Under the bright lights and lofty expectations of Hollywood, the Rams will look to win Sunday’s Super Bowl and with it the hearts of Los Angeles sports fans, who are still warming to the franchise after it returned to LA six years ago.
The Rams departed in 1995 after 49 years and spent 21 seasons in St. Louis before returning to begin the arduous process of rebuilding a fanbase in LA’s crowded sports marketplace.
Their return has been no stroll down the red carpet.
In their first season back, they managed just four wins as quarterback and number one draft pick Jared Goff struggled.
Two seasons later they made Super Bowl 53 but their offense failed to fire as they fell 13-3 in a dispiriting loss to the Patriots.
This season, the team shifted firmly into “win now” mode, replacing Goff with the more experienced Matthew Stafford.
All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Super Bowl MVP linebacker Von Miller were also added to a roster that includes three time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and breakout receiver Cooper Kupp.
The team got another boost this season when they were finally able to play in front of fans in the new, $5.5 billion SoFi Stadium, the site of Sunday’s game.
But they sometimes found those fans were not on their side.
San Francisco supporters flooded the stadium at the NFC Championship game, but the Rams overcame the sea of red and gold to beat the 49ers and reach the Super Bowl.
Now they will look to deliver a championship to the city in the hopes of standing shoulder to shoulder with beloved LA franchises like the Lakers and Dodgers.
“I think there are a lot of reasons for this city to be excited about this team,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said this week.
“We’ve got great players, and it’s a fun brand of football that you’re seeing them play. LA is a city of champions. They like winners, and that’s something that our players embrace and love.”
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti told Reuters that the team embodies the “plucky spirit” of the city.
“A guy like Cooper Kupp shouldn’t be one of the greatest, and now he is,” Garcetti said of the third round draft pick, who led the league in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this season.
“He’s kind of a perfect metaphor for LA. We figured out a way to get it done. And Aaron Donald is that can’t quit spirit, the toughness of this city.”
The Rams’ return symbolizes the city’s resiliency, he said.
“We always rise up again, and football was always going to come back,” he said.
“Greatness loves to live in LA.”