The Morning Column: January 31, 2022
Super Bowl LVI will represent the most important game the Rams have played since they moved to L.A. If they win, they will join the Lakers and Dodgers as one of the city’s most beloved franchises.
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One of the most satisfying moments of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game wasn’t shown on television and didn’t become a viral moment on social media. It might have even been missed by some of the Rams fans at SoFi Stadium who would have enjoyed it the most.
With 1:08 left in the game, the Rams were in victory formation and Matthew Stafford prepared to take a knee. The San Francisco 49ers were out of timeouts and there was nothing they could do to stop the final seconds of their season slipping away. Instead of showing Rams players celebrating the inevitable on the sideline, the massive screen at SoFi Stadium showed a large exodus of 49ers fans heading for the exits.
It was the equivalent of smoking a victory cigar for many Rams fans who laughed and waved their hand or a certain finger at the satisfying visual above them.
After the Rams had officially defeated the 49ers, 20-17, to win their second NFC title in three years for the right to stay in L.A. and become just the second team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, Stafford smiled at the postgame press conference.
“It’s nice to send some of those red jerseys home,” he said.
These are the moments when a team begins to connect with a city and develop a diehard fan base. Fandom is developed through a series of unforgettable moments like Sunday’s that unifies a city with their team. Ask any Lakers or Dodgers fan in L.A. how they became a fan or what are some of their most memorable moments as a fan and a smile will come over their face as they rattle of a series of events that are forever seared into their memory. They will compare these times to milestone moments in their personal life because to them, their team is an extension of their family.
That bond isn’t built overnight. That connection isn’t built just because a team you have no connection to relocates to your city one day. The Rams were in St. Louis for 21 years before they moved to Los Angeles in 2016. Los Angeles didn’t care about the St. Louis Rams (or the St. Louis Cardinals or the St. Louis Blues, in case anyone is interested). They were also in Anaheim for 15 years before that (and most of Los Angeles doesn’t care about the Angels or the Ducks, in case anyone is interested).
It’s absurd when people want to compare the Rams, a team that didn’t play in Los Angeles County from 1980-2016, to the Lakers and Dodgers, two teams that became the heart and soul of Los Angeles during that time. Or acting baffled that Rams fans after six years in L.A. are not as rabid as the fan base for a 49ers team that has called the Bay Area home for 76 years.
The crowd at SoFi Stadium received an inordinate amount of coverage going into Sunday’s game. 49ers fans had taken over the stadium when both teams met during the regular season finale and with the cheapest ticket on Sunday going for over $600 and parking passes exceeding that figure, most expected a repeat. While there were more 49ers fans than Rams fans at the game, the crowd was closer to even than when they had met earlier this month and it certainly felt like the “Rams House” late in the fourth quarter as the Rams came back from a 17-7 deficit to beat the 49ers for the first time since 2018 and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
Championships are the only currency that matters to Los Angeles sports fans and Super Bowl LVI will represent the most important game the Rams have played since they moved to L.A. If they win, they will join the Lakers and Dodgers as one of the city’s most beloved franchises. If they lose at home to the underdog Cincinnati Bengals, it will be another false start for a franchise that has made progress towards becoming the city’s favorite team but is still playing catchup after losing a generation of fans.
When the Lakers relocated to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960, they were already one of the most storied franchises in basketball after winning five championships in six seasons. They quickly made a connection with sports fans in L.A.; playing in seven NBA Finals in their first 10 seasons in the city. It was an incredible run that made them a beloved franchise in town but it wasn’t until the Lakers finally won their first championship in 1972 that they started to became part of the city’s fabric.
Similarly, the Dodgers were one of the most successful teams in baseball when they relocated to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958. They had played in the World Series 12 times and won the championship just two years earlier in 1956. Soon after arriving in L.A., the Dodgers won the World Series in 1959 and Los Angeles was officially a Dodgers town as the team won two more titles over the next six seasons.
While the Raiders were only in Los Angeles from 1982-1994, the city fell in love with them in comparable fashion. They came to L.A. from Oakland as one of the best franchises in football after winning a Super Bowl just two years earlier in 1980 and winning two Super Bowls from 1976 to 1980. They quickly won the city’s first and only Super Bowl soon after arriving in L.A. in 1983 and were placed alongside the Lakers and Dodgers in the eyes of many sports fans in the city. While they would return to Oakland about a decade later, that connection had already been built and lives on to those who experienced those unforgettable moments.
The Rams have a chance to create that connection with Los Angeles now. If they win the city’s first Super Bowl in nearly 40 years and give the city its first championship parade in nearly a decade (COVID robbed L.A. of a parade after the Lakers and Dodgers won in 2020), they will become a part of the city’s fabric and once again become one of Los Angeles’ most beloved teams.
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