As St. Louis prepares to reacquaint itself with really good football, I thought I’d offer up some advice from a veteran tailgater/attendee of the Greatest Show on Turf days. While many people despise the Edward Jones Dome and won’t go because of what they call a “warehouse” feel, the fact of the matter is that the Dome rocked in 1999 and the early part of last decade.
Back in December of 2002, Peter King interviewed former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas for Sports Illustrated. This is part of their exchange …
SI: Least favorite road stadium?
Douglas: Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. The fans are so-o-o-o loud.
In 2002, the Chargers came to St. Louis and were coerced into a dozen penalties, many of them false starts, in a 28-24 Rams win. Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said it was the loudest venue he’d ever been in, and running back LaDainian Tomlinson complained, It was pretty loud. When you can barely hear the play that the quarterback is calling, that’s loud.”
The Dome is capable of rocking. The fans just need to make it so. The first key on Sunday will be to get downtown early to tailgate.
For a noon game, 9:00 is acceptable. Plan your party on Saturday, buy the food Saturday or Saturday night, and make sure you have the grill, gas stove, utensils and other assorted items packed. Don’t forget napkins, flatware and a trash bag. Decorate your area with as much Rams stuff as possible. Invite people into your circle. There is plenty of tailgating space around the Dome. Just north of the building on the spot where the so-far ill-fated Bottle District is supposed to go is wide open. The MAC lots at Broadway and Convention are great, and close. West of the Dome, there’s tons of America’s Center parking where you can tailgate. One of the most bothersome myths I hear about St. Louis football is that there’s no room to tailgate. There’s plenty of room. You simply need to find your spot.
Next, get inside for the opening kickoff. The NFL mandates pat-downs for every person entering now, so make sure to leave your party by 11:30, if not earlier. There will be a memorial for 9-11 before the game. For those that haven’t been to a game in a while, or never have, the revamped introductions of players are fantastic. Get in early, and get loud early.
Next, when cheering, get real loud as the Eagles enter the huddle. This should be common practice, but especially for this game. Philadelphia has one offensive lineman that will start Sunday in the same spot he did for last year’s playoff game against Green Bay, left tackle Jason Peters. Because of the lack of continuity up front, and with a new offensive line coach in Howard Mudd teaching with a completely new style and philosophy, this is a prime opportunity to mess them up.
If the loud St. Louis crowd is at full throat when Philly enters the huddle, the same thing that applied to LT in 2002 will apply Sunday. The Eagles won’t be able to hear the play call and, most important, the snap count. Don’t give them a chance, and don’t let up. This is an opportunity for Rams fans to impact the game, cause confusion, and cause some penalties. So get loud when they enter the huddle, when they approach the line of scrimmage, and until the ball is snapped. That will make a difference.
This game will not be easy. The Rams have a chance to win, and many people, nationally as well as locally, are picking the Rams to come out on top. But we as fans must be patient. We were spoiled by the Greatest Show, and the fact that the Rams always seemed to have a big lead to allow us to party. Steve Spagnuolo’s philosophy is different. He’s going to be much more methodical in his approach than Mike Martz. This game is likely to be won or lost in the fourth quarter, so don’t leave after the third! If you paid for the tickets, stick around until the game is decided. You don’t have anywhere more important to go.
Finally, take it in. Savor this. I was talking to some friends about our football history, and in St. Louis we’ve never had a team painstakingly build toward greatness. The Cardinals of 1974 came off three straight 4-9-1 seasons, and bolted out of the gate 7-0. That start led to three straight great years. The Rams of 1999 were coming off consecutive seasons of seven, six, five and four wins, then exploded onto the scene for a great six year run. This is different. It’s taking some time, so as it happens, take it in and savor it. This is a rare occurrence.
Football is fun in St. Louis again. Enjoy it. And on Sunday, help your home team win their game.