Call it Rams' World." Get a soap company to sponsor it and a hollywood flack to publicize it. The result could be the first hit sports soap opera in TV history.
The plot has the elements for instant success. A mysterious blond president, intrigue in the front office, the shocking death of the leading man, bickering among the in-laws, injury to the handsome young quarter-back-hero and, for a climax, the underdog team pulling a frank Merri-well by struggling to the Super Bowl.
This is the season of the Los Angeles Rams, pro football's former stepchild turned sentimental favorite.
You expect Hollywood from the Rams and you get country-western. You expect glamor and you get cowboy boots and toothpicks. You expect a smooth quaterback and you get a player clled "spacey" by teammates.
But mostly you get twists and turns from this team no one though would ever wind up in Pasadena to face the fearsome Pittsburgh Steelers. A scriptwriter couldn't dream up everything that the Rams have endured this year. It would seem to ludicrious.
"Unless you've lived through it, you can't understand what this year has been like," guard Dennis Harrah said. "Playing football has been the easiest part."
At a press conference before the NFC championship game, Ram Coach Ray Malavasi was asked if he preferred, as some of his athletes had indicated, to play on the road rather than before a home crowd.
"Yes," Malavasi told a bunch of stunned reporters. "The crowd in the Coliseum has been on us pretty good at times this year. We seem to play better on the road."
Unbelievable. No coach in the NFL probably would have made a similar statement. Home field advantage, especially in the playoffs, is considered almost as vital in the league as an experienced quarterback and detailed computor printouts.
Malavasi wasn't kidding. The Coliseum has been more of a foreign field than home stadium for his team this season. The Rams have been booed heavily and crowds made news by being consistently the smallest in years. Maybe that is why they were 4-4 in Los Angeles and 7-3 on the road.
This should be a joyous week for Malavasi and his players. They are the first in Super Bowl history to be playing in their hometown. They can use familiar facilities, they can sleep home at nights instead of at a motel and they have local newspapers defending their every move.
Yet the Rams have spent much of the time saying how happy they will be to move next year to Anaheim, which showed the baseball world how to treat a team through its love affair with the Angles.
Playing in Anaheim will suit this squad better. From the days of Bob Waterfield and Jane ("Cross My Heart") Russell, these have been the Hollyrams, toys of celebrities. No more.
Since the death of owner Carroll Rosenbloom last spring, there have been more celebrities in the "Monday Night Football" booth talking to Howard Cosell than at Ram practices.
"I expected to see stars dropping by every day at practice," said rookie Jerry Wilkinson. "I havent seen one at practice. I'm still waiting with my autograph book."
Fifty of the 60 Rams under contract with the club already live in Orange County. There are more pickup trucks than Mercedes in the parking lot. For a dozen or so Rams. Southern California is made tolerable because quail and duck hunting is an hour's drive away.
"Call us hillbillies or country boys or cowboys" defensive back Eddie Brown said. "You see more boots and cowboy hats in out locker room than anything else.
"We even have a black cowboy (Larry Brooks) from Virginia."
"People out here don't understand a country boy from Monticello, Fla.," said defensive end Jack Youngblood.
"If it weren't for the hunting trips, I don't know if I could tolerate life here," said Brown, who grew up in rural Tennessee. "Life is so much different. I still think it is crazy living here.
"But the team reflects the place. It's laid back. I can be very unemotional."
Certainly, the Rams will be fired up for the Super Bowl, but not in the same way a George Allen-coached Redskin team might be. "There isn't the same rahrah," said Assistant Coach Torgy Torgeson, a former Washington staff member. "But it's better than last year. All of our problems have pulled things together more and made them closer."
But this can be a strange club, nevertheless. One week, it can hold Seattle to minus yards total offense; the next it can be embarrassed by the Giants.
"We don't have a personality," said one player, "and that may be our problem. If we played up to the level of our ability every week, no one would be surprised we are in the Super Bowl. But hell, some weeks the will to play wasn't there."
And this is just the opening episode.
Ask Georgia Rosenbloom a question about football and the best answer you might get is a blank stare. She'd much rather have you read her biography in the Ram press guide. It was written, in flowering terms, by her private PR man.
She is president of the Rams because her husband drowned in Florida in April. His will turned over control of the team to her instead of his son, Steve, a well-liked, thoroughly groomed football man.
When Steve tried to run the club on his own, as executive vice president, his step-mother fired him. "Carroll warned me about him," she said. Time out for a commercial.
Switch to Malavasi. He became coach in 1978 when Allen was fired by Carroll Rosenbloom after two exhibition games. Malavasi never seemed more than an interim choice, something he read constantly in the newspapers this season.
To compound his problems, he saw his club devastated by injuries. Sixteen starters missed at least one game. The record fell to 5-6 before he told his players "if you lose another you'll get Allen back." The Rams finished strongly enough to grab the West Division title a seventh straight time.
But along the way they lost star quarterback Pat Hayden, who broke the pinkie finger on his throwing hand after completing 11 straight passes in a game. Vince Ferragamo, the spaceman with no pro starts to his credit, became the No. 1 quarterback. He was okay as long as he could remember the plays in the huddle.
Switch to the playoffs. The Rams had built a notorious record for choking in postseason play, never having advanced to the Super Bowl despite all those conference championships. This appeared to be an unlikely time to change their reputation considering how poorly the club had played in the regular season.
Now for the Merriwell dramatics, guaranteed to boost the ratings.
The Rams go on the road, where they feel so comfortable. They play Dallas. America's team. Ferragamo completes a touchdown pass with two minutes left to leave Uncle Sam crying. On to the NFC title.
Again, a road game. This time, Tampa Bay quarterback Doug Williams appears to be trying to throw passes to the Goodyear blimp, instead of to his befuddled receivers, Despite not scoring a touchdown, a first for a conference championship contest, the Rams win, 9-0. On to Pasadena.