WEST BERLIN, AUG. 11 -- The Los Angeles Rams stormed through the gate of the stadium that Adolf Hitler built, parachutists landed at midfield, cheerleaders shimmied and finally, way up in the press box, Irina Prass dropped her jaw.

"I'm totally blown away," said Prass, who works for Der Morgen, an East German newspaper covering its first American football game. "Such a spectacle. So many things. So American."

Nine months ago Prass could not cross through the Berlin Wall to set foot in Olympic Stadium. Tonight she watched the Rams dominate the Kansas City Chiefs, 19-3, in the first professional American football game played in Germany.

The East Germans have learned Western ways faster than many folks imagined they would. Proof: Prass is no sports reporter. She's a layout artist who has no more intention of writing about this game than does the burly security guard in the Amis Raus {Americans Out} T-shirt.

How'd she get a ticket? "Connections."

Welcome to American football.

This stadium, where in 1936 Jesse Owens exposed Hitler's mad ideas of racial superiority to all the world by winning four gold medals, has a rich history of propaganda.

And tonight's game was another bit of persuasion, an attempt to convince soccer-crazed Germans to give the gladiators from across the ocean a looksee. The NFL used the thud of colliding linemen and the sex appeal of broad shoulders to sell the game, and 55,429 people responded, filling more than half the stadium.

They saw a sluggish, messy game that featured five interceptions, including an exciting pickoff that Rams cornerback Alfred Jackson returned 31 yards for the final points with 1:16 remaining.

But most of the crowd didn't need convincing. There were entire trainloads of American servicemen who got free tickets and trips from bases in Greece, Turkey and West Germany. (They got a wave going just before the half.)

Considering that many of their fellow soldiers are steaming to Saudi Arabia, these guys would have been happy to watch an amateur curling match.

The Americans did their bit for international peace and friendship by booing lustily when the stadium video screen showed the World Cup champion West German soccer team. But there were no fights, no ugly words. In fact, a good number of the Germans in the crowd agreed with the "Amis."

"American football is much better than our football {soccer}," said Wolfgang Hagenberger, 30, a blacksmith and linebacker for the Passau Steelers, an amateur American football team in Bavaria. "One hundred percent of the people can play our football. But only a few can play American football. You must have the body, the eyes, the strength."

Nearly 14,000 Germans play American football in amateur leagues, and Walter Kreutner is certain the popularity will grow. Kreutner is editor of Touchdown, the German American football magazine.

"This is proof that football is the sport of the future," he said as the crowd cheered Jim Everett's six-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Buford McGee in the first quarter. "No German soccer game has an atmosphere like this. Look, you can go to a stand and get food or a drink. In soccer, we get warm lemonade and cold sausages. You have service, convenience, Frisbee dogs."

The Frisbee-catching dogs were quite the hit. So was the U.S. Army Band playing the anthem that has served the Germans from the Nazi period through this year of reunification. The U.S. Navy's champion whistler, however, was no international sensation.

Unlike the cheerleaders, who were. The Germans couldn't get enough of them, just as Embraceable Ewe Jackie Hamilton said it would be.

"They {Germans} get bored with {football} because soccer is nonstop and football is a lot of stop and go," she said. "That's why we're here -- to fill the gaps."

Tom Schultz of Frankfurt brought his son Oliver and the rest of the family and decided that American football "is a strange game, difficult to understand. It's very seldom that you have a long run. There's much less movement than in soccer. I think we'd rather have an NBA team here."

Down in the VIP section, where six U.S. congressmen were busy advancing the cause of peace and democracy (and while they're in town, getting campaign ad footage of themselves at the Berlin Wall), Rep. Tom McMillen (D-Md.) agreed.

"Basketball is a little better suited to Europe," the former NBA player said. "The NFL has a lot of groundwork to lay. Anyway, we need a team in Baltimore before they expand to Berlin."

The NFL, which also staged exhibition games in London, Tokyo and Montreal this week, is pushing the foreign factor hard these days. Tex Schramm's World League of American Football starts up next year, with teams in Barcelona, Frankfurt, Montreal, London, Mexico City and Rome, along with six U.S. cities.

To spread the gospel, the NFL had to fly in goalposts, pour concrete to make them stand, lay artificial turf to make the natural soccer field long enough, bring its own game clocks.

Then the staff had to sell, sell, sell. Publicist Pete Abitante went to German newsrooms to push the game. "The greeting was either 'It's a very difficult game, too complex' or 'Interesting, nice game,' " he said.

The German press wasn't so sure. Coverage of the American Bowl this week has been minimal and highly sarcastic. But some sportswriters at the game were impressed.

"It's not that complicated," said Peter Schmitz of the Duesseldorf daily NRZ. "You can pick up the rules after a couple of games. But the interruptions are disturbing. TV timeouts, you call them? Yes, well, we are not used to it."