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Rams

Column: After 22 years, Rams’ fans are loud and proud

NFL Football - LA Rams vs Seattle Seahawks SEP 18
LA Rams Melonheads fans cheer during the Rams’ home opener against the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum on Sept. 18.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

This is what happens when you wait two decades for the return of your football team.

You don’t leave early. You stay to the sweltering end. You raise your sweaty souls above creaky Coliseum seats in the final moments of their homecoming game and you roar with hope and rage and history.

You roar loud enough, nearly all 91,000 of you, to inspire your weary and backpedaling Rams defense into one last stand.

You roar long enough, your hands waving in the air, to turn the charging Seattle Seahawks’ offense into jelly, one-false start penalty then a lost fumble by Christine Michael to clinch the game.

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You roar deeply enough late Sunday afternoon to nearly make an old defensive end weep, Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood shaking his head in the locker room after the Rams 9-3 victory in the first regular-season NFL game played in Los Angeles in 22 years.

“It was a rush,’’ said Youngblood, his throat thick. “Just a rush.’’

OK, St. Louis, change of heart, we’ll keep these guys around awhile, if only for the magic they spread across 39th and Figueroa on a day that ended with thousands standing and screaming and refusing to go home.

The Rams made their home debut after Monday night’s inaugural debacle against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, and, yes, they are still boring and amazingly still haven’t scored a touchdown.

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 But yeah — wiping brow here — it was a three-hour rush.

It was the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing a pregame concert with Anthony Kiedis wearing a Jared Goff jersey and football pants — the only play the kid got all afternoon.

 It was CeeLo Green singing the national anthem in what appeared to be a red mumu. It was talk show host James Corden dancing in what was definitely a Rams cheerleader outfit. 

It was LeBron James in shorts, Magic Johnson on the aisle, and those darn Kings hockey players toasting beers in the end zone.

“Ko-be, Ko-be,’’ chanted fans at James because, well, of course they did.

It was cheesy Hollywood, but it was also history, with the Olympic torch being lit above a row of six Rams’ Hall of Famers looking nifty in their yellow jackets. The group included Jackie Slater, Tom Mack, Eric Dickerson, Orlando Pace, Marshall Faulk and Youngblood. Even though Faulk and Pace never played in Los Angeles, the Rams included them in all festivities, which was cool, except at halftime they were introduced as “Los Angeles Rams,” and that’s not really fair to St. Louis.

“I thought the production associated with the game was incredible,’’ Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said. “There was some good stuff there.’’

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In the end, though, it was about those fans, dressed in jerseys honoring everyone from Olsen to Everett, fans defying stereotype and embracing legacy and sticking around to watch the Rams stifle the Seahawks on their final, potential game-winning drive.

Standing in the end zone when that drive began with 1:53 left, it was so loud it was impossible to hear, but hobbled Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fought through it to complete a 53-yard pass to Tyler Lockett to the Rams’ 35-yard line.

But then the noise really kicked in, and, after a short Wilson incompletion, the Seahawks were charged with a false start. Usually it’s the Seahawks famed “12th Man’’ that messes with the opposition, but suddenly, there was a new obnoxious kid in town.

 “We got them to go for a couple of false starts, it was loud in there, hard for them to hear,’’ said Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree, in his fourth season. “As long as I’ve been a Ram, we’ve never had the crowd be like that, like it was today.’’

One play after the false start, Michael caught an eight-yard pass but was stripped by Ogletree, who recovered the fumble as the ancient building rising above them appeared to shake.

”I haven’t ever experienced anything like that before,’’ defensive end William Hayes said. “I can’t sit up here and lie to you and say I thought it would be like that.”

Nobody knew exactly how Sunday would work, what with the team coming off a bad loss and nobody quite sure how to act at a Coliseum football game that wasn’t USC. It rocked pretty good, although Rams folks still have some kinks to work out.

They played Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.’’ at halftime, which everyone knows just doesn’t fit. That’s a victory song, to be played only after one of the local teams win. Just ask the Lakers and Dodgers.

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Then there’s nice-guy public address announcer Sam Lagana, who, to put it nicely, screams too much. Way too much. Lagana leads cheers and roars instructions like, “Rise with the Rams!’’  as if we’re watching the sport of football for the first time.

We know how it works. We’ve been filling the Coliseum for college football for a century.  Football is a game, not a monster truck rally. If the Rams want to fit seamlessly back into Los Angeles, they need to sound like Los Angeles sports. Somebody needs to play them a tape of Lawrence Tanter.

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The Times staff breaks down the Rams’ 9-3 victory over the Seahawks in their home debut after 21 seasons in St. Louis.

This might be a new team for the town, but it’s an old franchise of the heart. These are old-school Rams fans, and they’re not going home any time soon.

 “The fans, that was really, really cool,’’ Rams quarterback Case Keenum said. “I made sure before I went out in the tunnel and as I’m running out just to look around to savor the moment. I’m going to write stuff down because I want to remember that forever.’’

Forever is what it seemingly took for this moment to arrive. In savoring it, Keenum was not alone.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke


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