Most National Football League fans are eager for the players and owners to finally strike a collective bargaining agreement, for the 131-day long lockout to end and for teams to finally report to camp. But if season ticket sales are any indication, there may not be a more eager bunch than those that root for the St. Louis Rams.
About 94 percent of Rams season ticket holders have renewed for the 2011 season, which is the highest mark in more than a decade — dating back to when Kurt Warner was directing “The Greatest Show On Turf” to two Super Bowl appearances and one NFL championship. In addition, the Rams have sold an impressive 4,000 new season tickets, double the figure of a year ago, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Some fans have wanted to wait for a resolution on the labor front, which is understandable,” Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff told the Post-Dispatch. “But from what we can tell, everyone is excited to jump on board once football is back.”
It’s been a long time since Rams fans had reason to be excited for a season to begin. The Rams went 7-9 last season, which gave them one more win than they had in going an almost unimaginable 6-42 the preceding three seasons. For an idea of how bad the Rams were from 2007 through 2009, consider the Detroit Lions went 0-16 in 2008 and still had nine wins over the three-year span.
The Rams came within one victory of winning the NFC West and becoming only the second team in the 16-game era to reach the playoffs one season after going 1-15. Granted, part of the Rams’ resurgence was rooted in their placement in a historically awful division: The Seattle Seahawks, who beat the Rams in the season finale to win the NFC West with a 7-9 mark, were the first division winner in NFL history with a losing record and reached the postseason — where they beat the reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, who finished four games ahead of the Seahawks in the regular season, in a wild card game in Seattle — despite falling by double digits in each of their nine defeats.
But the Rams possess a legitimate franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford, who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award after breaking Peyton Manning’s rookie record for completions and becoming just the third rookie quarterback in history to throw for more than 3,000 yards while starting all 16 games. The Rams also have a defensive-minded head coach in Steve Spagnuolo and allowed fewer than 20 points in eight games last season.
The resurgence has come at an opportune time for the Rams, who were sold to Stan Kroenke prior to last season and are viewed as a possibility for relocation to Los Angeles — where the Rams franchise played from 1946 until it moved to St. Louis following the 1994 season — because of a unique lease at the 66,053-seat Edward Jones Dome. The Rams’ lease at the Dome runs through 2025, but the Rams may break it if the Dome isn’t considered a “top tier” facility in the NFL by 2015. And the deadline for Dome management, the St. Louis Convention & Visitor’s Commission, to present the Rams with a plan to upgrade the stadium is Feb. 1, 2012.
The Rams’ downturn in the middle of last decade resulted in plenty of empty seats at Edward Jones Dome, which hosted 95 straight sellouts from the Rams’ arrival through December 2006. The Rams had two blackouts in 2008 and endured blackouts in their final three home games in 2009. The Rams sold out every home game last season, though they endured a handful of near-misses.