So today the St. Louis Rams no longer exist, and the team will return to the west coast to once again become the Los Angeles Rams, leaving St. Louis overlooked, counted out, and without an NFL team.
On one hand, it doesn’t really matter much to me. I stopped investing any real time or energy into the Rams once Kurt Warner was run out of town, and the Greatest Show on Turf began to be systematically dismantled. Also, not unlike the Rams of today, I also headed out of St. Louis years ago seeking something different.
But then again, there is something deeper that unites even wandering St. Louisans together that is difficult to describe. For those of us on the list of people “from” but no longer “in” the city, it seems that the Cardinals or Blues – not the Rams – are our uniting force. After all, to the old folks in town the Rams often felt like more of a second marriage; a rebound relationship we found ourselves in only after the Bidwells walked out and took the football Cardinals with them.
But nevertheless, there is little doubt that St. Louis and the Dome were the most fitting home to the Rams in their most exciting moment. The history of football lore holds little to match the glories of The Greatest Show on Turf, and the greatest single-season turnaround in NFL history.
In 1999, the St. Louis Rams were a bottom rung team led by Dick Vermeil, a coach who had walked away from football in 1982, only to return in 1997 to go 5-11, then 4-12. No one expected that these afterthought Rams would soon shock the world and win it all by crafting a record-shattering offensive juggernaut, led by an undrafted and unknown backup quarterback named Kurt Warner.
These players are now retired, these moments in the past, and the much-maligned Edward Jones Dome that will no longer host Monday Night Football is considered a sub-standard stadium, and was roundly named as one of the worst venues in the NFL.
But there was a moment in time that this same Dome was considered the most exciting venue in professional sports. During the ‘Greatest Show’ era, there was an electricity that transcended architectural pizazz or seating capacity, and united a team and a city in a powerful way.
At it’s heart, that was the beauty of it all; a coach, a team, and a quarterback that had been overlooked and counted out were defying the odds, and it was this virtue that resonated so much with St. Louisans in the first place.
So yes, the Rams are headed back to L.A., but St. Louis remains a special town, and it was in St. Louis that the team truly made magic.