It was one year from the impossible. The St. Louis Rams had won the Super Bowl in 1999 and no one including myself could believe it. The team I had loved through such a horrible decade in which they left my city and were know as the worst franchise in football had finally won. Not even my grandfather, who had given up on the Rams and became a 49ers fan, had seen the Rams do anything more than just make the playoffs.
We were not only good, we were damn near unstoppable on offense. So in my eyes this was just gonna be a formality for us becoming back to back champions. The 2000 season started just like that too. We rushed off to a 6 and 0 start to the season. We had lost Kurt Warner to injury but I was one of the few who actually like Trent Green better. So for me there wasn't any concern. We struggled but remained in first place with a 8-3 record. Little did I know that our 12th game would be the beginning of what we were really in store for.
It was a battle for first place and believe it or not I was working at a bridal show as a favor to my girlfriend. We both worked at Tuxedo Shops and she wanted me too help out for one of her shows. I was running back and forth to catch the highlights of the game. We kept battling and battling and the game went into overtime where we lost not only the game but first place. But my hopes were still that no one could stop us we can just turn it on for the playoffs.
As we approached the end of the season we played our, at that time, most formidable rival, the Buccaneers. What a great Monday night game, that as the second half of the season had shown us, ended in disappointment. Before the game we had our destiny in our hands. After the loss, due to a horrible call in my opinion by the refs on a non fumble, we now needed the impossible to make the playoffs. A horrible Bears team to beat a playoff bound Detroit Lions team. Added on to that we needed to beat the first place Saints in New Orleans.
Well the impossible happened and we beat the Saints like I knew we could and the Bears with a last second field goal beat the Lions to put us in the playoffs against the team I wanted more than anyone else. The New Orleans Saints.
Now to add to the drama off the playoffs my best friend was raised in New Orleans until he moved to California in 1993. So we were at it with each other as this game approached. Unfortunately once again i had to work on a day my teams season was on the line. I had made numerous bets with friends that the Rams would win this game and really had no doubt in my mind that they wouldn't. Including a bet with a co worker that I was working with that day.
The first quarter ended with a 7-0 lead for the Rams. Didn't see the beginning of the game at that time because of work. But I most note I've watched this game over and over again. I was going back in forth at the mall I worked at to check on the score in a nearby sports apparel store that had the game on. Next thing I knew it was 10-7 Saints at the half.
After going back and forth I couldn't believe the greatest offense of all time could not score but 7 points in the game. Then the Saints took a 17-7 lead into the 4th quarter. My co worker and I then agreed I could take my lunch at home to watch the end of the game. So much riding on this game I could careless if i was fired. But as I drove home I listened to a touchdown and then another touchdown by the Saints to push them ahead 31-7 in the 4th quarter. Now if the game would have ended right now I would have looked at this game so differently. I would be able to accept we lost to a better team on that day. Also that we didn't have the heart that year that we had the year before.
But putting me through the pain they do the Rams down 31-7 scored 21 points in less than 7 minutes to come within 3 points of tying the game!! Our offense was unstoppable and in my eyes all we needed to do was just stop them or hold them to a field goal and we could win this game no problem. And to add to this miracle comeback we did stop them and were about to get the ball punted backed to us with 1:51 left in the game. All we needed was a field goal from an offense that just scored 21 points in less than 7 minutes. Also our kicker hadn't missed a field goal all year. Everything was pointing in our direction. I went from the lowest of lows to complete confidence in my Rams.
Then came the punt to Az Hair Hakim. Hakim was known as the fastest and best kick returner in the NFL. But he was also known to fumble. So as the ball went into the air i kept saying "don't fumble, don't fumble, don't fumble." But just like anything in my life at that time I sealed our own fate. Hakim fumbled the punt right into the Saints hands. Theres no way this just happened. I punched the door as I watched the replay. I was breathless. But not in a good way. I couldn't believe it happened. Then anger started because I recieved calls from everyone o how my team had blown the game. My anger grew more at the Rams for not putting in Marshall Faulk, Offensive MVP, for the punt. Then more anger as I thought how dare they come back just to take the air out of my lungs like that. I returned to work remembering the previous year. I had to work for the Super Bowl and I closed the store figuring no one would know cause who comes in to rent a tux on Super Bowl Sunday? And how great I felt a year before cause we had finally won to this low feeling of losing when we should have won.
Obviously by writing this I still have yet to get over the fact that we lost that game. Not only that we lost but that we lost that way. To add insult to the loss it was the Saints first ever playoff victory. As i mentioned as well my best friend was a Saints fan. So I will never live that loss down for the rest of my life. I wrote this more as therapy to me cause I cant get over this loss. But I hope it shows the passion I have for sports. For most Rams fans Im sure losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl a year later leaves a worse taste in their month than this. But this isn't only the worst Ram lose to me. This is the worst sports day in my life. Since 2001 the Rams have never been the same and it makes it even harder to get over what we had as a team. But I can still think to what once was.