"Steve wanted to make a change," Klosterman says. "I really don't know what he has against me. In his opinion Dick Steinberg could do a better job. I know I have confidence in my ability. I don't think he ever asked Dick about it—or Georgia. I doubt whether she even knew about it."
Georgia is a powerful ally. The news of Klosterman's demotion shook her.
"When I first heard about it, it didn't dawn on me what had happened," she says. "It was less than a month after Carroll had died. I was still in the closet, so to speak. It was never fully explained to me, but when it was, I realized what a dreadful thing it was. It was something Carroll would have abhorred. It was finessed through, that's all.
"It took me a while to realize what was going on. The media called me. 'What's this hatchet job on Don?' they asked. I didn't even know what they were talking about. I began to find out more things. There was an entire group in the organization that wasn't even speaking to Don. He'd go to his office and they wouldn't even say hello to him. How would you like that?"
Georgia's first reaction was to draft a very strong statement—To All Parties Concerned. Then she thought it over and made her views known privately. The message was clear: if Dick Steinberg was to have the first word on trades, then Don Klosterman was to have the last word.
"If both factions on this club want the same thing, the success of this organization," she says, "then they should be able to work together. If not, then no amount of pleading can help. But I'm going to take a very long look at this problem and do what has to be done if it isn't solved."
It's tough to figure whether any of this will affect the team on the field. The Rams have won six straight NFC West division titles, and on track record alone they have to be considered a Super Bowl contender. They looked competent in Saturday night's exhibition. Under Malavasi's low-key direction, the Rams have had a relatively peaceful camp. Linebacker Isiah Robertson, the textbook malcontent, has been traded to Buffalo. And for once the quarterback position has not been a daily controversy. Pat Haden is the man. "The players are happy, the coaches are happy," John Sevano wrote in the Orange Coast Daily Pilot. "Old-timers are having a hard time trying to remember when things have gone smoother."
But then Left Tackle Doug (Bubba) France, twice a member of the Pro Bowl squad, walked out of the camp at Fullerton, claiming racial injustice—white players getting preferential treatment by the coaches and media, non-mingling of black and white players in the dining room and in the beer joints.
Malavasi shrugged it off. Big guy sweating through two-a-days; postoperative elbow that's had him worried. Hot summer madness. Five days later France was back.
"A lot of guys had pointed the stuff out to me," France says, "and then when I walked out, I was on my own. Now some guys are making a joke out of it. O.K., if it's for the good of the team, I'll go along with that. If getting to the Super Bowl means being a phony, then let's be phonies."