LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams trailed 13-7 at Los Angeles Coliseum on Sunday, and Robert Murillo, a season ticketholder, said he was worried. Not about the score.
“Every time I turn on the radio these days,” Murillo told USA TODAY Sports, “I hear the Chargers promoting themselves.”
That would be the Los Angeles Chargers — sorry, San Diego — and Sunday heightened the battle for L.A.’s NFL fans. It also created a challenge for an intrepid reporter (yours truly) intent on seeing two games being played almost simultaneously and 12 miles apart.
The day started at StubHub Center in nearby Carson, where the Chargers, making their regular-season debut in Los Angeles, played the Miami Dolphins. But the early action was in the parking lot.
In a city of about 6.5 million cars, the Bolt Bus that pulled into the parking lot at StubHub Center is a one-and-only. Once a school bus, it now features Chargers seat covers, a Chargers helmet painted on the ceiling, a Chargers flag atop the roof, Chargers stickers everywhere and BOLT BUS license plate.
For the last there seasons, during Chargers home games, it’s been parked at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. But now it’ll be in Carson, the bus relocating with the team, and arriving early Sunday for the Chargers’ regular-season debut.
“I’ve been a life-long Chargers fan since birth,” said Bart Hancock, 56, the owner and driver of the Bolt Bus and a resident of Orange County. “It was a lemon when I bought it. Now it just purrs.”
But Hancock squawked at the parking prices — $75 a game, compared to the $40 he paid in San Diego.
“It’s a greedy, greedy sport,” he said. “The owner wants every last shekel they can get. That’s why they left San Diego.”
But suddenly Hancock discovered something more reprehensible than the parking prices — a giant Miami Dolphins flag.
“That is a monster,” he exclaimed. “Oh, my God. They’re taking over.”
Los Angeles Dolphins, anyone? Truth is, the Chargers fans had them outnumbered, especially in a stretch called “Thunder Alley.” It’s reserved for six trailing groups and, oddly enough, was put together by a guy who fought to keep the Chargers in San Diego.
Brian Bahr, also known as “Brian Bolt,” helped coordinate the tailgaters once the Chargers announced they were leaving San Diego for Los Angeles.
He said he could drive five hours to watch the Arizona Cardinals or drive eight hours to watch the San Francisco 49ers. “But I don’t want to spend my hard-earned money on another team,” he said.
And this way he could continue to wear his traditional game-day head wear — a hard hat with Chargers bolt stickers.
But there was also a distinctive L.A. feel to the game — late-arriving fans, hundreds of them still outside the entry gates midway through the fourth quarter. But virtually all of them made it by the time the Chargers went ahead 10-3 in the second quarter — and the Rams were looking for a spark.
The Chargers were off and running, and so was the intrepid reporter — for Memorial Coliseum. For more football and a little food, perhaps too late.
Options at the StubHub: Angus Beef Brisket Sandwich and Pulled Pork Sandwich for $18 apiece. At the Coliseum: Angus burger for $15 and a foot-long hotdog for $10.
Pressbox: tacos and burritos for free. (You’re welcome, boss.)
The Coliseum looked two-thirds full, and Blake Dimas and Ricky Mulock — both 21 and drinking beer — happily claimed what could be considered some of the worst seats in the house. They were sitting in the top row, behind one of the end zones.
“It’s not the worst seat,” Dimas contended. “It’s the best view.”
He said he got free tickets from his brother and invited Mulock.
“Neither of us are football fans,” he said. “He likes UFC, and I like baseball.”
Down on the Coliseum concourse was Murillo, the Rams season ticketholder who contemplated how the Rams’ stay in St. Louis from 1995 to 2015 might impact the fight for L.A.’s football fans.
“Unfortunately, we lost a generation of fans,” said Murillo, 65. “We’ll be OK, but we need a go-line.”
A go-line as in what ensued multiple times during the game, with the stadium.
“Whose house?” came the cry over the P.A. speaker.
“Rams house,” the fans roared back.
Don’t tell that to Richard Garcia, a truck driver who arrived at the Rams’ house wearing a Raiders T-shirt. He lifted his shirt, revealing a Raiders tattoo on his chest.
“I like the Rams and I like the Chargers,” he said, grinning. “The Rams are good trucks, and the Chargers are good cars. That’s as far as it goes.”
So how’d L.A.’s NFL doubleheader work out?
The Chargers lost to the Dolphins 19-17.
The Rams lost to the Redskins 27-20.
And the free tacos and burritos in the press box at the Coliseum?
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (59) and defensive end Brooks Reed (50) in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports
Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard (30) breaks free from a tackle against New York Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne (21) during the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Stan Szeto, USA TODAY Sports
Oakland Raiders running back DeAndre Washington (33) picks up a first down before being tackled by New York Jets outside linebacker Darron Lee (58) in the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos tight end Virgil Green (85) scores a touchdown ahead of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (27) in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (11) forces the fumble on Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) after Wagner intercepted a pass during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Steven Bisig, USA TODAY Sports
Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson (25) is upended by Los Angeles Rams strong safety Maurice Alexander (31) as he flies past the goal marker for a touchdown in the second quarter of the game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson (12) defends during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Daniel Sorensen (49) makes a leaping tackle on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) pulls down Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer (7) by his jersey during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey (99) and outside linebacker Derrick Morgan (91) combine to sack Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) during the second half at EverBank Field. Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans cornerback Curtis Riley (35) and cornerback LeShaun Sims (36) bring down Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (11) during the first half at EverBank Field. Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) runs with the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) defends during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson (4) kicks the game winning field goal under pressure from Indianapolis Colts cornerback Chris Milton (28) in the overtime quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. At left is Arizona Cardinals holder Andy Lee (2) Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead makes a 19-yard touchdown catch while defended by New Orleans Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Chuck Cook, Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Zay Jones (11) can’t bring in a catch on 4th down in the last few seconds of the 4th quarter. The Panthers defeated the Bills 9-3 at Bank of America Stadium. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (13) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) tries to hold off a tackle by Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) during the fourth quarter of a game at Heinz Field. Mark Konezny, USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) carries the ball as he is tackled by Houston Texans strong safety Corey Moore (43) in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller (26) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Jordan Willis (75) and free safety George Iloka (43) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) makes a catch against Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson (25) and cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports