It’s been over a month since the now Los Angeles Rams were given approval to pack their bags (and U-Hauls) and head back to their old digs in L.A. There has been no official rollout, other than the team’s mascot Rampage taking pictures from various L.A. landmarks. There has been no parade, although there was an impromptu weekday presser at the Forum where a couple hundred Rams fans got to thank owner Stan Kroenke and COO Kevin Demoff in person. However, there are some signs that the Rams are back.
Many sports apparel shops now have healthy sections of Rams apparel, with rows of jerseys that include more than just the stars. You can now buy an Ayers, McDonald, or Brockers jersey if you don’t want to blend in with the sea of Gurley and Donald jerseys at the Coliseum. It is notable that, due to Nike’s uniform change policies, many of the tee shirt designs and apparel still feature the club’s St Louis based color scheme of millennium gold and navy. Many fans thought that color combo would scrapped upon arrival, but Demoff has said that the impending uniform change will likely occur in the Rams inaugural season at their new stadium in Inglewood.
Nonetheless, the merchandise seems to be moving and it’s become a common occurrence to see people dawning Rams gear at the beach, Costco, or anywhere else around town. Jose Uribe, store manager at Fanzz in the Fox Hills Mall verified this rise in sales:
“There has been a big increase in the sales of Rams merchandise since the announcement. They want anything that says Los Angeles on it,” Uribe said. “Anything that’s royal blue flies off the shelves, but people are also more secure buying the navy colored stuff now that they know the Rams will be wearing that color for three more years.”
Watching the local media scramble to learn up on the Rams has been amusing. Although the writing has been on the wall regarding the move for some time, it seems apparent that many local sports anchors still have a rather perfunctory knowledge of the current roster.
Following an interview with soon-to-be-cut linebacker James Laurinaitis, long-time L.A. anchor Fred Roggin noted that Laurinaitis was arguably the team’s best defender. Apparently, Roggin overlooked Pro Bowl captain Aaron Donald, who Pro Football Focus called the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Meanwhile on AM 980, Bill Plaschke and Jeanne Zelasko spent the morning debating about what OTA stood for (organized team activities). Rams fans might want to stick to the internet when looking for info instead of relying on local news for a while. It’s going to take time for the on-air talent to get up to speed.
Anything that happens in L.A. can sometimes feel like a drop in a giant pool, but after a 21-year football drought, there is a noticeable organic buzz around town. There have been a several street art tributes to the Rams return and few billboards welcoming the team back. The Rams quickly received over 56,000 deposits for season tickets. Each deposit is worth up to eight seats, so the Coliseum, despite its immense size, is likely to be packed for all home games next season.
The team is scheduled to begin an actual rollout in May, so the team’s more official presence should increase soon. The Rams are throwing a draft party at LA Live, where they will select their first crop of “L.A. Rams ” since the Wayne Gandy/Isaac Bruce draft in 1994. At that point, the talk will begin to shift from “they’re back!” to “whether they did or didn’t draft a QB.” After that, we’ll see OTAs, training camp, and finally the preseason. At some point, the whole return will feel more real, and everyone will begin to get up to speed.
It will be interesting to see how the modern NFL blends into a city that has grown up quite a bit over the last 20 years. If done correctly, it could be bigger than ever before. At least loyal UCLA and USC fans will be able to join forces for a common cause for once.