ST. LOUIS -- Much has been made this week of the apparent inability of playoff teams such as Green Bay, Cincinnati and Indianapolis to reach sellout status for their respective home games.
Reasons such as cold weather, ticket prices, dealing with drunken fans and a better home watching experience have been bandied about. All of those reasons probably have some merit, but one that's interesting is the continued insistence that watching games at home is now better than the in-stadium experience. Innovations in television technology and increased attention to gambling and fantasy football (which are basically the same now) have people choosing to stay home and watch rather than going to the stadium.
At least, that's one of the narratives being bandied about this week. What's interesting here in St. Louis is that if you believe the television watching experience is better at home then you'd think there would be a correlation to increased television ratings. According to Dan Caesar's article at stltoday.com on Friday, that isn't necessarily the case, either.
Caesar writes that Rams' television ratings took a hit this year and were the fourth-lowest the team has had since arriving in St. Louis in 1995. He also explains that ratings aren't wholly indicative of interest in a team and various other reasons might have brought ratings down.
Of course, all things considered, the Rams actually drew pretty good crowds for most of the season. All of their games reached sellout status to be televised locally and many of them had representative turnouts, even if they were aided by some large contingents from Chicago and New Orleans.
Still, it's worth keeping an eye on the local interest in the team with so much still hanging in the air moving forward. The Rams will soon be on a year-to-year lease at the Edward Jones Dome and there's been nothing to indicate a resolution of the stadium situation will be reached anytime soon.
On the field, the team has 14 wins in the past two seasons, only one short of the five years previous combined. Mediocre seven-win seasons are sure signs of progress in what has been a football wasteland for the better part of the past decade, but many more of them could yield a dangerous apathy from the fan base moving forward.
St. Louis fans deserve credit for their loyalty both in showing up and watching on TV despite all the losing of the past 10 seasons, and there's little doubt that a turnaround in performance will draw big. It's happened before. But the ball is firmly in the court of the franchise to make sure the product reaches the level where all fans want to watch it, whether in person or on television.
A roundup of Friday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we explored the Rams' continued need to add a top wide receiver. ... Next, we looked at the contract Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler signed and how it could affect Sam Bradford's next deal. ... Next, we acknowledged the Punter of the Year award going to the Rams' Johnny Hekker. ... Finally, it was another honor for Hekker as he and defensive end Robert Quinn earned Associated Press first-team All-Pro honors.
Quinn made more than just the AP All-Pro team. The professor, John Clayton, also selected the him for his version of the team.
Kevin Seifert also provided his final Quarterback Report of the season.
At stltoday.com, Joe Lyons takes note of the Rams' special teams improvement over the course of the season after some early-season penalty woes.