As the Beverly Hills Rams move with-in a starlet's eyelash of becoming one of the first National Football League teams to clinch a playoff spot, the need arises to discuss one of their serious old problems, which is mainly that there is always a wise guy around to type up a sentence like this one, calling them the Beverly Hills Rams. ("But you promised they would love us," Carroll Rosenbloom, the owner, will now complain to his general manager, Don Klosterman, and his coach, Chuck Knox.)
The thing of it is, pro football started in a lot of factory towns, not Los Angeles, and there are millions of people out there who know why the Rams haven't won the championship in 24 years—not since that Sunday when either Norm Van Brocklin or Bob Waterfield threw the touchdown pass to either Tom Fears or Jane Russell, the one that beat Cleveland in 1951. Which must have been the year after Pat O'Brien quit coaching.
People know about the Rams because they know about Southern California, and all of the fabled distractions that can bother a football team. Oceans and beaches and racetracks and mozzarella marinara and bosoms, and probably having your hip pads done by Giorgio. Having to study script dialogue during timeouts, and getting your pregame pep talks from Jonathan Winters. Worrying that the angry fans in the Coliseum will throw too much caviar at the bench. And just naturally and unavoidably being the hero of so many evenly tanned guys who don't wear socks with their Mediterranean loafers and stand around outside restaurants worrying about missing the kick-off as they remark to their vacant-eyed blondes in $1,500 rhinestone-denim outfits, "I don't know why it's taking the creep so long to find the car, it's the only purple Mercedes in the parking lot with a white dog in the back seat."
Has the point been made that the image problem of the Rams has been at least partly geographic?
To understand this new era of Ramdom under Carroll Rosenbloom, Don Klosterman and Chuck Knox, and their struggle for a normal, solid, almost quiet kind of excellence, you also have to be reminded of some things having to do with the theatrical past of the Rams.
One must never forget any of the following facts, as devilishly selective as they are:
1) The team arrived in L.A. as a winner, having captured the 1945 NFL championship as the
Rams. Too much was expected.
2) As the Los Angeles Rams, they have lost four of the five championship games they have played in. The Big One slips away.
3) Tom Harmon was once a Ram.
4) Bob Hope was once a Ram part-owner.