Monday, October 28, 2013
Sports spotlight shines brightly on St. Louis
ST. LOUIS -- Apparently, Monday Night Football had a message for the World Series: Meet me in St. Louis.
The big events taking place near the Gateway Arch crammed more than 103,000 people into downtown St. Louis. Busch Stadium, hosting the pivotal Game 5 of the Series with the Cardinals and Red Sox, is eight blocks south of the Edward Jones Dome, home of the Rams.
Ultimately, the night was a double disappointment for the home crowds -- 47,436 at Busch Stadium, 55,966 at the dome. The Rams dropped to 3-5 with a 14-9 loss to the Seahawks that ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal at the Seattle 1.
More importantly for most St. Louis fans, the Cardinals lost 3-1 in game 5, and now need sweep the final two games in Boston to win the best-of-seven series.
The prime-time NFL game has been around since 1970 but, until now, it had never been played in the same city where a World Series was going on. However, in 1986, Boston lost Game 7 of the Series at the New York Mets on a Monday night -- a game that was pushed back a day by rain -- while the NFL Giants hosted Washington that evening at Giants Stadium, across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
All on its own, the football game should have been a joyous occasion -- it marked the first Monday night game in St. Louis since 2006, a drought largely due to the fact that the Rams have been mostly awful since then. But in baseball-mad St. Louis, the Rams clearly took a backseat.
"You want to go crazy for the Rams on national TV," William Cain of Belleville, Ill., said. Then again, he opted for baseball and was at the World Series.
"I think almost everyone in St. Louis will agree -- the World Series is more important," he said.
Two hours before the first pitch of Game 5, StubHub had World Series tickets going for $244 and more. Rams tickets were selling for as little as $9.75.
Fans at the dome could be excused if their focus wasn't exactly on football. The Rams, in a division with powerhouses Seattle and San Francisco, are a longshot to make the playoffs. To make matters worse, they lost quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury last week in Carolina.
The World Series was on the minds of many fans at the football game. Several wore Cardinals gear, either pairing a Cards cap with a Rams shirt or going entirely without blue and gold.
Jessica Pollman and Melissa Stevenson of Maplewood ended up at the Rams game in full Cardinals regalia after Pollman won the tickets in a trivia contest.
"These tickets were free, and Cardinals tickets are, like, $400," Pollman said. "So, these were affordable."
Pollman said she left a replica jersey autographed by former Rams receiver Isaac Bruce at home in favor of her white Cardinals jersey. Stevenson opted for a red Cardinals T-shirt for her first time attending a Rams game. Both planned to track the World Series on their phones, as long as their batteries didn't run out.
"I'm a little bit worried about that," Pollman said.
Games have overlapped in St. Louis before. In 1998, players on both football teams were perplexed when a huge cheer went up just as the Rams were about to take a snap. Mark McGwire had just hit his 69th homer on the final day of the baseball season. Moments after the football game ended, the few fans still in the dome let out another cheer -- McGwire hit No. 70.
It could have been worse for the Rams. If St. Louis had won Game 4 on Sunday, the Cardinals would have been playing with a chance to win the World Series on Monday.
Not every fan was laser-focused only on baseball. Retired electrical engineer Jeffrey Miller of St. Charles, Mo., a season ticket holder for both teams, showed up at the World Series in a Matt Holliday jersey on his back and a Rams helmet on his head. He planned to watch four innings of baseball, then walk to the dome for some football.
"It's a shame because Monday Night Football deserves the attention of the city," Miller said.
The Rams have problems that extend beyond competition from the Cardinals. In addition to the team's lack of success on the field -- they were 15-65 over a five-year span before going 7-8-1 last season -- the dome is old and outdated by NFL standards. Average home attendance this season was 55,395 before Monday, second-worst in the NFL, ahead of only Oakland.
The Cardinals' fortunes have been just the opposite. St. Louis is playing in its 10th postseason since 2000 and its fourth World Series since 2004. The Cardinals drew nearly 3.4 million fans to Busch Stadium this season, averaging 41,602, second-highest in baseball.
Stevenson said the Rams shouldn't take the divided loyalties personally.
"If it was a big game for the Rams, it would be different," she said. "Because it's such a big game for the Cardinals and such a big baseball town, you're going to see the people that are going to be here in spirit and cheering for the Rams but also thinking about the Cardinals."