Saturday’s Legends of the Dome event, brought to us by the Isaac Bruce Foundation, delivered mixed emotions for fans of the St. Louis Rams. On one hand, it was great for the 10,000-plus on hand to see the players that provided the only good five-year stretch during the Rams’ 21 year stay here.
On the other, the event signaled closure, reminding us once again that we’ll never see a pro football game in our town again.
As I walked in, a strolled past the wall of Charter PSL holders that adorns the Dome. A plaque recognizes the 24,000 families, individuals and businesses that purchased 53,000 PSL’s when the team moved here in a pre Stubhub era. It honors the 54,000 people that sent in checks for $250-$4,500 requesting 72,000 PSL’s, all of which couldn’t be fulfilled. In 1995, St. Louis’ population was 2.6 million. This year in Los Angeles, a market of 18.7 million people, 56,000 $100 deposits were collected, and 24,000 people bought 70,000 season tickets.
As I spoke to fans, I reminded them that St. Louis didn’t fail the NFL, the NFL failed St. Louis. Everything the league asks a city to do in its relocation guidelines was fulfilled by Dave Peacock and Jay Nixon’s stadium task force. The league’s desire for higher franchise values caused Jerry Jones to lead other owners down a path that put the franchise in L.A. But, that’s water under the bridge. The Rams are, and will be, in Los Angeles from now on.
The folks in L.A. will never experience what we did here.
In fact, no fan base will enjoy the meteoric rise and offensive pyrotechnics that we witnessed from 1999-2003. When you consider that quarterback Kurt Warner is third of all quarterbacks ever to play in completion percentage, fifth all time in passing yards per game, 7th in yards per attempt, 10thin passer rating (eight of the nine ahead of him played last season), and has the top three Super Bowl yardage games ever, we saw one of the greatest ever.
When he retired, Warner was the fastest quarterback to reach 10,000 yards passing (36 games) and second fastest to 20,000 yards, behind only Dan Marino.
Warner was followed by Marc Bulger, who still holds the record for being the fastest quarterback to complete 1,000 passes in the NFL, doing so in 45 games. The next fastest are Warner, Peyton Manning and Drew Bledsoe, who got to 1,000 in 48 games. Bulger was the fifth fastest to pass for 20,000 yards, doing so in 81 games.
So we had some guys that could sling it around a little bit, and they showed on Saturday that they can still do it.
In fact, Warner and Bulger were both significantly better than what the Rams have delivered in the last three years.
They showed better arms and accuracy than Kellen Clemens, Shaun Hill, Nick Foles and Case Keenum.
That’s a credit to how good the arms of Warner and Bulger are, but also an indictment of what the Rams had in their last few years here.
Coaches Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz also had, in addition to great players, great people.
And that’s what we got to experience on Saturday. Offensive lineman Andy McCollum and new Hall of Famer Orlando Pace have remained in the St. Louis community, and were joined by Adam Timmerman, who regularly comes back to give.
Defensive backs Dre Bly, Dexter McCleon, Keith Lyle and St. Louisan and Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams were on hand, displaying their personality and passion for the town. Linebackers Mike Jones, Chris Draft and Pisa Tinoisamoa each sang the praises of playing here.
Punter Sean Landeta told me that of all the places he played, St. Louis was the only one in which teammates never said they hated it. He pointed out, “how could you? With the people here, with as great as the city is, it’s impossible to not like this place.” Since retiring, Landeta has made it a point to come back and visit the friends he made in St. Louis during his four years in town.
Of course, Greatest Show on Turf receivers Ricky Proehl, Az Zahir Hakim, Tony Horne and Torry Holt joined game organizer Isaac Bruce. And it was just like old times, with the music that accompanied those halcyon days being played during introductions and after the numerous touchdowns that were scored.
Of course, we witnessed plenty of Bob n’ Weave celebrations after the fifteen touchdowns that were scored.
The players and coaches were more than accommodating in signing autographs, posing for selfies and participating in interviews throughout the day. They brought back great memories.
For a goodbye, it couldn’t have been sweeter.