Recap - Rams 36, Seahawks 31
I’ve been looking forward to this trip with great anticipation since I booked it in April.
A trip to California in November – sunshine, ideal weather and two great stadiums – a very old one and a very new one – is the perfect football roadtrip.
I decided to make this a week-long trip starting in San Diego and working our way north day by day through Laguna Beach, Los Angeles and San Francisco – with stops along the way in Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Monterey. Once again, I have dragged along my sweetie Cathy on this trip.
After enjoying some amazing sunshine and beach time in San Diego and Laguna, we headed north to LA yesterday morning up the gargantuan seven lane highway 101. Being a Saturday, we were spared the usual Los Angeles bound gridlock and made great time into the city and to our hotel on Figueroa Street.
The pervasive topic of discussion in the city were the wildfires raging throughout nearby Thousand Oaks and Malibu and where they might be headed next if not contained. While we were out and about exploring LA yesterday, we had lunch outdoors at a restaurant on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Despite it being a warm and sunny day, what looked like snow started falling from the sky. The ‘snow’ was actually the ash from the wildfire being carried over by the Santa Ana winds. Pretty freaky!
After breakfast this morning I took the 2.5 mile walk South on Figueroa into the Exposition Park neighborhood to the Coliseum. Cathy decided to spend the day at the LACMA museum on Wilshire Blvd. There was a pretty healthy crowd of fans that joined me along the way navigating the gridlock of cars headed towards the stadium.
The Exposition Park neighborhood is in the south region of LA and includes the Coliseum, the Banc of California Soccer Stadium, the Exposition Rose Garden and three museums: the California African American Museum, the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It is also home to a Science Center Academy.
The area has gone through a pretty significant face lift over the last decade or so. Trendy mid-rise condos and lofts with ground floor retail are springing up everywhere surrounding the property, just to the north is the sprawling USC college campus.
The streets surrounding the area were full of vendors including poor Mexican woman who were selling these amazing fresh grilled hot dogs wrapped in bacon and served with grilled onions and jalapenos. As well as this rapping water vendor. This tune was stuck in my head for days.
There is a large area outside the stadium gates devoted to tailgating called the Fan Fest with dozens of food trucks and lots of umbrellas, benches, etc. There were a few thousand fans set up here chowing down and getting their pre-game drunk on.
Getting through the gates was quick and easy. Around the perimeter of the stadium there are dozens of concessions stands surrounding the entire exterior of the stadium, all inside the gates. The entire walking experience feels like a trip through a county fair. There are colorful stands, seating areas, vendors hawking their wares and team merchandise stands throughout. Inside the stadium, food options are limited to basic fare offered up by stands in the two dank and narrow concourses which ring the facility.
The Coliseum is the oldest of all NFL venues built in 1923. While it clearly shows its age with all of the grey dirty concrete and worn and broken seats (many covered over with faded maroon USC seat cushions held in place with zip ties), it still is a remarkably impressive venue and has more history than possibly any other sports venue in the country.
The Coliseum was the host for not one but two Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1984 (a 3rd Olympic games are scheduled to be played here in 2028). It is the home base for USC football, the Los Angeles Dodgers played here for their first four seasons and even hosted the World Series here in 1959, the Raiders moved from Oakland to LA and played here for a while before moving back, the first ever Super Bowl was played here and the Rams called this their home from 1946-1979 before returning once again in 2016 where they'll play until their new stadium in Englewood is ready for the start of the 2020 season. The Coliseum as declared a National Historic Landmark in 1984.
The rich history of the stadium is prominently displayed throughout the park. There are wonderful statues, bronze plaques, artifacts and memorabilia which are amply displayed among the colonnades in the east end zone. A nice feature are the old art-deco style analog clock and thermometer integrated into the facade. Being southern California, the thermometer only displays from 40-100 degrees F.
There were significant renovations being done to the stadium when I was there and large sections of the seating area were closed off, but there was nothing stopping the fans from ducking under barricades to explore the ‘off limits’ construction zones - which seemed a bit dangerous and irresponsible to me.
A great football tradition which the Rams have started is the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, stands high above the east end zone, before each game. It's kind of cool to watch it burn throughout the game.
Since USC operates and manages the Coliseum, the predominant colors and logos throughout the stadium belong to the Trojans and not the Rams, which struck me as odd to see during a Rams game.
The fans that I sat near were really friendly and talkative. Getting behind a team that’s 8-1 and in first place isn’t really hard to do. There was also a good representation of Seahawks – including couple in front of me with a 6 month old baby dressed up like a football
The food options in the street concourse were great – despite the high prices and long lines.
The longest line was at Hall’s Krispy Krunchy Chicken which I spent the entire halftime waiting on. The chicken was well worth the wait and was some of the best I’ve had in a while. I waited on another line to get one of my favorite beers to wash it down - nearby San Diego brewery Ballast Point’s Sculpen IPA. The beer isn’t the cheapest and usually runs about $15 for a 6 pack – but Jeez - the Coliseum charges $17 for a single freaking can!
Other good food options include Randy’s Donuts, a local chain famous for its signature giant rooftop donut on the top its stores, Pancho Tamales, USC Smokehouse brisket sandwiches and Mason’s Den's decadent corn elotes
As expected, the game was a high-powered offensive shootout between Rams QB Jared Goff and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. The teams went into the locker rooms at halftime with the Rams up 17-14. A 4th quarter TD pass from Goff to Tyler Higbee and a 9 yard end around TD by Brandin Cooks cemented the win for the Rams rebounding from their only loss of the year last week to the Saints to push their record to 9-1
The win was a big one for the Rams and the city of Los Angeles who was still reeling from mass shooting at nearby Thousand Oaks just a few days earlier followed by the devastating Woolsey Fires. The comeback victory over the Seahawks somehow seemed both more trivial and even sweeter to these resilient Rams.
Getting out of the stadium and back home can be a chore due to the choking traffic and less than optimal crowd management. Patrons are advised to have a plan, and a strategy and a road map prior to venturing out. Getting back to my hotel was a breeze as it was a very pleasant 35 minute walk back down the South Figueroa Corridor.
Tomorrow will be a very early rise for us as we are driving up north to Santa Clara. It will be even longer than usual since we are taking scenic route CA-1 all the way and making a few stops along the way.
Fans - B - Friendly, enthusiastic and fun. Very accepting to the rival Seahwaks fans
Features - B - Kind of dirty, visible construction, much in need of repair - but the displays of the stadium's history was impressive
Location - B - Horrible to drive to (that can be said for anywhere in Los Angeles) but an easy walk from downtown. Plenty to do in the neighborhood
Food - B - Lots of great food trucks and vendors outside the park and along the stadium's perimeter. Long lines and high prices though
Game - B - Close contest for much of the game. Plenty of talent on the field. Lots of great offense.
Overall Experience - B