Adult beverage sales were brisk, and beads of perspiration that raced through fans’ face paint were even quicker in the sweltering heat at SoFi Stadium.
Neither compared to the speed Rams fans showed to get in the building and in position to celebrate their team’s first Los Angeles Super Bowl championship.
Late-arriving L.A. fans? Not this time. They had somewhere they needed to be.
Never mind that the triple-digit temperatures outside the stadium barely were alleviated in the upper levels of the palace along Prairie Avenue that was the site of the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI victory on Feb. 13 and their season opener Thursday, Sept. 8.
Some fans staked out their positions under the new championship banner well before it was unveiled and didn’t plan to move.
Most didn’t pay much attention to the SoFi debut of the Super Bowl XXXIV banner – you know, the one they won for St. Louis – before the Rams played host to the Buffalo Bills. They were far more interested in the one that commemorated the culmination of a dream that resumed with their return to Southern California in 2016.
“Other teams won championships,” said Michael Lewis of West Los Angeles, a Rams fan since the mid-’70s who sported an old-school No. 85 Jack Youngblood jersey amid a sea of newish threads with Nos. 9 (Matthew Stafford), 10 (Cooper Kupp) and 99 (Aaron Donald). “But the Rams? We won a Super Bowl trophy?
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.”
Former – and, some expect, future – Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. carried the Lombardi Trophy out on the field before the game and joined a youth team he invited to the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Retired left tackle Andrew Whitworth, general manager Les Snead, chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and owner Stan Kroenke gathered on one end of the field to watch the Super Bowl LVI banner be unveiled.
Their view wasn’t as good as the one Oscar and Trixy Lopez from Los Angeles had, though.
Well before kickoff, they grabbed a spot on the standing-room rail in the 400 level, just below the new banner. Their season seats were immediately below that.
They were thrilled to be back to celebrate a championship they can’t imagine they’ll forget.
“I’ve been to the Colosseum in Rome,” Oscar said. “That was amazing.
“Being here for the Super Bowl was better.”
Trixy said she wasn’t so sure they should go to the Super Bowl, and not just because she is a far more recent convert to Rams fandom than her husband.
“It was pretty expensive,” she said. “The tickets cost more than our wedding.
“But I’m glad we went. If we ever have kids, it’ll be great to be able to tell them we were there.”
Oscar was a Rams fan long before their St. Louis sojourn and remained passionate about them while they – and he – were far from Southern California.
He celebrated their Super Bowl XXXIV victory over the Tennessee Titans and later kept track of them during his deployment to Iraq as an Army infantryman from 2007-10.
“They’ve always been my team,” he said. “It’s great to be here for this.”
The Lopezes weren’t going to get much of a break from the heat early in the game, but they didn’t seem to mind.
Other fans sought whatever refuge they could find under concourse fans or via libation salvation. And some simply seemed to ignore the heat altogether.
On a stage set up in an open gathering area on the 300 level, a DJ had Rams and Bills fans alike dancing before the game.
They poked a little fun at each other when “Can’t Touch This” played, and they grooved to the Earth, Wind & Fire tune that asked if listeners remembered the 21st night of September.
It’s not clear if they did.
But Rams fans certainly remembered the 13th night of February, and they showed up nearly seven months later to celebrate one more time.