Most St. Louis Rams fans and many residents of the Gateway City who utilize Twitter are probably now well aware of the grassroots #FillTheDome movement.
It has exploded into an all-out Twitter craze via the ever-expanding efforts of a constantly growing throng of St. Louis citizens and Rams fans worldwide and the occasional assistance of Rams players and front-office personnel.
If you have somehow missed the campaign, just take a moment and stroll through this seemingly endless array of #FillTheDome messages.
If scanning closely enough, you will discover tweets and retweets from the likes of Rams Vice President of Football Operations and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff and notable players such as Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Johnny Hekker, Trumaine Johnson and Chris Givens.
With so many big-name individuals involved, it might be surprising to some that the #FillTheDome crusade was initiated and has been driven by fans amped up over the coming season.
On Sunday, St. Louis opens the season at home vs. the Arizona Cardinals with fans possessing legitimate expectations of witnessing their favorite franchise's return to the NFL's postseason party for the first time since the culmination of the 2004 campaign.
While most prognostications—including this one from ESPN's Nick Wagoner—peg St. Louis as a borderline playoff team with an 8-8 to 10-6 record, at least one prominent columnist from the New York Post (h/t Wagoner) believes the Rams are Super Bowl-bound.
For Rams fans—fans who have not tasted of a winning record in nine years and who recently endured the worst five-year win-loss stretch in league history—the realistic hopes of a long-anticipated return to winning football has created excitement and fueled the #FillTheDome push.
Fans are eager to watch a strong nucleus of returning ascending talent as well as the additions of the potential NFL offensive and defensive rookies of the year—wide receiver Tavon Austin and linebacker Alec Ogletree.
Because of the abysmal aforementioned five years of play that resulted in a 15-65 mark and individual campaigns of one-, two-, two- and three-win seasons in four of five years, it was no surprise that the organization eventually lost a chunk of its season ticket base.
During that tumultuous time, more and more casual fans also began to bypass the option of purchasing tickets and, instead, chose to stay home and view the "bloodbaths" from there.
Thus, an unsurprising attendance drop was eventually realized. However, to the credit of Rams fans, it did not take place overnight.
Even after St. Louis compiled a lousy 3-13 mark in 2007, it was not until the final stages of a disastrous 2008 2-14 season that a meaningful number of spectators began choosing to bypass the opportunity to pay to watch the league's most historically hapless five-year succession of teams.
On top of that, some fans began to grow concerned about an unresolved stadium situation and the franchise's future. Many of these fans—including some not recognizing that relocation prospects are not what they appear to be—have been reluctant to buy in.
With the combination of a team still not far removed from some of the most boring and grotesque football ever witnessed by mankind and the above-mentioned stadium situation that has some fans still on the fence, the #FillTheDome efforts have been necessary.
It is helping give the Edward Jones Dome a better opportunity to reach capacity numbers. If full or close to it, the building will likely become arguably the league's loudest, most intimidating and most intense venue once again.
A full and raucous home-field advantage week in and week out would arm the Rams with an optimized opportunity for a successful season.
Demoff, general manager Les Snead and various coaches have spoken of a desire to lead the league in third-down defensive efficiency. Of course, crowd noise can play a key role in stymieing an opponents' ability to communicate and in inducing false starts.
In addition, a rambunctious dome will provide the Rams fearsome front four with an advantage against opposing offensive linemen struggling to hear the snap count.
If the opposition is forced to go to a silent count, offensive linemen will have to watch for the snap, and that aids in slowing them further. Pass-rushers thrive when offensive linemen play in a rowdy environment, as it helps them get off the ball a little quicker than offensive linemen can typically react.
With a consistently large home crowd in place and the corresponding noise that typically come with it, the defense is afforded its best chance to excel in reaching the quarterback. Last season, the Rams led the league in sacks. This year, it could challenge this century's sack standard.
Furthermore, due to the fact that St. Louis currently carries the league's youngest roster for a second straight year, a full house could potentially be more helpful to this collection of players than it would be to any other club.
With all that said, what can every fan do to help ensure that the Edward Jones Dome is as full as possible come Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.? What can every fan who wants to see the Rams put in the ideal position for winning the opener and embarking upon a prospective playoff push do to help?
With those questions considered, the following are just a few ideas to help further the cause:
—Every Rams fan with a Twitter or other social media account can tweet/send and retweet/resend #FillTheDome messages on a recurring basis between now and game time. By doing so, it will serve to optimize the movement by reaching and arousing the maximum number of potential ticket buyers.
#FillTheDome can indeed become a full-blown Twitter trend if all of Rams Nation works in unison. Even if you cannot attend the game, you can help #FillTheDome by incorporating these methods.
—For those who may know prominent individuals or players in the area, you can ask them to join the social media movement. Their efforts, in some cases, can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of people per tweet.
—Fans cannot only initiate and/or continue their #FillTheDome social media efforts, but they can recruit others to do the same. By involving the maximum number of people, the greatest possible outreach and corresponding potential impact can be attained.
—Fans and businesses alike can take advantage of the opportunity to buy tickets online for as low as $12. These tickets could be for personal use, family members, co-workers, business associates or employees. Some fans might consider buying a ticket for a few underprivileged children or for those who have not yet attended their first NFL game, for example.
—Obviously, not all fans can buy tickets for others, but all fans can invite and encourage other friends, family or associates to purchase a ticket and check out the new-look Rams, a team that will likely be more explosive offensively than any the organization has fielded in nearly a decade.
Finally, fans can share this article with others to help them understand what the #FillTheDome campaign is all about and further publicize it.
In short, if you want the Rams to have their best chance to succeed on Sunday and all year long, the best thing you can do is make whatever efforts possible to get everyone excited to #FillTheDome. If so, it will give players and fans alike the chance to secure the most successful and enjoyable season possible.
With just a few thousand tickets remaining, the #FillTheDome efforts could truly pay off for both the team and the fanbase by aiding in filling as many seats as possible. That, of course, would constitute a win-win scenario for all.
Shane Gray serves as a Rams columnist for 101 ESPN St. Louis, 101sports.com. You are encouraged to follow Gray on Twitter via @ShaneGmoSTLRams.
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