By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Nostalgia was the dominant feeling for excited Rams fans on Sunday as they watched their team play its first National Football League game at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 37 years.
Win or lose against the visiting Seattle Seahawks, it hardly mattered for the Rams faithful on a gorgeous afternoon of unrelenting sunshine with temperatures peaking at 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius).
The fact that Los Angeles, relying on superb defense, ground out a stunning 9-3 victory over the Super Bowl champions of two seasons ago in front of a crowd of just over 90,000 came as a welcome bonus in their opening home game of the season.
Much more important for their fans was the sight of the Rams players, wearing ‘throwback’ royal blue and yellow uniforms, on their return to the City of Angels.
The Rams had not played a regular season game at the cavernous Coliseum since 1979, with the franchise moving to nearby Anaheim later that year before heading further afield after the 1994 season, to St. Louis, for the next two decades.
Now they are back in Los Angeles where they will play at the fabled Coliseum until construction of the nearby Inglewood Stadium is completed and the venue is opened for the 2019 season.
Rick Gonzalez, an engineer for California-based health insurer Kaiser Permanente, became a Rams fan in 1977 as a high school student and stayed loyal to the team throughout their lengthy absence from Los Angeles.
“I was kind of upset when they went to St Louis but I have always supported them all the way,” Gonzalez told Reuters after watching the Rams rebound from a humbling 28-0 shutout by the San Francisco 49ers in their season opener.
“I’m so glad they are now back here in LA. This feels so good, so good. For us Rams fans, it’s very exciting.”
Asked whether he was at all concerned that the Rams would struggle in Los Angeles after posting nine straight losing seasons in St. Louis, Gonzalez replied: “I don’t care. I just love it all, win or lose.”
Los Angeles-based journalist Kevin Modesti, who became an enthusiastic Rams fan in the 1970s, said he had experienced strong feelings of nostalgia since the team’s return to California.
“When I think of the Rams, I still think of those teams from the 1970s and how big they were then,” Modesti, an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News, told Reuters.
“NFL was big back then but I’m not sure it was recognized as the number one American sport the way it is now.
“So it wouldn’t have been automatic to say that in the 1960s and the 1970s the LA Rams would have been the biggest thing in the town, but I have to say they kind of were.”
The Rams are not expected to set the league alight with the quality of their play, having posted just four winning campaigns during their 21 years in St. Louis and a cumulative 64-127-1 record but Modesti is happy, for the moment, to look back.
“With sport, we love our team because of things that happened years and years ago,” he said. “I guess that is one reason I’m not disappointed that they may not be great now because I am still happy to reminisce about the old days.
“But once they become a championship contender here in the 2010s, then we will have moved on from the old days.”
Based on Sunday’s performance against the Seahawks, the Rams may well spring a few more surprises for their fans on the field.
Despite a misfiring offense, the Rams beat Seattle for a third straight time thanks to three Greg Zuerlein field goals and brilliant defense, especially in the final quarter when their opponents pressed hard.
Seahawks running back Christine Michael fumbled after taking a pass from quarterback Russell Wilson and Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree recovered with just under a minute left to seal the win amid thunderous roars from the crowd.
(Editing by Larry Fine)