What playoffs mean to a long time Rams fan

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

As a long time Rams fan, here is a New Year’s Day reflection on the ups and downs of following this team over the last two decades.

I was in junior high when the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis, which was the nearest big city to where I lived in central Illinois. It was that same time that I started playing football myself, so my childhood loyalty to Emmitt Smith and Michel Irvin gave way to the hometown team, featuring Jerome Bettis, Isaac Bruce, and Tony Banks. I had liked the Cowboys the way only an adolescent can: no knowledge of the game or desire to watch, just a brand to claim in front of my friends. My love for the Rams grew with my own knowledge of the game. The first NFL game I attended saw these Rams lose to the Washington Redskins.

They did a lot of losing back then. But losing makes a person appreciate winning. Pain makes a way for pleasure. So, when the Greatest Show on Turf arrived in 1999, I was a Junior in High School, and the previous seasons of ineptitude made it that much sweeter. In a seemingly overnight turnaround, and with the additions of Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk, and the emergence of the true jewel that was Kurt Warner, the Rams were the biggest story in football.

But things change. After a couple good years, a heartbreaking Super Bowl, free agency, and retirements, the Rams returned to their losing ways surprisingly quickly. The coaches came and went, including Scott Linehan, Steve Spagnuolo, and Jeff Fisher, with none of them able to lead the Rams to the playoffs or even register a .500 season.

But in 2017, that all changed. The Rams became the top scoring offense in the league. They have an MVP candidate in running back Todd Gurley to go along with numerous other weapons. They have a young quarterback in Jared Goff that has done things no one has done for the Rams since Warner. And most importantly, they won 11 games along with the division title.

Next: Gurley misses out on rushing title

As they prepare to host the Atlanta Falcons Saturday night, Rams fans from St. Louis, Los Angeles, and around the world will see the hopes of many seasons all come to fruition. Regardless of how the playoffs turn out, it is a new era of Rams football. The future is bright.

Happy New Year, Rams fans.