Last Monday’s matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams was the third Rams game I have been fortunate enough to attend in my time at the University of Southern California. Needless to say, it was the worst game thus far. However, a common theme was easily identified: the opposing crowd dominated the stadium. In the Rams’ primetime home victories last season against the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs, the away team occupied at least half of the seats from my birds-eye view in the nosebleeds. Last Monday was no different. By the second half of the game, the stadium was three-quarters purple. The only exception was that this time the Rams got blown out.
Although not to the same degree as the Los Angeles Chargers, home-field advantage is dwindling in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Just like the issue the Chargers have faced with attendance, Los Angeles is a very desirable location for traveling fans to visit. When the schedule is released in April, the first thing traveling fans do is look down the list and see where they want to go. And if they can only afford to go to one away game, going to LA and making it a vacation is more sensible than heading up to Buffalo for a December blizzard.
Another aspect that must be explored is fan loyalty. I’m not here to call out fans anywhere. As a matter of fact, the Rams fans in the stadium at all three games have better engagement than many college games I’ve attended. But this is the first time since 2017 when the Rams hired Head Coach Sean McVay that they will not win their division — barring a miracle. When there are a million things to do in the greater Los Angeles area, going to see a 6-5 football team on a Sunday isn’t high on this demographic’s priorities. I don’t think the Rams will ever reach the extremes of what the Chargers experience at home games where every game is an away game. But the Rams are reaching unfamiliar territory in an environment susceptible to such an occurrence.
While the game itself was completely lopsided, seeing Lamar Jackson play was a silver lining for NFL fans like myself. It was an honor to watch reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes play in person last season, and it was an equal if not greater honor to observe Jackson’s transformation of the game of football. His impact on the field has been unmatched by any individual opponent he has faced. Great athletes play great. MVPs dominate when the whole country is watching. And that is exactly what Jackson did.
The Rams’ porous defense handed Jackson a ladder to climb far past Russell Wilson in the MVP race. And Jackson and the Ravens put the league on notice that they are serious candidates to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February.