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SPORTS WEEKEND | Around the NFC / WEST

Viewers in St. Louis Get a Whiff of Rams

November 20, 1998

In the wake of Coach Dick Vermeil's "I stink, the whole team stinks" speech after yet another Ram loss comes horrible news in St. Louis: The Rams are insisting that all their stinky games be televised locally. The Rams, who had sold out 29 consecutive games, have tickets for their three remaining home games, but the team will buy them if unsold to make sure the TV blackout is lifted.

Hard to believe the Rams' honeymoon in St. Louis has come to an end. Maybe it has something to do with their record since moving there: 21-37. The Rams have averaged 8,660 no-shows this season. Imagine how many no-shows they might have for Sunday's game with 1-9 Carolina had they not sold permanent seat licenses to their fans before the team moved there.

They're talking crazy in Atlanta. "We've never been respected," said strong safety William White, as if that's a revelation. "First, they were saying we hadn't beaten teams with winning records, and now they were saying we hadn't beaten the king. From now on, every game is extremely important. It's not just about getting in the playoffs, it's about getting home-field advantage."

Given teams like the 49ers, Packers and Vikings, can there be anything more surprising than playing the NFC championship game in Atlanta? Sure, Atlanta playing in the Super Bowl, and it still won't get any respect.

The 49ers don't play a team with a winning record down the stretch, but quarterback Steve Young said, "We're playing pretty shoddy right now."

CENTRAL / The Simple Truth Is, Bears Lack the Horses

Should Bear Coach Dave Wannstedt get the chance to come back next season?

"If they don't have anybody in the Pro Bowl the last couple of [four] years, I am not so sure they have the material for anybody [to coach]," former Bear linebacker Dick Butkus said. "I don't think [Mike] Holmgren could do a better job. Or Bill Parcells. I wonder how he would do here with the material."

He'd never agree to work for owner Michael McCaskey.

The Lions beat the Bears and started talking playoffs. The Lions are 3-7. "It feels good,' defensive tackle Luther Elliss said. "It might be crazy, but you never know what might happen. If we win the next six, 9-7 might get us in. And if that gets us in, who knows what can happen."

Where do they get these guys?

The Lions have won three prime-time televised games this season, and have gone 0-7 in Sunday day games. They have one remaining Monday night game, a Thanksgiving Day game, and four Sunday day games, meaning they will finish 5-11.

The Packers' Brett Favre had a quarterback rating of 30.3 against the Vikings earlier this season--the worst rating of his career in any game that he has started and didn't leave because of injury.

EAST / Despite His Record, Kanell Sent to Kennel

What's the most deceiving stat in football? Danny Kanell's record as a starting quarterback: 10-9-1. How did he ever win a game?

Kent Graham replaces Kanell as the Giants' starter Sunday, which is not like Lou Gehrig replacing Wally Pipp, but rather Billy Joe Tolliver subbing for Billy Joe Hobert.

Kanell is 3-7 this year, losing as many games as he did in 50 starts in high school and college combined, where he was 42-7-1. Kanell has 22 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in his 20 NFL starts.

"I'm giving Danny a timeout," Coach Jim Fassel said. "I'm not ruling Danny out as a starter in the future. I'm looking at Kent. I'm not anointing Kent as the permanent, full-time, no-questions-asked starter. I want to see Kent go out and prove himself. I think Danny has a future. . . ."

Maybe in marketing or sales.

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