Advertisement

The Rams Play Well--in the Parking Lot of the Stadium

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jay Bedolla was ready, no doubt about that. Beer in hand, the 35-year-old Long Beach resident squinted at his watch, and then at the fans already making their way across the baking asphalt of Anaheim Stadium’s parking lot.

“Oh yes, we’ve been waiting for the season,” Bedolla said Sunday, about half an hour before the Los Angeles Rams kicked off their new season. “Yeah, we love the Rams. We got here about an hour ago, you know, to party a little bit and see who’s out here. We came to all the preseason games, too.”

Bedolla, a season-ticket holder for three years, joined 47,048 other fans who turned out to mark summer’s unofficial final weekend by attending the opening game of the fall football season. They came early, by the thousands, to tailgate, picnic and collectively hope for a year better than last.

They went away disappointed. The Rams fumbled and bumbled their way to a 24-14 loss to the Phoenix Cardinals. But in the hours before the team took the field, hope sprang anew among the faithful, bolstered by a sunny afternoon and the unblemished promise of a new season.

Advertisement

Among the banners and ice chests were Long Beach resident Ed Lewandowski and seven friends who laid out beach towels and feasted on beer, soda, chips and sandwiches.

“Expect a rout today,” declared Lewandowski, 26, who was decked out in his new $85 Rams jersey bearing the number 91, which is worn by defensive standout Kevin Greene.

“I love the Rams; I just love them,” Lewandowski said. “Ever since I was 8 years old, they have been my favorite team. I think they’re the most exciting team in the NFL, and I think they don’t have enough fans.”

Even Lewandowski’s confidence wasn’t enough to convince two of his companions, Long Beach residents Lisa Carroll and Gay Scribner, both recent transplants from New York. The two wore the colors of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, and both insisted Southern California could not touch the Empire State on the field--or in the parking lot.

Advertisement

“The tailgating here just doesn’t compare,” Carroll said. “We put out these blankets and people are looking at us funny, like ‘What are you doing?’ In New York, everybody, I mean everybody, tailgates.”

In a more lively section of the stadium’s lot, Brian Taylor, 26, of Rosemead, quickly drained a beer can into a cup as kickoff loomed. Taylor and a rowdy group of friends used the minutes before the game to brief a pair of visiting German tourists on the finer points of American football.

The visitors--Gunar Nagel, 36, of Stuttgart and Ferdi Leuzenhuber, 27, of Munich--said they were eager to get a taste of the American sport and compare the spectacle to European football, otherwise known as soccer. Their eagerness undoubtedly was fueled by Taylor’s animated descriptions of the game.

“It’s vicious, it’s pain . . . it’s blood and guts,” Taylor said, laughing. “And the Rams are going to smoke these guys today.”

Advertisement

But, in the end, the Rams would generate no smoke, only a fog. They made seven turnovers and racked up some costly penalties. Still, the true fans, unshaken by dips in the team’s fortunes, say they’ll keep coming back.

Take Joe Trujillo, who came to Sunday’s opener decked out head to toe in Rams’ blue and gold. He has attended Rams games for 20 years, the last 12 of them with his wife.

“You should see my living room,” Francine Trujillo said. “We have a Rams corner. It’s a Rams shrine. He has blankets, and hats, and cups, and earphones--everything.”

In fact, she said, she shares her husband’s passion for the team. Even before meeting Joe Trujillo, Francine backed the Rams, a loyalty she inherited from her father.

Advertisement

“My dad was a Rams fan, so I was too,” she said. “But he traded teams--he likes the Raiders now. So we don’t like my dad anymore.”


Advertisement
Advertisement