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Column: Whose House at Super Bowl? With NFL taking over SoFi, it’s up to Rams fans to respond

Rams public address announcer Sam Lagana.
(Sam Lagana)
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He shouts the question whose reply has united a fan base, echoed through a city, a soundtrack of hope.

At every Rams home game, public address announcer Sam Lagana has asked, and thousands have answered.

“Whose house?” he screams.

“Rams’ house!” they scream.

All of which could make the atmosphere at Super Bowl LVI seem, well, muted.

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When the Rams play the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium, the biggest voice in the biggest game in franchise history will not have a microphone.

In an understandable effort to create a neutral site in this unique environment — the Rams are only the second team in 56 years to play a Super Bowl on their home field — the league is eliminating some of the Rams’ game-day rituals, and Lagana’s specialty will be one of them.
He will not be the public address announcer. He’ll be watching from the stands. His question might be shouted once before the game, but it probably will be on tape. If he wants to ensure that he can shout it live, he’ll have to stand up in his section and do it right there.

Which, by the way, he says he’ll do. In a heartbeat. Of course he will.

“I’m sure I’ll be shouting, ‘Whose house’ from my seat at some point,” Lagana said. “I’m going to be too pumped up!”

And whoever is sitting around him will surely answer, whether they are diehard Rams fans or not, because that is what Los Angeles does.

Check it out. Try it out. Walk down a busy sidewalk in any part of town this week and shout, “Whose house?” Guaranteed, somebody will reply, “Rams’ house.”

It has become a city’s reflexive response. It has become a team’s looping motto. It has become the football version of, “Let’s Go Dodgers,” only it has spread to restaurants and gas stations and churches.

The cheer has even infiltrated the Rams actual houses, witness Aaron Donald’s recent playoff pregame meeting with his 8-year-old daughter.

Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald listens to the national anthem before the NFC championship game.
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald hears the “Whose House?” cheers at SoFi Stadium and at home.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“I hear it all the time because my kids are always screaming it,” Donald said. “Before the Tampa game I called my daughter … and she gave me a ‘Whose house? Rams house’ … trying to give me a little pep talk.”

It has become a pep talk of the people, and Super Bowl LVI could seem strange without it, although the Rams are confident fans will stir it up on their own.

“Like many elements that are at the heart of our gamedays, ‘Whose house? Rams house!’ that reverberates across SoFi Stadium was developed by our fans for our fans,” the Rams said in a statement. “Although Super Bowl LVI will be put on by the NFL as if it were a neutral site game, and Sam will not be in the booth to start the call of ‘Whose house?’, we know that our fans will bring the Rams House to life on Super Bowl Sunday.”

The chant has become bigger than even Lagana, a delightfully engaging 6-foot-5 bear of a marketing executive who moonlights as president of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School.

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As the Rams P.A. announcer since they returned to L.A. six years ago, Lagana is known for calling the games as if they were small-town auto races, speeding through hype after hype, beginning with, “It’s time for every man woman and child to get out of your seat, get on your feet, and rise with the Rams … it’s time to Ram-pede!”

His style initially drove some people crazy. It felt very small-time, very junior varsity, completely unnecessary for a professional football team in a sophisticated sports town that needs no manufactured buzz.

“I understand that people have their own opinions, but we were trying to bond a city, we were trying to bring everybody together,” Lagana said.

The critics included this columnist, who wrote this about Lagana after the Rams’ first home game in 2016: “To put it nicely, [he] screams too much. Way too much.”

Who would have thought the too-cool L.A. crowd would start screaming back? When Lagana first shouted the question, even he had no idea.

Sam Lagana was at the stadium early for the NFC championship game between the Rams and 49ers.
(Courtesy of Sam Lagana)

“I never thought it would be this big.”

— Sam Lagana, Rams’ PA announcer, on the “Whose House?” chant

A “Whose house?” chant first became popular when it appeared on the song “Run’s House” by Run-DMC in 1988. It was later personalized by West Coast Rams fans who began screaming it during the team’s final two years in St. Louis, when the Rams traveled to Arizona and San Diego as well as Oxnard for training camp games against the Dallas Cowboys.

When the Rams played their first game in Los Angeles in an exhibition against the Cowboys, Rams senior creative director Cory Befort remembered hearing the chant, and the Rams’ game presentation folks asked Lagana to give it a shout. If nobody answered him, well, Lagana was used to screaming into silence.

His many previous P.A. assignments included announcing Jack Russell terrier racing, billiards, arm wrestling and Arena League football.

“We figured I would say, “Whose house?” and if nobody answered, if it didn’t work, who was going to know, nobody will remember, right?” he said.

It turns out, a Coliseum full of fans answered, and soon it became almost as much of a franchise symbol as the horns.

Although it sounds spontaneous, the Rams actually script the question, with Lagana shouting it once before the game, and then only after the Rams score and have kicked off. They don’t want to rile up the crowd when the Rams are on offense. It also will be heard occasionally from celebrities on the sidelines, most recently Rebel Wilson, even the hippest stars unafraid to be fans.

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“It’s one of those things, when he says it, the response gives you chills, every time,” said Sarah Schuler, the Rams’ senior director of game presentation and brand experience. “It’s by far our most unifying moment. It’s absolutely our signature calling card. It’s more than just a cheer about where you play, it says you are part of the Rams’ house no matter where you are.”

The Rams have since plastered the answer in signage all over SoFi Stadium. But, indeed, it resonates far beyond the Rams’ actual house.

Schuler said that whenever she walks around town wearing any Rams-related gear, somebody will inevitably shout, “Whose house?” at her even though they have no idea where she works.

Lagana said, “Not a day goes by when I don’t hear the cheer from somebody.”

The chant can be found on a variety of team apparel and can be heard all over town from the unlikeliest of sources.

Ministers have shouted the question from pulpits, and the answer isn’t always, “God’s house!” Airplanes traveling to Rams games have been filled with the cheers. Folks put it on their voice mail greetings. It has been incorporated into songs by local musicians. It has been heard in darkened parking structures and bright malls and from TV anchors. Even Lagana’s grown daughters have shouted the question to him as he has walked through the front door.

The Rams will be playing on home turf at SoFi Stadium in Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals. Here are 11 things you should know about the team.

And, yes, even though he’s in his own home, he shouts, “Rams’ house!”

“I thought it would be something fun,” Lagana said. “But I never thought it would be this big.”

He will ask the question Monday at a season-ticketholders pep rally. As for the actual Super Bowl, officially he might be heard on only one taped chant, but after that, who knows? Maybe check out that big man standing and waving his arms while an entire section answers his question.

“If people around me wanting some inspiration, I’d be happy to comply,” Lagana said. “Assuming I’m in a spot where I’m around some Rams fans, I’ll ask them, you want to have some fun? I’m there if they want to hear it.”

Whose house will it be at Super Bowl LVI? The answer is complicated. But here’s guessing the message will be clear.

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