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Stopping the Snow Melt : Ram Broadcaster Trying to Get Acclimated to New Life With the Team in a Hot, Steamy Town

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jack Snow awakened one morning this week in Chesterfield, Mo., walked out the back door of his leased home and quickly was reminded he is no longer living in Seal Beach.

The blast of humidity was almost like a jarring tackle. It left no question that this was St. Louis in the summertime.

It’s a city where the radio announcers buzz in August about the heat index, a combined reading of the temperature and the wilting humidity. “It was 115 degrees based on that at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Snow said, laughing.

Like other former Southern Californians who have followed a rainbow, or at least the outline of an arch on the Mississippi River, to owner Georgia Frontiere’s pot of gold in St. Louis, they are beginning new lives and hoping for the best.

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Snow says it has been an adjustment, especially for someone so closely involved with the Rams in Southern California for so long, first as a player and later as a commentator on radio broadcasts.

“It’s suddenly waking up in a different area,” Snow said. “You know, just from all the license plates being different, to the weather, to new people and new surroundings.”

Snow, a former all-pro wide receiver, played for the Rams from 1965 through 1975. Those were glory days, and Snow had a part in three division championships in a string of five the team won in the 1970s. But the franchise lost steam in the ‘90s and now will try to find new life in a city that went through pro football withdrawal after the Cardinals moved to Phoenix in 1988.

Snow said he believes the $20 million annual profit the move assured the Rams will eventually help invigorate the franchise. But Snow said he thinks it will take some time for that to happen.

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That new era officially begins Sunday when the Rams play in Green Bay, and Snow will be there as an analyst and color commentator for the radio broadcast with Gary Bender on KSD-AM.

The Rams play their first regular season game in St. Louis Sept. 10 against New Orleans.

“The fans in St. Louis are unbelievable right now,” Snow said. “They’re really excited and I think that makes for a real good opportunity for the team. And I think they’ll be that way the entire year, as long as they feel they’re getting their money’s worth when they go out to the games.”

More than 3,000 fans showed up at the team’s training camp just to watch some practice and more than 7,000 for the first scrimmage. “That blew the players’ minds,” Snow said.

Snow thinks the team has the potential to be better this season. But he puts heavy emphasis on that one word: potential .

“I think the key will be how well the offensive line comes along,” he said. “It didn’t help for Jerome Bettis to come in late, but he’s had a good camp. I think he can become a real hero in St. Louis and take the city by storm with a good season.”

Snow said he’s also been impressed with receiver Alexander Wright, who was picked up from the Raiders, and he thinks the receiving corps will be improved. He also expects the offense to be considerably less predictable than it has been in recent years with new Coach Rick Brooks, but gnawing quarterback concerns remain.

So what kind of record can be expected? “I think they could go 7-9, and that would be a pretty good improvement,” Snow said. And Snow doesn’t think St. Louis fans will be as demanding as Southern California fans were, especially right away.

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“I just think it’s probably different in St. Louis,” Snow said. “The makeup of the area may be different. From what I understand, a high percentage of the people in St. Louis have lived there all their lives. It seems like in Southern California there was always a high percentage of fans at any game there rooting for the other team. Maybe it’s because so many people who live in the Los Angeles area are from other places.”

As for Southern California, Snow believes pro football can still flourish here.

“What I’d like to see them do is put an expansion franchise in either L.A. or Orange County,” Snow said. “I think that way people would really feel as though it is their team, and they could see it built from the ground up. That would really give them something to hold on to.”

Looking back, Snow believes the St. Louis deal was just too good for the Rams to pass up.

“No matter what the people of Southern California think of John Shaw, he’s a hell of a deal maker,” Snow said. “Pro sports today isn’t the same as it was when I played in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The salary structure has made all the players free contractors, and ownership has to be able to get the best deal it can.”

That kind of deal has brought the Rams to St. Louis, and for Snow and his wife, Merry, leaving behind family and friends wasn’t easy. Particularly a new granddaughter, born on Christmas day last year.

But he says there’s a lot to like about St. Louis, too.

For the Rams, the best thing is a fresh start.

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