The Summer Olympics are underway. Lots of Russians have been banned and there’s still lots of gunk in the water. Fearful of the Zika virus, there are lots of cans of insect repellent being sold, and it looks like Uncle Sam is going to kick international booty again.
With the old Soviet Union cut down to size, the U.S. again dominates both the summer and winter games. In the 2012 games in London, we “won” the games with 46 golds and 104 overall; it shouldn’t be that close this time around. The 2008 games were a split decision: China won more gold medals (51) than the U.S. (36), but the Yanks got more metal overall 110-to-100.
Despite the hoopla surrounding the quadrennial games, we suspect that more local attention will be focused on the true big event of the week: the first game by the Los Angeles Rams back in Los Angeles. The Rams will host the Dallas Cowboys in a pre-season game at the Coliseum this weekend, which will be sold-out and hip-deep in nostalgia.
After more than two decades in exile in Missouri, the blue-and-gold will be back on the turf at Exposition Park, an occurrence that’s bound to bring back a ton of memories for those of us who grew up as Rams’ fans, and those who want to embrace a semi-local NFL team at least.
With that in mind, a few key historical facts about our guys in helmets.
- The origin. The Rams started in 1936 in Cleveland. The team won the 1945 NFL title in Ohio, then moved west to Los Angeles in 1946. As the first (and at that time only) big league team in the City of Angels, the Rams were an instant hit at the box office and on the field, winning the NFL title in 1951.
- The biggest game. There have been a lot of memorable contests in the history of the L.A. Rams, but the one that might loom biggest in relatively recent memory is the 1979 team that played in the 1980 Super Bowl in Pasadena. It was a pretty mediocre season for the most part, a 9-7 mark that managed to be the best in the NFL West. Vince Ferragamo came off the bench in the 12th game of the season and led the team to four straight wins before an embarrassing 29-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the final game at the Coliseum (the Rams moved to Anaheim the next year). In the playoffs, L.A. upset the Cowboys 21-19, and then outlasted Tampa Bay 9-0. In the Super Bowl, the Rams led the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers 19-17 after three quarters before finally falling 31-19.
- Rams’ traditions. There are several, mostly good. One tradition used to be losing to the Minnesota Vikings, especially in games played outdoors in the frozen north. Another is the annual quarterback controversy. This year, the question is whether Case Keenum, the incumbent, will still be the starting QB as late as, say, the fourth game of the season, or whether rookie star Jared Goff will replace him. If Keenum doesn’t dazzle soon, expect the chants for “Goff! Goff! Goff!” to be ringing out across the Coliseum even before the season home opener on Sept. 25.
- The Rams and civil rights. Most people know how Jackie Robinson (of Pasadena, by the way) broke the major league baseball color line in 1947. But it was the Rams who broke the NFL color line in 1946. When the Rams elected to play in the Coliseum, one of the conditions of the contract was that the team had to integrate. So the Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode.
- Were the Rams the first in L.A.? Sort of. They were the first NFL team to actually play home games in the City of Angels. The 1926 Los Angeles Buccaneers were in the NFL but played all their games on the road. In 1946 a new league – the All-American Football Conference – started play with one of the teams being the Los Angeles Dons. After four seasons, the AAFC merged with the NFL. Three teams – the Baltimore Colts, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns – were taken in and the Dons were amalgamated with the Rams.
- Names to know. You can’t consider yourself a true L.A. Rams’ fan unless you know these names.
Elroy Hirsch (receiver), Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield (quarterbacks). Stars of the early era of the team, 1946-64).
- The Fearsome Foursome. The outstanding defensive front line of the mid-Sixties was Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones (also known as the ‘Secretary of Defense”).
- Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds played linebacker for the Rams 1970 to 1980 and was renowned for his toughness. He played one game with a broken leg.
- Eric Dickerson was the top rusher in Rams’ history. He was a Pro Bowler six times and NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1986, as well as Rookie-of-the-Year in 1983.
Well, that ought to hold us for a while. The Rams will be making history simply by stepping onto the field on Saturday at 5 p.m. It’s good to have the boys back in town.
Monday Morning Coach appears each Monday in the Trib.