The return of NFL football to Los Angeles has inspired celebration from civic leaders, disdain from many St. Louis football fans and, at one barbershop, tears of joy.
The Golden Ram barbershop sits near the intersection of Goldenwest and Westminster in the northern Orange County town of Westminster. From the outside, you see a somewhat plain, dirty, gold fluorescent sign. On the door, there's a piece of cardboard saying that as of November 2007 the shop's owner, Sal Martinez, now charges $17 for a haircut and only takes appointments.
Inside, the walls are covered floor-to-ceiling with Rams football memorabilia: jerseys, posters, photos, helmets, news clippings.
"People come in and ask me if they have to be a Ram fan to get a haircut," said Martinez. "No, but you do get a better haircut if you're a Ram fan."
Martinez has been a fan of the now Los Angeles Rams since he was 7 years old. Now 53, he stayed loyal to the team for its 20-year tenure in St. Louis.
On learning the Rams were leaving Los Angeles in 1995
I'll never forget where I was at. I was in my room and KFI radio — when they finally announced it that it was official — I kind of had a feeling like three years prior. Because from talking, a lot of the rumors and talking to people, I kind of felt like it was eventually gonna happen. I could start seeing some of the moves that the Rams were making. It was almost as if they were pretty much rolling up and getting ready to leave town.
My heart was broken. But I just kind of... an analogy I use is like you have a puppy that you love and you can't keep him. You want him to to go to a good home. You want to be able to visit your puppy, and hopefully the person caring for him is taking care of him. It was never the same, but it was still the Rams. So I just blocked out the city and everything else.
I flew out to St. Louis at least three games a year, since they've been gone, for over 20 years. It's almost as if you have a childhood friend you grew up with, and he moves away to another state. And he's gonna get married, and you go visit him and it's like he introduces you to his new friends, and they're good people, but it's just not the same when it was just you and him.
I met a lot of new fans and a lot of people in St. Louis, they treated me well. But it wasn't Los Angeles.
On learning the Rams were coming back
I was at my shop. Once they announced it and it was official. I close at six, but my last customer left at 5:40. I'm watching it on TV, trying to hold down my emotion. But people always asked me how I was gonna react once it became official. And I didn't really know how to answer that.
But once my customer left at 5:40, I turned off the lights and I started walking back towards my shop. I started crying like a baby. I just totally lost it.
It was so overwhelming because of the past five years, every day I would follow the possible relocation of the Rams back to Los Angeles. So for me, it was building up, building up for over five years, every day.