There isn’t a football fan base more fractured than the one in Los Angeles. The United States’ second-largest media market was devoid of a football franchise from 1994 to 2016 just as the NFL started becoming the multi-billion dollar behemoth that it is today. Then seemingly overnight, an unprecedented relocation carousel took place that brought
There isn’t a football fan base more fractured than the one in Los Angeles. The United States’ second-largest media market was devoid of a football franchise from 1994 to 2016 just as the NFL started becoming the multi-billion dollar behemoth that it is today.
Then seemingly overnight, an unprecedented relocation carousel took place that brought the Rams and Chargers to Tinseltown in back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017. The initial reaction and acceptance from Angelenos for the Rams and Chargers was a milquetoast one … at best. Yes, the Rams had played in Los Angeles from 1946 until 1994 and even appeared in the Super Bowl before they were unceremoniously relocated to St Louis in 1995, but LA residents didn’t seem to care for a team that was forced back on to them.
Of course, winning is the best wake-up call for any dormant fan base. As the 2018 season unfolded, the Rams and Chargers both made the playoffs, and the city seemingly rallied around the two teams. With the Los Angeles Rams now ready to square off with the New England Patriots at Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, there is renewed interest throughout the city.
Earlier this week, the Rams departed for Atlanta following a boisterous farewell mere steps away from their soon-to-be-opened, $5bn palatial stadium near Los Angeles International Airport. Thousands of fans gathered in Inglewood to give the team a proper send-off and roared the their trademark “Whose House? Rams House!” chant. “We appreciate all your support,” quarterback Jared Goff said from the stage. “We’re ready to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Los Angeles.”
Those scenes were a far cry from the optics witnessed over the last three seasons, when Rams’ home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the stands often appear to be equally split between the Rams’ blue and yellow and the jerseys of visiting fans. The scene a few miles away in Carson at the Chargers’ temporary field is even worse, where home-field advantage effectively does not exist.
But the notion that the Rams do not have a strong fan base in the city is not as entirely true as some in the media have purported. In three short years, freshly unpackaged hats, jerseys and car flags have sprouted up to complement throwback jerseys of yesteryear, and the franchise has done a commendable job reestablishing themselves in a town where basketball, baseball and college sports traditionally reign.
The Rams’ resurgence and reacquisition of fans can largely be pinned on the shoulders of franchise cornerstones Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Brandin Cooks and Goff playing to their full potential under the tutelage of 33-year-old wunderkind coach Sean McVay.
The front-office regime has spared no expense on acquiring talent either, and the bold moves have shown in the standings. The Rams finished 4-12 in their inaugural season in 2016, and have since improved to 11-5 and 13-3 and successive years.
Los Angeles is a city filled with millions of transplants with allegiances for out-of-state teams. Many of them are like Jesse Silver, a die-hard New England Patriots fan from Boston who also has been a Rams season ticket holder ever since the team returned.
His loyalty won’t be tested, though, on Sunday – he will be rooting for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to win their sixth Super Bowl since 2002. Silver attends Rams games because he enjoys sports and the communal feeling he gets watching football with his friends.
“I love my Rams, but it will never come close to the [Patriots] blood in my veins,” said Silver. “It was a dream for my old home and new home to meet in the championship game. Being a new Rams fan attending games at the Coliseum, there is an energy of new and old. Like a return of what was lost. People love their Rams,” said Silver. “Now it’s the Rams’ house. We go toe-to-toe with any visitors … I think we need to see what happens here in LA when it’s not a constant playoff showing.”
Much like many sports town, Los Angeles is a city that gets behind its teams when they are winning. Organizations like the Lakers, Dodgers, Kings and universities like USC and UCLA can attest to that during lean years as well. The Rams’ lone home playoff game this year was a victorious one against the Cowboys, but all indication concluded that the fans in attendance were split 50-50.
One man who will be hoping the Rams can continue their success is owner Stan Kroenke, who is most familiar to fans across the pond for his control of Arsenal. Come 2020, Kroenke opens his privately financed stadium and entertainment complex, which will be the Rams’ new home. It is supposed to be most glamorous facility in the world, and will be larger than Disneyland. He hopes that by then, Angelenos will have a Super Bowl to spur them to fill the arena’s 70,000 seats.
A victory this Sunday will be the first strong step in that direction and help shift the narrative that Los Angeles has more interesting things to distract itself than the Rams.