Kind of a Big Deal

It’s kind of a big deal.

If you’ve known me for any length of time you know I’m a bit of a Rams fan. I’ve been a Rams fan, in spirit, since I was about 10 years old. Sometime around 1984, I’d say – when I was more like 16 – I became a Rams fan in voice, too, telling everyone who’d listen that Eric Dickerson was the best running back since sliced bread.

I may have blown that metaphor.

But it wasn’t until 1988, I’d say, when I started actually watching the Rams play. That was the halcyon days of Jim Everett, Henry Ellard, and Flipper Anderson, in what I’d call today a mini-GSOT.

“Greatest Show On Turf,” by the way. That’s what that means. More on that in a minute.

Jim Everett was the “chicken-legged” QB from Purdue drafted by the Houston Oilers and traded to the Rams by Jerry Glanville (who gave Jim that description). Henry Ellard was the classy possession receiver. Flipper could tear the top off a defense with speed and big-play ability. We scored close to 30 points a game (a lot back then). Nobody threw more touchdown passes from 87-89 than did Jim Everett.

We were fun to watch.

Willie “Flipper” Anderson still holds the single-game receiving yards record of 336, by the way, which he set in November of 1989 against the Saints. I remember listening to that game on the radio.

After 1989, though, the Rams had nine consecutive losing seasons.

I read about losing streaks in a Rams fanzine (“RamTalk”) that year and my stomach sank. “What if MY team goes on a 6-year losing streak?” I thought. Oh, that would be terrible. Over the next decade I realized how terrible.

You know what’s worse?

I still watched every game I could during that era. Every game. I still bought gear. With the advent of DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket a few years into it I could watch every single agonizing moment and, boy howdy, did I. Ask Mrs C. She sat there with me, through all the pain. Even when the Los Angeles Rams moved to St Louis I was still a Rams fan. But I hoped, beyond hope, that they would be the LA Rams again someday.

In 1999, the Rams acquired a super-genius offensive coordinator named Mike Martz and traded for the best all-purpose running back in the league, Marshall Faulk. They signed a successful quarterback named Trent Green. They had two great playmaking route runners in wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. They had a chance to turn it around, at last. At last.

In a preseason game, Trent Green tore up his knee and was gone for the year. We had no backup plan.

The season was in ruins unless some kid named Kurt Warner, who not long before had been stocking shelves at a local grocery store, could pull off a miracle. Head coach Dick Vermeil – named this week to the Pro Football Hall of Fame – famously told the press, “We will rally around Kurt Warner, and we will play good football.”

He was right.

Kurt Warner led that team to astronomical scoring heights, beating teams by an average of 33-15 per game (a record at the time). They were so fun to watch that the announcers and pundits called them “The Greatest Show of Turf” (the St Louis Rams games were played on artificial turf). In the most profound Cinderella story in modern sports history Kurt Warner and the St Louis Rams, that year, won the Super Bowl.

Won the Super Bowl.

It’s kind of a big deal.

For the next few years, I got to watch every moment of every game of the GSOT and, let me tell you, after a decade of suffering it was the best thing around. I never stopped smiling. Ask Mrs C.

A few years later, though, we lost confidence in Kurt Warner. We lost confidence in Mike Martz. We aged. We slipped. We fell back into mediocrity. We started another losing streak. This one was longer.

From 2004-2016 we didn’t have a winning season. We didn’t make the playoffs once. We had the worst 5-season record in the history of the NFL between 2007-2011.

I watched every game. I watched every down. I cheered a team that would score a touchdown to lose a game 41-7. It was rough.

Then, something magical happened.

In 2016, beyond all hope and reason, the Rams moved back to Los Angeles. Unheard of. Impossible. But their new owner, Stan Kroenke, wanted the big stadium in the big market and he found a way to bring my team home. They drafted a QB named Jared Goff. But their big return home yielded no results. The Rams finished 4-12 and had to rethink. Had to rebuild. They fired head coach Jeff Fisher and hired a young super-genius offensive coordinator named Sean McVay.

In 2017, the Los Angeles Rams scored the most points in the NFL. They were dead last the year before. They had a winning record (11-5). They won their division. They went to the playoffs. I blew Facebook the fuck up. “The Rams are going to the playoffs!” I said for the first time ever on social media.

It was kind of a big deal.

The very next year the Rams got back to the playoffs, won some games there, and made it to the Super Bowl. To the Super Bowl!

We lost that game, in what some might define as the most boring Super Bowl of all time (13-3 was the final score). Whatever. We were there. I watched them play in it and, after suffering 22 non-winning seasons in 28 years as an avid fan, that was glorious.

Under Sean McVay the Rams have had 5 consecutive winning seasons. They have made the playoffs 4 of those 5 years. They went to the Super Bowl once under Sean already.

This season, a lot has changed. Jared Goff is gone, supplanted by the strong-armed Matthew Stafford. Heralded (and often troubled) wide receiver Odell Beckham joined the Rams at midseason. Also at midseason the Rams acquired former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, a pass-rushing linebacker and locker room leader. Safety Eric Weddle, who played for the Rams two years before and had since retired, was brought in off the couch to lead the Rams defense in the big game. These players join WR Cooper Kupp – who just won offensive player of the year after leading the league in receptions, yards, AND touchdowns – Aaron Donald, possibly the best player in the league and 3-time defensive player of the year, Jalen Ramsey, arguably the best defensive back in the NFL, and Andrew Whitworth, the oldest offensive lineman to ever play in a Super Bowl (and, incidentally, the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year, in recognition of his volunteer and charity work).

It’s an amazing squad. Fun to watch. Great talent. Good peeps.

And they’re going back to the Super Bowl.

It’s a really big deal.

For this long-suffering Rams fan this has been such an amazing 5 years. Winning seasons. Playoffs. High scores, fun runs, spectacular catches. Energy. Two Super Bowl appearances.

Tomorrow I’ll watch my 21st Rams game of the 2021-22 NFL season. That number boggles my mind. Above all, that’s the pleasure. The watching. The cheering. The yelling. Being in that moment. Win or lose, I get to watch one more Rams game.

Oh my god, though, do I want the Rams to win. 🙏🏽

I know I went a little long. For that I do apologize. But when Mrs C said to me, last night, that she’d been disappointed these last two weeks that every time she logged on, since we beat the Niners in the NFC Championship, she saw no Rams blog. Nothing. I was in the wind. I was speechless. I was. I am.

It is hard to put into words this moment. It is Saturday morning, the day before the Super Bowl, and I get to watch my team play in it, again. It doesn’t sound like much to some, I know, but it means even more now, after all those years. All that build up. All that pain.

Sean and Stan, thank you for turning around my Rams. Matt, thank you for that throw that beat the Bucs two weeks ago. Aaron, thank you for pressuring QB Jimmy Garoppolo of the Niners into that interception last week to earn us this game. Mrs C, thank you for making me write when the words seemed so insufficient.

And thank you for reading, dear reader, as I explain to you what the Rams mean to me.

It really is kind of a big deal.

19 thoughts on “Kind of a Big Deal

  1. This is a big deal. I don’t know much about football, but this is an excellent example of how another person’s passion can be infectious, and I know a lot more about football now than I did a few minutes ago. Also I’m a little sorry Jeff Fisher was fired—he used to be the Titans’ guy, you know—but it sounds like it was for the best.
    Also Eric Dickerson was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He could cut through the competition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Maybe my metaphor wasn’t that bad, after all. 😉

      Stay tuned on Jeff Fisher, he is now the head coach and general manager of the USFL Michigan Panthers. No other league ever seems to make it – the NFL is King – but the USFL is something of a legend (some REALLY big players went on from that league in the 80s to be superstars in the NFL) so maybe, just maybe, Jeff will be a champ yet.

      But you forgot to say “good luck.” Did you mean to say “good luck”?

      Liked by 1 person

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