re well aware, the Rams have some very fast players. They’re fast on the field and they’re fast in the showers. It seemed as though it was minutes after the field was cleared that players exited the stadium. Metal guardrails lined the area [approx 20 yards wide] that lead the players from the Dome to the parking garage.
If you’ll allow me to digress for a moment, I missed the kickoff of the second half of Sunday’s game because I wanted to buy hat while in the stadium. Two very friendly, very inebriated women [a mother/daughter combo actually] forced me to try on about 5 hats before deciding on a sideline hat [all blue].
…now back outside. I find myself trying to push up to these guardrails as quickly as possible, all while attempting not to drool on myself [or others] as the players start to exit the building. Yes, I was a bit starstruck [sue me!]. After about 30 minutes or so [hell, it could’ve been two hours, I wasn’t going anywhere] the hat that two drunk ladies helped me pick out…was no longer a hat I could wear.
[In case you’re wondering, that’s Rodney McLeod, Chris Givens, Chris Long, aaaaand Sam Bradford]
If you’ve made it this far through my ramblings, I’ll say thanks for sticking through it. I know it may seem a bit much to be making a big deal of my visit to St. Louis, but I am, and I feel good about doing so. The game was excellent. The Rams won. I met a lot of great people that I now consider friends.
If you’re not on Twitter, let me just suggest you do so. Tevin was able to get me to join, and this past weekend wouldn’t have happened for me if I didn't. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll lead to a game-changer of a Sunday for you.
**Note: I left a lot of names/twitter names out of this post, but one that I feel needs an infinite amount of recognition is Betsy Lancaster. Betsy - who writes for Rams 101 - coordinated everything that happened this past weekend. From the tickets and vouchers, to meeting spots, and the tour of Rams Park, she was behind the scenes making it happen. See ya next season! Give her a follow @lancasbg **