Week 9 is in the books. The St. Louis Rams are in first place?
How the hell did this happen?
Let's back up, actually. Because if I'd told you preseason that the Rams would be in first place heading into Week 10, you'd have committed me. If I'd also told you that Rams were in first place heading into Week 10 and nobody seemed to be all that excited about this fact, you'd have shot me.
But it's kind of true, isn't it?
Sure, there are some people pretty hyped on the 2010 Rams, and they're creaming all over Turf Show Times every day. But for the casual St. Louis sports fans—the ones that have kind of checked out on this franchise the past four years, the ones that call into sports talk radio shows, the ones that control the media in town... well, they just haven't been sufficiently titillated.
Why? Let's break it down.
1. The St. Louis Blues
Off to a record start and two years ahead of the Rams with the whole 'we're young and dumb, but we'll be good one day' schtick, the Blues are absolutely on FIAH right now and pulling in Joe STL's attention in record numbers the past two weeks. FSN's ratings are reaching record highs and the Blues players have started cool little traditions like coming onto the ice to applaud the fans after home wins. Which—by the way—they've done every single time they've played at home.
2. The road losses
The Rams got bent over and spanked in Detroit. They jerked off games in Tampa and Oakland. Fans are sitting on the fence about the 2010 Rams until they can prove that they can take the show on the road and come back with a W.
3. The lack of personality
Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson. They're good. Real good. But when you think about the Rams' sudden rise to fame in 1999-2000, and the personalities on that team, it's a wide, wide gap. Torry 'Big Game' Holt as the dynamic rookie. London 'Dot Com' Fletcher with the soundbites. Kurt Warner's amazing stock-boy story. Marshall Faulk's talent fully realized. This team had something for everyone.
When SJax came to town, he was pretty much beaten to hell for everything he said. When he ripped the fans for selling their tickets to Bears fans a couple seasons back, all that negativity came back. His offseason problems this past year made sure he'll never be embraced quite the way other Rams players have been. And Bradford? Well, the one thing he isn't good at is a soundbite.
There has to be personality in that locker room. We just haven't seen it in nice little neat soundbites that can turn into story lines.
4. The weak division
If the Rams played in the AFC North, they'd be in last place. But since they're in the weakest division in football, they're in first. So some people might think they're in a position to make the playoffs by default... not by pure footballing.
5. Spurned lovers
We've been down this road before. In fact, many Mizzou fans were just here two weeks ago. If you start giving in to those primal urges now and the Rams turn out to flop in the second half? Well, we all look like stupid homers again. Perhaps we've got our guard up too high and just don't trust the Rams.
The good news is this: The Rams can dive right into the deep-end of fanaticism with a road win in San Francisco. They can get St. Louis buzzing about football. As of this week things haven't reached a fever-pitch like the diehards might hope. But come Sunday, a win will go a LONG way in getting the Rams on the radar for the rest of St. Louis.
It's teed up. Can the Rams connect?