We’re very lucky NFL fans here in St. Louis because we can see our team with relative ease. It’s not just the availability of affordable seats at games, it’s draft day parties and training camp. It’s kick-off events and community outreach programs. From mid-July through at least the end of December St. Louis is swarming with Rams and all of them have been instructed to be nice to you and to sign anything you thrust in front of them.
Draft Day and pre-game festivities usually bring out the retired stars…the Greatest Show on Turf heroes, the future Football Hall of Famers. They’ll sign, they’ll chat, they’ll pose for pictures. They will wear their Super Bowls rings and they will let you drool over them.
Training camp is the whole team and then some. It can be hotter than hell but there’s always some covered areas and plenty of shady hillside seating. You can bring your cooler, some snacks and make it an afternoon. Free parking, free entrance, paper rosters handed to you at the gate, your team practicing right in front of you. There are plenty of special afternoons like Opening Day, Military Day, Ladies Day and last summer they had Food Trucks days and other random things going on. Afterwards there are always autographs from sweat-drenched players. Sometimes it says it’s just for kids but some players will always walk the fence line signing stuff. The rookies are shy, the solid roster guys less so. I got both Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford’s autographs at training camp.
I’ve seen players at events at restaurants, arcades and grocery stores within blocks of my house. I once saw a famous tackle wandering around Macy’s and he stopped and talked to me and we shook hands. Post-game, if you hang around at the right spot, you can catch guys walking out of the Edward Jones Dome. They’re tired and probably sore but they will stop and sign, exchange a few words. I even had a tense chat and had my picture taken with head coach Jeff Fisher during a break from his regular weekly radio show at a local chain restaurant.
My point is, if you lived in New York or Boston or Washington DC you would never be able to have the up close and personal interactions with players that we are fortunate to have here in St. Louis. If you showed up to a Packers bell ringing event at a local grocery store it would be swamped with people. Here, even with a rookie phenom in attendance, there’s a small crowd. You can talk to him, have him sign your football, shake his hand. In St. Louis we really get the chance to feel like the 12th man. There’s an investment when you meet a player playing skeeball, you chat with his wife, meet his tiny baby son. It becomes like family.