By Erin McMahon
LOS ANGELES — Super Bowl LVI could feel like an away game for the Los Angeles Rams, and not just because they are the designated visiting team. With the curse of SoFi Stadium, or the lack of blue and yellow supporters for the teams who play there, home-turf advantage isn’t necessarily on their side.
So what is the team doing to stay engaged?
For Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, it isn’t a certain pregame playlist or ritual. Heading into the Super Bowl, he said his approach will be the same as any other game.
“I like to listen to the opposing fans scream at you, or the home fans scream,” Stafford said. “That’s what kind of helps me lock in the most, to be honest with you.”
Visiting-team fans have become Stafford’s motivation. The team has found ways to modify game day tactics in situations where lack of energy from the crowd was an issue.
“I just like to experience the whole thing, right?” Stafford said. “It just helps me kind of get in the moment and understand what I’m here to do. I’m here to play a football game.”
The NFC championship at SoFi resembled more of a home game at Levi’s Stadium for the San Francisco 49ers than it did a home game for the Rams. After the Week 18 matchup against the Niners, Kelly Stafford, wife of Matthew Stafford, was determined to bring in more Rams representation at SoFi. But, even after buying “a good amount” of tickets and distributing them to fans, the arena was still a sea of red jerseys.
Rams coach Sean McVay said his team needs to use past games as motivation going forward.
“I think any team that gets themselves in the position to be here, usually there’s some form of adversity where they have to come and find that resilience, that mental toughness and that physical toughness,” McVay said.
Given the more “corporate” atmosphere of the Super Bowl, Stafford said the team understands the event will host a more neutral crowd than a regular season game. However, given SoFi’s pattern of a heavy opposing team presence for both Rams and Chargers games, it’s hard to know what to expect.
Los Angelenos seem to think the city is fully behind the team. They believe in the power of the venue’s local access and the team’s lineage in LA.
“SoFi is so new, everyone wants to come to the newer stadium,” said Rams fan Cory Buckner as he sat outside Tom Bergin’s, the oldest Rams bar in LA. “It just so happens that the newer stadium is home to the Rams, who are in the Super Bowl, so I think it’s going to play in their favor.”
Erin McMahon is a graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter @erinamcmahon.