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Rams Jim Everett Is Not Merely Another Band-Aid Quarterback

A few neighborhood kids, engaged in a pickup football game, were arguing in the street the other day.

“Hey, you got to wear the knee brace yesterday,” one said.

“So what, you got the hot-pad back treatment two days ago,” another said.

“Big deal,” the first one said. “I’m shorter than you are. That should count for something.”

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It was just another day of hero-worshiping in the cul-de-sac. The kids, you see, were arguing over who was going to get to play Ram quarterback this day.

It’s been going on for years in Los Angeles.

Once, I saw a 10-year-old drinking coffee out on the sidewalk. He had heard somewhere that caffeine stunted your growth. His idol was Pat Haden. He was on his third cup when he rolled away on his skateboard.

In 1977, just after the Rams had signed Joe Namath, I was in the park when this kid with a football in his hand walked past me. He was limping something terrible. I offered a hand. He gave me a dirty look.

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“This is the way Joe Willie does it,” he said, sneering all the while.

He said he was on his way home to put in some extra laps in his folks’ swimming pool.

The year was 1982. Some Pop Warner kid, still in uniform, tried to cut in front of me in a supermarket express line. I was about to clean his clock when I noticed him rubbing and twisting an obviously painful neck.

I caught myself.

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“You like Bert Jones a whole lot, right?” I said.

“You got it,” he said.

Young Ram fans just don’t know any better. They were weaned in thinking that all Ram quarterbacks walk like Walter Brennan and have spinal columns shaped like the country of Chile.

It’s all part of the season-ticket package. Young Ram fans have grown accustomed to swapping their favorite quarterback’s knee X-rays, not gum cards. A friend of mind kept a rare lock of John Hadl’s hair pressed between the pages of an old Ram media guide.

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So understand that it was difficult to break the news to the kids on my block who were playing tug-a-war with a roll of adhesive tape for the right to play Steve Bartkowski.

I felt impelled, though, to break the news about new Ram quarterback Jim Everett.

I guess they hadn’t heard.

It wouldn’t be easy.

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I prepared a life-size poster of Everett which was, best to my knowledge, anatomically correct.

I walked outside and stood the cardboard replica of Everett next to a tree where the kids were playing.

They huddled around, curious.

I told them that this was the Ram quarterback for the next 12 years.

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“What’s wrong with his hair?” one said. “You forgot to add in the gray.”

I told them Everett was 23.

“You mean 23 years in the league, right?” another cracked.

I told them to take a long look at Everett’s knees. They did. I showed them what the medial collateral cartilage in a human knee is supposed to look like.

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“You mean that scraping sound isn’t normal?” said a kid wearing a custom-made knee brace.

I turned the poster around and showed them how the vertebraes in the back are supposed to line up. I told them that Everett had all of his own teeth, at which time one kid removed a temporary upper bridge and smashed it against the curb with his foot.

They thought for sure the poster was grossly out of proportion. They guessed I had made this Everett guy more than 6-feet tall. Their jaws dropped to the street when I told them he was 6-5.

“Can he throw side-armed like Dieter Brock?” one said.

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“He doesn’t need to,” I said.

They feared that this one I called Everett and his skinny legs would be broken in two if he just stood still and tall in the pocket. I told them Everett ran out of the pocket once in a while and last week had even scored a touchdown.

They wondered if he could race a car as well as Dan Pastorini. I guessed not.

The kids turned away and went back to their game. They seemed crushed. I felt like the guy who told them there was no Santa Claus.

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One of the kids grabbed the football. The other took the medical bag. Another folded up the stretcher. One collected an assortment of knee braces and crutches and they all headed home. Football would never be the same on their street. It was the end of an era.


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