As usual, the Rams are going for it.
Just as they did during Sunday’s 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, the Rams are engaging in a dramatic last drive.
It will occur Wednesday on a 1.1-mile stretch of downtown Los Angeles in an event that, while considered routine elsewhere, is wonderfully tinged with the Rams’ trademark boldness.
They’ve only been in town six years, the SoFi Stadium stands are often filled with visiting fans, they’re still only the local landscape’s fourth-most popular sports brand … yet they’re throwing themselves a victory parade on a midweek afternoon on busy city streets with many people still masked?
“Why not?” said team president Kevin Demoff. “What am I missing?”
Why not, indeed. He’s missing nothing. The Rams deserve this moment. The city deserves this moment.
Los Angeles has won three major sports titles in the last 16 months, yet because of the pandemic this will be the first one it can celebrate together. Los Angeles has won titles in a Disneyworld bubble, on a sterile field in Texas, and amid a corporate crowd at SoFi Stadium, so this will be the first time the town’s fans can surround their newly minted champions and literally dance with them in the streets.
The parade, which is free and open to the public, starts at 11 a.m. at the Shrine Auditorium on West Jefferson Boulevard and proceeds south on Figueroa Street to Exposition Park Drive at the Coliseum, where a noon rally will take place in front of the historic peristyle.
It could be quaint. It could be crazy. Yet, make no mistake, it will assuredly be all Rams, despite understandable but misguided chatter that it should be more champion inclusive.
LeBron James, whose Lakers were denied a parade because of the pandemic after their 2020 NBA title, wants to join in.
“We, Dodgers and Rams should all do a joint parade together!!!!” he tweeted. “With a live concert afterwards to end it!! City of Champions.”
Sorry, King. This is not your party. You were denied your moment, and it stinks, but more than a full season has passed since then, and only four current players were on that title team and just … no.
Justin Turner, whose Dodgers were also denied a public party after their 2020 title, also chimed in.
“Hey @Rams, when is the parade???” tweeted Turner. “We are locked out and available.”
That read like it was written in jest, but plenty of fans took it seriously and, again, it’s not happening, nor should it happen. The Dodgers have played an entire season since their title, and failed to defend it, and it’s too bad, but their moment of glory was stolen and nothing will ever bring it back. Besides, as Turner so aptly wrote, the players are locked out, so you’re going to have a Dodgers parade without Andrew Friedman or Dave Roberts?
Neither the Lakers nor Dodgers were part of the Rams’ torturous six-year climb to the top. Neither the Lakers nor Dodgers ever had to endure the national criticism like the Rams when they couldn’t fill the Coliseum. Neither the Lakers nor Dodgers had to work so hard to develop a fan base that was initially numb to the returning Rams.
The Rams fought for this. The Rams schemed for this. The Rams stretched for this. Owner Stan Kroenke paid for this. Demoff strategized for this. Les Snead, the team’s general manager and true MVP, created this. The Rams coaches and players won this.
While it will be a celebration for the entire city, this is about one spotlight, on one team, as only the Rams should be allowed to reign on their parade.
Granted, there won’t be the hundreds of thousands of fans who attended past Lakers and Dodgers parades. But whoever shows up will be dedicated enough to take off work in the middle of the day and drive their families into a traffic mess. They will be the diehards the Rams are seeking, and they will give the Rams a good feel for the size of their title impact.
Granted, there won’t be the lengthy majesty of the Lakers and Dodgers parades, but there will be historic sentiment reflected in everything from what will surely be the raspy shouting of Sean McVay to the thundering inspiration of Aaron Donald.
When it comes to championship parades, there’s nothing like the first one, and for the Rams, this will be the first one.
“The hardest part about playing the Super Bowl in our home stadium was the fact that the Super Bowl couldn’t be a home game for us, and there was no place we could hold a fan rally,” Demoff said. “So this is our fan’s chance to come celebrate a Super Bowl championship in Los Angeles for first time in our history.”
The Rams say they aren’t going fret over the attendance or listen to talk about the relative short distance of the route. In typical Rams fashion, they are ignoring the noise and doing what they think is right for those fans, which is to show their gratitude.
“This is our chance to say thanks,” said Demoff.
For 1.1 miles of new legacy Wednesday, it will be a message received.