The Los Angeles Rams continued to survive as the NFL’s only unbeaten team on Sunday outlasting a feisty Green Bay Packers team making their first visit to the Los Angeles area since 1991. While there were plenty of storylines following the game, much of the post-game buzz related to the massive amount of Packers fans that filled at least half of the ancient Coliseum bowl for the game. It was not so dissimilar to when a team like Barcelona visits the Rose Bowl for a friendly.
Packers fans clearly had this one circled well in advance.
I had the honor of attending the game and would go so far as to say that roughly 60% of the fans in attendance were cheesed-out for the event. Of course, heavy contingents of visiting fans is nothing new at games in Los Angeles. We’re still a reborn infant among NFL cities, but the showing did serve as a checkpoint for the Rams as they regrow their roots in Southern California. Back in St. Louis, this would occasionally happen against teams like the Packers and Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs. In LA, we’ve encountered huge crowds of Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders fans at the Coliseum. This particular game seemed to aggravate many of the more hardcore Rams fans though perhaps mostly because the Rams are currently undefeated.
And let’s be honest. Our Rams deserve a home-field advantage. And as Owner Stan Kroenke said last year, we just don’t have one...yet.
There is a laundry list of excuses and/or reasons to help explain the phenomenon. The Dodgers played in the World Series that day as part of the LA Sports Equinox. Also, Rams fans could make up to five times the face value for their tickets on Stubhub selling to the highest bidder who, often, were Packers fans. Packers fans travel well in general, but moreover for Wisconsin transplants and nationwide Packers fans this was a once in lifetime event that they were willing to pay for. Coming to LA to play in the historic Coliseum before our new stadium opens in 2020 is actual bucket list stuff.
All these factors are true. There will always be plenty of visiting fans who support teams that develop national brands after decades of success like the Packers, Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. Those teams and a few others should be expected to bring a sizable crowd for a destination game like LA. But to put put up a majority of attending fans means that developing a local fan base is still a work in progress for the Rams, plain and simple.
Yes, the Rams fans overwhelm the stadium against teams like the Arizona Cardinals, or Los Angeles Chargers and will take over during playoff games, but for regular season games against established franchises? Clearly, we’re not there yet.
The game actually reminded me of the 1999 Rose Bowl when a large percentage of UCLA fans sold allocated tickets for a profit to desperate Wisconsin Badgers fans who were traveling across the county. One difference worth noting is that a large swath of Rams season tickets, particularly on the visiting sideline, are not in fact owned by fans but by ticket brokers (whether official or unofficial) who care little about the Rams’ home-field advantage. Unfortunately, those same brokers will have dibs on season tickets in the new stadium in Inglewood. So unfortunately, this trend will likely continue until the Rams generate enough buzz that their new fans have more of an appetite to attend games than a transplant fan that has one chance to see their team in person.
Due to transplants and having no team for twenty years, Los Angeles may be the most extreme example, but it’s far from the only city that deals with hordes of visitors. Other warm-weather cities like Miami and Arizona attract vacationers and transplants alike. Consequently, those home teams see seas of visiting jerseys in their stands. Even “America’s Team”, the Dallas Cowboys, have been overwhelmed with red San Francisco 49ers jerseys and navy Chicago Bears jerseys largely because the Jerry Dome is on everyone’s must-see list. This week kicked off the first waves of major no shows at games that will only continue for teams out of the playoffs. The optics of those games will be much worse than packed houses at the Coliseum between Rams fans and opposing fans alike.
But 60%? That’s just too much green and yellow in the (whose house?) Rams’ House. When the Eagles come to town, that percentage might be similar.
Does it mean that there are more Eagles or Packers fans than Rams fans in Los Angeles? Not at all. Today I was walking around the Fox Hills mall, and I saw no less than ten people walking around in Rams hats, shirts and jerseys. I also saw two people in Chargers hats, and that was it. That tends to be how it goes with a few Raiders or Cowboys fans in the mix as well. Far from a scientific study, but until the Rams put together a multi-year stretch of success to become a national brand we won’t push the visiting fans out of the ticket market.
So be it. This current incarnation does seem like it has the potential to become transcendent, but only time will tell.
For passionate Rams fans, this all can be rather frustrating since we actually care about making sure the Coliseum is really and truly the (whose house?) Rams’ House. But for the time being, it is what it is. A kind of a bowl game atmosphere which is far from a horrible thing. Besides, at the end of the day, who cares? It’s just a bunch of puds in uglier jerseys than yours.
Puds who lost.
Go Rams! Hush the crowd!