Poor L.A. Rams. Their return to Los Angeles has been a rousing success. Yesterday’s chaotic win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put the Rams in the NFC Championship Game for the second time in four seasons, and this time they will play the game at home. Sounds like all the makings of a trip to the Super Bowl that for them would be the best L.A. commute on record, because SoFi Stadium is hosting the game (didn’t this just happen??).
However, there are two problems. First, their opponent is a division rival, the San Francisco 49ers, whom they haven’t beaten since Dec. 30, 2018. Secondly, the Rams’ home stadium tends to get overrun with 49ers fans.
The team 383 miles to the north showed up and showed out at SoFi during that Week 18 showdown — and so did its fans. Listen to this crowd after Matthew Stafford threw the game-deciding interception in overtime. It doesn’t even sound like Levi Stadium in 2021. It sounds like Candlestick Park circa 1994.
Seeing as the Rams would prefer not to use a silent count in their own stadium, they decided to take action in advance. When tickets for the NFC Championship Game went on sale, the Rams did not allow tickets to be purchased by anyone using a credit card with a billing address outside the Los Angeles area.
Yes, in the year 2022, the Rams think they’re going to restrict access to ticket purchases. How cute of them to believe that if they lock Bay Area residents out of the primary ticket market, their sparkling new building wouldn’t still turn red on Championship Sunday.
It’s a noble effort by the Rams to try and preserve some semblance of home-field advantage, except for that whole resale market thing. You see, there’s this website called Stubhub, their company logo used to be on Philadelphia 76ers’ jerseys. You can buy tickets there, or on Ebay, Seat Geek, or even on social media. If you’re a 49ers fan anticipating a large tax return, there’s plenty of places to fork over a grand or five to watch a game at a stadium that will very likely be closer to your hotel than Levi Stadium is to your house.
Not having home-field advantage at home is the price the Rams must pay in their quest to maximize profit. The NFL was tired of having no teams in America’s second-largest media market, so it settled a five-decade standoff with Los Angeles over a new football stadium. The Rams returned in 2016 following a 20-year absence from Southern California and a 35-year absence from Los Angeles County, and the Chargers came back the next season after they’d left Los Angeles for San Diego following their inaugural 1960 AFL season.
Today, the Rams are the 11th most valuable sports franchise in the world, something they never could’ve been in St. Louis. And last spring the NFL signed new media deals that are collectively worth over $100 billion through 2033. Everyone gets paid, and 49ers fans get to invade the Rams home stadium like a swarm of fire ants, because the fan base in Los Angeles is not strong enough to sustain a resale market for NFC Championship Game tickets that start at over $500 — nor should they.
Stafford’s wife, noted pretzel thrower Kelly Stafford, had already begged Rams fans not to sell their tickets to Arizona Cardinals fans during the Wild-Card round, and Andrew Whitworth’s wife, Melissa, offered on Twitter to buy Rams fans’ resale tickets: “Just DO NOT sell them to the other team PLEASE!!”
Former 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley quote tweeted her and made the same offer, except his tweet read, “DO NOT sell them to your own team.” Personally, I think you’ll have a better chance at your tickets being purchased by Melissa, but Staley’s tweet has nearly twice as many likes.
As for Stafford, Whitworth, Odell Beckham, Sean McVay, and everyone else on the Rams, they’d be well served to put in extra work on their silent counts this week. Unless security at SoFi Stadium checks IDs at the gate and anyone with an address north of Bakersfield is not allowed inside, the Niners faithful will be looking to party in L.A. like it’s 1994.