Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the Rams’ departure from St. Louis for the greener, drought-ridden pastures in Los Angeles. It was a masterful-but-mostly-deceitful business move by Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke, his fellow new-money cronies like Jerry Jones, and the profit-driven NFL. On that day, the Rams organization put up the most fight I’ve seen since the “Greatest Show on Turf” era to defeat both the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers by securing a 30-2 approval vote by league owners to take the coveted L.A. market.
To commemorate this occasion, I decided to attend the Rams’ last game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals on January 1, and compare the fan experience in Los Angeles to what it once was in St. Louis. I grew up in St. Louis, and followed the team for their 21-year tenure in the Gateway to the West, even after I moved across the country to California. While my days of rooting for the Rams are behind me, I took it upon myself to critique the experience in 5 key categories, and determine which city had the best “gameday experience record” and determine a true winner. Here are the results:
The Pregame Experience
We started our journey on the LA Metro, which felt vaguely familiar to riding St. Louis’ MetroLink. For the full L.A. experience I’m sure sitting in traffic on I-110 would have done the trick, but for the sake of keeping this a fair matchup leading up to the game, we rode the rails to the “Expo Park/USC” stop.
For those of you that don’t know, the Coliseum is on USC’s campus. As you can imagine, any college campus in Southern California is beautiful. For the most part, that’s where the high points stopped. We passed by some food trucks and mild tailgating, but for the most part, the Rams had done their part to nullify any late-season pregame vigor amongst the L.A. fans. This was probably best reflected in the ticket price. While the lowest bidder on-line was coming in a whopping $12.99 per ticket, we managed to snag one ticket for free, and the other for a generous $10 donation. If I remember right, the last time I paid for a Rams game at The Dome (during their enthralling 6-10 run in 2015), the last home game of the season still cost around $40 per ticket. Outside of the low ticket price (and this paragraph), the pregame was nothing to write home about, but these Fisher look-a-likes at least made the experience worth my while…
Winner: Tie… I’d still rather tailgate in Houston, Cleveland, or Green Bay
When I first considered going to the game, my primary motivation was to see an event in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. After all, it’s a historical venue! The 1984 Olympics took place there. Popes and Presidents have been there. It’s where the USC Trojans have happily played since 1923 without demanding a new stadium and threatening relocation every 20 years. I was legitimately excited to Instagram a photo of the old Olympic torch.
There’s no doubt that The Dome was a venue fairly void of character, but even still, it used to be one of the most horrifying places in the NFL for opposing teams to play. Even after Kurt, Isaac, and Marshall had left the building, The Dome created an atmosphere the amplified the roar of a jaded St. Louis crowd from the late 2000’s until their departure. Heck, I even liked the brick exterior and felt it complimented the city.
But don’t take it from me, take it from the L.A. fans themselves. As I started a conversation with some locals that caught wind of the “Enforce St. Louis” t-shirt I was wearing, I made mention of my interest in checking out the stadium. This was then overheard by an L.A. fan who promptly responded “This place is a sh*thole!”… and I didn’t really have much of an argument to suggest otherwise.
I am glad I got to check the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum off of my stadium bucket list. With that out of the way, I now have no good reason to go back there.
Winner: St. Louis
I wanted to find a way to hate on the weather. I really did. On the days leading up to the game, the Los Angeles area was receiving a relatively torrential amount of rain, and I was anxiously waiting for that to carry over into Sunday’s game so I could say something along of the lines of “See! It’s not always sunny in California, is it?!”
But alas, the sun was out, the temps were in the 60’s, and quite frankly, it was awesome. The Dome was obviously immune to the weather conditions, so it’s more of a control variable in this category. What I will say is watching football while wearing flip-flops and catching some rays on January 1 is a goal every sports fan should strive for. It was definitely the high-point of the day…
Winner: Los Angeles
…these guys on the other hand. WOOF! After enduring over a decade of mostly abysmal football in St. Louis capped off by the 4-year-long, 7-and-9 purgatory of the Jeff Fisher regime, I didn’t think it could get any worse. It did.
I have watched the Rams lose in some incredible ways over the years, but this game was utterly unwatchable. Halfway through the first half, I turned around to look at the scoreboard to see that the Rams had racked up a whopping -3 total yards, and their end-game total of 123 yards could hardly be described as an improvement. On the day, Goff was a disappointment, Gurley was a ghost, and the defense was overworked and underperforming.
For the few that stuck around until the very end of the game (I wasn’t one of them), they would have seen the Rams finish their season with a no-touchdown, 44-6 obliteration at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals.
Were there any high points? I think all-star punter Johnny Hecker pulled off a trick play during the 3rd quarter, but having already lost interest, I missed it while Instagramming the Olympic torch. No one else seemed to notice either.
Winner: St. Louis
If there’s anything L.A. sports are famous for, it’s the spectacle of the event. An ideal scenario would feature a splashy team like the “Showtime Lakers” with some jumbotron celebrity shots of Jack Nicholson sitting courtside. The L.A. Rams started their season in style with a “red carpet” home opener, but that was quickly forgotten after the team failed to produce all season. At least when the product on the field is bad, the Hollywood glitz and glam is supposed to provide a temporary distraction, but that day, all we got was a replay of the Red Hot Chili Peppers pregame performance from earlier in the season.
With nothing to cheer for on the field, the Coliseum left little to be excited about from start to finish, and you could feel it. At no point did the crowd erupt with excitement. The Coliseum seemed to be in an NFL identity crisis, with plenty of Steelers, Giants, Jets, Patriots, and Raiders jerseys amidst the Rams and Cardinals gear. By the start of the 4th quarter, most of the spectators had rightfully left the stadium. A season full of calamity had sucked that life out of the Coliseum.
L.A. likes a winner. The Rams are showing no signs of progress to becoming one. The team is now competing for attention against a fickle Los Angeles sports market with plenty of better distractions. Unlike the game I saw that day, I’m excited to see how this matchup plays out.
Winner: St. Louis
Adding it all up, the St. Louis Rams prevailed with a 3-1-1 gameday experience record, while the Los Angeles Rams finished at 1-3-1. Ouch! While the weather was great, the facilities, team, and lifeless crowd made for a less-than-spectacular outing. However, in the “Stan Kroenke vs. Chris Luecke’s net worth matchup,” my gameday expenses totaled $44.50 for tickets, beer, and food. As a result, Stan Kroenke defeated me in this category $7,400,000,044.50 to essential zero, and for the Rams franchise, isn’t that what’s really most important?
Congrats to the Rams on your move to Los Angeles! It was a rough year at first, but after seeing what you’ve become, I think I’ll be OK without you.