Walking around Exhibition Park before the game feels like Halloween for sports fans. Everyone’s clothes indicate their home town in a way that begs the question: are we attending a sporting event or participating in a fan pageant?
I like talking to people from Chicago. They tell it like it is. And for the most part, they love living in LA — this is a great city. But their heart is based in chilly Chicago, which means they’re gonna pay a small fortune to get dressed in Bears garb and root for the visiting team, even if they hate their QB. And they hate their quarterback.
Every piece of Rams merch you see at home games goes to declare that there are people from LA who care about this team. However, probably more than any other NFL city, there is a whole mess of gear from the opposing team.
Sunday night’s game felt as if a John Hughes movie barfed all over Exhibition Park.
Does it feel like this at a Lakers game? Or a Dodgers game? LAFC? Nope. But fans of the other team show up at Clippers games, for sure. And if you ever dared to show interest in seeing the Chargers play, you’re probably there for the other team.
I have lived in Los Angeles for the past 25 years (and Orange County before that) and I’ve found the Rams’ relocation to Southern California to be fascinating.
When I met someone in this city, it’s almost instinctual that I’ll ask where they actually call home. I have this text chain with seven of my friends from college (based in LA) and not one of us share a favorite NFL team. I think this is normal for most people in Los Angeles — you can live here, but your family probably doesn’t.
What has been brutal for the NFL fan base in LA is the notion that someone who moved to LA anytime after 1994 has no connection to the Rams. So, in all likelihood, they kept their allegiance to whatever NFL team that was closest to their hometown.
And here is the kicker: even though these transplants still follow the, say, the Chicago Bears, they have, over time, become Los Angeles Dodger fans and Los Angeles Lakers fans. And why not the Rams? Well, just showing up in the past five years hasn’t helped much to battle multiple decades of allegiance to the Bears.
Right? I mean, if a Bears fan is gonna turn to another team, the Trubisky era is a hell of a time to do it.
However, inconsistent play from QB Jared Goff might be a dealbreaker for a fan looking for a comfy seat on a bandwagon.
As the Rams continue their struggle to miraculously snag a wild card spot, they aren’t playing in exciting games right now. Goff is completing some beautiful but easy deep passes, but the rest of his game isn’t fun to watch. If you weren’t already emotionally connected, would you really watch the Rams’ offense and be like, “yeah, give me whatever this is every week. This is awesome. Goff forever!”
The Rams are on the verge of moving into SoFi and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s going to be expensive to go to a game. And the Rams could very likely be a team on the outside of the playoffs without any first-round picks for a couple of years — GM Les Snead mortgaged the future to build an instant contender — a plan that has a realistic chance of blowing up in his face.
Moving into a flashy new stadium with a major rebrand while the team suffers some lean years wasn’t in the script. But life comes at you pretty fast.
Being a fan of an NFL team is complicated. Every moment you’re watching your favorite team means something, it’s all part of the experience, yet you know deep down that lean years will absolutely happen and you have to keep reminding yourself that even if the dreams of a Super Bowl fall apart, there’s always the future.
A future that I can hope for in ten years: the Los Angeles Rams host an NFC Championship game at the packed SoFi Stadium as thousands of young fans in DE Aaron Donald gear cheer them on.
And not an opposing jersey in sight.