Tom Being Tom

Just me, talking about stuff.

Rams

@RamsNFL

The Rams Are Back in the Playoffs

By on 6 Jan 2018

Today, it’s all about the Rams.

I became a Los Angeles Rams fan, as a child, out of spite. As a teen, it was because of Eric Dickerson. When I became a post-teen (a young adult?) there was Jim Everett, Henry Ellard, and Flipper Anderson. As I became a full-fledged football aficionado, a fan of every team and player and coach and organization, in the early 90’s, the Rams themselves began a downward spiral.

Jim Everett took a phantom sack. The rival 49ers cemented a legacy. And the Rams sucked for a decade.

I had no reason to be a fan of the Rams in the 90s. I had every reason to give up on them.

John Robinson went 5-11 and 3-13 in his last two years as the Rams head coach. The legendary Chuck Knox – who had led the Rams to 5 consecutive NFC West titles and 3 conference championship games in the 70s – went 15-33 in his return. The Rams abandoned Los Angeles after the ’94 season and headed to the Midwest. I could have easily abandoned the St. Louis Rams in return.

rams uniforms

I did not. I stuck with my team.

The St. Louis Rams were as bad, if not worse, than the Los Angeles Rams. Head Coach Rich Brooks, recruited out of Oregon, went 13-19 in two years, and was fired. In 1997, St. Louis lured Dick Vermeil out of the broadcast booth to turn around the Rams. But he failed, as well, in his first two years. The Dick Vermeil-led Rams won only 9 games in 32 tries in ’97 and ’98. Even Rich Brooks had been better.

I gave up. Just a little.

During my time as a budding football fan, I became enamored with QB John Elway, who played for the Denver Broncos. He went to two Super Bowls in the late 80’s, against the New York Giants and those rival 49ers, and I rooted for him madly. I owned his jersey, though he was not a Ram. As the 90s went on, and the Rams sputtered, folks would buy me just as much Bronco apparel for Christmas as they did Ram apparel. At the end of the 1997 and 1998 NFL seasons – while Dick Vermeil was failing to revive the Rams – John Elway and the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls.

My team was pathetic. They had abandoned LA. They had just completed their 9th consecutive losing season. There was little hope for a rebound.

At the beginning of the ’99 season, a friend asked me if the Rams were now my #2 team.

“Yeah,” I said, “I think the Broncs are #1 now.”

That year, the Rams won the Super Bowl.

“I never said that,” I insisted, at the end of the season.

You know the story by now. Dick Vermeil kept his job in 1999 under the condition he hire a new offensive coordinator. He found Mike Martz, who had been with Washington, and gave him the job. He also gave him RB Marshall Faulk, acquired in a trade, and QB Trent Green, whom Martz had tutored in Washington. Green blew out his knee in preseason. The only other QB on roster was Kurt Warner, a former washout in the NFL who famously stocked shelves for $5.50 an hour after being cut from the Packers. The season, and team, was doomed.

But then Kurt Warner came into Martz’ offense and they scored more points than any team had in NFL history. The Rams became The Greatest Show on Turf, going to two Super Bowls in the next three years, winning one. They made up for 9 years of misery. They won back my heart, in dramatic style.

The GSOT lasted a few, glorious years. But bad drafting, bad leadership, and age took their toll. After 2004, the Rams experienced 12 consecutive losing seasons. They were worse in the mid-aughts and early teens then they were through the entire nineties. From 2007 to 2011 the Rams recorded the worst 5-year stretch in NFL history. They were historically bad.

But, this time, I never wavered. They had the ring now. They had proven, before, that winning and losing was cyclical. I have no 2nd-favorite team today.

@AFishel27

At the end of the 2015 season, the Rams returned to LA.

It was impossible to fathom. You can’t go home again. Everyone always says that. There were so many attempts, over the years, to put another team in Los Angeles. The Vikings were mentioned once. The Jaguars. Seahawks. Bills. An expansion team. For 20 years Los Angeles tried to get a team back, and for 20 years they failed. Then the impossible happened. They came home.

2016 was much like the previous 11 years. Bad offensive football. Bad coaching. Jeff Fisher. He had to go. He had been a head coach for too long, and far too unsuccessfully. The game had passed him by. He was fired. Hallelujah.

And along came Sean McVay. Wunderkind. The youngest head coach in NFL history.

Today, the Rams play in their first postseason game in 13 years. That’s a long time to hold out hope. But I did, I held out hope. Nobody can stay that bad forever, right?

rams return

Will they win?

That’s a good question. As a fan, I say “hell yeah!” As a pragmatist I say “probably not.” The Falcons have nearly the same record as the Rams, have an offense every bit as explosive, and have more playoff experience. They were in the Super Bowl last year, for chrissakes.

But the Rams have youth and vigor. They’re at home. They have shown grit, resiliency and explosiveness all season long. They can beat the Falcons just as assuredly as the Falcons can beat the Rams. I give us a 50/50 chance, in a game that is unarguably worth watching.

I’ll be watching. I’ll be watching with the missus, with the sound up, with a beer in hand. We’ll be screaming at the tops of our lungs. And win or lose I will know they are back. Young coach, young team, new hope and, hopefully, a decade of relevance ahead.

My patience has finally paid off.

The Rams are back in the playoffs.

@RamsNFL

LA Story

By on 19 Jan 2017

I have a theory.

Bear with me, this one gets kind of wacky and involves a brief history lesson.

The history lesson starts in 1946. In 1946, Daniel Farrell Reeves, the owner of the Cleveland Rams, struck a deal with the National Football League and became the first person to own a professional sports team in the city of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Rams, with their iconic golden horns, stayed in the city of Los Angeles for 49 years.

In 1960, the Los Angeles Rams were joined by another football franchise, the Los Angeles Chargers of the American Football League. The competition with the Chargers lasted only one year, however. In 1961, Chargers owner and hotel magnate Barron Hilton moved the team to San Diego. The Chargers would stay in San Diego for 56 years.

In 1982, another charter member of the American Football League, who had merged with the National Football League in 1970, moved to Los Angeles from Oakland. The Los Angeles Raiders stayed in Southern California until 1995. When they left they had the distinction of being the only professional football team to bring a championship to Los Angeles, having won the Super Bowl after the 1983 season.

Still with me?

The same year that the Raiders returned to their birth city of Oakland, in 1995, the struggling Rams moved to St Louis. With the Raiders in Oakland and the Rams in Missouri, the city of Los Angeles was without a NFL team entirely, for the first time in almost 50 years. It would be another 21 years before any team in the NFL would call Los Angeles their home again.

If you’ll pardon the repeated use of a colloquialism for a minute, this sucked for the city of Los Angeles, sucked for fans of the LA market, and sucked for the NFL, who had lost out on the 2nd biggest media market in the United States. The loss of revenue was astounding.

Enter 2016. The St Louis Rams, who had fallen into decline as a franchise after bringing a championship to the city of St Louis in 2000, finagled their way back to Los Angeles under the wily machinations of Enos Stanley Kroenke. Kroenke is a real estate tycoon turned sports mogul and current owner of the Rams. With big money behind him, and big support from the powers-that-be, Stan Kroenke proposed to build an entertainment venue in Los Angeles like no other. As a token of goodwill, he also welcomed a co-sponsor or tenant to join him in the glitzy LA market.

At the same time, in 2016, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders were putting in bids to be “the team” to finally take over the Los Angeles market after more than two decades of football vacuity.

I’ve been waiting nearly a year now to use the word “vacuity” in my blog.

The Chargers and Raiders lost out in their bids in 2016, and returned home to negotiate new stadiums in San Diego and Oakland, respectively. The following year, however – to the day – the San Diego Chargers owner Alexander Spanos announced that his team would be joining the Los Angeles market as the eventual tenants of Stanley Kroenke and his $3 billion stadium. Bereft of an NFL presence for two decades, the Los Angeles fans now had two teams to call their own.

Here’s my crazy theory:

The Los Angeles Rams will meet the Los Angeles Chargers in the Super Bowl in 2021, which will be held in Stan Kroenke’s brand spanking new multibillion-dollar venue.

Think about it. These crafty NFL tycoons lost out on billions of dollars when the LA market was vacant for 21 years, and they aim to get it back. In one night.

You might think me mad now, with visions of hippodroming* at the highest levels of our sport but mark my words. LA vs LA in LA for the biggest prize of all: money.

The following year for the Super Bowl has yet to be determined, as of this writing, but I have a theory about that as well. The Oakland Raiders, the big losers in the quest for LA, are now bound for Las Vegas, by all accounts. They’ll get their own home game in a Super Bowl the following year, against somebody from the NFC that doesn’t matter. Probably the Eagles. See, the Raiders had to be paid compensation for losing out on the nation’s second biggest market, a market where – by all accounts – they have the most fans of any of the suitors. So they were given Super Bowl LVI. The game is fixed in their favor. In Las Vegas. Go figure.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my tale. Now go about your day. Let this sink in.

You heard it here first. 😉

*Hippodroming is a word I just discovered, unlike vacuity, and it means, essentially, “to fix a sports contest with a predetermined winner.” Once I saw the word I had to use it in a sentence. Immediately. Good day!

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