By Tim Peterson
They came wearing watermelons on their heads and carrying fatheads of Stan Kroenke. They came with signs and cameras and jerseys of their favorite players – old and current.
They came wearing green grass skirts (those were guys) and some came in full uniform complete with helmet and pads (I think those were guys too). They came in droves- men, women and children, from the age of two to 92.
They were expecting a crowd of about 6000 Saturday at UC Irvine for opening day of the Los Angeles Rams training camp but reportedly close to 10,000 showed up. They didn’t really care who was the starting quarterback at this point – Jared Goff or Case Keenum- they came to see the Rams, wearing the traditional Ram helmets, and actually on the field practicing.
It’s been 22 years. For some it was a return to glory. Fans in their forties, fifties and sixties, remembered how they grew up rooting for the Rams before the team uprooted to St. Louis. For others it was a first- the first time they had even seen an NFL team in the Los Angeles area.
Think of it. An 18 year old kid that was raised in Southern California has never known what it was like to cheer for a local NFL team.
And so they showed up and snapped pictures, and shot cell phone videos and cheered at the players every movement. Players that first ran on the field and began to warm up were met with rousing ovations and applause. Simple stretching exercises were received with hoots and hollers.
If you had any thoughts that the Rams moving back to LA was a bad idea then all of those notions were dispelled Saturday. Will Los Angeles support an NFL team? Well, if the crowd Saturday wasn’t enough then consider that 70,000 season tickets have already been sold out for the first season at the Coliseum. Single game tickets went on sale to the public last Thursday and those might be gone by Monday.
People in Southern California are hungry for football. You’ll always have UCLA and USC fans in So Cal but everybody will root for the Rams. This time there won’t even be another team to compete with. The Raiders aren’t coming back and do you really think the Chargers are going to attempt to move here and play second fiddle to the Rams?
Make no mistake, this is the Rams town now. With former Rams such as Jackie Slater, Jim Everett, LeRoy Irvin and Ron Brown on hand to welcome the team back it just confirmed the sentiment.
So bust out the Eric Dickerson gear and dig out and old blue and white jerseys- Deacon Jones would be perfect. The Rams are back and Saturday was homecoming.
If you want to get really crazy the watermelon heads will work. But you can leave the grass skirts at home. Nobody will mind.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tspeterson40.