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Scott Ostler

Here's a Thought: Rams May End Up With Doug Flutie

January 14, 1986|SCOTT OSTLER

Assorted thoughts while flying home to Los Angeles on Day 1 of the Doug Flutie watch . . . We have a fine zoo here, a respected Philharmonic orchestra and a deep-water harbor or two, but Los Angeles can't consider itself a leading American city until it finds itself a quarterback.

USC and UCLA didn't have one, but that's OK. UCLA got along fine letting two guys take turns at quarterback. USC is an institution of higher learning, so was able to write off its football losses and quarterback problems as a learning experience for the student-athletes.

But the Rams and Raiders have no excuse. They both made bad quarterback decisions going into the season, decisions that might have cost the world an all-L.A. Super Bowl.

What now? Can we get Ed McMahon to add a quarterback category to his "Star Search" TV show?

The Raiders will probably give Rusty Hilger a shot at the starting job. The Rams probably won't give Jeff Kemp a shot at the starting job.

The Rams will probably do some shopping. One name that popped up in casual conversation in Miami was Doug Flutie.

Flutie is currently the property of Donald Trump and the New Jersey Generals of the ever-floundering United States Football League. Flutie played 15 games in his rookie season before breaking a collarbone. The Generals won 10 of those games, and he showed real promise as a pro quarterback.

Here's where the Rams come in: They own the NFL rights to Flutie. If Trump decides to sell the kid--which is a strong possibility, since the Generals obtained the USFL's top quarterback, Jim Kelly, in a merger deal--the only NFL team Trump could sell Flutie to would be the Rams.

"It's not beyond the realm of possibility you could see Doug Flutie with the Rams next year," Bob Woolf, Flutie's Boston-based attorney, told me Monday. "That's a very, very exciting prospect."

Does Doug feel that way, too?

"I'm sure he does," Woolf said, with enthusiasm.

Flutie, while undersized, probably plays taller than Dieter Brock. And Flutie would give the Rams something they've lacked at quarterback for decades--wheels.

With a Flutie flitting about, defenses would have to loosen up, spread out and scramble, which would open up interesting opportunities for Eric Dickerson.

One thing is clear--the Dieter Brock Era has now come to an end. It should have come to an end at halftime on Sunday.

In the beginning, the Super Bowl wasn't so super. It was a novelty game, a mismatch, and the football people needed two weeks to sell the event to the public.

Now the game is bigger than life itself, and the extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl is excess baggage.

Players are trained to play every week, and the extra week makes them stale, tense, irritable and impatient. It does the same to the fans. We all go into the game overprepared, our keen edge of anticipation dulled by overkill.

According to the NFL office, the extra week is necessary, in order to facilitate travel plans for teams and their fans.

The NFL office expects us to believe this.

Baseball moves the World Series around the country at a moment's notice, and everyone seems to get there. The Super Bowl has a pre-set site, and the teams and most fans can book travel and lodging a month in advance.

The real purpose of the extra week is to have seven extra days to pound NFL football into our heads with a super sledgehammer.

The extra week hurts the game. Promoted beyond a certain saturation point, any event becomes contrived and overstaged, two words of which the NFL office doesn't know the meaning. I have no hope that the people in the NFL office will read this and consider going to a one-week format, but it might make them pause if they happen to be contemplating stretching the pregame show to three weeks.

How important was winning Sunday to the good fans of Chicago?

According to Brent Musburger on the TV pregame show, if the Bears were to lose to the Rams, "there would be a mass suicide in Chicago."

Hey, if you folks want it that bad, you can have it.

If the Bears had lost, it's clear that only one method of mass suicide would have been appropriate--choking.

Chicago is the city of big shoulders and tight collars. How else do you account for all those years of losing in baseball, basketball and football, college and pro?

Maybe choking is too strong a label. Maybe it's just been a matter of Chicago teams being in the right place, at the right time, with the wrong pair of hands, like Leon Durham's or Ryne Sandberg's.

Buck up, Chicago. Any city can have three or four bad decades in a row. Go on down to New Orleans and have yourselves some fun for a couple of weeks. Forget about sports. Until Super Sunday.

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