RamView, July 23, 2016
Legends of the Dome Game: White 56, Blue 49
St. Louis Rams, 1995-2015. RIP. Thanks for the memories.
|Just a generic Dome again, as it was in 1995|
So the occasion here is today's Legends of the Dome game, a flag football game starring a couple of dozen former St. Louis Rams players, and put together by Isaac Bruce, a man far more decent than the league he played in, to raise money for his charitable foundation and to give fans and players a chance to thank each other for the good times. I came into this event completely regarding it as a funeral, but Isaac and company pulled it off. It was a fun event.
Position by position:
* QB: Let me tell you, Marc Bulger (of the winning White team) can still wing it. He threw an 80-yard TD to Torry Holt that he placed perfectly between two deep defenders, and he dropped a perfect 35- or 40-yard pass right in the bucket to Torry that turned into another long TD. Also, by scrambling for a couple of gains, I believe he exceeded his NFL career rushing total. Kurt Warner's game showed a little more, um, maturity. His passes still have the classic Warner Wobble and I think a number of the back-shoulder throws he made weren't meant to be back-shoulder throws. Still, the first time he hit Isaac Bruce deep down the sideline, it was 1999 again. Unfortunately, Kurt threw the most near-picks and the game's only pick, in the end zone by Tony Horne (!), and you'd have to call that the play that decided the game. After three quarters, Brenda Warner (who was actually in attendance) made Mike Martz pull Kurt out of the game (j/k), and the final TD scored in the Dome by an NFL player was scored by... Dave Barr, who scrambled in from the 3 for the Blue team as time expired. Raise your hand if you knew Dave Barr was a St. Louis Ram, but that's a tribute to Isaac that such a broad range of players from St. Louis Rams history came here to be part of this event.
|Kurt scans the field|
|Marc scans the field|
* RB: Arlen Harris was the only true RB in the game, and I believe he scored a TD. The rushing star, though, had to be Adam Timmerman, who scored his first Dome TD I believe on a direct snap (tricky Martz) and got another carry off a fumblerooksi play (tricky Martz again). Those might have been the only handoffs all game (meaning Martz was right at home).
* Receivers: A number of the guys really look like they can still play. Torry Holt scored 3 or 4 TDs and looked like a coil ready to spring every time he lined up. Az Hakim turned a short pass into an 85-yard TD, bringing back memories of opening Monday night 2000, even if he didn't have teammate Torry convoying with him this time. Brandon Manumaleuna scored a TD, making him the most useful Rams TE to play in the Dome since, well, Brandon Manumaleuna. Dane Looker caught a TD and threw for another, a downright bullet to (I think) Tony Horne. (Tricky Dickie V. this time). Tony seemed to have gone into the witness protection program after the Greatest Show days, so it was nice to see him alive and well and looking good. But only one receiver was truly (M)money, today's secret weapon, Jeff Wilkins, who caught two TDs from Warner and lined up in the backfield a lot. That's about the only guy Martz didn't get the ball to during the Greatest Show, so he made up for it today. Isaac Bruce scored the Blue team's first TD, caught half a dozen deep digs and was open deep any time he wanted, but even though this was his game, his foundation, his brainchild, you weren't ever going to see him complaining about not getting the ball. That's just Isaac Bruce. He was the perfect person to put this game together for this city. Also playing: Rickey Proehl, Roland Williams and Shaun McDonald. Ernie Conwell was in attendance but I don't think he played.
|Tony (alive and well) Horne|
|BOB N WEAVE|
|Torry celebrates another TD. Timmerman and McCollum also did this after Adam's TD, a pic I regret I didn't get|
|Torry off to the races again...|
* Offensive line: Orlando Pace was honored at halftime for his upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame, and he also got what was said to be his first touch in the Dome on one of the White team's multiple lateral adventures. In case Timmerman's career change to goal line back wasn't amusing enough, there was also the play where he got a lateral and then lateraled it away to fellow Donut Brother Andy McCollum. Chris Massey, fittingly, was one of the snappers. Wayne Gandy and Grant Williams also took the field.
|Hall-of-Famer Orlando Pace|
* Defensive line/LB: The line combat was roughly as intense as it is at any given Pro Bowl. Most of the time, it was get out of your stance, stand there, try to knock down the pass. Sean Landeta was a pass rusher for a few plays, for cryin' out loud. The one violator of the Pro Bowl rule was Jeff Zgonina. Zgonina's that kid in your pick-up game who believes the U.S. has a state called “Misp” instead of giving the proper 3-Mississippi count, so he had Bulger on the run a few times. Mike Jones is built a little more like a DT these days than a LB (hey, so am I), but you could see the old instincts kick in. He tossed enemy flags to the turf with enthusiasm. One of my favorite plays: on the goal line, Bulger dumped off to Roland Williams but Mike Jones downed him right around the two-yard line and threw his flag down with glee. Of course Mike Jones was going to make the stop in that part of the field! Also playing: D'Marco Farr, Ray Agnew, Tommy Polley, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Chris Draft. D'Marco got a cool tribute during the game in the form of a legends-of-the-game video like the one that used to show during games here for Deacon Jones. To be honest, “tackling” wasn't any worse than it was in a good half of the current team's games last season.
|Wild-eyed Samoan boy Pisa Tinoisamoa|
|D'Marco Farr may be sending this game tape to the league office. They'll just say the referees were 100% correct anyway, like they always do|
* Secondary: They weren't exactly playing press-cover out there. Receivers got large cushions, and, just like the Greatest Show days, the dig route was wide open just about any time either offense wanted it. It was fun watching Aeneas Williams mug Tony Horne at the line a couple of times so he wouldn't have to chase him around. Aeneas had a certain INT clang off his hands later. Dre Bly and Mike Furrey also had what I'll generously call pass breakups. WRs were pressed into playing DB and vice versa, so the game's key play was Tony Horne's end zone INT. His White team was already up a TD at the time and they stayed in front from there. It was very cool to see Isaac lined up in coverage against Torry late in the game, but Bulger didn't throw that way any of the times I saw those two squaring off. Dexter McCleon, Keith Lyle, Billy Jenkins and Rich Coady also played, as did Cliff Crosby, who scored a TD on offense.
|Hall-of-Famer Aeneas Williams: still sticky in coverage, if not always legal|
|Cliff Crosby dives for paydirt|
* Strategery: Al Saunders was Vermeil's assistant coach. Martz's was the legend, Jim Hanifan, who is 82 years old, needs a cane to get around and needed a chair to sit in on the sideline, but who made damn sure he was there for this event all the same. How do we get Hanny into the Hall of Fame? In one of the game's biggest surprises, Martz actually saved all his timeouts for the end of the half. After all the years, shoot, he fixed that!
|Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders|
|Jim Hanifan and Brenda Warner|
* Upon further review: The referees were all volunteers and didn't do much besides spot the ball. Not a single flag was thrown, even though there were some false starts and (friendly) muggings in coverage. Wilkins got knocked down after one catch, which you'd think would be a penalty in flag football. Eh, they were still better than Jeff Triplette would have been. Grade: A-minus
|At the coin toss (Jackie Joyner-Kersee in red shirt)|
* Cheers: I estimate at least 10,000 fans came out; higher attendance than that would not surprise me. Fun moments during the game included Zgonina chasing down Hakim while he showboated at the end of his long TD, Mike Furrey getting his shorts pulled down on a tackle (thank goodness for compression pants), and me thinking that was Rickey Proehl for a full quarter afterward. In my defense, they're both bald white guys wearing #87 jerseys. Just about every player praised and thanked St. Louis fans at some point, whether by pre-taped video or on-field interview. On behalf of all of us, aw shucks, no, thank YOU. As 10,000 of us in blue got replaced downtown by 40,000 in red heading to tonight's Cardinals-Dodgers game, a friendly but clueless woman on Broadway rolled down her car window and asked, what was going on in there? Why are there so many people wearing Rams shirts?
Yep. Still a baseball town.
|Post-game team picture|
|Thank you Isaac|
* That'll do it.: This is the final RamView; I have watched my last Rams game. Fans are about love of the game, but leagues are about love of money, and the NFL made that clearer to this love-addled fool than ever before with its loathsomely greedy, back-stabbing, duplicitous and biased behavior that has returned St. Louis to football purgatory, permanently this time. My disregard for the team going forward will be equally permanent. Should Jeff Fisher pull off the unthinkable and lead the team to the Super Bowl, it'll be the Puppy Bowl that night for this guy. Or, much more likely, I'll wait till kickoff and then pop in a DVD of Super Bowl XXXIV. For the many of you staying with the team, or who got your team back: I've got no quarrel with you and wish you the best of luck, and I think Roger Angell would agree:
It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look – I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of the this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring – caring deeply and passionately, really caring – which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time where it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete – the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the hap-hazardous flight of a distant ball – seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
St. Louis Rams forever.