The first time the Rams were in Los Angeles, for you young whippersnappers out there, this was the game circled on the calendar. The gold and blue would head north to play their geographical rivals. You’ve heard of the Dodgers and Giants being bitter, and they are, but baseball is not inherently a violent game.
Add a five-hour alcohol fueled tailgate in a miserable place to play football, such as Candlestick Park, and it was on.
Back then, the 49ers of the 1980s-90s were loaded, to boot. Players of such skill and accomplishment — five Super Bowls to their credit — that naming those players only wastes further time to talk about tonight’s game.
So here’s the point about tonight: I see no logical rationale that San Francisco beats the Rams tonight.
Well, there is one. The Niners have won their last five openers, even the last couple of seasons when they’ve been lousy. Last year, for instance, they beat down Minnesota 20-3, and the Vikings went to the playoffs.
San Francisco also took out Green Bay twice, Seattle and Dallas in that run. Los Angeles has been mediocre at best during that time.
But intellect suggests you take the Rams.
The thing with football culture is stability. Don’t get me wrong. Of course you want talent, ferocity, size, speed. But all of those needed attributes of 11 men have to weld together into one stable unit. The 49ers, at this point, are anything but.
They have a new coach in Chip Kelly who was wildly unpopular, and maligned as a megalomaniac, when he was dismissed in Philadelphia. Think of the fanboy reaction to Jared Leto as the Joker in “Suicide Squad” and then add 250 pounds to the actor’s frame. Miscast. Tone deaf. Self-righteous. An irritant, like fingernails on a chalkboard.
He brings a spread offense to a team that reached the Super Bowl because of a run-based I-formation offense. New coach with drastically different philosophy equals lack of cohesion at the start of a season.
Now add a gallon of perceived social injustice to the mix. This is the team whose backup quarterback started the sit/kneel/frown/fist-in-the-air protest during the national anthem. ESPN for the first time will keep a live camera on the 49ers bench instead of cutting to commercial just to see how many teammates are going to protest.
I see a team that wants to make a statement about the police instead of playing football at the highest level.
I think the Rams, behind a rested Todd Gurley, will trample San Francisco with the same bludgeoning running game that was once the Niners forte. I don’t think it will be a blowout. Running teams rarely win by three touchdowns. But win they do, so the Rams will fly back to their new home with a win tonight of 24-13.