Around the time the Rams finished practice Thursday, a major online ticket reseller was estimating the 29% of the crowd for their playoff opener Saturday would be comprised of fans supporting the visiting team.
“I’ll take it,” Rams punter Johnny Hekker said.
In the first two seasons following their return to Los Angeles, the Rams hosted the Dallas Cowboys in preseason games at the Coliseum. If the Rams didn’t know about the Cowboys’ expansive fan base in Southern California, they learned then.
Memories of the contests were why Rams defensive end Michael Brockers was skeptical of the crowd breakdown provided by Vivid Seats, which was based on an internal formula that considers a number of factors.
“I don’t know, man,” Brockers said. “Maybe it will be 50-50, 60-40. I’m not sure.”
Brockers’ intuition was right. Later in the afternoon, the Cowboys’ estimated share of the crowd increased to 31%, with Vivid Seats digital content marketing manager Stephen Spiewak saying the figure could be close to 40% on game day.
Then again, it could be worse for the Rams. They could be playing the Raiders, who could turn them into a large-venue version of the Chargers, a team subjected to playing road games at home.
Against the Cowboys, the Rams will at least have a chance of winning the game in the stands, which will be almost as important as what happens on the field.
The result will stand as the city’s referendum on what the Rams have accomplished over the last three seasons. The verdict will be seen. It will be heard. And it will be felt.
The makeup of the fans will illustrate how effective the Rams have been in making themselves players in a city that barely noticed them in the immediate aftermath of their return from St. Louis. The stadium atmosphere will double as a progress report on where they are in the “Fight for L.A.,” in which the Chargers are the least of their problems. And the crowd will inform them of whether they should be considered one of this city’s Big Three, alongside the Lakers and Dodgers.
Akshay Khanna, the head of partnerships for the NFL, NBA and NHL at online ticket exchange company StubHub, offered an optimistic forecast.
Rather than resell their tickets for a profits on the secondary market, Khanna said, “I think a lot of season ticket holders are going to go to this game.”
“There is a real buzz,” said Khanna, who complimented the Rams on rebuilding their brand in Los Angeles.
The Cowboys were locked in as the Rams’ opponent when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Chicago Bears on Sunday in the wild-card round. In the 24 hours after Bears kicker Cody Parker’s missed field goal, ticket sales on Vivid Seats for the upcoming game at the Coliseum increased 600% compared to the previous 24 hours, according to Spiewak.
On both StubHub and Vivid Seats, the “get in” price for games was around $270 as of Thursday night. That number is expected to increase as the game nears.
Considering the high demand is likely to result in rampant counterfeiting, Khanna advised fans to purchase tickets from a reputable seller, even if that seller isn’t StubHub.
Known as “America’s Team,” the Cowboys are a national brand. But they have a particularly strong following in Southern California, in part because they have staged their training camps in the region for the majority of the last 56 years.
The Cowboys’ camps were at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks from 1963-1989. That’s the same school at which the Rams now have their in-season training facility.
The Cowboys temporarily moved training camps closer to home, only to return to Southern California in 1998. Since then, most of their camps have been in Oxnard.
The Southern California Dallas Cowboys Fan Club is 12 years old and has somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 members, co-founder Robert Morales said.
Morales inherited his fandom from older relatives who used to live in Texas. But he speculated the widespread popularity of the Cowboys here could in part be attributed to how their dynasty in the early 1990s overlapped with the departure of the Raiders and Rams, pointing to how many of his club’s members were in their formative years as fans when Los Angeles didn’t have an NFL team.
“Families come in with their kids,” said Castellanos, who laughed as she recalled seeing 5-year-old participate in chants.
Castellanos’ 9-year-old son, Jayden, has become a Cowboys fan.
But Cowboys fans who felt they used to own the San Fernando Valley have noticed the presence of invaders in recent years. The area is now divided.
“You see a lot more Rams hats,” chapter president Anthony Martinez acknowledged.
The fan club plans to tailgate near the Coliseum before the Rams-Cowboys game. The specific location will be revealed early Saturday morning on the group’s Facebook page. Counting visitors from out of state, Morales estimated 1,000 fans would attend.
Like Brockers, Morales also thought Vivid Seats might be underestimating how the percentage of the Coliseum that would be cheering on the Cowboys.
“It’s going to be more like 60-40” for the Cowboys, Morales said.
Rams coach Sean McVay was cautiously optimistic that wouldn’t be the case.
“We’re hoping to see a lot of Rams fans come out,” McVay said. “We’ve had great turnouts at home this year. It’s been great atmospheres and environments, but Dallas is one of those franchises that travels really well.”
McVay laughed when he was asked what he would say to Rams fans who were thinking of selling their tickets to Cowboys fans.
“Don’t do that,” he said.