For those NFL fans remaining in St. Louis, a city full of football orphans with no team to call their own, Sunday night will be a great time to take a nice five-hour walk around the Arch. Or go carbs-crazy on square pizza slices. Or post all-caps essays online about being the best fans in baseball.
The city may try just about anything to avoid watching Super Bowl LIII in which their former team, the now-Los Angeles Rams, will play a former rival, the New England Patriots. An asteroid hitting the Mercedes-Benz Stadium playing field at 6:30 p.m. might sound nice for some folks from “da Lou.” Bradley Beal, however, will bravely say the three forbidden words that may shock fellow St. Louisans.
“Let’s go Rams!” Beal bellowed in revealing his pick to win the Super Bowl.
The Washington Wizards all-star has his reasons. But first, to understand Beal’s allegiance, you must understand his backstory.
He has been burdened with the double whammy: Beal’s a St. Louis native as well as a massive football fan. He wears the No. 3 because it was the first jersey he had as a pee-wee wishbone running back. His four brothers — Brandon, Bruce, Bryon and Byron — all played college football. Although he has established himself into a fine basketball player, Beal still harbors a tinge of regret for being forced to end his gridiron career in high school.
Beal was 6 years old when the St. Louis Rams won it all in 2000. By the next year, Tom Brady started his reign and ended the Rams' dynasty with a Super Bowl win. Brady may be the GOAT, but back where Beal is from, he’s the boogeyman who ruined childhoods. St. Louis kids like Beal came to age watching awful football and the Rams never produced a winning season in his formative years. In 2016, the franchise packed up and left.
For one day, and one day only, Beal has decided to put his hurt feelings over the relocation aside and root for the lesser of two evils.
“I just don’t like Brady that much,” he explained. “I respect him but he beat our Rams for his first Super Bowl.
“I can’t root for the Patriots,” Beal continued. “That’s like a forever hatred. Because we would have had two [championships].”
Maybe subconsciously, Beal will drop the “we” pronoun when referring to the Los Angeles Rams' recent success. As an NBA star, Beal hadn’t spent much time back in his hometown to have formed relationships with some of the St. Louis Rams holdovers who are now in Los Angeles.
Then after team owner Stan Kroenke divorced the Show-Me State — “He didn’t want to be in St. Louis no more. That’s all that was. You asked for a stadium, we give you a beautiful stadium right on the Riverfront and you shoot it down,” Beal said — the Wizards guard went searching for a new NFL favorite.
Beal ultimately decided on the Green Bay Packers (he’s a big Aaron Rodgers fan), but he can’t be a Cheesehead on Sunday. Instead, the Rams it is.
Even so, Beal, fully gripped in a state of cognitive dissonance, may need someone to tell him Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce and Mike Jones aren’t walking through that door.
“I’m rooting for the St. Louis Rams, though,” he said, cheerily. “I don’t know how. But that’s who I’m rooting for — the St. Louis Rams!”