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How a Rams romance happened: ‘I thought: Let me put a melon on my head’

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Melonheads Lance Goldberg, left, Steve Goldstein and Steven Pataki. “Our record is 11. I expect to shatter that,” founder Goldberg says of membership in his merry band this season.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

This is what love looks like: three grown men wearing three grown watermelons. As headgear, I think the watermelon is unsurpassed. It is also an unrivaled expression of ardor, devotion and an unquenchable will to succeed.

Sure, roses are effective and – as public spectacle goes – a coconut bra speaks volumes. But there is nothing like donning this whimsical helmet as a way to say the things you’re carrying around in your soft swollen heart.

Remember the Melonheads?

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Of course you do, just as you remember the Alamo, or where you were when the Dodgers dumped Robinson, Piazza and Puig. 

Once you’ve seen a Melonhead, you’ll never forget. The Melonheads are part of Rams lore, dating to the early ‘80s. Just as Cleveland has its Dawg Pound and Green Bay has its cheddar chapeaus, Los Angeles has its merry band of Melonheads.

Elitists, always an icky lot, might think it moronic. Or they might point out that Saskatchewan Roughrider fans have also been wearing melon helmets for years. But, as there is room for Coke and Pepsi, and Christmas and Hanukkah, there is room for two devoted tribes of Melonheads.

On lead melon, a big round of applause for Lance Goldberg. He started L.A.’s craziest fashion craze in 1983 (well before Saskatchewan). As a Miami transplant, Goldberg was disappointed with the low pulse rate at the Rams games he attended.

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“My opinion of the crowd was that it was very inhibited,” Goldberg, now 51, recalls. “I thought: Let me put a melon on my head. Let me show it’s OK to show some emotion.”

For two years, he did this alone. One man. One melon. One mensch out to change a small vital corner of the universe.

Sofia, 4, with dad Lance Goldberg at fan rally.
Sofia, 4, with dad Lance Goldberg at fan rally.
(Maggie Mumar )

But as McCartney found Lennon, and vodka found tonic, Goldberg found David Stanley. One thing led to another. Soon, they had a posse. By 1984, the end zone Melon Patch was born.

At full throttle, the Melonheads had a roster of 11. In their heyday, TV cameras would zoom in on their antics near the tunnel. The implication was that it was an absurdity, a social aberration, a desperate needy ploy. Yeah, so? 

Goldberg insists the Melonheads were only out to stir up the crowd, never in search of fame or fortune.

Passing Rams players often shook their heads in disbelief; others embraced it. 

Twice, fiery linebacker Kevin Greene took a melon from the fans, put it on his head and dashed into the tunnel, Goldberg says. “”He did that two different times. I used to say anyone can do it once.”

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But twice?

When the Rams moved to St. Louis, team President John Shaw even flew some of the Melonheads back to Missouri, in a bid for absolution, as a way to say the Rams had not forgotten the fans. Later, the Melonheads paid their own way to the Rams’ Super Bowl in Atlanta. 

Yet, nothing could ever match the glory days in Anaheim. One game, John Madden got a look at them during a telecast and mocked their mental health. As any true wiseguys would, the Melonheads ran with it. 

When Madden returned for his next game, they stole a barroom promotional cutout of the TV analyst, adorned it with a melon and dubbed their end zone section Madden’s Melon Patch. From that point on, Madden was a Melonhead.

I’m not much for following recipes, but Goldberg says the secret is to really scoop out all the sirloin, leaving a mostly rind helmet. That keeps the juices from running into your eyes and down your back, which on a hot day can be pleasant for a while, then not.

The lining can be critical. Goldberg, a Santa Monica painting contractor, uses newspaper (yet another important reason to subscribe). Others use shower caps or saran wrap. Results may vary.

“Everyone does it different,” Goldberg says.

Sound like your thing? Of course it is. The next generation of Melonheads is upon us – including Goldberg’s 4-year-old daughter, Sofia. Stanley, the first to join Goldberg, will be back for at least five games this season. Steven Pataki and Steve Goldstein are back as well.

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People always ask: ‘Why melons? What do melons have to do with the Rams?’
Melonhead founder Lance Goldberg

“I think we’ll have about seven regulars this year,” Goldberg predicts. “Our record is 11. I expect to shatter that.”

“People always ask: ‘Why melons? What do melons have to do with the Rams?’

“And the answer is, nothing.”

Sometimes, nothing is enough.

Chris.Erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: @erskinetimes


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