LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles Rams victory in the Super Bowl on Sunday would go a long way to healing the damage caused by the team’s 1995 move to St. Louis, which it called home for two decades.
The Rams returned to Southern California in 2016 and have been trying to win back fans who felt deserted when they left, as well as introduce themselves to younger fans who have never associated the franchise with the city.
“I’m Rams until the day I die,” LA Mayor and Los Angeles native Eric Garcetti told Reuters this week.
“But when a league abandons you for that many years, there’s definitely going to be some damage.
“We didn’t have football for 20 years so there’s a whole generation that has grown up without it,” said Garcetti, who attended the 1979 Super Bowl where the LA Rams fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Current Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who was selected first overall in the 2016 draft, said his team had work to do before they had a backing similar to that of the New England Patriots.
“We’re new to LA and we’re still building that fan base. The Pats fans have been doing it for a long time,” he said this week.
“Hopefully we can win this game and keep building.”
The enthusiasm gap between the Rams and Patriots is perhaps nowhere more apparent than on social media, where firing off a few Tweets on gameday is as common as hosting a tailgate party, and franchises battle behind the scenes to generate followers, likes and retweets.
While the Patriots enjoy a robust 4.3 million Twitter followers the Rams are still establishing their foothold with roughly 823,000.
During the 2018 season the Rams were the 15th-most mentioned franchise in the NFL, according to data supplied by the social media company.
That trailed far behind other major-market franchises like the Steelers, Cowboys and Patriots – the first-, second- and fifth-most mentioned NFL franchises, respectively.
The Rams are also trying to differentiate themselves in a crowded sports marketplace that is home to 11 professional teams including another NFL team, the Chargers.
The Rams gave a symbolic nod to the future of Los Angeles football last Sunday, hosting their team send-off rally at their under-construction stadium site in Inglewood.
Videos and images posted to social media showed thousands of fans gathering at the rally, some waiting in seemingly endless lines for a chance to see their team.
Sunday’s showdown in Atlanta, however, is more likely to resemble a game in Foxborough than one at LA Memorial Coliseum.
Only 12 percent of the tickets sold have come from buyers in California, according to ticket seller StubHub.
The stadium will probably have the look of Foxborough too.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s jersey has sold 427 percent more than Goff’s, according to eBay.
Everybody loves a winner, however, and if the underdog Rams manage to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Los Angeles next week there will be no shortage of fans at their parade or in the stands of their new stadium next year.
Editing by Peter Rutherford