John Robinson, head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, took center stage Wednesday at the Orange County Philharmonic Society's annual fund-raising luncheon and gave society members an idea of what it feels like to be in the Rams' locker room at half time.
Organizers of the society's 35th annual Continuance Fund Drive Kickoff at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa said they had decided that their members needed a pep talk. So they went to Robinson, "a great lover of the arts, who is also no stranger to kickoffs."
"Motivation is motivation, whether it's for the arts or athletics," said Erich Vollmer, the society's executive director and an old friend of Robinson. "I knew how much he loved the arts, so I called him."
Sitting on stage in front of about 250 society members, Robinson looked tentative and continually adjusted his tie.
But once he started speaking, he seemed quite at ease. Indeed, he seemed to have no problem making the adjustment from addressing a team of sweaty football players to speaking to a room full of classical music connoisseurs.
"The real mark of success," he said, "is the level of passion you bring into this (fund-raising drive). The future of this organization depends on how you can express your love and commitment."
Robinson said his love for music brings him a passion he does not get from coaching football.
He said that last year when the Rams played an exhibition game in London, he rescheduled the team's practice so that he and his wife could see a musical.
"The players said, 'Hey, why are we practicing so early?' " he recalled. "I lied. I told them I had to meet some head of state."
"His personality is so that he bridges the gap (between football and music) very well," said Patti-Gene Sampson, chairwoman of public relations for the fund-raising drive. Society member Betty Babcock also was very impressed by Robinson's speech. "It just goes to show," she said, "that you can be a gentleman and an athlete without having to be macho."