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LOS ANGELES – After apologizing for blurring a few words and before expressing a desire to “run it back”, Aaron Donald – muscle-bound threat, destroyer of worlds, embodied perhaps the most violent footballer who has ever lived – the enthusiasm from a small child.
“Look at this trophy right here,” said the All-Pro defensive tackle, and his smile widened as he placed his right hand around the Vince Lombardi Trophy. “Look at that! This for you!”
Just over 50 yards away, within a massive lawn in front of the peristyle entrance to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, thousands of Los Angeles Rams fans gathered to celebrate a Super Bowl championship won at their home court on Sunday. There were Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Eric Dickerson jerseys. There were blue wigs, ornate horns and especially not a trace of red or orange.
Since returning here in 2016, the story surrounding these Rams has apparently focused on all the things they are not – does not Lakers or Dodgers, does not the dominant football team in Los Angeles, does noton some Sundays, the main attraction to their own stadium.
On a bright, sunny Wednesday morning-turned-afternoon, during a 1.1-mile parade route that wound down Figueroa Street and ended at one of the planet’s most historic sports venues, the Rams finally had their own moment. The team that hosted the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl with hordes of fans from the opposing team was surrounded only by its own people. The organization, which has spent the last six years feverishly making its own mark in LA, finally had the city all to itself.
“It’s really overwhelming how much a sports team can affect a city of people,” said Rams general manager Les Snead.
It hit Snead as he flipped through the answers on his wife’s Twitter account after she asked fans for it submit videos of themselves celebrating the Rams’ Super Bowl championship, their first in LA. It hit him again as he was driving on top of one of the four double-decker buses running around the USC campus. Suddenly, a city of four million people felt small, not unlike the place where he grew up.
“LA is nothing like a small town in Alabama,” Snead said. “But when you drive through the neighborhoods, it just feels like there are a lot of small towns. It doesn’t matter where you go, which block you go to – you can feel that block is alive. And it is their block and it’s their little town.
Snead proudly wore a T-shirt that depicted the popular meme built around him that read “f — them pick“, a picture also adorned on one of his coffee mugs. The boldness behind that mantra has come to define the Rams’ trajectory – from trading up to draft quarterback Jared Goff to hiring a 30-year-old head coach in Sean McVay to acquiring quarterback Matthew Stafford to take chances with outspoken personalities like Ramsey and receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Rams unveiled one of the most talented young brains in the NFL, building a star-studded roster in the midst of a lavish new stadium and sparkling uniforms, making all the moves, spending all the money and absorbing all the necessary risks to make an impression in Los Angeles. And often, even near the end, it somehow did not feel like enough. The days leading up to their parade were filled with talk that the Dodgers and Lakers could potentially participate – a circumstance that would have engulfed the Rams again.
We, the Dodgers and Rams should all make a joint parade together !!!! With a live concert afterwards to end it !! City of Masters 🏆🏆🏆💍💍💍. Congratulations 🐏 eleven again !!! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
– LeBron James (@KingJames) February 14, 2022
Maybe it’s time to judge this team for its own merit.
Maybe the Rams deserved it right.
“This journey is uniquely ours,” said Rams COO Kevin Demoff. “It’s not worth comparing to the other teams. They have earned everything they have. We want to earn everything we have. This is not the end – this is the beginning. We are six years inside our journey back. Our “Scale can not be everyone else. It must be what is unique to us. We built our team uniquely in our way. We built our stadium uniquely in our way. Our journey must be uniquely ours.”
Two hundred dollar bottles of Don Julio 1942 tequila were carefully shipped around, and oversized bottles of champagne were ruthlessly sprayed around. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth wore a funny T-shirt.
Andrew Whitworth rocks a Cooper Kupp high school jersey 😅 pic.twitter.com/FHTA6SSFUx
– ESPN (@espn) February 16, 2022
Recipient Cooper Kupp even honored Kobe Bryant.
– Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 16, 2022
McVay cursed, Stafford blurred, Donald bowed, and the crowd around them gradually swelled.
The main cheering section was half empty about half an hour before the start of the parade, but it was packed up impressively as the Rams’ buses rolled through.
In all !!!! 💙💛 This place 🔥 pic.twitter.com/QomCsi9rgm
– Kara Henderson Snead (@KaraHenderson) February 16, 2022
The surrounding streets were not flooded, but more people began to follow as the celebration lasted. It was not an overwhelming audience, but it was not embarrassing.
There will be other stops like these, the Rams hope. And if that is the case, then these populations will only grow.
“This can not be the highlight,” Demoff said. “If this is the highlight, and it’s the Rams’ highlight, we have not done our job.”