Being a Rams fan was a weird time in the 1990s. To put it in the terms of a television show that perfectly encapsulates the decade and is the show of record of my youth, "Saved By the Bell"; the 49ers were Zack. The Raiders were Slater. We were Screech. The 49ers had the Super Bowl titles and the best quarterback to ever play before Tom Brady. The Raiders had Ice Cube wearing their gear. As for the Rams; well I think I saw Jay Leno on the sidelines of a game once.
The last game I went to was October 2, 1994. The Rams lost 8-5 to the Falcons. I was one of roughly 20,000 people who witnessed Tommy Maddox playing quarterback for the Rams. Though, I won't be too harsh on Tommy, he did deliver LA's last pro football championship as the MVP of the XFL champion Los Angeles Xtreme. If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be a Rams fan in the 1990s, read here.
That's in the past, let's look to the present.
6:25 a.m. (Huntington Beach) -- My daughter Ashoka Tano Rank head butts me in the spine to get me started for the day. I'm ready. I feel like I should be more excited about this, but I'm facing the day with more dread. It's kind of like if your college girlfriend moved back to town and wanted to get back together. Hey, I'm with somebody now. But hey, one lunch can't hurt, right?
7:27 a.m. (The 405) -- I haven't been to a Rams game since 1994. So to get into the mood, I throw on the Lithium channel on Sirius XM. First song, "Here and Now" by Letters to Cleo. You might remember it as the closing song for "Melrose Place," which some might argue might be a better 90s TV show of record. But no. That show took a weird turn when Kimberly blew up the place. Look, I might not have had an oil spill on the football field like Bayside High, but just no.
7:31 a.m. (The 405) -- Now we're really cranking. It's "Cherub Rock" by the Smashing Pumpkins. I feel great about this day so far.
7:34 a.m. (The 405) -- Now it's "My Friends" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Damn it.
I'm a huge Chili Peppers fan. Huge. But "One Hot Minute" might have been their worst album. Actually, it was their worst album. Thank you, Dave Navarro.
7:38 a.m. (The 405) -- There's a Hyundai zooming past me with a pair of flags on his car. I believe they are Rams flags, but I need to speed up to make sure. Yep, Rams flags. Nothing is more LA than team flags. I would say about 76 percent of cars on the road in LA had Lakers flags during Kobe's heyday. It's more LA than putting the "the" in front of the freeway number.
7:39 a.m. (The 405) -- Give a thumbs-up to the driver as he takes the 110 north to the Coliseum (I assume).
8:01 a.m. (Culver City) -- Hit the NFL Network studios. Time to meet with the editor. Look at my fantasy lineup one last time before I go. An NFL Network producer comes over to my desk to ask, Eli Manning or Aaron Rodgers? I say Rodgers. I'm overruled by everybody else. (Eli would end with 14.32 fantasy points.)
9:59 a.m. (Culver City) -- I do something that's not very Los Angeles. I take public transportation. Yet, I'm a little surprised the Metro station parking lot is like 33 percent full. There is one group out there tailgating (which seems fun). Other than that, just a smattering of fans milling about.
10:05 a.m. (Culver City) -- I might have spoken too soon. The lot is filling up at a great pace. Hope lives.
10:13 a.m. (Culver City) -- Props to Culver City and the Metro people in general. There are actual humans there selling tickets and helping you get on the right train. I can't stress this enough, but this is really cool. And great foresight. Instead of hundreds of people milling around trying to figure out where to go, they had help. And it beats paying $100 for parking. The parking is free at the Metro station, mind you. I know a lot of people are outraged the lots around the Coliseum charges so much. But Ty Burrell is not going to take public transportation.
10:31 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- Make sure you get off at the Exposition/USC station. The one where the Science Center is. Nearly everybody got off at an earlier stop, but I looked at a group of fans who looked like they knew what they were doing. But I followed my Rams Sherpas who guided me to the quickest entrance.
10:37 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- This is a pretty crazy scene with all of the Rams fans here. In full disclosure, I followed the Rams as a kid before they folded after the 1994 season. (I know there was a team in St. Louis that called itself the Rams. They weren't my Los Angeles Rams.) But I followed my family's wishes and started to support the Chicago Bears. (I was born in Chicago.) But those old feelings are starting to come back again. There might be blue and gold still coursing through my veins. I might just call my wife Rosie right now and tell her to get the Bears helmet out of Ahsoka's room. The Rams are back!
10:38 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- Those old feelings have now turned to anger.
10:39 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- I'm serious. Where were all of these people in the 1990s? Back when I was getting beer thrown on me by a bunch of Vikings fans after a Rams goal-line stand back in the day. (Yep, a teenager walked into his house after a Rams game and had to explain to his mother why he smelt like a brewery.) But none of you where there. Where were you when I got sucker punched by a 49ers fan in the upper deck? WHERE WERE YOU? I think I might want the Rams to lose now.
10:51 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- Danny Trejo has his own taco truck! Oh man, we really are going to have a taco truck on every corner. I approve. Trejo told our Steve Wyche he used to sneak into the Coliseum back in the 1950s. That's pretty old school.
11:11 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- The LA Sports Arena is being torn down. Or maybe it's always looked that way. Hard to tell. Probably the last man-trough ever in sports history. So let's pour one out.
11:18 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- All right, time to go into the building. I walked past Gate 17, which is where I bought my ticket for the Million Dollar game, the XFL's championship game back in 2001. That was the last professional football game I attended as a fan in Los Angeles, if you don't count USC during the Reggie Bush era. So the last two LA games I attend as a fan featured Tommy Maddox. I'll be pissed if he's not there to help light the Coliseum torch.
11:30 a.m. (Los Angeles) -- I love the Coliseum. Honestly Stan, save your money. This stadium is dope. Especially if the new Rams stadium in Inglewood is going to be as lame as the erector set that is Levi Stadium. Or an impersonal shopping mall like AT&T Stadium. Both of those places are lousy and lack charisma.
The Coliseum has character and heart. It's smelly and shows it age in spots, but sometimes that's a good thing. It's like a cool dive bar. Like if the famed Whiskey on the Sunset Strip was a football stadium. New doesn't always equal better. The Browns uniforms should have taught you that.
The Rams announced this move on Thursday or Friday. I would have rather they had kept it a secret until they ran out of the tunnel, like Notre Dame did with its green uniforms a decade ago. That would have been so much cooler, but I'm just splitting hairs here.
And for the record, the Rams need to wear these jerseys at home all year. The only notable exception would be to wear the white version of these uniforms or the Deacon Jones-era blue and whites. AND THAT'S IT!
The concession stand did have a Torry Holt jersey for sale. Remember all of those great games he had for the Los Angeles Rams? Yeah, NEITHER DO I! I don't want to beat this dead horse, but let the St. Louis stuff go.
12:35 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- LeBron James is in the building. He's getting boos. A small Kobe chant breaks out. Seriously, get out of here LeBron, nobody wants you here. You're a Cowboys fan anyway.
12:41 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- I was just here for the Red Hot Chili Peppers anyway.
I was standing in the second row. The guy behind me, to the right about two seats down from me admonished three preteens for standing for the performance. This guy is a lot of fun, I can tell. He spends the whole show looking up at the big screen. At least this game didn't compel a lot of people to stand.
12:42 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The Chili Peppers are here. I love this band. Anthony. Flea. Chad. And the guitarist. Love them.
12:44 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Anthony Kiedis wore a Todd Gurley jersey for the opening song, "Can't Stop," but you know if he went double-nipple at the Super Bowl, that jersey is coming off for the closing number. It does. They play "Dark Necessities" from its new album. I know you're not going to play "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes" but you know; (ahem) just like the uniforms, I'm splitting hairs.
I love that the Chili Peppers are here. They are truly the biggest sports ambassadors for Los Angeles. It also made me wonder who would be on the Mount Rushmore of LA bands. Off the top of my head, I'd go Guns N' Roses, RHCP, Sublime and Motley Crue? Don't start building the mount just yet. I might have to adjust after I give it a think.
12:48 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Just two full songs from the Chili Peppers, but what a spectacle. I thought Pete Carroll would have his team out here to watch the concert. Seems like a Carroll thing to do, no? I'm stoked. It's your move now, Raiders. The only way you could top this would be if you had Guns N' Roses play at your first game in Las Vegas. But we'll probably get The Killers.
12:53 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Hey, it's Duff McKagen, a noted Seahawks fan. I somehow resist the urge to fanboy here and get a selfie. Mostly because somebody just did and he looked annoyed. I kind of lurk behind his crew just in case they are taking the elevator up to the boxes. No such luck.
They take a turn to find water. So I shout to Duff, "Hey man, thank you for everything!" as I give him a thumbs-up. He waves. I get the vapers.
1:07 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The torch is lit! No Tommy Maddox, sadly. Oddly, Marshall Faulk was there with the LA Rams Hall of Famers like Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater, et all. Don't try to force the St. Louis thing, guys. It's akin to having your spouse hang up photos of his/her ex in your house. Typically, that's a bad idea.
1:16 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The Rams scored! Not a touchdown. But points! We're taking baby steps. You can tell the crowd really wants to get into this but they aren't there yet.
2:05 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- One of my NFL Network co-workers just makes it to the game. Pffft. LA fans.
2:38 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- We got Pinks hot dogs at halftime. I've never had one before. It's not great. I'd be pissed if I ever waited in that long line at the shop on Fairfax. Maybe the build up was too great and the expectations were undeliverable. Kind of like this game.
2:54 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Why are we booing the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti? I blame the mini-series "The People vs. O.J. Simpson," which showcased his father, Gil, who was the District Attorney at the time. But seriously, Garcetti is the best. He's the guy who grabbed the mic during the Kings 2014 Stanley Cup celebration and said, "How about this (expletive) team?"
3:12 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- I just noticed for the first time I can see the Hollywood sign. Again, let me stump for the Coliseum. This place is great. You can see City Hall. I can imagine the Library Tower lit up in blue and gold during prime time games. Instead you're going to move to a strip mall in Inglewood. Ugh.
3:17 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Announced attendance of more than 91k. I believe it. The stadium is still pretty full in the fourth quarter. The fans are hinging on every play, desperate to go crazy.
3:25 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The Kings are in the house! Well, the guys who aren't playing in the World Cup. I was at the Super Bowl last year and Quickie, Kopi, Brownie, Carter and some of the other boys were at the game. Quick didn't care for my Bears hat. But I told him I was a die-hard Kings fan. I feel we left the afternoon as friends.
3:32 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- It's the wave! Hey, give them a break. This is the first NFL game here since 1994. It was a thing back then.
3:39 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Brandon Ingram is in the house! Biggest cheer of the day so far. And a reminder who still runs this town. I thought it was amusing when the Rams claimed they delayed the announcement of their huge trade as to not take away from Kobe's final game. Yeah, okay.
3:40 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The stadium sound system played "Welcome to the Jungle" after a huge defensive play for the Rams. I wonder if this angers Duff.
3:48 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The Rams take over. What are we thinking here? Three-and-out? Pick six? You can feel the nervous energy in the stadium. It's like watching "The Blair Witch Project" just knowing something terrible is about to happen. Our Bucky Brooks says, "You can just feel like something is about to happen." But not today. They can't, right?
3:52 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- I take a moment to snap this picture for my Instagram account (cheap plug). But this looks perfect. Almost like that old electric football game. Again Stan, save your money!
4:01 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Seahawks have the ball, first and 10 on the 12-yard line. This isn't going to end well, is it? It's almost like you've seen this movie before and you know how it's going to end.
4:03 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Oh dear lord, don't let this happen to the Rams fans. They haven't had football in 22 years. Don't do this to them. They are neophytes. Although the last couple of years of Lakers basketball should have prepared them.
4:06 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The Rams fans are loud and force a false start. LA fans, baby! We have some savvy.
4:08 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Victory formation. Haven't seen that since Tommy Maddox finished off the San Francisco Demons. And I honestly don't know how to feel.
4:45 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- The walk back to the Metro station is festive. Fans have that look of somebody who just finished a marathon. Some stagger. Some hug one another. It's almost like a high school reunion. The line for the Metro is long, but nobody seems to mind. I even saw a Rams fan defer his spot to a Seahawks fan.
5:30 p.m. (Los Angeles) -- Back to my car and ready to head to the office.
The first questions I get are, "Are you back?" And I'm not. I'm very happy for the Rams organization and the fans who have longed for this moment for 22 years. It's been a tough climb. One of the things that always troubled me about the Rams is that we never got our win. The Angels got to beat the Yankees on the way to the World Series in 2002. Kobe and the Lakers got to beat Paul Pierce's Celtics. And the Kings finally won the Stanley Cup, not once, but twice.
We never got that as Rams fans. The best years came in St. Louis. But there are a lot of good things that came from this. The NFL is certainly different than it was 22 years ago. These fans looked hungry and there is a lot to look forward to in the future. Like a touchdown for instance.
Bottom line, I'm happy the NFL is back. It's kind of like Disneyland. I might only go like once a year, but it's nice to know that it's there.