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07-07-07

Not our lucky days

L.A. teams have had plenty of success in the last 45 years, but there were some times when luck -- or leprechauns -- worked against them

July 07, 2007|Christine Daniels | Times Staff Writer

So today is 07-07-07, huh? Lucky sevens, right?

Question for the rest of the country: Do you know what Los Angeles was doing the last time we got this close to the happiest numbers in Las Vegas -- '77?

We were either stretched out flat on our backs or quivering in the fetal position after the double-whammy of Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series and the Minnesota Vikings knocking the Rams out of the playoffs by a 14-7 score -- two sevens to a single seven.

That defeat by the Vikings was especially unlucky in that the Rams had finally secured home-field advantage for the first time in a postseason game against Minnesota after a series of bad-luck frigid defeats to end their 1969, 1974 and 1976 seasons. This was the break the Rams had spent nearly a decade hoping for.

And what happens?

The Vikings bring Minnesota weather with them to L.A. Seated high above the Coliseum in his celestial VIP suite, Thor, who never played fair in these matchups, declared the heavens open for the evening and a very hard rain fell on the Rams and their soggy fans. Rams quarterback Pat Haden couldn't grip the slippery football with his small hands, his teammates kept slipping and sliding in the quagmire, and the Vikings proceeded to ruin another SoCal Christmas.

Not a lucky season for Los Angeles. We have had a few like that. We wuz robbed more times than we care to remember. However, that is the assignment today, so here is a quick tour through the last 45 years, chronicling those tormented moments when the only thing that kept us from winning championship was the other guys out-lucking us.

1962

Frank Selvy once scored 100 points in a college basketball game. He was two-time NBA All-Star. Playing alongside Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Selvy averaged almost 15 points a game in helping the Lakers to the brink of their first NBA championship in Los Angeles. With Game 7 tied at 100-100, Selvy had an open eight-foot jumper at the buzzer. Piece of cake. But he missed. The Celtics won in overtime, sending the Lakers into a self-conscious funk in which they would lose their next six Finals appearances to the Celtics. Red Auerbach must have had an evil leprechaun put a hex on that rim. That had to be the reason. Right?

--

1969

Those cursed Celtics again. Game 7 again, this time at the Forum. The score is tied again near the end of the fourth quarter. Don Nelson pulls up at the foul line and hoists a jump shot that is too long, hits the heel of the rim and ricochets five feet in the air . . . before gravity and Auerbach's leprechaun intercede, causing the ball to drop miraculously through the hoop for the victory. Nothing but luck.

--

1970

With the Lakers down by two points, West sinks an unforgettable 63-foot shot at the end of regulation in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. If that happened today, the Lakers would have won the game. But back in 1970, the NBA had no three-point line. Just the Lakers' luck. They wound up losing in overtime in the greatest anticlimax in league history. Then they lost Game 7 at Madison Square Garden after an injured Willis Reed hobbled onto the court into the Knicks' starting lineup. Had Reed not been hurt, had he just walked normally out of that tunnel, what kind of extra incentive would the home team have had then? None at all. Lucky Knicks.

--

1973-1978

The best Rams teams of the post-Waterfield era had to be coached by the notoriously conservative Chuck Knox, who played postseason games so close to the vest it was amazing he could move his arms to wave on the field-goal unit on fourth-and-inches. Just the Rams' luck.

--

1974

Despite Knox's Neanderthal game plan, the Rams had a chance to win the NFC title game in Minnesota. They had the ball inside the Vikings' one-yard line in the third quarter. For reasons yet to be explained, Rams All-Pro guard Tom Mack was whistled for a phantom illegal procedure penalty, despite replays showing he never so much as twitched. Rodin's "The Thinker" moved more than Mack. Nevertheless, the Rams lost five yards on the play and two downs later, James Harris' pass into the end zone was intercepted by Minnesota linebacker Wally Hilgenberg. Lucky Vikings win, 14-10.

--

1976

Another NFC title game in Minnesota. Early in a scoreless game, on fourth down, mere inches from the Vikings' goal line, Knox sends on the field-goal unit. Tom Dempsey, owner of the longest field goal in NFL history, has his chip shot blocked by Nate Allen, and Bobby Bryant scoops up the ball and returns it 90 yards for the first touchdown in a lucky Vikings victory. If only that Rams drive had sputtered on the 40-yard line.

--

1978

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