LA Rams fans see the start of something big (and for some, even a family) – San Bernardino Sun

The boys made their own Lombardi Trophy. Now THAT is team loyalty.

The trophy, crafted from aluminum foil by Raymond and Ronny Padilla, probably isn’t as valuable on the open market at the real thing, but the shiny silver replica of the NFL championship icon meant the world to the lads’ family.

Of course, the brothers should have been in school. But their grandfather, Phillip Padilla, thought the Los Angeles Rams’ victory parade and rally in at the Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday, Feb. 16, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The boys will catch up on math and science, but Wednesday’s festive celebration provided the boys with a history lesson.

“This is third generation Ramily,” the elder Padilla said.

The family departed from Coachella at 4 a.m., led by grandpa Phillip, who’s been a Rams fan since the 1960s, bound for Exposition Park. They drive was worth it, he said.

“And we’re only going to grow more and more with success like this,” he said, “which is great because you see everybody loving each other and having a good ol’ time.”

Yes, they made their own Lombardi Trophy. Raymond Padilla and Ronny Padilla came to the The Coliseum with their grandpa Phillip Padilla, who’s been a @RamsNFL fan since the 1960s. Photo: Brennon Dixson

The boys’ trophy was a handmade marvel, but it only took them a few hours to make. For the once-and-future L.A. Rams, who won their first title as Angelenos Sunday, it was a much longer process to snag you saw on TV Sunday night — and it’s truly a work in progress.

The Rams, who rallied to defeat the upstart Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium, sometimes catch heck around the league for generating less fan fervor than some other NFL teams. They were, after all, outnumbered by the red-and-gold-clad loyals of their archrivals, the San Francisco 49ers, during two pivotal home games this year. That made Rams fans something of a punch line among NDL pundits.

Wednesday’s turnout didn’t feel nearly so fickle. There was team spirit galore on display among fans who packed the Exposition Park area to overflowing for Wednesday’s parade and pep rally.

“It’s a very special day for Los Angeles. We’ve been waiting for this day for so long,” said Gus “Ramator” Obregon, decked out in a mashup of Rams colors and sci-fi-movie-inspired gear.

Obregon was one of scores of fans who arrived at the scene of the parade and rally early — some just after dawn — hoping to assure a prime view of the celebration.

Familiar blue-and-yellow Rams garb could be seen in the streets. But one Rams booster showed how he wears his loyalty 24/7. “Big Saps” of the of the Antelope Valley Ramily Club demonstrated how serious his fan fervor is, showing off a Rams tattoo covering much of his head.

For many fans, the Super Bowl win was huge not just in the moment but for the future of a team seeking to build a new generation of L.A. fans after 20 years in St. Louis. Will it take more than six years back home in L.A. to build the kind of support common for the “they’re everywhere” fan-nations who buoy such teams as the Raiders and Cowboys? Maybe not, if Wednesday’s turnout was any indication.

Alba Alvarado, a.k.a. “Ramdelita,” Juan Gonzales, her “Ramcho-Villa,” and Anthony “Raminator” Ortiz drove an hour to celebrate, clad in Rams-flavored garb that included sombreros and bandoleros, inspired by Mexican history.

“My idea came from wanting to represent the Mexican culture and what better way to represent it with Ramdelita and Ramcho-Villa,” Alvarado said. “We just added the Ram in it.”

“We’re fighting the football war,” she added, “and we won it, baby!”

The Rams appear to have tapped significant loyalty among Latinx residents. The team launched a sweeping “Vamos Rams” campaign with its own line of merch, and may be the only team in the NFL with its own branded band of mariachis.

“We’re athletes,” said Gino Labomme from Rancho Cucamonga, striding onto the parade route with Ricky Parkhouse, “We didn’t make it (to the pros), but we still support the team.’

Labomme said the Super Bowl’s cliffhanger finale was a special moment for the lifelong friends and will buoy the team for years to come. “It’ll go down as a classic,” he declared.

Even amid all the hoopla, poignant issues continued to be raised as the Super Bowl captivated the Los Angeles area.

Rev. Charles Grays, a pastor from San Francisco, came down to the parade site to help a friend sell Rams merch. He enjoyed the big game, but continues to be concerned about racial equity and cultural respect in the NFL, topics that Commissioner Roger Goodell had to grapple with during the walkup to the event.

“I don’t understand why the Black National Anthem was sung in the parking lot, instead of in the stadium at the Super Bowl,” Grays said. “This is Black History Month…I think it’s time for a wake up call, America needs to get it right.”

Back in the Bay Area, Grays works to educate Black youth about entrepreneurship, financial literacy and Black History. “Lets talk about equity for Black people,” Grays said. “In the NFL and in general, especially in inner cities.”

Before the parade, Michael Pugrad, of Fullerton, and his family were basking in the Ram-ness. For Pugrad, the moment was deeply personal. For one thing, he was part of the grassroots effort to bring back the Rams to L.A. There was advocacy, even marches to send the message that local fans wanted the team back.

He also refleced on his father,  Paul, a Filipino immigrant, who latched on to the Rams in their pre-St. Louis heyday.

“He didn’t know about any kinds of sports. All he knew was to work. But he attached himself to the Los Angeles Rams. And he was a fan ever since. I grew up a Ram fan. My first game was in ’68 here at the Coliseum. I raised my family to be Rams fans.”

He took off his face covering for a moment: “Look, I can’t stop smiling,” he said. “This is my boyhood dream. Now, look. We’re world champions.”

Pugrad had even more to smile about. Just a few minutes after Wednesday’s ceremony ended, while the massive crowd was flowing out in every which way, one of Pugrad’s sons, also named Michael, stood atop a raised wall dividing a parking lot from the grassy area in front of the Coliseum.

As the post-ceremony buzz began to wane, he asked Mayra Cervantes, who was there with him, to marry him.

She said yes.

They kissed.

They embraced.

There were smiles and cell phone shots from complete strangers who caught a glimpse of the moment.

Michael Pugra and Mayra Cervantes, at the L.A. Rams Super Bowl win parade and rally at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 16, 2022. When the ceremony ended, Michael asked Mayra to marry him. (Photo by Ryan Carter)

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