I know some of the people that work on the St. Louis Rams' game-day productions. I also know some of the people that work in the Rams' marketing department. They seem to be good people who genuinely care about the success of the Rams in St. Louis. Perhaps I'm being completely naive... but I don't think the Rams go out of their way to make stupid decisions.
They just do.
The Internet is rife with compelling analysis of the St. Louis Rams' win against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. I encourage you to seek that out and read it. But this space today is to say what most everyone was thinking, but didn't want to say: The Issac Bruce celebration at the Edward Jones Dome was an embarrassment to the organization, NFL and Issac Bruce the man.
Reverend Ike is not only one of the best wide receivers to every play the game of football, he happened to be the cornerstone of a franchise that turned a tumultuous move from Los Angeles into a Super Bowl winner during his career. His stats are impressive, but his stewardship of a franchise in turmoil is a huge reason the Rams were able to climb the Everest of the sporting world and bring St. Louis' only Super Bowl home.
I've never met Issac Bruce, but I've never heard him mentioned in a cross way. He's one of the few athletes you'd want your son or daughter to emulate... as a person.
So when it was announced at the beginning of the 2010 season that Week 8 would feature a special ceremony for the recently retired Bruce, I think most people shared my excitement. After all, it's always good to look back fondly on those 'Greatest Show on Turf' teams any chance we get.
I don't know how many of you have been to a Rams game these past four seasons. Judging by the complete apathy at the ticket window, I'd say not many. But to cut insurance rates across the NFL teams have taken to a pre-entrance pat-down of your person before you get to the actual ticket-taker. In and of itself, the process is fairly benign; most people wonder out-loud what this courtesy pat actually does, and very few are aware that it's a move to save money, and not to actually protect you from some credible threat.
So the lines to get into the Edward Jones Dome on game-days can be thick. Oftentimes the line you are in is up to 100 people deep, and if you multiply this by the fact that the EJD is basically 4 choke points to begin with? Well, it's a recipe for long delays. Other stadiums in the NFL have the same pat-down practice, but since entrances are staggered all over the ground level, it's hard to find a line deeper than 20-30 people.
On Sunday, the Rams made a decision to have Mr. Bruce's ceremony before the game. Take any wild guesses how that turned out?
Thousands and thousands of empty seats greeted Bruce and an entourage of former Ram greats. Fans that left home early were left stranded outside, wading through deeper-than-normal lines to get into the stadium. The temp staff that the convention center hires 10 times a year to do these pat-downs was in no particular hurry, and for more than a few fans, the ceremony putting Bruce into the rafters came and went without them getting to see a second of it.
Shame on the Rams.
Shame on them for greedily thinking that getting the fans in the dome early would net more concession sales. Shame on them for not replacing the half-time entertainment with the Bruce ceremony, for not letting Bruce get showered in the adoration he richly deserves. Shame on the Rams for never taking the time to understand what Joe Fan goes through getting into a Rams game, and how it's not as simple as showing up 30 minutes earlier.
No—As long as they sold enough tickets and begged enough sponsors to buy the rest—well, they were set.
The Rams are the complete antithesis of the Cardinals in this respect. They don't have 'football' people working in the organization. People that will look at ideas like this and say, "Hey, wouldn't this be more fun at halftime?"
No idea. It's been this way for years. While the other sports teams in the city know how to milk every bit of emotion out of their fans, and go out of their way to get their base fired up about the product, no matter how good or bad, it seems to not be of importance to the Rams.
They thought that more wins would equal more tickets sold.
They were wrong. Why? Because they've never been like us. Sitting in a line to get patted down when we'd like to be inside cheering one of our favorite Rams.
Until the Rams decide to really take a look at how they present their product, they're going to be a cultural oddity—in the NFL, the most popular club in America, but still not worthy of your attention.
Time to man up, Rams, and realize that we're paying the freight here. Simple things like moving a ceremony to a time where everyone can enjoy it may not seem like a big deal to you... but it speaks about what you think about us. Man up.