The St. Louis Rams Are The Centerfold For Crushed Hope

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 11: Cadillac Williams #33 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled by Moise Fokou #53 and Trent Cole #58 both of the Philadelphia Eagles at the Edward Jones Dome on September 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Eagles beat the Rams 31-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

We gave the St. Louis Rams the benefit of the doubt. We ladled praise and expectation on them early and often. A week later we're back to the same, sorry place we've been stuck in for years.

And with that: turmoil.

Sometimes the best laid plans go asunder. Oft what you see isn't exactly what you get. Many times since 2005 the St. Louis Rams have been the poster boys for demoralization. This week, they made centerfold.

Hobbies: Fraud. Speculatory retribution.

Turn Ons: Watching your hopes evaporate in three hours or less.

What a wicked game you play, Rammies. Chris Isaak would be proud. The rest of us are left to sit here and ponder the season and wonder just why (WHY!) we decided to buy in on the hype when you'd done nothing worthy of it.

By now the thrashing at the hands of Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles is well documented.  Not only did they bend the Rams over on the scoreboard, they injured what most likely would be the six most important players the Rams have on the field at any given moment. It's doubtful that even if you were to put a pen to paper before kickoff Sunday September 11 that you'd have met any predictions as gruesome as the one rendered.

Yet, unmercifully, the worst is yet to come. A Baltimore team that eviscerated the defending AFC champion? A pair of games against Green Bay and New Orleans, both teams seemingly in the elite class of the NFC? A dance with an improved Redskins team or a date with a hungry Cowboy team?

Yikes.

And all that's after you open the NY Giants' home season a week and day after the NY media began flogging their manhood from every angle. Don't look now, but the one thing the G-Men did do well last week was bang the QB. So at least the Rams have that going for them. Or not.

Week 2 has suddenly become this team's Waterloo. Win and 1-1 give back some of the hope that was mistakenly bestowed on them after a 4-0 preseason. Lose and suddenly that armageddon 0-7 start that was always kind of lingering around, but never spoken of, seems not only possible, but imminent.

The NFL is a cruel world. It's quick, painful and if you're not ready to bow your back, somebody's going to slam it into the turf. We drank the Kool-Aid once the lockout ended. And with the easy nature of 4 pre-season wins, many of us mistakenly got on a bandwagon.

Turns out, it's got some flat tires.

Like Jason Smith, the 60-million-dollar papier mache tackle. Or Jason Brown, the living embodiment of free-agency gone amuck. It's easy to make Billy Devaney the straw man. To a certain extent he's earned his reputation as a poor talent evaluator and a poorer free agent shopper. But that doesn't excuse the lack of production many of his choices have exhibited. At least not totally.

Players have to play in this league. And the only way to get better, is to, you know, get better. If they can't, then part ways... there is no shame in that. But to keep going back to the same well to draw no water is leaving everyone thirsty.

St. Louis Rams fans have been through more than enough the past several years. They've stayed loyal in the face of some fantastically awful football and an organization that was equal to the product on the field.

2011 was supposed to be the year where winning happened more than losing. Yet as we stand here with 15 more games ahead, I'm not sure what the equation is that gets the Rams to 9 wins when an 0-7 start is possible.

Maybe they'll prove us wrong in the Meadowlands this week. Perhaps Week 1 was an anomaly against a very talented Eagles team.

Unlike last week, though, there is no benefit of doubt. This Rams team has to wear it. They have to manufacture hope and not have it festooned upon them.  They need to convert us into believers once more.

There is no church in the wild. Just the Rams. Do they have a prayer?

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