'Tis the Season for a Nice, Neighborly Battle : Raiders, in Their Fashion, Want to Put the Squeeze on Orange County Rivals

Times Staff Writer

How do they hate thee, oh Rams?

Let the Raiders count the ways:

(1) You know that 40 the Rams wear on their shoulders, stressing the continuity of 40 years in Southern California?

The Raiders think that's funny.

The Raiders think the Rams are Anaheim's team and maybe what they should have on their shoulders is a 6, for the number of years they've been in Orange County.

Said Rod Martin: "They're the Anaheim Rams. We're the L.A. Raiders. Even though they're called the L.A. Rams, we live right inside the city of Los Angeles.

"We want to win the game, it's as simple as that. But it's not a situation where the winner is going to control the town. I feel we are the L.A. Raiders.

"We may convert some of them too, from Ram to Raider fans. It's not a far drive to come to the Coliseum at all."

Mike Haynes said: "You still go places in Los Angeles, you still see people who think it's a Ram town. Not too many places anymore.

"We have a little bit to show and a little bit to prove to some of those people out in Orange County. And even to some of the Ram fans hanging on right here in the L.A. area."

(2) The famous Raider cornerbacks, told that their Ram counterparts chafe at a perceived lack of recognition, suggest that it's deserved.

Said Haynes, the polite one:

"Tell 'em to come up, play bump and run man to man. They'll get (publicity)."

And Lester Hayes:

"When I'm 55 years old and retired and fishing for shark in Santa Monica Bay, I could go down to Anaheim and play that soft zone defense. I could play for the Rams in the year 2000 and function perfectly."

(3) Forget (1) and (2), they're just window dressing, the usual resentments, light-hearted and otherwise, that flow from rivalry.

Starting at the top of the organization, the Raiders dislike the Rams, whom they accuse of being behind the NFL lawsuit and the Oakland eminent domain action; of having broken off their exhibition series; of trying to split them from their ally, the Coliseum Commission, in proposing a resumption at the Rose Bowl.

And that's the short list.

Executive assistant Al LoCasale said: "They didn't want us here and they don't want us here. They don't want the competition. And I can't say I blame them."

Teams in the same sport and the same city--or the same metropolitan area, how ever you figure it--promulgate the fiction that they root for each other.

In fact, they generally resent each other, and with reason, though they've become practiced in covering it up and coexisting. Their interests conflict. They're natural rivals for fans, for space and featured positions in newspapers, on TV.

Although the Dodgers never say anything out loud, as an organization they have a fair amount of contempt for the Angels, whom they regard as a banana republic. The Dodgers also merchandise aggressively in Orange County. How else are they ever going to get to 4 million in attendance?

The Angels' picture of the Dodgers isn't much different than the San Diego Padres' picture of the Dodgers--a big blue pain in the neck.

But the Dodgers and Angels meet only in the exhibition Freeway Series just before the start of the regular season. It generally sells out both stadiums, but means little. True passion requires regular faceoffs with lots at stake, like Dodgers-Padres, Rams-49ers or Raiders-Broncos.

Half the Raider players care nothing about the Rams. Until 1982, they were in the Bay Area, hating the 49ers. Howie Long will do six paragraphs about the 49ers on a second's notice, but has no feelings one way or another about the Rams.

But even that can come out as less than a compliment, sometimes.

"I think the matchup this year that everyone wants to see is the Raiders and Bears," Long said. "I want to see it."

Ram fans would like to see the Bears run up 1,000 points on the Raiders. Aside from that, they'd rather see the Rams and the Bears.

Of course, these are organizational attitudes. Lots of individual Rams and Raiders are the best of friends, including the coaches, John Robinson and Tom Flores, who roomed together when they were Raider assistants, whose wives went to college together, and who see each other socially in the off-season.

But to get to the real big-time conflict:

"I know Al (Davis, Raider owner) had a good relationship with Carroll (Rosenbloom, late Ram owner)," LoCasale said. "Carroll always said he welcomed our move. I think there's testimony to that effect.

"The Rams have been involved with the league in all litigation. They have supported the eminent domain suit, which is appalling, considering their stake in the free-enterprise system, of which their former owner (Rosenbloom) was a very strong advocate.

"We don't have boxes because that money is tied up in the ongoing litigation. We live in the climate of uncertainty that they've helped create with our fans, and in every phase of what we do: radio time, media time, promotional work with our clients. They're still a party and a prime cause of our situation. This is our sixth year in the courts. It's been an emotional and financial drain. It's been a physical strain for a lot of us."

Said LoCasale, on the breakoff of the exhibition series:

"We used to have a preseason series with them in the '70s, but they broke it off. They couldn't seem to find a place to put us on their schedule.

"At the beginning, we were interested in resuming the series they terminated. That fell on deaf ears. The only positive response we got was a rather awkward proposal to play a game in the Rose Bowl, which really made no sense. That's not how we treat our fans.

"We've been in court six years. The Coliseum Commission has been in court seven years, and that's about playing our home games in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. We don't want to play at the Rose Bowl."

Another Raider official explained the impasse on the exhibition series this way:

"When we first moved here, we needed them (Rams) and they turned us down. Now they need us and we turned them down. You don't treat a man like Al Davis like that."

Robinson and Flores said last week that they would like to see the series resume. Don't hold your breath.

"Our 1986 preseason schedule is already made," LoCasale said. "So is theirs. We're pretty much scheduled for future years. I assume they're the same."

Then there are the little side issues. The Raiders note that attorney Joe Cotchett, a member of the Ram board of directors, also represents Gene Klein, the former Charger owner who is suing Davis, claiming that the Raiders' move caused Klein's heart attack.

On the day after all the swords are beaten into plowshares, the peace makers can get started on the case of the Raiders and the Rams.

Until then, it's every organization for itself.

FO 'They're the Anaheim Rams. We're the L.A. Raiders. Even though they're called the L.A. Rams, we live right inside the city of Los Angeles. We want to win the game, it's as simple as that.'--ROD MARTIN

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