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SPORTS WEEKEND | eXcess and O's

They'd Be Greeted With a Cold Stare

November 24, 2000|MIKE PENNER

L.A. VIKINGS? THOR HELP US

Word was leaked last week: NFL owners are considering realigning the Minnesota Vikings into the NFC West in 2002 for fear that Viking owner Red McCombs will eventually tire of haggling for a new stadium and relocate his team to Los Angeles.

They aren't the only ones afraid.

If the news of a possible Viking move to Los Angeles didn't chill your bones to their marrow, you are either younger than 35 or new to the area. The Vikings cannot move to Los Angeles the same way the Yankees cannot move to Boston, the same way the Broncos cannot move to Cleveland. Too much history, all of it wretched on this end. Too much damage done. Too many Christmases ruined by Joe Kapp and Fran Tarkenton tip-toeing away in the Minnesota snow with the Super Bowl berth that rightfully belonged to Los Angeles.

If you weren't here at the time, read on and be thankful for what you missed. If you were, apologies in advance.

1969: The Rams were 11-0 and Roman Gabriel was in the middle of his MVP season when Bud Grant came to town and his Vikings pillaged the Rams' perfect season, 20-13. The Rams never recovered, and never won again, finishing the regular season 11-3 before trudging to Minnesota for a late December playoff game.

1969, Pt. II: Rams blow a 17-7 halftime lead, Bruce Gossett misses a field-goal attempt that could have put the game away, Kapp rallies the Vikings and scores the go-ahead touchdown in the waning minutes. Gabriel is sacked ignominiously by Carl Eller for a clinching safety in a 23-20 loss that helps send the Vikings to their first Super Bowl. The Rams, meanwhile, are sentenced to a hideous concoction called the Playoff Bowl, the NFL's old third-place game, which happily was run into extinction a year later.

1974: Another playoff trip to Minnesota, this time with the NFC championship on the line. Down, 7-3, in the third quarter, the Rams drive 99 yards to the Viking six-inch line--where guard Tom Mack is mysteriously cited for illegal motion on the next play. Ball moved back five yards, quarterback James Harris' next pass is tipped and intercepted in the end zone, Vikings go on to score again and hold on for 14-10 victory. A quarter century later, replays show Mack still hasn't moved.

1976: Same stakes as '74, same place, only colder. The Rams, some wearing pantyhose for warmth, have a chance to break the ice on fourth and goal inside the Viking one-yard line in the first quarter. Rather than go for a touchdown, Chuck Knox sends in the field-goal team. Kick blocked, returned 90 yards for a touchdown by Bobby Bryant, Vikings roll to a 24-13 victory.

1977: Finally, the Rams catch a break, finally able to host the Vikings in a playoff game--with Tarkenton sidelined because of an injury. Vikings venture west, bring Viking weather with them as a deluge turns the Coliseum into a quagmire. Ram quarterback Pat Haden can't grip the slippery football and has three passes intercepted, Rams lose at home, 14-7, to a team quarterbacked by Bob Lee.

1988: For old times' sake, the Rams return to Minnesota for a wild-card game. No Kapp, no Tarkenton, no wind-chill factor inside the climate-controlled Metrodome. Same old story: Jim Everett goes 19 for 45 with three interceptions, Vikings win, 28-17.

The Los Angeles Vikings? I don't think so.

What next--Jack Clark to the Dodgers?

L.A. NFL CLASSIFIEDS

Wanted: One NFL franchise willing to relocate to our sunny climes, but not just anyone. Cardinals, Chargers, Vikings, Raiders need not apply. This time, we control the agenda:

Quarterback: Must be blond, suntanned, have movie-star looks. Preferably with ties to a local college.

Running back: Must be a proven 1,000-yard man, a big-play maker, a first-ballot hall of famer.

Go-to receiver: Must come equipped with a marquee-ready nickname, such as Magic or Diesel or The Great One or Rocket.

Owner: Must be committed to winning and paying whatever it takes. Cannot be camera-shy. Cannot be publicity-shy. Cannot be an over-the-hill crank. Must know football, must be quotable when he lets L.A. sportswriters know how much football he knows.

Glitz/arrogance factor: Must be able to lay it on thick. Must think of itself as the only team that matters. Must have cheerleaders who can cut it in a tough town that has grown to accept the Laker Girls but sent the Raiderettes packing.

Track record: Must know how to get to the Super Bowl and, once there, know how to win it.

And the NFL franchise that best fits Los Angeles' unique set of needs and demands is . . . oh, for the love of Roger Staubach . . . the Dallas Cowboys?

OK, let's try this one more time . . .

CHARGERS 2000: CHASING HISTORY

Last week: Equaled franchise record for worst start to a season, 0-11, first set in 1975.

This week: Host Kansas City. Attempting to become the first NFL team in 14 years to lose its first 12 games of the season.

Chances for success: Good. Chiefs 1-3 since defeating Super Bowl champion Rams, eager to end a three-game losing streak. Chargers again planning to start Ryan Leaf.

Ominous historical footnote: The 1975 Chargers won their 12th game, defeating the Chiefs, 28-20.

Reassuring historical footnote: Unlike the 1975 Chargers, the 2000 Chargers do not start Dan Fouts at quarterback.

Next week: Host San Francisco. Will attempt to become first team since 1986 Colts to open a season 0-13.

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