As part of our series in celebrating fans across the UK, I’d like to introduce you to Annika McDonald. Annika is an LA Rams fan and shares with us how she got in to the NFL, how she made the choice of her team as well as more about her overall experience as a fan.
My journey with the Rams started back in 1999.
My Godfather Tom who lived in St Louis came over to the UK and brought me and my brother t-shirts of the St Louis Rams who were doing well at the time. (I saw my Godfather a couple of years ago and he now supports the 49ers but back then he supported both teams. He tried to talk me into changing teams, but I was adamant I was sticking with them!)
However, it wasn’t until a few years later that I started properly following the sport. I knew from a young age I wanted to be a sports journalist and as I was going through college and university, I was always looking for new sports to follow.
I decided to take up an interest in American football having watched a few Super Bowls. I had kept the t-shirt that my Godfather had got me so decided to make the Rams my team. I still have the t-shirt to this day!
I quickly had to get used to the fact that my team sucked. I barely ever got to see them on TV and whenever I would meet fellow NFL fans I would almost have to apologetically admit I supported the Rams and yes I knew they sucked. But I didn’t care – I loved them.
I remember in 2012 I was so excited to see that the Rams were coming to the UK and I’d heard a lot about Tom Brady so I was keen to watch the game. I actually didn’t end up going as at time I was still working my way up in the industry on poor pay, none of my friends could make it and I didn’t fancy going alone. Now I would feel differently having experienced how friendly the UK NFL crowd is!
Little did I know what my now boyfriend was attending this very game. It was his first as a Patriots fan as he had watched the Super Bowl previously and got into the game.
Fast forward to 2015 and a chance meeting at a friend’s wedding where I met my boyfriend Ralph.
We bonded straight away and shared a lot of interests with one of the big ones being NFL. I can remember I used to wind him up about Brady and deflate gate and he’d tell me how much my team sucked.
In October 2016 he brought me tickets to see the Rams in London as a birthday present. I had finally made it to my first ever NFL game and I was so excited. I remember watching in awe as our Cheerleaders performed and then it was time for the game.
We started well as Tavon Austin scored a touchdown which was followed by a field goal to make it 10. Unfortunately, that was all the Rams would scored and we went on to lose 10-17 but I was hooked and couldn’t wait for my next game.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long as for Ralph’s 30thbirthday his dad, late mum and family brought us an amazing gift of flights to the USA and tickets to see the Rams vs the Patriots at Foxborough. So in November 2016 we travelled to the US and started our trip in New York.
We saw that the Patriots were there playing the Jets so we decided to try and get some tickets and managed to get some high up in the Metlife Stadium. We got the bus over to New Jersey and as soon as we arrived to the stadium we were greeted with a proper American tailgate party.
Being reserved Brits, we didn’t really know how to go about getting involved but we saw a van of fans that was giving out hotdogs and decided to join in the fun. It was such a great atmosphere and a great introduction to proper NFL football. When we finally got inside the stadium it was so cold but the Patriots won so Ralph was happy. Which was good because what followed was a two and a half hour wait for the bus back to New York. Trust me if you ever have the chance to go don’t wait for the bus back! 🙂
We then travelled to Foxborough for the main event and for the first time ever we were going to see our teams play each other. Given we support teams in different championships this only ever happens every 4 years so we were ecstatic that we were able to catch the game.
His parents had got us amazing tickets that not only had good seats but we also got hospitality with free food and drinks before the game and a chance to meet some Patriot legends.
Of course, I went in full Rams gear and was berated by their mascot but I didn’t mind that. I was just eager to see the game and get a first glimpse of our new quarterback Jared Goff. He’d played in a couple of games in the lead up so I knew there was a good chance he’d get on. I did get to see him play but sadly we were still in the Jeff Fisher era and it was awful to watch.
I cannot count the amount of times I heard the Foxborough stadium third down songs. And if that wasn’t bad enough at half-time they decided to make a big show of the time they beat us in the 2002 Super Bowl and even brought out half the team from that game!
I hope that we can get our own back for that display in the very near future! It was not the Rams’ day… or their season and we ended up losing 26-10.
Thankfully after that season we hired Sean McVay and what a breath of fresh air he has been for the Rams.
You just knew from watching the team that there was something special going on. Last season I got the chance to watch the Rams again as they came over for another international series this time against the Cardinals. By now I was completely wrapped up in the Rams bubble.
I’d joined the Los Angeles Rams UK fans group and attended the fan meet up on the Saturday before the game. One of the things I love aside from the game is the cheerleaders.
I’ve always been a keen dancer and I am constantly in awe watching them perform. So imagine my excitement when I got to meet them at the fan event. I had my picture taken 4 of the ladies and among them was my favourite Sativa-Skye who actually went on to perform in the Pro-Bowl that season.
My smile was so big, I was the happiest girl in the building and we hadn’t even kicked off. The game itself didn’t disappoint either, we ended up shutting out the Cardinals 33-0 at Twickenham stadium and I loved every minute. We went on to make the play-offs, it didn’t go great for us and we were outplayed by the Falcons in the wild card game. But we all knew it was the start of something much bigger.
This season has been an absolute whirlwind.
I was confident at the beginning of the season that we would do well. I even jokingly made a bet with my boyfriend that if the Rams made it to the Super Bowl he’d owe me a night away (not looking so stupid now). But I had no idea how well we would do.
Every week we kept winning and every game we grew into our own. It has been an absolute dream to watch. Ok there have been a few games that weren’t pretty but after years of watching awful football I ain’t complaining. A particular highlight from the season has to be the Chiefs game. Oh my gosh was that tense!
It was a late game and I had work in the morning so I couldn’t stay up to watch it live (hazard of the trade being a UK NFL fan!). But I was able to catch the highlights before heading to work and I was screaming the house down. When we finally won the game 54-51 I cheered so loud I actually scared my pug and she ran out the room! What a game and a real show that, for me, I felt this could be our season.
Watching the Rams through the playoffs has been nerve-racking to say the least. Me and Ralph have been watching the Pats and Rams games together. Although he did fall asleep in our game against the Cowboys! To be fair we were up at half-time so he said to wake him up if they we went behind and I never had to.
I have to say the Saints game was the toughest one to watch. I knew we weren’t playing our normal confident game and I honestly wasn’t sure we were going to make it. My faith was restored though when our saviour Greg the leg came up with the goods, we scraped through in overtime and I cried. I almost couldn’t watch but we had done it.
For the first time in my history of watching the Rams we were going to the Super Bowl! I never ever imagined this day would come and it feels amazing. I remember turning to Ralph mid tears and saying: “Right now you need to get there!”…. His response? “Oh thanks no pressure then!” Luckily, they made it through too to set up the ultimate couples game.
We have spent a lot of time dreaming of the day the Rams would play the Patriots in the Super Bowl and we knew this year was probably the best chance we had but I don’t think either of us thought it would happen. So, suffice to say we had a big party with lots of food and trash talking.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for but…
a couple of weeks later my now fiancé proposed so at least I got a ring off a Patriot even if my team didn’t! 😛 We are due to get married in September and because of the Super Bowl I have to put up with the top table at our wedding being named after Tom Brady! Although the theme is blue and gold and we’ve split the remaining table between our favourite players from both teams. As for the Rams well we’ll come back stronger this season, we always do!
I love what the Rams are about from being the first to have male cheerleaders to helping the local community deal with fires and shootings to the “We not me” mentality that McVay instills. The Rams are a family, a Ramily and I really don’t know where I would be without my love for them. I am so thankful my Godfather brought me that t-shirt and so excited for what the future holds.
Like Annika’s story? Read more like this here.
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