If Rams do depart, hold the false tears

November 29, 1993|By Mark Whicker | Mark Whicker,Orange County (Calif.) Register

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If they leave, let's take it like grownups.

Let's not hear 70,000 people whine that they'll miss the Los Angeles Rams, because most of those people already are missing Rams games.

Let's not see the Anaheim city officials scramble to build new stuff for the new team. Stuff they wouldn't build to keep the Rams.

Let's be big about it. Don't cry if the Rams leave, if you won't cry when an air base closes. When they review the continuing unraveling of Southern California, the impact of the Rams' stampede will rank about 230th.

Who cares? Nobody here. The Rams couldn't sell out the San Francisco game yesterday. Five of the eight home games last year each drew fewer than 50,000.

Who cares? John Shaw? He cares about football like Lee Iacocca cares about piston rings. It is a means to the end of making money, and there is more of it, waiting, in Baltimore.

But maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves (unlike the Rams, who can't get ahead of anybody).

This week, a city will receive the 30th NFL franchise. It does not appear to be a great honor. But Charlotte, N.C., went so crazy when it got its team, you would have thought Jim Bakker had escaped.

For some reason, cities recruit football teams much harder than they recruit BMW factories, or school teachers for that matter.

Baltimore was supposed to be trailing St. Louis. It would be marooned, and lick its lips for everybody else's franchise, in the same way Indianapolis kidnapped its Colts.

The city was even going to build another Camden Yards, this one for football, and charge its new team $1 a year for rent.

(There is no truth to the rumor that Shaw replied, "Make it 75 cents, and we're coming.")

But now Baltimore might get the new team. St. Louis is supposedly fading. Anheuser-Busch wants a football team in St. Louis, so it will get one. Plus, the city already is constructing a domed stadium downtown. Somebody will play there, either an expansion team or the New England Patriots.

But if it's not Baltimore that makes a run at our Rams, it will be someone. The Rams, the Los Angeles Raiders, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay all will play Stadium Blackmail at home, and some city will offer those teams an all-skybox stadium, 100 percent of the parking, 100 percent of the concessions and free personal transportation by Hovercraft, if necessary.

Anaheim could show some good faith by building a new Rams Park. Denver, Cleveland, Washington, San Francisco and Dallas all have their own facilities, although most of those clubs had enough integrity to build them themselves. The old elementary school the Rams use for their work week now is ridiculous. Most Southeastern Conference teams have nicer accommodations.

But Anaheim absolutely should not lift one finger to improve the Rams' standing at the stadium. The Rams-Angels argument over office buildings in the parking lot is still in court. The luxury boxes are there, and the upper deck is there (and wasn't that Super Bowl fun?) That's it. The Rams play in a perfectly adequate stadium, and it is up to them to provide a football team good enough to make us fill it.

If they want to take their footballs and go elsewhere, then they should get in their cars and start driving. The only thing we should build for them is a new carpool lane.

Aside from charitable activities (which all NFL teams engage in), the Rams have given us nothing since they went to the NFC title game four long seasons ago.

Since they began play at Anaheim in 1980, consider the plagues that have befallen us:

* The Raiders moved into the Los Angeles Coliseum the Rams vacated. This, we can all agree, was a disaster on all fronts.

* Anaheim Stadium grew all those extra seats, ruining the nicest baseball atmosphere in the American League. The Angels play 81 regular-season games there. The Rams play eight. Who would you try to keep happy?

* A procession of horrible quarterbacks marched into (and out of) our county. They made the QB position look so dangerous and complicated that untold thousands of county kids took up soccer instead.

* The extra seats made the Freedom Bowl possible.

* More importantly, the Rams and the Raiders almost never sell out. That severely limits our NFL TV schedule, thanks to the blackout rule. You can see far more pro football every Sunday in Laramie, Wyo., than you can in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside or Ventura counties.

If the NFL doesn't satisfy Baltimore this week, the Rams may indeed be gone.

If it happens, let's act like grownups.

Let's wait until they reach Mount Baldy before we start the party.

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