Robinson is crazy about Harrah because Harrah embodies what he wants out of his legions. "Denny is a guy who works his butt off and has a whole lot of fun, which is all I ask," says Robinson. Nobody laughed harder than Robinson the day in minicamp in 1983, when he met the Rams players for the first time. He had inherited a team that finished 2-7 in the strike-shortened previous season. Robinson called a meeting of the players and began telling them how good the team would be, how great the personnel was, and what it was going to feel like going to the Super Bowl again. When the coach finished, Herc put his hand up. "Yes?" said Robinson.
"Damn, Coach," Herc said, "you're dumber than you look. What we need is for you to get us some players." Coincidentally or not, Los Angeles soon traded for the draft rights to Eric Dickerson, who used a few of Harrah's holes in 1984 to break O.J. Simpson's single-season rushing record and who, owing to his thriftiness, Harrah has dubbed the Black Jack Benny. Just a joke, just a joke.
Bill Bain, the mountainous former Rams lineman whom Herc calls Iceberg, considers Harrah's humor to be "lowbrow stuff" and "vicious," but Herc isn't bothered. "When you're 320 pounds, fat and ugly, you're not going to find a whole lot funny," says Harrah. Anyhow, Herc doesn't really care whether his humor is well received, as long as he gets a chortle or two. Take the time he almost caused Kent Hill, a Rams lineman, to have a heart attack. Seems that Hill had a serious fear of spiders and snakes, so Herc hid a dead rattler in Hill's laundry bag. "When Kent reached in and grabbed that rattler," recalls Bolinger, "I'll bet he jumped 10 feet. He didn't stop running until he was 200 yards away."
Herc showed no mercy toward Pat Haden, the diminutive former Rams quarterback. Once Haden found himself locked outside the locker room, naked, with autograph seekers in pursuit. Or Herc would hide Haden's helmet two minutes before practice. Haden got so used to Herc cutting his ties in half that he took to wearing lousy ties to practice. Should you become a Ram, be forewarned that Herc will also put shampoo in your helmet (it lathers when you sweat) and pluck your chest hairs.
If such shenanigans seem obnoxious and rude, well, sometimes obnoxious and rude are the only things that keep a pro football team from going crazy. Like the time quarterback Vince Ferragamo ran into the huddle in a tense situation, barked out a sequence of numbers, letters and colors and was somewhat surprised to see nobody budge. After a bit of a silence, Harrah spit out a stream of tobacco juice, looked at Ferragamo and said, "Vinnie, we don't have that one." That not only broke everybody up but also calmed everybody down, and Los Angeles won.
With Rams quarterbacks coming and going faster than Joan Rivers's replacements—Haden, Joe Namath, Ferragamo, Dan Pastorini, Jeff Kemp, Dieter Brock, Steve Dils et al.—they have long since ceased being the team leader. For a while it was Jack Youngblood, and when Youngblood retired in 1985, it became Harrah, who is unafraid to speak out. He has told Robinson the squad is practicing too much, too little, too loosely or too tightly. In 1985, when the Rams were playing rotten but still winning, Harrah said, "We're in first place and we stink."
Herc is equally reticent on the subjects of:
? Mark Gastineau: "I don't like anybody who uses Bikini Bare all over his body."
? Lawrence Taylor: "When I'm playing him I'm like the United Way. My hands are out."
? Brian Bosworth: "The premier mouth of the last 15 years. If he can't play, he'll be a great auctioneer."