This weekend, the Los Angeles Rams will begin the 2019 regular season, their last at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Starting next year, the Rams will begin playing their future home games in the spanking new, spectacular Inglewood site. So it’s time to take a final look back.
We got The Professor to go old school on us from the days/years (/decades) prior to the Rams’ return to LA and had Skye drop what it’s been like from a new school point of view since relocation.
The Old School - The Professor
The Coliseum hosted its first football game on October 6, 1923, between the University of Southern California and Pomona College. It has been the home of the Trojans ever since.
The Coliseum hosted two Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984, Super Bowl I and Super Bowl VII, the 1959 World Series, a Papal Mass by Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandala’s visit to the United States, John Kennedy’s acceptance speech at 1960 Democratic Convention and countless memorable concerts.
It has been home to not only USC football, but also UCLA (1928-1981), the Dodgers (1958-1961), the Raiders (1982-1994), the Chargers (1960) and of course our Los Angeles Rams (1946-1979, 2016-present).
In 1984, both the state of California and the United States Government declared the Coliseum a state and federal historical landmark which will preserve its legacy for eternity.
My first Rams football game at the Coliseum was in 1959, and I attended every game played there until 1979 when the team moved down the coast to Anaheim. I attended every game there until the Rams left for St. Louis in 1995.
When I think about this being the last year at the old place, I’m rocked by nostalgia. Besides the Rams, my family were season ticket holders for the Raiders. My father had UCLA alumni season tickets, but I later bolted for the better team (USC) spending my college years in the student section. I still went with him to the Bruins games, though.
In my football life, there are games I fondly remember at the Coliseum and plenty of games I would prefer to forget.
I remember when ticket prices were $7.50, peanuts were 25¢, cardboard UCLA visors with an elastic headband were 50¢ and parking at USC was $5 even though I had to walk a mile to the coliseum entrance until my dad figured out that a $20 donation to the Natural History Museum would entitle him to park there for the whole year. That didn’t last long once word got out.
In my youth, Rams games were the be all, end all. My anticipation of watching the Rams win football games on the Coliseum’s beautiful natural grass field of dreams bordered on frenzy especially come playoff time when the crowds came close to 100,000 or more, all screaming Rams fans.
As I grew older, seeing the Rams win at the Coliseum was far more important than waiting in long lines for lousy food or snacks, which was the sole reason I tolerated the traffic jams both going to and coming from the games.
What I will miss the most about the Coliseum will be our family’s legacy established there and a lesson learned from my father which I impart to my own children today: “Never give up on your dreams.”
My father didn’t live long enough to see the Rams come back to LA. The Rams didn’t have sell me to buy season tickets after relocating back home. After hearing the news, I wrote a letter to the Rams begging them to allow me to purchase tickets on the fifty-yard line at the same place where my father and I sat. They made it happen.
Attending our first game with my own family, I put my Dad’s picture on his seat, took a picture and sent it to my mother and friends with a message.
“I told you he’d make it.”
If I have one story that strikes a chord within me about the Coliseum, it’s this one.
I was in the third grade. My English teacher gave the class a homework assignment. Pick out four words, look them up in the dictionary, write out the definition on piece of paper and return for credit. I chose my four words. Hope. Love. Dedication. And Dream. Besides those words I wrote “Rams.” When I got it back, there was big “F” on top. The future lawyer in me could not tolerate such indignity. So at lunch time, I went to the classroom and complained to my teacher. She told me that the “Rams” are not the definition of hope, love, dedication and dream.
I looked her straight in the eye and said. “Then it’s obvious you’ve never been to the Coliseum” and left.
The New (or middle aged) School - Skye Sverdlin of the Melonheads
I remember hitching rides with the Melonheads to see the Rams play down in the Anaheim Stadium. When I’d get there, I’d always thumb through the gameday programs which featured logs of seasons past accompanied by black and white photos of various Rams greats doing great things back the old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Back in those pre-internet days, having a mere black and white photo next to a list of season logs and Hall of Famers stats left plenty to the imagination. I’d try to imagine what it must have been like, but that whole era of football may as well have been Greek mythology. So when the unimaginable happened and the Rams returned to LA, I was elated that their temporary home would be back at the Coliseum instead of the Rose Bowl. I’d seen the Rams beat the Raiders there in 1988, but that was as the “road team” by then. Now, I would finally get to see the Rams play home games in that ancient bowl with my own eyes. I couldn’t even imagine that moment when the Rams would finally jog out of the tunnel for the first time, again.
But they did. They took on the Dallas Cowboys to open the 2016 preseason and Nelson Spruce had us all going nuts over a single preseason game. Then they took on the Seattle Seahawks a little more than a month later in the first regular season game back in the Coliseum and won a defensive fight in front of a giant crowd under a hot September sun.
My old pals from the Melon Patch in the north end zone at Anaheim Stadium found a similar perch on the tunnel at the Coliseum. We even got to keep our neighbors in the blue and yellow fatigues: the Rambros. We’ve witnessed some historically great games (see: 54-51), and even enjoyed a playoff win. The Coliseum has obvious issues, like the entire stadium occupying a single concourse for refreshments, but the peristyle end is still beautiful at night when the Olympic torch is lit.
I can’t wait to witness the next chapter of Rams football in Inglewood, but much of the experience will still come down to winning and losing. There is nothing more annoying than seeing visiting fans dance out of your stadium no matter how much leg room you have. The Coliseum, for all it’s splendor and funk, was ultimately a great backdrop for some memorable moments.
I’m glad to have experienced it.