There are fans of the Los Angeles Rams football team. And then there are folks like Ron Lais and Joan Ann Faria.
Lais, with his wife and son, and Faria climbed on a plane at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday and flew to that flower among American cities--Newark, N.J. All for the chance to sit in a stadium built on a former garbage dump, a stadium where Jimmy Hoffa may be buried, a stadium where the wind roars in winter like it's turbocharged--even when it doesn't snow. And all so they can root for their Rams in a playoff game Sunday against the New York Giants.
(Yes, the New York Giants do happen to play in New Jersey, a whole 'nother state. But then the Los Angeles Rams do happen to play in Anaheim, a whole 'nother city in a whole 'nother county.)
"I'm so excited my stomach hurts," Faria said before boarding the plane. "I have been a devout Rams fan for 30 years . . . and finally I've got enough money saved up that I can see them," even if it means flying across the country.
Lais, a Santa Ana lawyer who lives in Anaheim Hills, figures that if there is such a thing as "Rams Fever" these days, "I've probably got it about as bad as anybody."
Lais said the flight, football tickets and hotel not far from the stadium cost $500 per person. The Laises, Faria and three others are part of a contingent of seven Rams Booster Club members journeying east for the game.
Jim Ort, president of All-Travel Service in Anaheim and a charter member of the booster group, packaged the weekend journey. He said he could have picked up more tickets but many people are looking beyond the Meadowlands, to San Francisco or Minneapolis-St. Paul, and to New Orleans. If the Rams win Sunday, they go to San Francisco or Minnesota next weekend to play the winner of today's game between the Vikings and the 49ers. Should the Rams win again, they go to the city of jazz and jambalaya for the Super Bowl.
"I think a lot of people are enthused, but I also think a certain amount of them believe the Rams are going all the way and are saving their money for the Super Bowl in New Orleans," Ort said. He's skipping the trip because he's installing a new computer system in his office.
But those who stay in Orange County won't be far from a television set Sunday morning.
"I'm going to be at home, and I've invited our kids over and have a quick little brunch after it's completed," said Supervisor Don R. Roth, a former Anaheim mayor, sports buff and occasional occupant of the Anaheim Stadium box of Rams owner Georgia Frontiere.
Businessman John Crean and his wife, Donna, are having a group of two dozen or so over to their new home that's still being built in Santa Ana Heights, according to Lois Lundberg, who is organizing the party for the Creans.
The key to wangling an invitation, Lundberg said, "is you have to be a great Rams fan. You have to do a lot of cheering."
The Crean home, overlooking the Back Bay, will have 45,000 square feet when it's done and will sport its own movie theater, which will be the site for Sunday's game-watchers.
Crean "is frequently in Georgia's box cheering the Rams when they're in Los Angeles so he's doing his part while they're going to New York," Lundberg said.
Rams Booster Club members are expected to get together at a Garden Grove restaurant to view the game, according to the club's executive director, Mary Jane Stratman. In fact, the restaurant is opening early because the game starts at 9:30 a.m.
Stratman said the club has 1,800 members, who pay $25 per person or $40 per couple to belong. The club has a newsletter, tailgate parties at Anaheim stadium, a breakfast with Coach John Robinson, a dinner-dance with the Ram coaching staff, a picnic and a golf tournament that raises funds for county charities each year.
Then there are the road trips.
Especially to New Orleans.
"We just got done taking 210 (people) to New Orleans," Ort said. "After the Rams won that game, at around midnight, with our (Rams) banner and the Ram horns, we marched down Bourbon Street from one end to the other and into Pat O'Brien's, where we asked if they had a table for 200. . . . We celebrated the victory while the Rams were on their way home in the plane."
Lais was part of the crowd in New Orleans for the Nov. 26 Rams game. He went to San Francisco too. And Chicago.
He said there have been occasions when he has flown his own plane to Knoxville, Tenn., and to Norman, Okla., to watch USC play. But he didn't go to a Rams game until they moved to Anaheim 10 years ago.
Now the Rams have inspired him to go to New York for the first time in 34 years--despite some concerns about the legendary New York-area fans.
"My daughters performed a few years ago at Shea Stadium at halftime" of a Jets football game, Lais said. "They were in a drill team, and I guess they had to have a lot of security because people were so crazy, tipping over the buses and weird stuff." As a result, Lais figured he will "maintain a relatively low profile" at the stadium.