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MIKE PENNER

Save Rams? How About the Fans?

August 28, 1994|MIKE PENNER

Save The Rams?

Talk about your loaded propositions.

How does a community even begin to set about saving a football team that can't save itself?

Take a look at this list of goodies one group of influential Ram die-hards--there can be no other term for them--dropped on top of John Shaw's desk last week:

--Sixty million dollars to turn Anaheim Stadium from a trailer park-in-waiting into a fully functional football-only amphitheater for the '90s, complete with 100-plus luxury suites and waiter service, a la Joe Robbie Stadium, in the club level.

--Fifty million dollars, in the form of a minority purchase of the team, to help Georgia Frontiere sustain the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed--minus the headache and inconvenience of flying her social circle in for home games eight times a year in Baltimore.

--A new team corporate headquarters and practice facility, including 2 1/2 practice fields, weight room and 400 parking spaces.

--An intensive plan to market the Rams in Orange County, which would be a 15-year first, at no extra cost to the Rams--in essence, doing the Rams' work for them.

Shaw looked the list over for a couple minutes and shook his head.

Too light, he assessed.

Well, of course, it is. The Save The Rams proposal fails to provide the Rams with what they need most--pass rushers who actually rush the passer, cornerbacks who can cover, linebackers who can tackle, pass catchers who can catch, kick returners who don't fumble the ball out of bounds at the one-yard line, an offensive line and, finally, some coaches.

I mean, come on, Save The Rams. If you really want to help . . .

It would be laughable--a scream, really--if it weren't for that dull, sickening pain in the pit of every remaining Ram fan's stomach, all 68 of them.

A group of Orange County's best and brightest--major domo politicos, high-powered sports agents, corporation presidents--fall over themselves in an attempt to appease a football team that can't stop falling over itself.

Save The Rams. Not Save The 49ers, mind you, or Please Don't Take Our Dolphins Away--some worthy cause such as that.

This is the "Save The 11-30 In Our Last 41 Games (Counting Exhibitions), 0-4 In Our Next Four Games (Just You Wait And See), Bringing Up The Rear In the NFC West Because It's The Only Way We Know, Here Comes The Fifth Pick In The Draft And Watch Us Blow It Again Rams" we're talking about.

What next?

Save The Dry Rot Under Your Bathroom Floor?

Let us lay this out in lay terms.

Suppose you owned a small business--a doughnut shop, say--and for four years you stocked your display shelves with the same old garbage. Deep-fried, sugar-crusted glop that should carry a cardiologist's warning. Brick-hard bear claws. Battery acid in a coffee cup. Crullers from hell.

Citywide, 27 other pastry shops were competing for your business. Some introduced lines of healthful olallieberry and oat bran muffins. Others purchased fancy brass espresso makers. All of them advertised on television.

You, meanwhile, kept short hours and your phone number unlisted. You did no promotion. Your dilapidated store had become a neighborhood eyesore. With sales down, you determined the only solution was to move.

Suddenly, several wealthy community leaders are at your door, offering to buy you new ovens, new equipment, renovate the whole place. A multimillion-dollar marketing campaign is proposed. A rent reduction is discussed. The deal is this: You keep doing what you're doing--nothing, in other words--and they'll make you rich.

And you tell them, sorry, too light, thanks but no thanks, I have better offers elsewhere.

Some business, pro football. Where else can a company run itself into the ground, alienate its entire potential customer base and then hold all the leverage--or believe it has it--in negotiations with the community about the future of the franchise?

Shaw would like to think he has Orange County over a barrel. Well, maybe he ought to check that barrel again for termite damage.

The St. Louis option is drying up because the ownership group there is currently more confused than the Ram coaching staff. This is a cast of bunglers who lost a slam-dunk expansion bid to Jacksonville and has already annoyed the ever-surreptitious Shaw by leaking his list of demands to the city.

Baltimore has been shaky from the start, due to the Washington Redskins' plans to build a new stadium in nearby Laurel, Md.--the NFL not being keen on the idea on market saturation in Maryland. The death of Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse adds another potential crimp. Soon, presumably, there will be two franchises in play, and in the eyes of Baltimore's Peter Angelos, the Buccaneers have to look so much more attractive.

First, Angelos can purchase majority interest in the Buccaneers--an option not available to him with the Rams.

Secondly, compare the products. The Buccaneers have Trent Dilfer, the Rams have Wayne Gandy. Angelos is not a dumb man.

A month or two from now, that Save The Rams proposal could be the best friend Shaw has. Certainly, it is better than the Rams deserve. New headquarters, new practice facility, new promotional campaign, new inside of the stadium, new outside of the stadium . . . same old lousy football.

Save The Rams? It's amazing anyone still cares.

Shaw should take that as a personal victory, cash it in now and get on with the program that truly deserves our attention and support:

Save The Ram Fans.

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