By nearly any metric, the Los Angeles Rams have one of the smallest fan bases in the NFL. A new study from Michael Lewis, a professor at Emory University, confirms that ranking the Rams 31st out of 32 teams on what he calls fan equity, social equity and road equity.
Now before you let that get you upset (NEXT TO LAST? HERESY!), consider what we’re talking about.
Does it really matter that the Rams aren’t one of the most popular teams? Do you as a fan care about winning a popularity contest?
I personally don’t, but popularity contests tend to attract interest in general so I understand why some people generally would.
SEEMS EASY ENOUGH TO ME.
But in general, I think there are three obvious reasons why the Rams have such a small base.
3.) They played in one of the smallest markets for 30 years
The least impact of the three, the Rams didn’t have a large market to exploit even during the Greatest Show on Turf years. That just didn’t afford them the advantage of bigger market teams that can soak up local fans during periods of success.
2.) They moved to a city that hadn’t had NFL football for more than 30 years
Like any city without a sport, people find a way to persist.
This was LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke back in January 2016 in the immediate aftermath of the Rams’ approval for relocation:
We didn’t ask you to come back. Oh, we may have whined occasionally during Super Bowl weeks, but we didn’t hold giant rallies or send emotional letters or really miss you that much. We play fantasy football, we watch DirecTV, we drive to Las Vegas for a three-team parlay. We’ve had our fill of the NFL without actually having a team.
Live football? We’ve fallen in love all over again with the pro-style programs at USC and UCLA, just check attendance figures.
Sundays? We’ve done just fine watching the Dodgers on Sunday afternoons in the fall and the Lakers on Sunday nights in the winter.
So understand first that you’re here because you want to be here and because you think you can make money here, not because anybody was dying to see you again. Consider yourself lucky to be back on our turf.
Of course overall, he’s right. But there’s also the aspect that for NFL fans in LA that became fans in the last 30 years, they likely found other teams to support outside of the GSOT era. While there was still a base of older fans who became LA Rams fans prior to the move to St. Louis including myself, the bottom line is that a wide swath of Angelenos found other teams to support and didn’t just abandon them because the Rams returned.
I pointed this out in 2016 exactly to be able to have the historical markers in pocket. A historically large audience turned out for the first day of training camp, but that was the sheer novelty of NFL football being back in LA. It was never going to be indicative of a base you could sustain over bad football. It was the superficial sensationalism of the moment. And of course we saw more markers as a LA Rams legends game was forced to be cancelled due to low interest and a scrimmage touted to pack the Coliseum failed to do so. A 4-12 season of course didn’t help anything.
And don’t misunderstand. If you’re an Angeleno reading this in late June, I’m clearly not talking about you. Anyone who is interested in the Rams enough to pay attention to the NFL right now is someone who shows up at camp, at games. We’re talking about the casual fan who drops off. Who stops paying attention.
The fans that don’t show up when things get bad. Cause they were really, really bad.
Which of course leads us to the major reason the Rams have one of the smallest fan bases…
1.) We sucked for a long time
A loooooooooong time.
No winning football from 2004-2016. The worst five-year run of any team in NFL history from 2007-2011. And as of just last offseason, the most losses of any team in the preceding decade.
We were horrible. And if anything, you could easily argue we were the worst overall team in the NFL. That is never going to build out a fan base.
Of course, things are looking up. We’re building a new generation of Rams fans. We’ve got a new stadium with new uniforms (!) coming. We made the damn playoffs.
It’s an exciting time to be a Rams fan even if there aren’t as many of us as most teams’ fan bases.
We all we got…