Turnover, Mexico City.
One stadium’s gunk has become another one’s gift. One field’s dirt has become a football team’s dream.
It’s a sod story for poor Estadio Azteca, but a fairy tale for the Rams, who have just been presented the opportunity of a season on a silver backhoe.
Had enough of the soil metaphors? I’m just getting started. If you believe teams cannot win championships without at least one hugely lucky break, what happened Tuesday was earth-mover-shattering.
The NFL’s decision to move Monday night’s super showdown between the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs from Mexico City to the Coliseum because Estadio Azteca’s field was deemed unplayable is more than just a change in location. It’s a change in the fortunes of both the Rams and the Los Angeles sports landscape.
Think about it. A city still suffering from Dodger hangover and Laker uncertainty was just named as host to the most anticipated regular-season NFL game in many seasons, two 9-1 teams, two of the league’s most exciting teams, two teams worthy of an over/under line of 64, the highest recorded number in more than 30 years.
Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes, here. Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt, here. Tyreek Hill and Brandin Cooks/Robert Woods, here.
It will be the Rams’ high-priced, all-pro defense versus the second-highest-scoring team in the league. It will be the Rams’ second-ranked rushing attack against the Chiefs’ 26th-ranked rushing defense.
This is like being awarded a mini-Super Bowl without the price gouging. This is like a surprise holiday package for all those suffering Rams fans who thought they wouldn’t see their team again until late December. This is also completely appropriate because, remember, this was officially a Rams home game that was hijacked by the league for the purpose of internationally broadening their market.
Think about it some more. Less than 24 hours ago, the Rams were facing an uphill struggle against a speedy team on a neutral field at a stifling altitude. Now they will be running downhill in the level surroundings of the friendly Coliseum, where they have gone 5-0 this season with big wins over the Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. The Chiefs are 4-1 on the road with a 43-40 loss at New England and one-possession victories over Pittsburgh and Denver.
The Rams need any edge they can get in chasing down the one-loss New Orleans Saints for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This change of venue could give them the edge they need.
The Coliseum will be rocking. And if it’s not, well, it should be. It has never been the purpose of this column to tell folks how to spend their money, but showing up at Monday night’s game would seem like the sports investment of the year.
It will arguably be the most celebrated Rams home game since their return here two seasons ago, and that includes last year’s playoff dud against the Atlanta Falcons. It will be a nationally televised referendum on a Rams popularity that still lags in big games against established teams — witness the recent majority of fans who showed up at the Coliseum wearing cheese on their heads.
Don’t look this gift Ram in the mouth. Turn this into a three-hour tribute to a town willing to drop everything at the last second on a Monday in November to go watch a doggone good football game.
Season ticket-holders can log on and purchase their seats, plus four more, at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Three hours later, at 1 p.m., tickets will be available to the general public.
But not all tickets. The Rams are working with community partners to provide thousands of free tickets to folks affected by the recent Southland tragedies and the first responders who have behaved so heroically for so many days.
This game of the year could turn out to be more than a game, a community rally, and how cool would that be?
And, of course, through it all, don’t forget to thank the folks who run Estadio Azteca, the giant Mexico City stadium whose field became a mess with recent concerts and sports events. Check out the photos. The playing surface looks like a barnyard. The field was first torn up at a Shakira concert Oct. 11, and then never recovered from repeated use since, so thank her too.
Also thank the NFL for prioritizing player safety ahead of what is surely a giant logistical mess for everyone, including its Monday night TV partner ESPN. It probably helped that, in the last couple of days, players from both teams saw the photos and complained to their union.
In all, a smart move to address what was a pretty silly idea in the first place. That the NFL continues to rob its fans of regular-season home games every year in order to sell jerseys in London or Mexico City is bad business. Each team has only eight of those games, and they’re too precious to ship elsewhere.