Rams Should Pack In Thoughts of Move


Many years ago, when I first came to this state, there was a disenchanted war worker who was leaving the state in his dust and, as he pulled out of the last gas station in Blythe, was seen to have fastened a banner to the back of his car. It read, “Goodby California and your gee dee red geraniums!”

I don’t know whether the flora has gotten to the Rams, but as of this writing we are assured they will shortly be leaving our area for the sunny shores of St. Louis or the sound stages of Baltimore.

Well, in a very real sense, they left us a long time ago. I refer to their precipitous departure from the Coliseum to which they belonged as surely as Caruso belonged to La Scala.


It was not that there was anything wrong with Orange County. It was just that the Rams weren’t really theirs. Anaheim should have had its own team to clasp to its bosom, not a fickle swain from the nerds to the north.

To me, the Rams were like the Frenchman who has a wife and a mistress. None of the three is ever completely happy. The Rams’ owner at the time, Carroll Rosenbloom, thought he could cash in on a rich real estate come-on and, at the same time, keep the affection and patronage of jilted L.A. He couldn’t.

For one thing, the Raiders rushed into the vacuum. For another, the Rams’ core constituency, the suffering patrons of L.A.’s Westside, never really moved with the team. They cashed out of the game. It was the Rams’ loss.

It was a mistake all around. The league had a well-exercised penchant for keeping on the move. After all, the Washington Redskins were originally the Boston Redskins. The Arizona Cardinals were the Chicago Cardinals two incarnations ago. The Baltimore Colts had been so many things you couldn’t keep track of them before they became the Indianapolis Colts. The Giants and the Jets moved out of New York. And so on.

The community identification is an important one to athletic teams. Otherwise, you have traveling minstrel shows--Have Football, Will Travel. People don’t paint themselves blue and gold and wear antlers on Mohawk haircuts for passing vaudevillians.

The Rams, of course, were originally the Cleveland Rams. But there is no evidence Cleveland put up much of a fight to keep them there. Pro football was not that big a deal in 1946.


There is less evidence that L.A. put up much of a fight to get them here. On the contrary, the colleges, USC and UCLA, lobbied hard and heavy to keep them out. Believe me, the Rams arrived with their hats in their hands, tugging on their forelocks, wiping their feet. They buttered up the newspapers by playing charity games. The Pro Bowl was invented for the L.A. Newspaper Publishers Assn.

The Rams had to outfight and later cannibalize the All-America Football Conference to stay here, but it was impossible to imagine the crowds. The Rams drew 102,368 to a 49er game in 1957. They drew more than 100,000 twice in 1958. They drew a total of 994,000 fans in 1952, almost double what any team had drawn up to that time. More than 100,000 people showed up at the Rose Bowl one year for a night exhibition.

The Rams belonged in Los Angeles and so did pro football. It moved the pro game into the big time and made it a national sport a dozen years before baseball, hockey and pro basketball caught on and moved West as well.

It is inconceivable that the Rams would reverse direction and head back where they came from 50 years ago. They would be leaving a fan base bigger than that of a half-dozen Midwestern states put together. They would be bucking a trend. They would be leaving a state where there are 32 million people, three-quarters of them south of the Tehachapi Mountains, for a state where there are 5 million.

Pro football is unique. It has to fill its seats only eight games a year, as opposed to 81 for baseball, and about half that for basketball and hockey. This makes it possible for a community as small as Green Bay to survive. But Green Bay is one of a kind. TV wants a megalopolis, not a whistle stop, for its huckstering.

Earthquakes and age have made the Coliseum sclerotic. Is it possible they have done the same things to L.A.? The notion here is that Southern California will always be a Mecca as long as there is a thermometer. Carroll Rosenbloom should not have moved 15 years ago. Georgia should not now.


There is no question as to her right to do so. The appellate courts, wherever asked to rule on law and order, have found for law and disorder. The Constitution, they seem to think, opts for chaos.

If we lose the Rams, what happens next? Do the Dodgers go to Hackensack, the Lakers to Sheboygan, the Angels to Biloxi?

In their last full NFL season in St. Louis, the Cardinals drew 194,748 at home. Last year, with a 5-11 team, the Rams drew 363,211. In 1991 at home, the Rams drew 502,135. Back in 1958 in the Coliseum, the Rams drew 502,084--in six games.

You tell me why they’re leaving. “Meet Me In St. Louis” is just a song. Somebody should call an audible at the line of scrimmage and change this play.

There’s nothing wrong with Anaheim that a good quarterback won’t cure. And no quarterback in the league would call this play. It has incomplete written all over it. Maybe interception. If they’re lucky, it’ll be sacked.