At the Memorial Coliseum last week, the Los Angeles Rams played their first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, eking out a 28-24 victory. (Parking, you might've heard, was pricey.) They play the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum Saturday.
It’s the first time the Rams have played home games in Southern California in decades. Until 1995, the Rams played in Anaheim before moving to St. Louis. One of the players on that team was Roman Phifer, a linebacker and UCLA graduate. For him, it was a surreal experience, and he learned a lot from the move. So what advice would he give the players who just moved out here?
Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson called Phifer to find out.
For people who don't remember, what kind of team were the Rams in 1995?
It wasn't a great team. I was drafted in 1991, we actually won three games my rookie year. Usually when we had a home game, especially when we played teams like the 49ers or San Diego, it always seemed like they had more fans than we had in the stands.
You know, in L.A., there's so many things to do on a Sunday afternoon than to sit in a stadium and watch the Rams get beat down.
When you can't win in a city like this, it's very hard to focus. I mean, in L.A., there's a lot going on. And the culture's great, and there's a lot to do and the weather's nice. But that can be a distraction.
The talk about the Rams leaving Southern California; you probably knew this was a possibility coming up, right?
There were rumors, and I wasn't excited about it. L.A. is a great city, obviously, what's not to like? Except for the traffic.
After my fourth season, which was 1994, I had just re-signed with the Rams as a free agent for another four years. So I was committed to the Rams! Then probably like a month or two later I found out we were moving to St. Louis.
Now the good thing about going to a place like St. Louis, a smaller market, after you leave a place like Los Angeles: you're like the big deal in town. There's no other football team, there's nothing else competing. You go from being a losing team in L.A., where barely 25,000 people are in the stands, to people welcoming you. I mean, we had more people at our practices in St. Louis than we probably did at games on Sundays!
What's your advice for an NFL player who never lived in Los Angeles?
As far as living, there's great pockets in L.A. You definitely always got to consider the traffic.
Yeah, it doesn't matter how much money you're making, you're still stuck.
Unless you got a helicopter, yeah. But number two: Just understand that the NFL, it's the business of winning football games. It's tough to win in this league, but that's what you're evaluated on. NFL still stands for "Not For Long," and the average career lasts, last I checked, is still about three and a half years. You really have to be disciplined, you really have to have focus in an environment like that.
Because with the media attention, there's a whole lot that distract guys from focusing on what they're there for, and that's to play football and win games.
When we were in L.A., you're competing not only with the Lakers, the Clippers, the Raiders, the Dodgers, the Angels... and then you got actors! We weren't anywhere near the top of that totem pole. And we wear helmets!
In St. Louis, we were recognizable. People knew our faces. We'd go to restaurants and people would want to comp our meals. I think in St. Louis, the red carpet was rolled out. In L.A., you really have to earn that.