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From Belfast To St. Louis

AP Photo/Tom Gannam
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Belfast to St. Louis is 3,891 miles as the crow flies, so how was it that I came to support the then St. Louis Rams? It all began about 11:00 pm on January 30th, 2000. I’m sure everyone knows what happened that day!

I grew up in a small town in Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s. The only exposure I got to the NFL was the Super Bowl. From the mid-1980s one of our terrestrial television channels, Channel 4, televised the Super Bowl each year. I always enjoyed the build-up and the razzmatazz associated with the Super Bowl but had no idea of the rules of the game and did not know what was going on.

The coverage in Belfast started about 10 pm and the game finished in the early hours of the morning. I got to watch the first half and sometimes the half-time show before I went to bed. My father would record what I missed and we sat down to watch it on a Monday evening, making sure we avoided the score. I’m reasonably sure he always knew who had won as he could predict scores in the second half much better than he could in the first half.

At some point in the mid-1990s, Channel 4 lost the television rights to show the Super Bowl on TV. A subscription-based satellite TV company called Sky Sports secured the rights to show all NFL games. As I was a teenager at the time, I soon forgot all about the NFL. It wasn’t until late 1999 that a satellite dish arrived at our house, and instead of having six channels to watch, we now had hundreds. As a sports fan, this was fantastic, and so when the Super Bowl came along on January 30th, I knew I had to stay up and watch it all.

The Greatest Show On Turf

I had never before picked an NFL team to support so I knew very little of either the St. Louis Rams or the Tennessee Titans. When the game started I hadn’t given any consideration at all to who I wanted to win. It was only when the commentators started talking about how Kurt Warner had been working in a grocery store a few years earlier that I decided I wanted the Rams to win that game.

When Warner connected with Torry Holt to give the Rams a 16-0 lead in the third quarter, I thought that was it and it should be over. I was wrong. Steve McNair brought the Titans back into it and soon it was 16-16. I was getting nervous, a strange feeling given that a few hours prior to this, I neither knew who Kurt Warner was, let alone cared about him or his team. Sports are funny that way.

When Issac Bruce scored a touchdown with just over two minutes to play, I leaped up and down in excitement. The next few minutes was heart-in-the-mouth stuff, pure drama with the Titans ending a yard short as time expired. Back at home for me, it was just after 4:00 am, and although I was incredibly tired, I stayed up to watch the presentation and the celebrations.

Hooked on the Rams

Over the next few years, I started watching the NFL more and the Rams became my team. There was heartbreak against the New England Patriots a couple of years later, but I assumed the Rams would continue to get to and win more Super Bowls.

That didn’t happen, but neither did it diminish my support for the team. The more I read about and watched the Rams, the more I started to love, not just the Rams, but the game of American Football and everything that goes with it.

During the lean years, Sky Sports showed fewer Rams games live on TV, so I signed up for NFL Network.

The night games during the regular season are still difficult to watch live as they have a 3:00 or 4:00 am finish for me. Due to the wonders of modern technology I can still watch the games on replay “as live”. That involves an internet free day at work, so on the positive, productivity improves on those days.

One final point is that I know the International Series doesn’t have universal appeal but traveling to London is much more manageable than traveling to St. Louis or Los Angeles. The series has given me the opportunity to see the Rams live three times, most recently the first win I have seen with the 33-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago.

– Martin Smith is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Rams. He covers the Los Angeles Ram. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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