About three hours before kickoff for Super Bowl LIII, Kyle Wood of Fenton, Mo., walked into a Rally House loaded with sports team apparel in suburban St. Louis looking for a Rams jersey.
“I figured Super Bowl, why not?” Wood, 24, said.
No go, he was told. No Rams anything in this store.
The only NFL gear available was the red and gold of the Kansas City Chiefs, and those caps, shirts and Patrick Mahomes jerseys had been selling well, the store reported.
If you wanted to support the former St. Louis (and now Los Angeles) Rams in their Super Bowl quest on Sunday against the New England Patriots, you’d better not have tossed the old stuff.
The Patriots prevailed in a non-dramatic 13-3 contest that delighted the Rams haters, but many fans weren’t going to be thrilled with the outcome no matter the winner.
The matchup was a gut punch for St. Louis, an NFL city for 49 years starting in 1960. The Patriots’ dynasty started with an upset victory over the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl after the 2001 season, and nearly every corner of the nation outside of New England has since battled Patriots fatigue.
But sentiment for the Rams has run deep and bitter and complicated in St. Louis since the organization abandoned the city three seasons ago.
“Seeing the LA Rams in the Super Bowl is like ripping open a scab covering up past wounds,” said Jim Thomas, who covered every game the Rams played in St. Louis for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
It’s not the team, Thomas said. Some fans at The Post, a Maplewood, Mo., bar, broke out jerseys bearing the name of current Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who spent his first two seasons in St. Louis. Others wore Kurt Warner or Torry Holt jerseys.
“St. Louis has nothing against the Rams players, especially the dozens that are leftovers from the team in St. Louis,” Thomas said. “Most have nothing against LA Rams fans.”
The contempt is directed at Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who relocated the team despite the city’s approval of a $1.1 billion stadium construction project ... and the Missouri native blistered St. Louis on his way out.
On the day before the Super Bowl, the most-read story on The Post-Dispatch’s website, stltoday.com carried this headline:
Yes, the Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles and Kroenke was simply bring the team home went one narrative. A different one played in St. Louis, however, when Kroenke in his relocation application claimed the city “lags, and will continue to lag, far behind in economic drivers that are necessary for sustained success of an NFL franchise.”
Trashing the city on the way out? Not a good look.
“I was a fan, I went to games, but they were trying to get out of town and that ended it for me,” said Kansas State basketball player Xavier Snead, who grew up in St. Louis. “I’m a Tom Brady fan for this game.”
Fans may have struggled to find a rooting interest Sunday night, but as kickoff neared, they wanted to be part of the fun. The beer aisle at Schnucks, a supermarket, was running low on Budweiser products by mid-afternoon.
Across the street, The Post bar started filling up an hour before kickoff. Fans from both teams filled tables and packed the bar. The atmosphere was more social than game-charged early, but an interception tossed by Brady to end the first possession brought more cheers than groans. Reaction was the same after an early missed field goal by the Pats.
Among those cheering were Jackie Kish and her husband, Brian Kish, of Columbia, Ill., just across the Mississippi River. They were fans of the team in St. Louis ... and now in Los Angeles.
“We were heartbroken when they left,” Jackie Kish said. “But we don’t do the hater thing.”
The couple searched for bars at which to watch the game and found some were sponsoring “Beat the Rams” parties. One St. Louis bar said it would put Kroenke’s face on urinal cakes and dartboards.
“We don’t have time for that,” Jackie Kish said. “We’re just sorry they weren’t playing the Chiefs today.”