Sports spotlight shines brightly on St. Louis
ST. LOUIS -- For one night, the sports spotlight shined on St. Louis. It ended in a double disappointment.
Monday Night Football and the World Series came together with the two games played virtually simultaneously eight blocks apart in downtown St. Louis before a combined 103,000 fans.
Neither ended well for the hometown faithful. The 47,436 at Busch Stadium saw the Boston Red Sox take command of the World Series with a 3-1 defeat of the Cardinals. The Sox are up 3 games to 2 with the best-of-seven series moving back to Boston.
Meanwhile, at the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams drove 96 yards in the final minutes to the Seattle 1, but a fourth down pass was incomplete and the Seahawks hung on for a 14-9 win in front of 55,966 fans.
The gala night had some fans mixing and matching outfits - at least at the dome. Some wore Cardinals red at the football game, or a gaudy combination of Rams blue and gold with Cardinals red. The ballpark, as usual, was dead red.
The prime-time NFL game has been around since 1970 but, until now, it had never been played in the same city where a World Series was going on. However, in 1986, Boston lost Game 7 of the Series at the New York Mets on a Monday night -- a game that was pushed back a day by rain -- while the NFL Giants hosted Washington that evening at Giants Stadium, across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
All on its own, the football game should have been a joyous occasion -- it marked the first Monday night game in St. Louis since 2006, a drought largely due to the fact that the Rams have been mostly awful since then. But in baseball-mad St. Louis, the Rams clearly took a backseat.
"You want to go crazy for the Rams on national TV," William Cain of Belleville, Ill., said. Then again, he opted for baseball and was at the World Series.
"I think almost everyone in St. Louis will agree -- the World Series is more important," he said.
Two hours before the first pitch of Game 5, StubHub had World Series tickets going for $244 and more. Rams tickets were selling for as little as $9.75.
Fans at the dome could be excused if their focus wasn't exactly on football. The Rams, in a division with powerhouses Seattle and San Francisco, are a longshot to make the playoffs. To make matters worse, they lost quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury last week in Carolina.
The World Series was on the minds of many fans at the football game.
Jessica Pollman and Melissa Stevenson of Maplewood, Mo., ended up at the Rams game in full Cardinals regalia after Pollman won the tickets in a trivia contest.
"These tickets were free, and Cardinals tickets are, like, $400," Pollman said. "So, these were affordable."
Pollman said she left a replica jersey autographed by former Rams receiver Isaac Bruce at home in favor of her white Cardinals jersey. Stevenson opted for a red Cardinals T-shirt for her first time attending a Rams game. Both planned to track the World Series on their phones, as long as their batteries didn't run out.
"I'm a little bit worried about that," Pollman said.
Games have overlapped in St. Louis before. In 1998, players on both football teams were perplexed when a huge cheer went up just as the Rams were about to take a snap. Mark McGwire had just hit his 69th homer on the final day of the baseball season. Moments after the football game ended, the few fans still in the dome let out another cheer -- McGwire hit No. 70.
It could have been worse for the Rams. If St. Louis had won Game 4 on Sunday, the Cardinals would have been playing with a chance to win the World Series on Monday.
Not every fan was laser-focused only on baseball. Retired electrical engineer Jeffrey Miller of St. Charles, Mo., a season ticket holder for both teams, showed up at the World Series in a Matt Holliday jersey on his back and a Rams helmet on his head. He planned to watch four innings of baseball, then walk to the dome for some football.
"It's a shame because Monday Night Football deserves the attention of the city," Miller said.
The Rams have problems that extend beyond competition from the Cardinals. In addition to the team's lack of success on the field - they were 15-65 over a five-year span before going 7-8-1 last season -- the dome is old and outdated by NFL standards. Average home attendance this season was 55,395 before Monday, second-worst in the NFL, ahead of only Oakland.
The Cardinals' fortunes have been just the opposite. St. Louis is playing in its 10th postseason since 2000 and its fourth World Series since 2004. The Cardinals drew nearly 3.4 million fans to Busch Stadium this season, averaging 41,602, second-highest in baseball. Not bad for a small-market team.
Stevenson said the Rams shouldn't take the divided loyalties personally.
"If it was a big game for the Rams, it would be different," she said. "Because it's such a big game for the Cardinals and such a big baseball town, you're going to see the people that are going to be here in spirit and cheering for the Rams but also thinking about the Cardinals."