SPORTS DIGEST: Return of Rams won’t matter if they don’t win


January 14, 2016

My friends that have remained die-hard Rams fans over the 21 years since Georgia Frontiere relocated the team from Anaheim are ecstatic. Their Rams are coming home.

As for me, I’ll wait till September to get excited. Maybe.

Georgia and her general manager John Shaw lost me when they traded Eric Dickerson to the Indianapolis Colts in 1987. Frontiere and Shaw basically told Rams fans that they could make money without Dickerson, which told me that making money was more important than winning football games.

The Rams weren’t very competitive after Dickerson left, the fans quit showing up in Anaheim to see them and Georgia took them to her hometown in St. Louis, which was happy to have a replacement for the Cardinals, who had left for Arizona in 1988.

Like many native Angelenos, the Rams were my team growing up. Eddie Meador, Roman Gabriel, Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen.

That was after they got good. I remember the years they were coached by Harland Svare, when they had guys like Pervis Atkins, Carver Shannon and Bucky Pope, and the 1963 and 1964 NFL seasons when the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship with former Rams Bill Wade and Frank Ryan, respectively, at quarterback.

I still watch the NFL every Sunday. I just don’t have a favorite team.

The Rams could become my favorite team again, but they will have to earn it and the only way they will earn it is my putting out a team that competes for the NFC Western Division title every year.

There’s a good nucleus. Head coach Jeff Fisher is a USC alum, so they have that going for them.

In Todd Gurley, they have one of the best young running backs in the league, another Dickerson or Lawrence McCutcheon. Tavin Austin is a multipurpose threat who can break free on just about any play, He just has to learn how to catch the ball.

The Rams have a tough, hard-nosed defense, just like in the good old days.

So I could become a Rams fan again. “Just win baby,” as another former NFL owner from these parts used to say.

If they don’t win, Ram owner Stan Kroenke will learn something many a local sports franchise owner has learned. There’s a lot of things to do in L.A., and everyone here loves a winner. Losers might as well leave town.

COLLEGIATE SUCCESS: Other than the television ratings, the second year of the College Football Playoff system was a success.

Alabama’s 45-40 victory over Clemson Jan. 11 was a great game to watch, especially the fourth quarter, which saw both teams combine for 40 points.

The two semifinal games could have been closer and that might have affected the ratings, which were dismal compared to last year when the semifinals were played on New Year’s Day, rather than New Year’s Eve.

For some reason, the people who run the playoff system are insisting on keeping the games on New Year’s Eve next year, when a move to Jan. 2 would produce better ratings (Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday next year and the college playoffs will get lost in the final week of the NFL season).

I still think it is inevitable that the college football playoff will expand to eight teams someday, but the playoff system is a major improvement from the Bowl Championship Series.

USC basketball coach disagrees with an official’s call at a recent game. After two rough seasons, Enfield has the Trojans off to a 14-3 start this season. (Courtesy photo)

USC basketball coach disagrees with an official’s call at a recent game. After two rough seasons, Enfield has the Trojans off to a 14-3 start this season. (Courtesy photo)

ENFIELD INROADS: When Andy Enfield was hired to turn around USC’s basketball program in 2013, he was one of college basketball’s hot young coaches. He had led Florida Gulf Coast University to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, the first number-15 seed to advance that far.

Enfield’s first two seasons at USC were forgettable. The Trojans were a combined 23-41 and were not a factor in Pac 12 play.

Now in his third year, Enfield has three recruiting classes under his belt and now has his kind of players. All of a sudden USC is a force to be reckoned with in the Pac 12 after defeating seventh-ranked Arizona, 103-101 in four overtimes Jan. 9.

Six players are averaging between 12.9 and 10.8 points a game, as balanced a scoring lineup as anyone could want.

In Jordan McLaughlin, Enfield has a point guard who can the push the ball up the floor and set up his teammates or score himself. He’s the leading scorer and assist man, although junior guard Julian Jacobs isn’t far behind him in either category.

Nikola Jovanovic provides inside muscle and scoring and 6-10 freshman Bennie Boatwright provides a three-point shooting touch.

Sophomore Elijah Stewart out of Westchester High has started 12 of the Trojans 17 games and is contributing 10.8 points per game.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi says if the season ended today, USC would be a sixth seed in the NCAA tournament.

With two months to play before March Madness, anything can happen but Enfield is showing that with his own players, he can coach with the best of them.

California Basketball Association Commissioner and CEO Mike Miller, left, and Compton Airmen Coach Russell Otis, right, welcome Renardo Sidney to the new league. Sidney was the first player chosen in the CBA’s inaugural draft. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

California Basketball Association Commissioner and CEO Mike Miller, left, and Compton Airmen Coach Russell Otis, right, welcome Renardo Sidney to the new league. Sidney was the first player chosen in the CBA’s inaugural draft. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

MINOR LEAGUE BASKETBALL: While on the subject of basketball, a new professional basketball league will open play this winter. The California Basketball Association will field six men’s and women’s teams throughout Southern California.

The men’s league will have teams representing Beverly Hills, Compton, Hollywood, Long Beach, Los Angeles and Orange County and opens play Jan. 24. The women’s league will have teams representing East Los Angeles, Harbor City, Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and the San Fernando Valley and opens play Feb. 14.

All games will be played on Sundays at the USESS Center, a privately owned gymnasium in Compton. The season will run until May 15, followed by two rounds of playoffs. The championship game will be played June 5.

The best known name in the league so far is Russell Otis, the former coach at Compton’s Dominguez High, who will coach the Compton Airmen

The Airmen’s first draft pick was Renardo Sidney, who played at Artesia and Fairfax high schools before playing college ball at Mississippi State.

None of the other 48 players drafted Jan. 10 were familiar to me.

The women’s draft will be held Jan. 23.

Jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates his victory in the Kentucky Derby on American Pharoah, which went on to win horse racing’s Triple Crown, one of the top Los Angeles sports stories for 2015, according to the Los Angeles Sports Council. (CNN photo)

Jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates his victory in the Kentucky Derby on American Pharoah, which went on to win horse racing’s Triple Crown, one of the top Los Angeles sports stories for 2015, according to the Los Angeles Sports Council.
(CNN photo)

TOP SPORTS MOMENTS: Southern California sports fans can cast their online ballot for the top sports moments of 2015.

The results will be revealed during the 11th annual LA Sports Awards, which will be held Feb. 25 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Among the year’s top sports stories are: Ronda Rousey defeating Cat Zingano in 14 seconds in a UFC bout; the Clippers defeating San Antonio in the NBA Playoffs; Santa Anita-based American Pharoah winning horse racing’s Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic; the Clippers resigning DeAndre Jordan; Los Angeles hosting the 2015 Special Olympics World Games; Los Angeles chosen as the U.S. candidate city for the 2024 Olympics; Mike Trout’s sensational catch robbing Seattle’s Jesus Montero of a home run; the Rose Bowl hosting the Confederations Cup playoff game between the U.S. and Mexico; Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw becoming the most dominating pitching teammates in 50 years; Dave Roberts being hired to manage the Dodgers; USC defeating UCLA to win the Pac-12 South; Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement; UCLA upsetting number-one Kentucky in basketball; local sports icons Trevor Denman and Bill Dwyre retiring and three NFL teams vying to move to Los Angeles.

In addition to the countdown of the year’s Top 10 moments, the ceremony also will feature the presentation of the Sportsman, Sportswoman, Coach and Sports Executive of the Year Awards.

The LA Sports Awards are an annual televised awards show produced by the Los Angeles Sports Council to celebrate the greatest sports moments of the year in the Los Angeles/Orange County area.

The awards ceremony show will include appearances by some of the athletes and coaches whose achievements helped make 2015 a memorable sports year.

The “Greatest Moments” concept originated in 1995 when the Sports Council created a special event celebrating The 100 Greatest Moments in Los Angeles Sports History.  At that time, L.A. Dodger Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run was voted the No. 1 all-time moment.

To vote, visit www.Facebook.com/LASportsAwards and click on the tab near the top of the page reading:Vote for 2015’s Greatest Moments.Voting takes place through Jan. 25.

 

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