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Devoted Fans Try to Shake Sense of Doom at Pep Rally

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The sun shone brightly over the soccer field at UC Irvine Saturday afternoon, but a sense of pending doom clouded conversations among 300 Rams fans who gathered to support their team and to watch them practice--possibly for the last season.

In an attempt to prevent the move of the NFL team to a city outside California, Rams Booster Club and Save the Rams committee members organized the pep rally to show that the fans support the team and want the Rams to stay in Anaheim.

“This is more of an emotional part of the total plan to get them to stay,” Booster Club President Frank Bryant said.

But the fans, many of whom had followed the team since childhood, didn’t feel much like cheering Saturday. Instead, they watched practice from the sidelines, feeling powerless and frustrated.

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“I wish I had money and power,” said Bill Weber, 52, of Playa del Rey. “I would do whatever it took to keep them here.”

Weber has been following the Rams for nearly five decades. And he was happy to make the hourlong drive to Irvine to stand by his team.

“I felt obligated to be here,” he said.

Lollie Nunez, 50, of Midway City, said she inherited her undying support for the Rams from her mother. On Saturday, Nunez showed up at the pep rally with her son and grandson, all of whom wore yellow and blue jerseys and caps.

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“If they moved away, it would be like an empty spot in our lives,” Nunez said. “In our family, it’s the church, the government and the Rams.”

Al Martinez, 56, of Westminster, said he was born a Rams fan and would die a Rams fan. “Probably when I die, I’ll be wearing a Rams cap,” he said.

Amid the flurry of controversy and business negotiations, Rams team members seemed to appreciate the simplicity of their fans’ devotion Saturday. They autographed footballs, jerseys and caps while heading toward the open field to practice.

“These are the true people who really care. These are the die-hard fans,” said Troy Drayton, a tight end. “People like this are the ones who are going to be here whether we win or lose.”

A similar booster club rally at Anaheim Stadium several months ago drew a much smaller crowd, but people are beginning to pay closer attention now as they realize that they may lose the Rams to another city, Bryant said.

Clyde Tucker is certainly paying attention.

Tucker, who lives in San Francisco, drove more than eight hours to attend the rally Saturday. He said he makes the trek for every home game.

“We are going to show the ownership of the Rams that the problem is not the fans but the leadership at the top,” said Tucker, 44.

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“We’re out here because people need to believe in them--through the good and the bad,” he said. “I hate the 49ers. I come here from San Francisco and I’m not flying to Baltimore, that’s all I can say.”


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