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With the 10th overall pick of the 1993 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams selected Notre Dame RB Jerome Bettis. Not long after, I convinced my mom to drop me off at the mall by myself for the first time. I bought my first NFL jersey, the perfect blue and yellow Rams colors with a 3 and a 6 on it that were nearly as big as I was. It’s probably still my favorite jersey ever, one I wore to see the Rams when they played the Dallas Cowboys to close out the 2005 season.
Not long after I bought it, I wore it to school because of course I did. Some kid I was entirely not friends with (which doesn’t have much to do with this story, but screw that guy) asked me why the hell I was wearing a Rams jersey.
“Because I’m a Rams fan.”
I’ve been a Rams fan for a little more than 25 years. I grew up a Rams fan surrounded by Cowboys fans, an outsider at a team when insider status was really easy to adopt. In the early 1990s without the internet and without social media, I was surrounded by Cowboys bandwagon fans who fell in love with Super Bowls (and tacitly, cocaine and prostitution, but hey, I’m not judging). I was stuck with the end of the Jim Everett era and forced to learn the early connection between football and concussions with Chris Miller. It wasn’t the best time I’ve had as a fan. The Rams finished last in the division four straight years. They were horrible on both sides of the ball. Nobody was showing up to the games. And then the team left LA.
I remember the Greatest Show On Turf. I left Dallas for college in 1999, spending my freshman year at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (don’t ask). I watched the Super Bowl with this one girl who’s name I forget. She was from St. Louis. She was the only other Rams fan I had ever met in person. When The Tackle happened, I took off sprinting. I remember where the hell I ended up or why I took off like a crackhead. But I remember just running.
In 2007 while I was deployed to Iraq the first time, I was reading a story about the Rams. It was unusually supportive of the Rams who had only had one winning season in the last five years. It talked about how the Rams were hoping that their draft class, led by CB Tye Hill, TE Joe Klopfenstein and DT Claude Wroten were coming along nicely (they were not). I was perturbed by the lack of honesty. I began looking for another outlet who was covering the Rams that perhaps wasn’t as willing to dismiss criticism in favor of access.
I found a new network called SB Nation that had fan-managed blogs. They were fun. They were funny. And they had one for the Rams.
Last year, I flew out to LA for New Year’s Day, which happens to be my birthday. I’ve been there for my birthday about a dozen times including the day I was born in Van Nuys. I’ve got tons of family out there. I took my daughter to Disneyland. I was going to take her to the Rose Bowl Parade, but she got sick (of course). I took her and my wife to their first NFL game, the Rams’ Week 17 game against the Arizona Cardinals. We had a great time. The Rams did not.
Before the game, we were walking around talking to people tailgating. I was talking to one older Rams fan who had brought his son into the Ramily when the Rams returned to LA. He was hilarious. We talked about the old Rams from the early 90s and how he had watched them in St. Louis, albeit reluctantly, because he couldn’t help but do so. He asked me why I followed them with such passion and how I could bring my young daughter to a meaningless game when the Rams were so bad.
My answer was as easy as it was when I bought that Bettis jersey in the middle of Cowboys country.
“Because I’m a Rams fan.”
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