Jackson or the fans? It's easy to see both sides
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
We are in a peculiar time in the world of sports, where the truth seems to get lost in so many silly, knee-jerk absolutes. We are in an unusual place where the notion is that the truth can only come in two dominant colors (black or white), not the subtle but decidedly more realistic shades of gray.
In sports, the natural reaction is to pick sides and search for unconditional terms of resolution. We need winners and losers, villains and victims. But the truth is not that rigid. Sometimes it's dicey and complex. Sometimes it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, tied together nicely by an undeniable conundrum.
Q: Who's the greatest athlete of all time?
A: Michael Jordan? Jim Brown? Jackie Robinson? Jim Thorpe?
Now can't you see?
Sometimes there is no right or wrong in sports, only opinion.
And that brings us to the emotional sports issue of the day in St. Louis, which pits the truth according to outspoken Rams running back Steven Jackson against the truth of so many disgruntled St. Louis football fans.
Rams fans are venting their displeasure over the decline of the franchise (and maybe exacting a little revenge for having to pay for all those expensive PSL seats), as season-ticketholders are selling their home game tickets to opposing fans and, in some cases, reaping mind-boggling profits.
Jackson doesn't get why Rams fans are abandoning the team in the midst of this disappointing 5-8 season. He doesn't understand why on Monday night in the Edward Jones Dome, 20 percent of the crowd — and 80 percent of the noise — was coming from Chicago Bears fans sitting in Rams fans' seats.
"I have a big problem with that," Jackson told reporters Wednesday.
"We're having a rough year right now, but if you're going to be a fan, you've got to be a fan the whole year and not part time." Thursday, Jackson didn't back down, and good for him, even though talk radio and chat rooms were bombarding him with a hostile backlash.
Yet this is one of those times when the player and the fan need to take a step back and understand the other's point of view, because in many ways they're both right.
I don't want to come off as some detached apologist who doesn't understand the hard-working fan (even if the per-capita income of many of those PSL high rollers would break the Rams' salary cap). But I also don't want to dismiss Jackson's words, either.
I get both sides of this debate. Jackson has every right to be upset about a perceived lack of fanatic loyalty. Jackson has played with a ferocious passion on every play, proved that he is durable, capable of carrying this team offensively and proved to be more than a worthy successor to the legendary Marshall Faulk.
Imagine living in a pro football stronghold such as Green Bay or Washington, where victories and defeats don't dictate attendance figures or fan loyalty. The Redskins and Packers have been just as unproductive as the Rams over the last three seasons. In fact, they are essentially like the Rams, with Washington going 20-25 since 2004, and the Rams and Packers tied with 19-26 records over the same time span.
I grew up in D.C. and have attended countless games in Green Bay's historic Lambeau Field, and trust me, there are few visible signs of the enemy in either stadium.
The Redskins not only lead the NFL in attendance (87,844 per game), but also fill the building to nearly 110 percent capacity, second highest in pro football. And who has the highest percentage?
Green Bay, of course, with average attendance at 70,735 and a staggering 116.4 percent capacity rate.
Growing up a Redskins fan, you knew season tickets were family heirlooms. Through good times and bad, sub-freezing winters and sweltering summers, you didn't give those tickets up to anyone but another Washington football loyalist.
But the Rams are not deeply ingrained in the fabric of St. Louis sports, even after 10 years and two Super Bowl trips.
The truth is, the modern St. Louis sports fan has a chip on his shoulder. He's angry and impatient. But he's also quite easy to understand.
"I think that, generally, society's going to feel better about things when things are going well," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "(If) we start performing better, they'll come back, they'll jump back on the bandwagon."
Now that's an absolute we can all agree on.
Re: Jackson or the fans? It's easy to see both sides
I'm always on the bandwagon, and I agree with Jackson to an extent. Some fans are just better than ours, and its the truth...BUT I as a player (if I was an NFL player), wouldn't expect tons of fans to show up when we stink...Why? Because tickets are SO expensive, and for most people, its not worth it if the team is usually losing!