The 2012 season will kick off this weekend for the St. Louis Rams, as they take on the Detroit Lions in the burned-out ruins of an abandoned auto plant, kind of a Thunderdome situation. It's going to be awesome.
Okay, so the game will actually take place at Ford Stadium in Detroit, which is only marginally nicer than the burned-out ruins of an abandoned auto plant, but without the leather-and-spikes ambiance or a post apocalyptic Tina Turner showing off the gams. I'm also not expecting the game to be particularly awesome; the Rams have the youngest team in the entire NFL this year (read: it's a rebuilding year...again), and the Lions have one of the more talented teams in the league. However, that also should mean hope for Rams fans, one of the longer-suffering fanbases in professional football.
It is with that hope in mind that we present to you, as we hope a new era of prosperity begins for the Rams, the five greatest moments in St. Louis Rams history.
#5: April 19, 1997 -- The Rams Set the Pace
Orlando Pace is going in the Hall of Fame soon. He's one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of the game, and almost certainly the greatest in the history of the Rams. And when he goes into the hall, it will be as a St. Louis Ram, all thanks to one of the greatest trades ever made in the draft.
The Rams traded up into the first spot, swapping with the New York Jets, in order to take the big left tackle out of Ohio State. It was the first draft pick of the Dick Vermeil era, and set the tone for much of what was to follow. Pace became a franchise cornerstone, protecting the blind side in one of the greatest offenses ever. Pretty good trade, huh?
#4: March 11, 1995 -- Meet Me in St. Louis
The beginning of the franchise, right here. After numerous attempts at bringing teams to St. Louis (the Patriots almost came to the 'Lou at one point), or grabbing an expansion franchise (remember the St. Louis Stallions?), the city of St. Louis finally got a team, and football was back in the Gateway City for the first time since the Cardinals left town.
Georgia Frontiere brought the team to her hometown. We still love you, Georgia.
Bill Bidwill can still eat a bowl of dicks. #3: January 23rd, 2000 -- Rams 11, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6
This was the irresistible force versus the immovable object, in a big way. The Force was the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf attack, Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk, oh my. Playing the part of the Object was the infamous Tampa Two defense, led by Warren Sapp in the prime of his career.
It looked for most of the game as if the Greatest Show had hit a serious snag, as the Buccaneers picked Warner off three times and held Faulk in check in a way no other team had been able to all year. It took a Dre Bly interception to turn the tide, putting the offense in a position to pull out a dramatic come from behind win that sent the Rams to the first Super Bowl in St. Louis football history. Ricky Proehl made the winning catch, assuring himself of a place in Rams lore forever, and more importantly, a spot on some random hack sportswriter's list years later. #2: April 15, 1999 -- The Biggest Piece of the Puzzle
The Rams went 5-11 in 1997, Dick Vermeil's first at the helm of the team. They went 4-12 in 1998, and there were some who wondered if the old coach still had it after being away from the game for so long. Still, there was reason to believe the team was moving in the right direction; it was just a slow process of trying to erase the stink of the Rich Brooks teams.
I started this list above by talking about the Rams trading up to draft Orlando Pace, calling it one of the best -- not to mention most important -- trades in franchise history. In early 1999, the Rams went one better, pulling off the single most transformative trade in the history of the team. The Indianapolis Colts had a running back by the name of Marshall Faulk they didn't want to pay. The Rams needed a playmaker, and thus a deal was born.
Of all the players who made up the Greatest Show on Turf, from Warner and his arm to Pace guarding his back to Isaac Bruce hauling in passes at an historic rate, Faulk was arguably the most vital. Actually, I'm not sure it's even arguable. One of the greatest all-around threats in NFL history, Faulk was biggest difference maker on a team full of them. Defenses could gameplan for plenty of things, but they could never figure out how to guard against everything Marshall Faulk could do. The Greatest Show would not -- no, could not -- have been the Greatest Show without Faulk.
#1: January 30, 2000 -- The Tackle
Oh, come on. Was there really any doubt about this one? As moments go, it really doesn't get any better than this.
Mike Jones tackling Kevin Dyson on the one yard line to win the Super Bowl. It was named the second greatest moment in Super Bowl history by ESPN. The image is indelible, etched in the memory of every Ram fan who saw it, Dyson's arm stretching out toward the goal line, coming up Just. A. Little. Bit. Short.
It was the greatest moment in St. Louis football history, and it's not even close.
I wonder if it's a good omen that the man standing on the other sideline at that moment, Jeff Fisher, is now the man trying to lead the Rams back to that kind of glory. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Bonus Round: The Greatest Moment in LA Rams History