A block party erupts at Rams Super Bowl parade

Just before the start of the Rams Super Bowl parade Wednesday, the corner of Figueroa Street and Jefferson Blvd was a block party.

Tupac Skakur’s voice blasted from portable speakers. There were beers in hand, bacon-wrapped hotdogs sizzling on a vendor’s grill, and fans in jerseys yelling out, “Whose house? Rams house!”

“I’m representing L.A. — the city of champions, that’s what we’re about,” said Jared Chavarria, 32, of Bloomington, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, pounding the front of his Rams jersey. “All that negativity is out the window.”

Chavarria was joined by his two co-workers Gilbert Nieto, 58, and Danny Viveros, 59, all of whom took the day off from their jobs at a DHL warehouse in the Inland Empire.

Viveros has been a Rams fan since the 1960s. “When they left for St. Louis, they broke my heart,” he said. On Sunday, when he watched Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford take a knee to run out the clock, he said that he and Chavarria cried.

Though Nieto isn’t a Rams fan, he’s a diehard Los Angeles fan. He’s a veteran at showing up for championship celebrations in the city. From rallies at the Forum in Inglewood with the Showtime Lakers on the stage, to the “Kobe-Shaq” three-peat in the 1990s and 2000s, the back-to-back rings with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and the Kings’ NHL championships, which also brought crowds along Figueroa, Wednesday was his 11th victory celebration.

“I got L.A. tattooed on my chest,” he said, pointing to the spot that was covered by his blue and gold jersey.

Though Los Angeles professional sports teams have won three championships throughout the pandemic, Wednesday’s parade marked the first planned celebration of its kind since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Even so, attending meant taking a calculated risk for some fans like Hilton Rodriguez, 51, of Long Beach, whose wife and mother contracted COVID-19 in 2020.

“I was really debating coming or not coming,” said Rodriguez, who came to the parade alone. “I said, ‘You know what? I don’t know when L.A. is gonna win another championship. And with COVID, I don’t know how it’s be,’ so I had to get out there.”

Rodriguez said he remembered days as a young man sneaking into the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for Rams and Raiders games. So today’s championship parade, which ends at the Coliseum, feels like he’s come full circle, making his attendance worth the COVID risk.

He spread his arms wide to show he was socially distancing in “his little space,” stretching his black leather jacket with large-stitch Dodgers’ and Lakers’ logos on the back, framed by the prideful slogan “City of Champions.”

“This is the new normal — you’re gonna either risk it or not,” he said, adding that he and his family were vaccinated and boosted. “I’m just repping who we are. I live sports.”

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