So much has been written and said about the Rams leaving for Los Angeles.
On this Super Bowl Sunday, one question: “Did we win a Super Bowl here in St. Louis?”
In this two-sport city?
This baseball town?
You bet we did.
It still seems surreal but on Jan. 30, 2000, the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV, defeating the Tennessee Titans, 23-16.
Jeff Fisher was Titans’ head coach. Funny. I don’t know him any better today than I did 16 years ago.
After growing up as a diehard Big Red fan, I figured I’d never experience our hometown team winning a Super Bowl. Sort of the same feeling I have about the Blues winning a Stanley Cup, I guess.
I grew up with the old Big Red playing just good enough to break my heart.
Hindsight haunts. We should have built that new football stadium in Earth City like Bill Bidwill wanted. Who knows? We might still have the St. Louis Football Cardinals today. Late bickering over stadium issues and the NFL awarded an expansion team to Jacksonville over St. Louis. The St. Louis Stallions. Darn.
But no one was thinking about an Earth City stadium or the expansion Stallions that magical fall and winter of 1999-2000.
We had The Greatest Show on Turf.
We were a football town.
It all seemed too good to be true. I kept waiting for the Rams to fall apart during the regular season or lose in the playoffs. I mean, no way they could win it all, right?
I watched the Super Bowl game alone in my basement, by choice. It’s where I could watch every minute of the game and scream, yell, swear and not scare the dogs or kids, who were in grade school.
Faith Hill sang the national anthem, and it seemed like there were hundreds of “dot.com” companies that paid millions to advertise on Super Bowl TV.
I was on my feet most of the game, but I was sitting down when linebacker Mike Jones made The Tackle near the goal line to end the game and preserve a Rams win.
OK. I shed a little tear a few minutes later when Coach Dick Vermeil and quarterback Kurt Warner hugged on the podium, confetti filling the air, creating a surreal atmosphere.
As the on-field celebration unfolded, I thought about my late dad and grandpa, and all those cold Sundays that we went to Bid Red games at which the home team always played just good enough to break our hearts.
I thought about my favorite Big Red players — Jackie Smith, Dan Dierdorf, Jim Otis, Larry Stallings, Larry Wilson, Roy Green, MacArthur Lane, and my favorite coaches, Don Coryell and Gene Stallings.
I went to the parade the next day in downtown St. Louis. No way I could miss it. Shook Ernie Conwell’s hand. I was wise enough to know it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I was right.
I’ll always wonder what it would be like in St. Louis with an owner who really wanted to be here.
I’ll always wonder what it would be like if we had a pro football franchise like the Seahawks, Chiefs, Colts or Packers. A real hometown, winning team. We will never know.
As much as I wanted to see a new football stadium on the north riverfront, a more practical side of me said the City of St. Louis has more urgent, critical needs than a new football stadium.
I’m disappointed in this whole Rams mess. The past decade, I didn’t support them like I support the Cardinals and Blues. Too many gray clouds above. Just never felt the love. But fan support had nothing to do with this money grab.
I’ll hold on to the memory of a Super Bowl championship in St. Louis 16 seasons ago.
Dick Vermeil crying, and Marshall Faulk dashing, and Isaac Bruce sprinting, and my favorite, Kurt Warner, having the most remarkable pro sports season ever in St. Louis.
I’m lucky to know how it feels to be a fan of a hometown Super Bowl champion.
But it stings a little bit to know I’ll never feel it again.