At the Grove’s Bar 326, Yianni Kaplanis shouted and fist-pumped as San Francisco 49ers defender Jimmie Ward intercepted L.A. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Elias Liavanis, Kaplanis’ longtime friend, glared at him, then scooted one bar chair over, leaving a space in between them. While others groaned in pain, Kaplanis whooped.
“I like the underdogs,” said Kaplanis, a Hollywood resident. “I don’t like L.A.”
The two buds were “enemies till the end of the game,” they said. For the remainder of the first quarter, the pair took jabs at each other, saying in jest that they had bet their houses on the outcome.
Split loyalties were the order of the day as the football rivals battled it out for a chance to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Feb. 13. In the end, the Rams beat the 49ers 20-17.
Last Sunday, the Rams defeated Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a chance to square off against the 49ers in the National Football Conference Championship.
But the 49ers held the advantage going into Sunday’s game. They had beaten the Rams twice this season and six times in a row dating to 2018. Even worse, the 49ers routed the Rams 30-3 in the NFC championship game in January 1990.
Los Angeles was without an NFL team for 20 years, and some L.A. football fans adopted other teams during the hiatus. On Sunday, the 49ers fans reportedly swarmed SoFi Stadium, yelling “Beat L.A.!” as they had at the teams’ last meeting Jan. 9, despite the Rams’ attempt to limit ticket sales to LA. residents.
At Three Weavers Brewing Company in Inglewood on Sunday night, it was all whoops and high-fives as running back Cam Akers made a 14-yard scamper and put Los Angeles in the red zone.
Three plays later, however, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was intercepted at the goal line, ending a potential scoring drive. Marilyn Monterrojas of Monterey Park placed her hands on her forehead, shook her head in disbelief at the replay and then took a sip of her frothy michelada.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Monterrojas, sporting a jersey of Jalen Ramsey, a Rams cornerback. “This isn’t supposed to be easy.”
Monterrojas, 28, was joined at Three Weavers by her sister Jocelyn, 26, and boyfriend Jesus Cisneros, 30, a Denver fan who was wearing the jersey of former Broncos linebacker Von Miller. In November, the Rams traded for Miller, which gave Cisneros more of a rooting interest in Sunday’s game.
“I guess I’m going for the Rams,” Cisneros said while nodding at his girlfriend. “I just want a good game and to see if Von does something.”
The trio said they originally headed to Flights Sports Bar and Grill in Hawthorne but looked for another venue when they saw that 49ers fans outnumbered Rams fans 2 to 1.
“It’s really weird to see that because this is L.A.,” Cisneros said. “I didn’t expect that.”
Of the 100 people eating and drinking on Three Weavers’ outdoor patio, only 30 were actively following the game on the brewery’s big-screen TV near the entrance. Monterrojas fist-pumped and fidgeted between the sacks, turnovers and touchdowns between the Rams and the 49ers.
Three Weavers general manager Kurt Godwin said business had improved since COVID-19 lockdowns began to slash profits shortly after March 2020. The football season has been a bit of a boon, he said, particularly since the brewery is a short distance from SoFi Stadium.
“We’re in this perfect spot between the airport and the stadium,” said Godwin, a Van Nuys resident. “We have people getting off the plane, grabbing some beers and heading to the game.”
Godwin, who just completed his first year with Three Weavers, said it’s difficult to gauge how much money Sunday football games have brought in because the pandemic skewed losses so badly. But he was excited about the impending Super Bowl.
Three Weavers had 12 tables and six additional benches for outdoor dining Sunday. Godwin said he would add more seating for the Super Bowl, enough to fit 300 people.
“We’ll see when we get there,” he said.
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