ST. LOUIS — Sunday was 1,529 days of pent up football frustration being released. No, St. Louisans will never totally get over the departure of the Rams (and they shouldn't), but Sunday felt like at least a little bit of closure.
For the first time since Dec. 17, 2015, professional football was back in St. Louis, and the city showed up.
Yes, they showed up to root on their new XFL team, which has been pretty impressive so far, but it was about more than that. Sunday wasn't just about a game. It was about St. Louis showing the rest of the country it was wrong to bail on them as a football town. And fans showed that from start to finish.
The costumes were out in force, the lines to get in were wrapped around The Dome, the tailgates were rowdy (but respectful) and the atmosphere inside was electric.
The players and the commissioner of the league couldn't help but get wrapped up in the excitement.
"I think this can become something that all mid-westerners can really rally around," XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck said. "We'll continue to work hard and open up the upper deck when needed to get even more folks in here."
"It was the same way a couple of years ago when I was with the Seahawks coming to play the Rams when I first got to the league," BattleHawks running back Christine Michael said. "Crowd just loves football. The city just loves football and we're happy to be here."
BattleHawks center and St. Louis native Brian Folkerts probably had the coolest experience of the entire day, when he got on the microphone and addressed the crowd before the opening kick-off.
"I was so pumped up. I grew up here in St. Louis and I got to say that football is back in St. Louis and did a mic drop. My adrenaline was just skyrocketing," Folkerts said. "And I had to calm down before we get back out there on offense because I have to snap the ball. It was incredible. The electricity was in the air and St. Louis really showed up."
St. Louis showed up to the tune of 29,554 in the stands and even more watching on ESPN at home.
We already know Stan Kroenke and all the people who were responsible for moving the Rams out of town only care about money -- not the relationship a city has with a team. But St. Louis still felt like it had something to prove. And prove it, they did.
"Everybody was like it was like their ex-girlfriend broke up with them real bad or something," BattleHawks punter Marquette King said. "So I knew it was going to be really good when we came back out here."
"I think the statement they made is what a great sports town this is. From the day I got hired and I started coming over here ... I went to the Cardinals games, the Blues were already in the hunt for the Stanley Cup and you can just see the energy," BattleHawks head coach Johnathan Hayes said.
"This is the type of town I grew up in. It's a blue-collar town. Hardworking people that just want good, real hard-nosed sports. And I think our identity kind of resembles that. I love this town, this is great. I think that they love us and we're giving them what they want."
After the support St. Louis has shown its new XFL team over the first three weeks of the season, if anyone had reservations about the city as a football town, those reservations should certainly be gone. Sunday's atmosphere was all you needed to see.
But if anyone out there still has their doubts, the BattleHawks don't care. They know what they have here in St. Louis, and are looking to keep it rolling.
"That's on them. They see what this city represents. They see how this city shows up whenever a sports team is in town. You see the Blues every night is packed, this game was packed and the Cardinals, people love them. The State of Missouri is great for sports," BattleHawks receiver and former Missouri Tiger L'Damian Washington said. " I've been here 10 years now. I'm a Louisiana kid and this is my home now. I'm Missouri through and through."
Now we'll just have to see if something can be worked out to get even more people inside The Dome as the season continues. Maybe the Rams will even be able to take some notes on how to successfully fill up a stadium.
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