Lewis Lazarus would go to the game, but he doesn’t move as well anymore.
“Three days ago I started using a cane and it’s already bothering me,” he said. “I want to throw this rod in the ocean.”
He would watch the game on television with his immediate family, but his parents are deceased, his sister is deceased, his son is deceased, and he no longer has any living relatives.
“I guess the Rams are the last family I have,” he said.
Like all longtime fans of the Los Angeles Rams — an ancient and resilient group unmatched in this city’s sports landscape — Lazarus, 91, will watch Super Bowl LVI on Sunday between the Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, surrounded mostly by memories and dreams.
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He wants them to win for all those Sundays he sat in the Coliseum as a teenager and cheered on Bob Waterfield and Elroy Hirsch, whom he helped as the Rams’ training camp ball boy when the team moved here from Cleveland in 1946.
“My favorite was Crazy Legs,” Lazarus said. “He could really move.”
He wants them to win all these years, he took those long Sunday afternoon drives with his mom to the games in Anaheim, one of the few fans who’s forgiven them for leaving the city of Los Angeles .
“I didn’t care where they played, they were always the Rams,” he said.
He wants them to win for all the times he felt like the only Angeleno still cheering them on when they moved from Southern California to St. Louis. He visited local bars every fall Sunday morning and begged the owners to show St. Louis Rams games on television.
“I never held a grudge against them,” he said. “They wore the same helmets. It was the same team. They were my team.
And he wants them to win because they had the grace to return during his lifetime, giving him one last chance to see them in person at SoFi Stadium earlier this season, a game that ended with him leaving the giant palace in a wheelchair because the walk was so strenuous.
“As always, I was excited to go,” he said. “I just don’t know if I’ll be back.”
Now, come Sunday, Lewis Lazarus literally dreams of seeing them take the final step and win their first Super Bowl championship in his lifetime.
“Sometimes when I can’t sleep I think of all the times I saw them play, how much they were a part of my life,” he said. “I don’t want to think about dying…but seeing them win would really do me good.”
A Super Bowl win would light up the lives of many like Lazarus, a warm and loyal band who endured more than any group of fans in town. Their allegiance dates back 76 years, long before any other major professional sports team appeared, surpassed only by USC and UCLA football fans.
They endured four moves — from the Coliseum to Anaheim, St. Louis and Los Angeles — that would have wiped out many more fan bases.
When observers scoffed at the lack of Rams fans at home games for the past six years, they failed to realize that many of the Rams’ most avid fans were getting older and unable to attend those games.
While the Rams are making great strides in capturing a younger demographic, their best and most dedicated fans are their oldest fans such as Lazarus, who have cheered them on through two-win seasons and 13-win seasons. , through Fearsome Foursomes and Greatest Show on Turf and Melonheads and Who’s House-Rams House.
Most memorable and rewarding for the Los Angeles-based group, they cheered them on throughout that glorious 1951 season in which the Los Angeles Rams won their only NFL championship… which Lazarus has to elsewhere failed. He was in a hospital in Korea where he had served in the military during the Korean War.
“Their greatest moment and I wasn’t there,” he said. “I’ll tell you, after that, I didn’t miss much.”
Lazarus won’t miss it on Sunday. He’ll take 10 steps outside his Santa Monica apartment and walk next to the home of close friends Wayne and Debra Camp and watch their 65-inch screen from his spot on the couch. He will bring his Rams stuffed animal. He’ll pass it around after every Rams score. He will scream in pain when they are stopped. He will raise his aching legs when they succeed.
“I want this for Lewis,” said Camp, 58, assistant director of lead management at UCLA. “We don’t know when the Rams will get another chance, and it will be a wonderful gift for him.”
It was a gift that began being given in the Rams’ first exhibition game on September 6, 1946 at the Coliseum against the Washington Redskins. Lazarus, who was 14 and had just been transplanted from New York, was there. The announced crowd was 95,000 people and he was won over.
“From that moment on, they were the big thing in my life,” he said.
He bought single tickets at first and even continued to try and keep up with them when he joined the army in the late 1940s, sneaking out of basic training in San Luis Obispo to watch them on Sunday.
“I loved football, and it was the only game in town,” he said.
After returning from Korea, he settled into an administrative position in Los Angeles County and purchased season tickets for several decades. He would end up attending every game with his mother. Even after the Dodgers and Lakers arrived, his love for the Rams never wavered.
“I hope you are joking?” he said. “I’ve seen more Rams games than anyone.”
He saw the Rams play in 17 stadiums. He saw the Rams play in two Super Bowls. His most memorable match was each of them.
“The Rams are his life,” Camp said.
Lazare doesn’t like them for autographs – he doesn’t have any. He doesn’t like them for the stars – as an adult he only met Eric Dickerson, and that was only during a chance sighting in a restaurant.
Lewis Lazarus loves the Rams, like so many of his generation, for the connection to his past and for the constant presence in his life. For years after the death of his mother Helen, whenever the Rams won, Lazarus spoke longingly of calling him and sharing the victory.
The one game he wanted to see this year symbolized that connection. He actually wanted to see the Rams play the Detroit Lions because he wanted to see his old pal Jared Goff.
“He never needed an autograph or a photo to remind him how much he loved watching them play,” Camp said.
When the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, Lazarus read a story in which one of the Anaheim fans known as the Melonheads was cited as the team’s biggest supporter. He was so outraged that he sent a letter of complaint to Rams manager John Shaw. Over the next few years, Shaw left him tickets to various games on the road, allowing him to stay in touch.
It was after one of those road games that I first met Lewis Lazarus, in 2009 in Seattle, Lazarus telling me on a flight to Los Angeles that he was the biggest fan of the team.
I promised to write about him, took his number, then forgot everything. After all, the Rams weren’t even back in Los Angeles yet, and who would want to read the story of a guy cheering on an out-of-town team?
Thirteen years later, this week, I finally made the call.
“I’m still here!” he shouted into the phone.
The Rams are back, the Super Bowl is back, and The Great Lewis Lazarus never left.