The Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers will meet for the third time this season with everything on the line. The Rams just barely avoided blowing a 24-point lead to Tom Brady to advance to the NFC Championship Game, while the Niners did the same by upsetting the No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers at Lambeau on a snowy Saturday evening. Because the Rams won the division, they will host San Francisco at SoFi Stadium, which will also host the Super Bowl.
Home-field advantage is usually pretty important in football but the Rams are not in a good position to take advantage of it because they are still relatively new to the area. This was never more clear than in their final game of the season. The Rams hosted the Niners in Week 18; with a win, Los Angeles would clinch the NFC West, so it was effectively a playoff game. But San Francisco fans showed up in force and were so loud it was difficult for the Rams' offense to operate, to the extent that Matthew Stafford and others complained about the lack of fan support. It played a factor in why the Rams lost and needed help elsewhere in the NFL to come away division champs.
Now the Rams are hosting an actual playoff game against their division rivals with a Super Bowl trip at stake and are so nervous about Niners fans overloading SoFi that they're going to desperate measures to ensure it doesn't happen. Starting yesterday, Ticketmaster sales for the NFC Championship Game were restricted to residents in the Los Angeles area only, meaning any Niners fans trying to buy tickets from the Bay Area were unable to do so.
As easy as it is to make fun of the Rams for this, it's actually standard practice for sites like Ticketmaster for big games and Niners fans can very easily get around this restriction using the secondary market. The more obvious sign the team is resorting to desperation comes from the wife of starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth, Melissa, who is offering to pay for Rams tickets to ensure there is some semblance of homefield advantage for her husband's team.
Therein lies the problem. The Rams have been good for nearly their entire tenure in Los Angeles but haven't been around nearly long enough for season ticket holders to turn down the significant profit that will come with selling tickets to the most important game of the year. Money talks, as the saying goes. Rams fans will not sell their tickets because they don't care about the outcome of the game. It's simply too much cash to refuse.
This wouldn't be a problem if the Rams were still in St. Louis, but you reap what you sow. Stan Kroenke got his shiny, big-ticket stadium in one of the country's biggest cities. Now his team might pay the price for the consequences of his actions.