While Howard Hawks began production on “The Big Sleep” in 1946, The Cleveland Rams were making their way West. After several threats to terminate his relationship with the NFL, Rams owner Dan Reeves got his wish to move his team from what would later be called the rock ‘n roll capital of the world, to the city of angels. What sprung forth from this coastal migration would be a history of football and Hollywood becoming inseparable in Los Angeles.
The 1950s were a bright time for the Rams, as they held the status of being the only professional sports team in Los Angeles for a majority of the decade. The Dodgers and Lakers would move to the city in the later part of the 1950s. The Ram’s were doing so well they drew in average of 83,681 people per game during the 1958 season. This was unheard of at the time and was a beacon for things to come in the 1960s.
The ’60s were a golden era for Los Angeles football, as the Rams led the league with their dominant defense, the Fearsome Foursome and USC plucked OJ Simpson from the ghetto of San Francisco to create their first dynasty. Simpson became an All American running back and won the Heisman trophy which allowed him to steal the spotlight and evolve into a darling of Hollywood. Simpson rubbed shoulders with the elites of Tinseltown and became a TV commercial star but eventually turned into a movie actor.
Nothing could have been a brighter highlight in the record of Los Angeles football when the Rams made the Super Bowl in 1979. While the Rams lost the game, Super Bowl XIV highlighted the glamour of Southern California.
That glamour would soon lose its shine, as fandom was in deep decline for the Rams because of several bad seasons and a new team coming to town, the Oakland Raiders.
Raiders owner Al Davis, after an extended period of battles with the NFL, was allowed to move his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. The public rejected what they perceived as the clean cut nature of the Rams and latched on to Davis and his band of rebellious misfits. The success the Raiders had found in Los Angeles with winning two Super Bowls in the 1980s played a pivotal part in their acceptance to the city. Rapper Ice Cube has cited these two reasons as to why he and members of N.W.A wore Raiders clothing in their promotional photos and music video.
It was a short-lived love fest in Los Angeles though, as the Rams moved back to St. Louis in 1995 and the Raiders migrated back in Oakland during the same season. Los Angeles was left without an entertaining football team until Peter Carol and the second USC dynasty in 2004.
USC’s sudden rise to dominance during the mid 2000s caused a swarm of media to swoop down on the team. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart became legitimate stars, partying with the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Snoop Dogg would stop by to watch the team practice, but following suit with all dynasties, they crumbled as a result of the coach and the team’s two star players leaving the team for the NFL.
As the Trojans moved away from their college football dominance and crept into the deep recess of forgottenness, another lull swept across Los Angeles. The city was built to love a good story and nothing provided one better than Sunday battles on the gridiron.
It wasn’t until 2014 when rumors of the Rams moving back to Los Angeles started circulating. The entertainment capital of the world would have a football team again.
It was official the Rams were coming back to Los Angeles on Jan 14, 2016. Jeff Fisher would be the head coach and Jared Goff drafted for starting quarterback. Given history, it’s only a matter of time before stars like Donald Glover and Matthew Gray Gubler are seen on the sidelines at a Rams game.
George Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_sports on Twitter.