I'm lucky enough to work in an industry where I get to do some pretty cool crap. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I'm busting ass in a dank office in front of computer monitors that are probably rotting my brain from the inside out. But that other one percent? That one percent is pretty sweet.
Last Thursday, our marketing department threw a client party with a fully-catered dinner. On the stage at the world famous Fox Theater. It was a unique opportunity to catch 200 people acting like kids, even though most of the people in attendance you would know from in and around St. Louis. Everyone was in a good mood.
Around 8 p.m. or so, one of the management team came up to me and wanted Sam Bradford's line for the night. I was (stupidly) trying to avoid checking my phone, waiting to catch the game on DVR when I got home. But when the zookeeper asks, the monkey jumps.
Then it hit me.
Wait a second. Sam Bradford is destroying New England's first string defense in his inaugural start? On the road?
I'm a Rams fan. I've been to the majority of the games the past three years and have even traveled to see their unique brand of crap football in other cities. And I can honestly tell you that for the first time in YEARS I had this feeling. I didn't know what it was at first, but then I realized... I was excited about Rams football.
This is the Rams, so I had a buddy of mine double check his phone and make sure that ESPN ScoreCenter didn't transpose the TD's and INT's. Or accidentally add a 1 to the front of the yardage total. And when that manager went up to the microphone and led off his little spiel with Bradford's stats, the mock laughter and eye rolling that usually follows any statement begun with the words "in Rams news..." instead became loud applause.
Listen, it's not like they were going crazy. But it was genuine curiosity about this Bradford kid and, by extension, the Rams. I'm hopeful that I can look back on that exact moment four or five years from now and say that was exactly the point where I knew the Rams would be OK.
I don't mean to be an alarmist. I really don't. But if you don't think that Sam Bradford is the most important athlete in the Rams history RIGHT NOW—then you're fooling yourself.
The Rams have been sold to Stan Kroenke. And Mr. Kroenke is going to be doing one thing and one thing only for the next three seasons as the Edward Jones Dome lease goes up for review: looking to make as much money as humanly possible. Well you know what makes money in the entertainment business?
When people are fired up to see something, they pay money. They pay more money to buy things associated with that thing. They dedicate money to that thing. They talk to their friends and family about that thing and make them want that thing too. And when the thing gets old and tired, they move on to something else.
The Rams have been moved on from. They are routinely blacked out on local TV. Their games have been half-full blowouts and desperate cash grabs from shady sponsorship deals like US Fidelis. The old joke that if you left two tickets on some stranger's windshield before the game, there would be six when you left? That was so true.
If Stan doesn't make enough money, the Rams will leave St. Louis. All sorts of things will also happen for us to analyze. But bottom line? There is a huge media market without an NFL team. Moving one to Los Angeles will mean—say it with me—more money.
So when the Rams drafted Bradford, maybe a couple of people were tuned on. Certainly, OU Sooner fans picked up a minor interest in Rams football. But Coach Spags was quick to tamp down any excitement with his talk of Bradford sitting and earning a spot through patience. (Also, let's hope that this is exactly what his rookie symposium was like.)
As of Thursday around 8 p.m.—that's all out the window. People are curious now. Lots of people. Callers are starting to call into sports talk. The Rams coverage is getting a little better placement this week in the paper and online. Hell, even this site is seeing more hits in its Rams section.
Bradford. He does what he did Thursday night at home against Baltimore? Well now you're starting to turn that curiosity into a bit of excitement. And dammit, it might just be an ember now, but I'm rooting like hell that it sparks a bit of a flame.
We've been waiting around for years to see this morbid team show some sort of life. Bradford finally broke out the automated external defibrillator and rubbed the paddles together. Does he have it in him to actually shock St. Louis back into some sort of good fortune?