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The Coliseum’s famous peristyle, looking over the Rams going through their paces. Photo courtesy of losangeles.cbslocal.com

 

MY OBSERVATIONS OF THE RETURN OF A LONG LOST L.A. SPORTS TEAM AND IMPRESSIONS OF AN ARENA THAT I HAD NOT BEEN TO IN OVER TWO DECADES

 

When I heard about the Rams having a Family Day, which included a Fan Fest outside of the Coliseum and an open team practice and scrimmage inside that iconic arena, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go.

Especially since it was free.

The fact that not only had I not laid eyes on an NFL team since my college marching band did a halftime show at a Rams game in Anaheim in 1990,

But that it would also be the first time that I entered the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1993, when I saw Marvin Goodwin intercept Rob Johnson in the end zone with a little over a minute left, sealing UCLA’s 27-21 Rose Bowl-clinching win over USC.

I knew I had to go kill these two birds with my one stone.

So I set off in the late morning, taking the Metro Link’s Expo Line train to its stop right behind USC, where it would be an easy walk to the Coliseum.

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Some members of the Rams’ cheerleading squad with the team mascot at the CBS Channel 2 booth. Photo courtesy of losangeles.cbslocal.com

 

It was quite the fun trip as I got to talking with a couple of Rams fans, including one who recognized me from my days coaching Little League and Girls Softball in Santa Monica.

We didn’t get to talk that long, the train dropping us off between ‘SC and Exposition Park in less than 25 minutes, where incredibly enough I had never been despite being a SoCal native and living in the Los Angeles area for forty years.

It didn’t take me long to approach the Coliseum, where a fan fest was up and running complete with the usual booths giving away free stuff and autographs by public figures – the news team at CBS in this case, including longtime sports anchor Jim Hill.

After roughly thirty minutes, having secured a poster from the HBO documentary series “Hard Knocks” which will begin this month and will feature the Rams, I headed for the Coliseum gates and, after spending a few minutes talking on my cell phone to an old friend who had moved to the east coast and is a longtime Rams fan, entered a place where I had not been in 23 years.

After checking out the various souvenir stands and enjoying the smells usually associated with sporting events, namely the sausages and other meats that were cooking, I entered the Coliseum at tunnel 20 – located at around the ten-yard line across from the player’s tunnel – and proceeded to find a good seat to park myself.

My impressions of the stadium that opened in 1923 and has hosted pretty much every major sporting event that America has to offer, from the first Super Bowl in 1967 to the 1959 World Series (the Dodgers called that stadium home for four years after arriving from Brooklyn until Dodger Stadium opened) to the Olympics on two occasions?

Not to mention being the home of Trojan football for 93 seasons and counting?

 

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Rams head coach Jeff Fisher – a USC alum – looks over things during the Rams’ open practice. Quarterback Jared Goff (#16 in the red jersey) is on the right. Photo courtesy of lapostexaminer.com

 

Let me put it like this…

As a UCLA alum and a longtime member of Bruin Nation, I always followed the company line in regarding the home of UCLA’s sworn enemies as a dump; a “Mausoleum” as it has often been called.

Checking out the place, I decided that although I felt like an old war veteran going back to the site of an enemy battlefield after the war was over, I would no longer call the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum a dump as a more accurate description for it would be a “fixer upper”.

Meaning that although it’s a tad worn in quite a few areas, and the press box looks quite antiquated, I saw that the place has possibilities as the only difference between that Coliseum and the football stadium where I have spent so much time on fall Saturdays, the Rose Bowl, is that while that famous stadium in Pasadena has undergone a rigorous renovation the Coliseum has yet to do so, as USC has plans for an extensive renovation within the next few years.

As the starting time for the practice and scrimmage grew near, the fans getting louder and more animated as the players exited the tunnel with their navy blue helmets with the gold Ram design shining in the warm-but-not-too-hot sun, one thing grew crystal clear…

LOS ANGELES MISSED PRO FOOTBALL.

Which showed as the practice began, the loudest cheers being for star running back Todd Gurley and overall number one pick in the NFL draft, quarterback Jared Goff.

There were two things I noticed from the players and the fans:

First, being a middle-aged dude the players seemed so young as the drills they did weren’t too different from what I seen at UCLA’s open practices; perhaps that was because the players were young.

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Rams linemen during their open practice/scrimmage at the Coliseum on August 6th. Photo courtesy of nbclosangeles.com

As for the fans…

I had heard of and seen on YouTube the boorish drunken fights that NFL fans engaged in from Oakland to Philadelphia, and I was a little concerned about where the Rams’ faithful would be on the proverbial scale of one to ten, 10 being the most thuggish.

I’m glad to say that I didn’t see any thuggery among the Rams’ fans, just a lot of enthusiasm and excitement over their team returning to Southern California after 21 years as I was told – and noticed – that the Rams’ followers were a mellow bunch compared to Eagles and (particularly) Raiders fans.

I hope that continues as the season starts and evolves, starting this coming Saturday when the Dallas Cowboys come to the Coliseum for what will be a historic exhibition game, the first pro football contest in the Coliseum since 1994.

As I’ll always be a long way from being able to afford a ticket to a game, what with the exorbitant prices that NFL teams charge, I was glad that I got to see something that I hadn’t seen since my early and mid-20s.

The fact that it will be easy for those who can afford tickets to get to a game courtesy of the Expo Line is yet another plus.

As for the Coliseum, the Rams don’t seem to mind its fixer-upper status as they’ll have a sparking state-of-the-sport stadium in 2019, being built in Inglewood now.

I am certainly looking forward to that team plying its wares in the region they called home from 1946 to 1994, playing in the Coliseum for 34 of those years.

My bottom line: It’s nice to have these Rams back.

 

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Ecstatic Rams fans after a practice at the team’s training camp in Irvine. Photo courtesy of newslocker.com

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