By Ken Peters
The Associated Press
Even then, nearly half the 100,000 seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum remained empty on game day.
Times have changed since the Rams won their last NFL championship.
Although the 1951 title game featured some of the league's marquee names of the day, including Cleveland's Otto Graham and the Rams' Bob Waterfield, Elroy ``Crazy Legs'' Hirsch and ``Deacon'' Dan Towler, it caused barely a ripple across America.
The tag ``Super Bowl'' and its attendant Roman numerals were 15 seasons in the future, television coverage was sparse, and there were no media hordes scrutinizing the players' every move.
``Compared to all this, it was like a high school championship game,'' Towler, 71, said from Atlanta, where he will attend Sunday's Super Bowl between the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans. ``There wasn't all the hype.''
It was just another week, business as usual. But no more.
``The Super Bowl has become a sports circus, with the game almost secondary to the commercials and all that,'' said Towler, who worked on his master's degree of theology during his six years with the Rams, then quit the game to become a church pastor.
Woodley Lewis was another member of the Los Angeles Rams' team that beat Cleveland 24-17 on Dec. 23, 1951, when Norm Van Brocklin threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Tom Fears midway through the final quarter.
``Then we all got in our used cars, if we had a car, and drove home and started thinking about going back to work on Monday,'' recalled Lewis, 74, who worked as a probation counselor. ``Most of us had to have other jobs,''
Dick Hoerner, a member of the Rams' ``Bull Elephant Backfield'' along with Towler and Paul ``Tank'' Younger, even had trouble finding an offseason job.
``Companies didn't want to hire you because they knew you were going to be playing football for six months of the year,'' said the 77-year-old Hoerner. ``I worked as an usher at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita.''
The Rams earned $2,108.44 each for beating the Browns, while the losers earned $1,483.12 apiece.
``We were darned glad to get it,'' Hoerner said. ``Some of the guys were playing for $2,000 or $3,000 a year. Some of them who lived out of town were always drawing money against their future salary so they could get home after the season.''
Each member of the winning Super Bowl team this year will get $58,000; and the losers $33,000.
Attendance at the '51 championship game was 59,475, and the gross revenue was $325,970, with total TV and radio rights going for $75,000 -- $1,667 more than the cost of one second of commercial time during this Sunday's game.
The cheapest tickets, in the end zone, this time have a face value of $325, and some scalpers are asking four or five times that amount.
Towler, who kept an eye on the Rams from the press box as a volunteer statistician for The Associated Press until the team moved to St. Louis in 1995, remembered that he wasn't exactly swamped by the media during the week of the championship game.
``I was a first-string player, and I don't think a reporter ever asked me what I thought about anything, either before or after the game,'' said Towler, who scored one touchdown in the title game after averaging 6.8 yards a carry on 231 carries that season. ``It was a totally different atmosphere.
``Television and advertising has taken the game into a whole different sphere of entertainment.''
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