NFL: Rams get warm welcome back to Los Angeles

LOS Angeles welcomed back the National Football League on Sunday with parking lot tailgaters and partygoers alike celebrating the Rams’ return to southern California after 21 seasons in St. Louis.

The Rams, who lost their season opener at San Francisco, hosted the Seattle Seahawks amid a festive atmosphere that was nowhere more evident than around the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the hours before the contest.

People began arriving hours before the game in the parking lot outside the stadium which held 91,046 for the contest.

They tossed footballs, cooked hot dogs and cheeseburgers on their portable grills and reminisced about the good old days before the Rams departed following the 1994 campaign.

“It seems like everything is right in the world again. I love the Rams,” long-time fan Billy Avila of Anaheim said.

“When they left for St. Louis, it felt like I had a long distance relationship with them. Now that they are back, it’s like we are married again.”

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People also crammed into bars and restaurants around the city to watch the contest, arriving early to stake out a good spot to witness the telecast of the game, which the Rams won 9-3.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers rock band got the festivities started inside with a pre-game concert in the west side of the stadium.

Avila said the Rams were a big part of growing up in Los Angeles.

“The Rams are embedded into the fabric of our family,” Avila said as he made his way through the concourse to his seats.

“My uncle brought me to my first Rams’ game when I was a kid and now I am bringing my nephew to his first game. He lives in Arizona but I flew him in for the game.”

The 45-year-old director for an apparel company said he never stopped cheering for the Rams even when they packed up and left town for two decades.

“I would go to Phoenix to see the St. Louis Rams when they played there,” Avila said.

Ted Sams’ love affair with the Rams dates to 1952 when he attended his first game at the Coliseum.

“I’m an old man now,” said the 72-year-old Sams.

“I hated it when they left and now I am glad they are back. For me, they are the same old Rams.”

Coliseum usher Cleveland Jackson, who lives a couple of blocks away from the stadium that has also hosted two Olympics, said having the Rams back allowed him to return to work.

“I’ve been out of work for 20 years,” Jackson said while helping fans find their seats. “I am really excited because I got a job.” Jackson, 78, said he tried cheering for other teams, but it wasn’t the same to him.

Sams isn’t expecting miracles on the field from the Rams at the beginning. They have not managed a winning season since 2003 and have not won a playoff game since 2004. The Rams suffered five losing seasons in a row before leaving Los Angeles.

“We suffered through some bad years before and I am afraid we are going to have to suffer through some more,” he said.
“But the Rams are here.”