When the Rams take the field at their SoFi Stadium today to try and complete a dream season by winning the Super Bowl at home they will have some very famous fans rooting for them, especially from the music world.
While some of these admirers might be more recent, and are obviously rooting for the L.A. team, the connection for other Rams fans goes back years. Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s second son is named Roman, after great Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel, Morello says laughing.
“That was the poster on my wall. Before I had rock and roll posters on my wall I had Roman Gabriel on my wall,” he says. For Morello, his Rams fandom goes back to childhood.
” Growing up in Chicago I was a Rams fan, which is a unicorn like experience. I just picked them as a kid and was loathed by my classmates all those years,” he says. “It was just a matter of loyalty. Then I moved here and they moved to St. Louis, where I stayed a Rams fan and went to the games when they were really good with Kurt Warner. But then they moved back here in sort of a manifestation of a dream in a way. And now they’re going to the Super Bowl in their home stadium, so it’s pretty crazy.”
Rap superstar YG also followed the Rams during those St. Louis “Greatest Show On Turf” days. ” I was a Rams fan first. Back when I was like eight, nine, 10 years old,” he says. “The Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt days, I was a Rams fan. That’s when I started really watching football. And then I also started playing football. So I was a Rams fan first.”
Then he, like so many musicians, became good friends with superstar running back Todd Gurley, who would join the Rams, strengthening his Rams fandom. Morello also has had the chance to interact with several professional athletes, including kicker Matt Gay, who kicked the game-winning field goal in the playoff game this season that knocked the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs and will forever be known as Tom Brady’s final game (unless he comes out of retirement as many suspect).
“Now my son’s favorite player is Matt Gay, and we’ve made a connection, to see him able to send a message to his favorite player after the game, while he kicks the game-winning field goal, while Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald are playing at this borderline once in a generation kind of seasons before your eyes, it is very inspiring,” Morello says.
It is a known fact that athletes want to be musicians and musicians want to be athletes. And their friendships and admiration for each other run deep. Talk to L.A. Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler and he will tell you what an important role music plays in his life. The guy celebrates every touchdown by playing air guitar.
“When I’m working out, I usually have some type of hard rock or some type of band going on as far as the vibe, the tempo, just the feeling that it makes me have, and so that’s what eventually translated to the football field and having that feeling of just rocking out with the boys on stage,” Ekeler says. “I feel like that’s what I imagined, like a rock star, especially playing the guitar, it feels like, when they’re playing a concert.”
Rams tight end Kendall Blanton echoes Ekeler’s feelings on the importance of music for him in getting motivated. “I listen to music that excites me and gets me pumped up, gets me in the right mindset for games,” he says, citing hip hop music as his primary workout source. “That’s my go to, and then my top three songs I’d probably say ‘Up The Score,’ by Icewear Vezzo and Lil Durk, then EST Gee and Moneybagg Yo, ‘Balloons,’ and then I like Moneybagg Yo ‘Trending,’ that’s been my go to since college.”
For Morello knowing athletes listen to his music to get psyched to go on these stages is exciting for him as a sports fan. “There are a lot of players on a lot of teams that workout to your music. And, for me, I’m so excited to walk onto the field in whatever city it is. But they’re excited to crank ‘Cochise’ or something and it’s pretty great. It’s a lovely connection,” he says.
Plus, as a dad, it gets him some bonus cool points he says laughing. ” My kids hardly know what I do for a living, I’m their dad, not like a rocker. But when we are at the Rams games and there’s a particular fan hype moment they do every game in the fourth quarter where it’s ‘Bulls On Parade.’ And my kids, sitting there in my Rams jerseys, recognize that song and they kind of look. It’s one moment where, under my mask, I take a moment to sort of beam with pride. They’re like, ‘Dad, is that your song?'”
The motivation between athletes and musicians goes both ways though. Just as athletes get pumped up to their favorite artists’ music, artists are inspired by seeing the feats of players like, for example, Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who won the receiving triple crown this season, leading the league in catches, yards and touchdowns, or all-world defender Aaron Donald.
“That’s why I’m so into sports. I watch sports and that s**t be motivating me and inspiring me to go harder with what I’m doing. ‘Cause you know these motherf**kers in the gym, practicing every day,” YG says. “You’ll watch a game and you see a motherf**ker ball out and then you know behind all that, it’s hard work and dedication. So that’s helping us as artists like motivated, stay in a studio, stay working every day, ’cause you know the people that we watch and we go to for entertainment, behind what we see on TV is that: Hard work and dedication. And that’s why they balling out on television and having the highlights.”
Electronic superstar Kaskade, who was the first artist to play SoFi, agrees with YG that watching anyone great at what they do is inspiring.
“Anyone who’s mastered their craft or has put in that much time is always just incredible to watch, it’s like they show you a level of execution that you couldn’t understand before. You’re like, ‘This is amazing,’ how much this person has put into this and they make it look so easy,” he says. ” I watched Michael Jordan growing up and it’s amazing to watch people like this. And not even at that level, those guys are arguably the best that have ever played the sport, but at just the professional level. And so it is just a joy to watch somebody do what they love and do it so incredibly well.”
So much of the friendship between musicians and athletes is based on a mutual respect and understanding. As Blanton points out, they understand each other. “They excite me just because I know they had a goal in mind when they were younger, and I know the grind they put behind that is kind of the same thing we do as far as being athletes. It takes time, it takes effort and sacrifice. That inspires me to listen to their story and relate it to mine,” he says.
That sentiment is echoed by Ekeler. “I’m around athletes all the time, but when I see people doing other things, I really admire that because you have a lot of skill with your talent,” he says. “You have a lot of talent to build up and have been building on that. I really appreciate that ’cause I know, we can relate on a lot of things too. Even though we might not have the same job we can see eye to eye.”
At the center of this relationship is SoFi Stadium, the new six billion home for the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, a place where Morello, Kaskade, YG, Perry Farrell, Flea, Snoop Dogg and more can meet to watch their sports heroes and friends. Conversely, when football season is over a place where Ekeler and his Charger teammates and likewise Blanton and his fellow Rams can go see massive concerts like the Rolling Stones or BTS, who have played there, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, upcoming.
According to Christy Castillo Butcher, SVP Programming and Events, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, the plan was always to make SoFi a central hub for sports and music in L.A.
“This was Stan Kroneke’s vision to build a sports and entertainment destination in the heart of the entertainment capitol of the world. And it’s a gathering place globally and locally,” she says.
Working there, she sees how the musicians have responded coming in as fans. “They’re pumped up coming in because they’ve been there for a game, that’s for sure,” she says. “During games and even in other days when we bring them in for tours we see their excitement about the venue. I think when they’re in there for a game I imagine they imagine themselves performing on that field on a stage.”
Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, a devout sports fan, was one of those who got to tour the stadium early. “I got a chance to walk around the stadium before the stadium was opened and operated. They gave me a beautiful tour of it because I have some really amazing seats, and so I was just really taken around by the people that work there. It just has got a very nice feeling,” he says. And now he has a vision for his dream concert to play SoFi. ” Dream SoFi show would be Snoop, Dre and Kendrick [Lamar] with Jane’s, Chili’s, and Guns N’ Roses,” he adds laughing.
Farrell is such a sports fan though he is working on his own sports anthem. “Right now I’m working on a song, it’s a stadium sports rocker, and , it’s called ‘I Can Call You Mine.’ It’s a stadium rocker. It’s all about winning,” he says. “The chorus goes, ‘I had nothing, but now I can call you mine,’ and I just picture people holding up their trophy or winning the championship. It’s a love story. But it was written after I watched the Super Bowl when the Giants were playing the Patriots, and the Giants won. And I was so inspired because Eli and the Giants were huge underdogs. So those kinds of situations, especially in sports, you can get very emotional, so I just started to write this song.”
Guitarist Nita Strauss fronts her own band and plays with rock legend Alice Cooper. But during football season she appears at every Rams home game at SoFi so she sees what songs get the crowds pumped.
“To have the idea that I’m in there alongside DJ Mal-Ski doing what we love, making some noise, hyping people up and to think that that might inspire these already super-elite athletes to perform just a little better, might give them a little boost of energy. I don’t need any more inspiration than that, we’ll come in and give it 110 percent,” she says. “I think that people really like it when we do this sort of hip hop and rock crossover mash-up. We do “Let’s Go,” which is “Crazy Train” mashed up with hip hop wrapping over it. That kind of stuff gets a cool response from fans, ’cause it’s a little bit of something for everybody. Sometimes we’ll play Metallica, Rush or Queen or something like that, and that gets a certain specific subset of people like the rock fans. But I think when we do that sort of more mash-up stuff, or we’ll do Rage Against the Machine and we’ll do Chilli Peppers and kind of rock it out a little bit, and I think that gets a really cool response.”
For her, who grew up in L.A., even if the first Rams tenure was, as she says, “Before my time,” supporting the home team in the city she grew up in is very special.
” I just have such a strong connection to this city, being born and raised there, growing up, wishing and wanting for a team to play in L.A.,” she says. “And when the Rams came back it was such a cool thing for our city to have a hometown team back and now for them to be kicking ass. And each game people are starting to really latch on and realize that this isn’t just something cool to do on a Sunday. This is a real team. This is a real family.”
YG also has a special connection to the team and the new stadium from his time in L.A. “The location the Rams stadium is at, it’s on Pincay in between Prairie and Crenshaw is where the stadium is at. Right next door to that is a gated community of homes. Like when you walk out the stadium and you walk out of Gate 11 or Gate 10 and you’re walking to your cars, right on other side of the parking lot is a gated community of homes,” he says. “I used to live in them homes from like 2009 until 2013. Things about going to the Rams games with me is like I used to live right there for years. I grew up as a young adult in Inglewood. So the fact that they’re playing next door to where I used to live at is crazy to me. I be like, ‘Bro, I used to live right here.’ I could hop the f**king gate and be at my old house. It’s crazy,” he says.
As a fan of anything, be it sports or music, you bring in your own perspective, your own memories and your own dreams. For YG, he brings in his friendships, his days playing football and his memories of living in the neighborhood. For Morello he brings his childhood Rams fandom. For Kaskade, he can now lay claim forever to being the first musician to play the Rams home stadium. Strauss gets to be there every week to motivate and help pump up the Rams. For Farrell it his avid love of sports and the fact he shares so much in common with the players he admires, including the level of training required to be at the of your game.
“I’m working my ass off. I’m getting ready for performance again. Now, I’m 63, when I was younger, I was a state champion wrestler, and I learned early on about being regimented to take care of yourself. We used to wrestle in 120-degree rooms that would turn it up to. I hit the beach, and I go right in the deep sand, and I do Pilates,” he says. ” I stretched yesterday for, I’m not kidding you, five hours in a row because I was very sore from my last run, the beach and everything. But yeah, I sing every day while I exercise. I take it as serious as any athlete. My craft is no different than an athlete’s craft.”
From the athletes’ point of view, they bring their own fandom and memories to music, whether it is Blanton listening and dancing to Michael Jackson with his mom or Ekeler getting a dragon tattoo that, to him, reflects his love of hard rock and how that motivates him as a player.
So, in one respect, none of these people are any different than the rest of us, rooting on their favorite teams or bands. But they understand each other in a unique way, having put in the dedication to achieve greatness. Being in Rage or Jane’s isn’t that different than being on the Rams or the Chargers — you have to work your ass off to be at the absolute peak of what you do.
All of these people have done that and so when they cheer each other on they do so with the empathy and understanding of what it took to get to the top. So when the Rams and Bengals try to win the Super Bowl at SoFi today they will be cheered on by some very famous followers who get what it took to arrive on arguably the biggest sports stage in the world.