Commentary: Confessions of a fair-weather Rams fan
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 15, 2009 - As I write these words, the Rams and the Vikings are preparing to kick off at the Edward Jones Dome. Although I am a season ticket holder, I'm watching the game on television. A friend’s son turned 16 today. He plays quarterback on his JV football team so I gave him my tickets to let him see the legendary Brett Favre in person.
Game Update: In what may be harbinger of things to come, the Rams just lost the coin toss.
The fans are with you, win or tie ... Woody Hayes
I'd like to say that mine was a mature gesture of selfless generosity, but those who know me would scoff at the sentiment. If the Rams were 4 - 0 instead of the reverse, I'd be downtown swilling nine-dollar beer and howling at the antics of the costumed strangers who comprise the hometown squad. As the current team would have to improve markedly to be considered mediocre, I've elected to stay home where the brew is cheaper and there's no line to use the men's room.
GU: in their first possession, it takes the visiting team 4 minutes and 43 seconds to march 80 yards into the end zone. Advantage Vikings: 7 - 0.
When I write about football, I invariably elicit two categories of response: serious readers complain that sports are frivolous entertainment; team loyalists accuse me of being a front-running, fair-weather fan. I readily concede both points with the caveat that the former explains the latter.
For fans, pro sports are indeed an inconsequential diversion from life's more pressing concerns. Ten years ago -- when the Rams miraculously went from worst to first and won the Superbowl -- my bills were still due as previously scheduled. As a practical matter, the whole magical season was little more than a brief respite from reality -- sort of like going to the movies. But would you ask somebody to go see crappy films every week just to support the local theater industry?
GU: the Rams manage to run four plays before QB Kyle Boller fumbles. Jared Allen, who beat the star-crossed Alex Barron like a rented mule on the play, scoops up the loose ball and scores. Vikes up, 14 - 0 with more than half of the first quarter left to play.
Admittedly, likening the NFL to Hollywood is an imperfect comparison. After all, when Brad Pitt goes on the set to shoot an important scene, nobody's playing defense. But in each case, the performers have to do something entertaining to hold the audience's interest. And in recent years, the Rams have failed rather miserably in that regard.
GU: Early in the second quarter, the Rams advance the ball to the Viking 1-yard line where hard-running Steven Jackson ... fumbles. Score remains 14 - 0.
Including today's contest, the Rams have played 69 games since the start of the 2005 season. Projecting a loss to the Vikings, they have won 20 of those for a winning percentage of .289. Worse, the trend line is in stark decline. After an 8 - 8 season in 2006, they have won just 6 of 37 -- a .162 winning percentage. Their current 15-game losing streak is the longest in the NFL.
GU: at the 9:44 mark of the second quarter, first-round pick James Laurinaitis earns his keep by intercepting Favre. Two minutes and six seconds later, the Rams convert that bounty into a field goal. Vikes 14; Rams 3.
So far this year, the locals are dead last in the NFL in terms of points scored. They've faced two divisional opponents and lost those contests by a combined score of 63 - 0. The good news is that we're in a relatively weak division. The bad news is that we’re one of the principal reasons the division is so weak...
GU: the Vikes answer the Rams' field goal with one of their own, after which the Rams advance to the Viking one-yard line where back-up tight end Daniel Fells fumbles. Halftime score: 17 - 3.
Most of us experience enough futility during the work-week without paying to see someone else's failures on Sunday afternoon. This explains why games in the Dome increasingly seem like road contests as local ticket-holders sell their ducats to fans of the opposing teams. (At least I gave mine away to a Rams backer...)
I am admonished by the people I tailgate with that I owe the team loyalty. Any football, they argue, is better than none. Perhaps. But the loyalty here seems to flow in one direction. If I go to the ticket-office to explain that I can't afford my seats because I'm having an "off-year" at work but that I'm "re-building" in hopes of being able to pay next year, I doubt I'll make it through the turnstile.
GU: Favre throws a TD pass for the first score of the second half. If star power were measured in kilowatts, he'd outshine the entire Rams organization. The Rams were off-sides on the play. Penalty declined: 24 - 3.
When the wheels come off, things go to hell in a hurry. Now comes news that Rush Limbaugh is part of an ownership group attempting to buy the team. There's a certain symmetry here: a Mound City team purchased by the guy I think of as the "Mound of Sound."
GU: the Rams open the fourth quarter by calling time-out deep in Viking territory. It seems that lineman Alex Barron -- who brings to mind the legendary scouting report, "Looks like Tarzan; plays like Jane" -- has again this week decided to line up in the backfield. Red-Zone futility continues when Boller is intercepted in the end zone two plays later. 24-3.
CNN reports that some black players will refuse to play if Limbaugh acquires the team. I can see their point: I wouldn't want to work for an African-American employer who was known to make disparaging remarks about white people. Then again, if the Rams stop playing, how will we know?
GU: All-World running back Adrian Peterson puts the Vikes up 31-3.
Injured starter, Marc Bulger, replaces Boller and hits the under-achieving Donny Avery for a consolation TD. Avery promptly embarrasses himself, his sport and decent citizens everywhere by performing a victory dance with his team down by 21 points. 31 - 10.
Tarvaris Jackson comes in for Favre to run out the clock. He proceeds to lead the Vikes on an 80-yard scoring drive. Final score: 38 – 10.
On second thought, Limbaugh might be an ideal owner for this hapless franchise. If you're going to host a circus, you'll probably need a clown...
M.W. Guzy is a retired St. Louis cop who currently works for the city Sheriff's Department. His column appears weekly in the Beacon.