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Thread: Rams-Niners Rivalry Commentary
-09-17-2006 #1Registered User
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Rams-Niners Rivalry Commentary
The Rams-Niners rivalry has evolved into something entirely different from the days when Rams President John Shaw made it clear a few years ago when the league realigned, that he would not support any plan where the Rams would leave the NFC West and the Niners as a division rival.
WIth the Rams already fully ensconsed in their Midwest home even then, the reluctance to move to a division more in line with location made no sense logically, but rivalries aren't about logic, are they?
They are about decades of emotion among fans, heightened by the advent of the Internet, about big wins and heartbreaking losses, and in the case of the Rams and Forty-Niners, about lengthy streaks in the more than half century series between the organizations.
Until the 1980's, it was the Rams that looked down on the mostly lowly Niners, but then Edward DeBartolo came to the bay as the owner of the team, and the tables turned for almost two decades.
Then in 1999, the Rams made a quick rise to the top of the league, while the Niners, in salary cap hell, plummeted. DeBartolo, who long time Rams fans viewed as Faust, having sold his soul to the devil to become invincible on the field, soon entered his own hell and lost his team to his sister and her husband, the Yorks.
The Yorks have run the once dominant franchise pretty much into the ground, and though some see them as an up and comer under a new head coach, the fact is that they won four games last season, two of which came against the Rams in games where the Niners were clearly outplayed.
So here we are, with both teams trying to get to respectability at the same time, a situation which should help boost the importance of the rivalry, but it seems to be doing nothing of the sort.
Out at Rams Park, only a couple Rams players, Isaac Bruce and Jeff Wilkins, remember the streak that had Niners players and fans using the term "Same Old Rams", game after game, and Wilkins was a Niner for a good part of it.
Neither of those old Pros are laying any particular importance on this game, just that it's a road game in division. No more crucial than the game a week from now in Arizona.
The new head coach and his staff know nothing about the L.A. years either, as most were still in college, or even high school, back in the early 1990s. They weren't here last year for the shocking sweep by the Niners, so there isn't even a revenge mode going on at Rams Park, NOTHING like when Mike Martz or Dick Vermeil was the head coach.
OK, so the team, except maybe Shaw and Jay Zygmunt, aren't extra pumped about the game. The loss of Jack Snow early this year leaves one less old Ram around to keep the flames of the rivalry hot.
As far as the fans, this game still means a lot, especially when looking at history, where the outcome of games between these two teams often signalled the direction the team was heading.
In that regard, that trend could be true, or just coincidence, especially when the Niners are certainly not considered a threat to win the West.
Some of the true hatred of the Niners seems to have departed with DeBartolo, and now it's more of a condescending look at the Niner organization by Rams fans and their owners.
That's something Nier fans should be able to relate to, based on the way they trashed the Rams organization and owner for a long time.
A win Sunday to put the Rams at 2-0 would be a pretty big deal, but it won't mean quite as much as beating the hated Niners in 1999 to end the streak. It won't even mean as much to send them to 0-2 as it once would have either.
You won't see the Eagles and Giants, Yankees and Red Sox, Cubs and Cardinals, Auburn and Alabama or Michigan and Ohio State rivalries heading down that path, but are the Redskins and Cowboys meetings full of what once powered them to be so great?
That's kind of a sad thing, to see something that inspired such fierce emotion and hatred slowly fade away, but it shows how long distance rivalrie will always take a back seat to geographically close ones.
Then again, if sports are a metaphor of war, maybe letting go of age old hatreds based on an old habit or old predjudices might prove to be a good thing, and something from which governments could learn.Barry Waller