It was a triumphant return of the Los Angeles Rams to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, as the team set a record for attendance at a preseason game in the United States, and a late rally led to a 28-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
It wasn’t quite the 91,000-ticket sellout the team expected — at the end of the day, 89,140 tickets were distributed, far beyond the 81,000-fan capacity the Rams expect this season at the Coliseum — but it was still noteworthy. It was the first Los Angeles NFL game since 1994, and it was the first Rams home game in Los Angeles since 1979, with the Rams shifting operations to Anaheim Stadium for the 1980 season. There’s a rich history of Rams football in Los Angeles and the Coliseum: the Cleveland Rams moved to LA for the 1946 season (becoming the first major sports team to set up shop on the West Coast) and were the first integrated major sports team after Coliseum officials made integration a condition of the team’s lease.
There is a rich history of Rams football in Los Angeles — Elroy Hirsch, Norm Van Brocklin, Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier, Roman Gabriel, Jack Youngblood, Chuck Knox, Eric Dickerson — and much of that history was on display during last night’s ESPN broadcast.
And, perhaps more importantly, the game became an occasion, with fans crowding parking lots far in advance of the kickoff. From the Los Angeles Times:
Call it a fever, a swoon, a moment of truth. The celebrations for the city’s newest team — the Los Angeles Rams — started promptly at noon on Saturday, as soon as the parking lots around the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum opened.
Kickoff for the Rams’ exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys was five hours away, but the cheerleaders were ensconced in Trailer 28B, the inflatable doughnut for Randy’s was aloft and pickups piled high with barbecues, tables and coolers began streaming through the gates. …
This day, this hour, this moment of renewal couldn’t have come soon enough.
“It is like something died and came back to life,” said Sherry Pie, unfazed by a momentary riff on Lazarus.
As for the record: it does take some parsing to arrive at it. It’s not the largest crowd for an NFL preseason game — that record is 112,376, set in a preseason match between the Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys in Mexico City in 1994 — and it’s not the record for a U.S. exhibition game, either. That record is 105,840, set at Soldier Field for an exhibition game between the Chicago Bears and a college all-star team in 1947.
Image courtesy NFL.