Rams may at least provide PSL answers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The St. Louis Rams can achieve a dubious distinction today.

After getting routed by the Carolina Panthers, 45-13, last week, they can become the first team to lose back-to-back games to last year's expansion teams, Carolina and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Rams, who play host to Jacksonville today, are now 1-5 this year and in a 3-13 free fall since a 5-1 start a year ago in their first season in St. Louis.

The Rams, who went 5-11, 3-13, 6-10, 5-11 and 4-12 in their last five years in Anaheim, Calif., brought in a new general manager, Steve Ortmayer, and coach, Rich Brooks, after they moved.

But a series of key moves has backfired. They traded Jerome Bettis and Sean Gilbert, who are heading toward the Pro Bowl in Pittsburgh and Washington, and signed quarterback Steve Walsh, who's been benched.

They also drafted controversial running back Lawrence Phillips, who has made more headlines for his exploits off the field than on it.

John Shaw, the team's president, is an expert at making money deals, but has problems producing a winning football team. Asked if he was satisfied with the performance of Ortmayer and Brooks, Shaw would only say, "I'm not addressing that specifically, but I would say that we're dissatisfied with the performance of the team."

If the Rams can't turn it around in the next year or so, they may have a short honeymoon in St. Louis. But they could accomplish one thing.

They would provide the first real test of the value of permanent seat licenses.

The boosters of PSLs argue that one of the benefits of them is that the buyer owns the seat and can resell it.

But what happens if the team keeps losing? That usually leads to a decline in season-ticket sales.

Will PSL holders keep buying season tickets if the club keeps losing in the hopes that the team will turn it around and the PSL value will increase?

Will they try to sell them for half price or whatever they can get?

Will they just give them up and stop throwing good money after bad?

In St. Louis, 46,000 fans paid between $250 and $4,500 for PSLs, and nobody knows how they'll react if the losing continues.

"There's no long-term track record," said Max Muhlemann, the Charlotte marketing expert who devised the St. Louis campaign and is doing the same in Baltimore.

Muhlemann notes that Charlotte Hornets season-ticket holders, who didn't have to pay a fee to get the rights to resell their tickets, have tended to renew when the team has struggled.

He added: "The PSL owners feel like stockholders, and they do have a vested interest and a vested pride in the team."

Goodnight, David

It's usually not big news when a team elevates a third-string quarterback to backup status.

But there were major ramifications when Giants coach Dan Reeves announced last week that he had moved rookie Danny Kanell past Stan White into the backup spot behind Dave Brown.

Reeves told the quarterbacks about the move last Saturday, but didn't announce it until the next week. It clears the way for Reeves to bench Brown after a few more bad showings.

It's been obvious for a long time that Brown can't do the job. But George Young, the general manager who drafted him, hasn't wanted to admit Brown can't play and signed him to a big deal in the off-season.

Reeves, meanwhile, didn't want to admit the quarterback he drafted in Denver, Tommy Maddox, can't play. He wasted time in the exhibition season in starting Maddox for a game.

Reeves finally cut Maddox, but was reluctant to rush Kanell in as a rookie. Nobody knows if Kanell can do the job, but he shows potential, and the Giants might as well start finding out if he can be the quarterback of the future.

Meanwhile, Brown, who is either naive or doesn't want to admit the truth that his days are numbered, said, "Everybody wants to make a story out of it when there is no story to make."

Staying healthy

Jim Harbaugh of the Indianapolis Colts is having another storybook season, but the question is whether he's going to survive it.

He's taking such a beating because the Colts' offensive line isn't that good and coach Lindy Infante sends so many players out on pass patterns that Harbaugh doesn't get much blocking. The Ravens even put Harbaugh in the hospital last Sunday night.

Infante brushed it off saying, "He's taken some shots. He's a tough guy. It goes with the territory."

Meanwhile, Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, who tutored Harbaugh last year, is trying to get Vinny Testaverde to copy Harbaugh's style and act excited on the field.

"One of the things Ted mentioned to me," Testaverde said, "is that as hard as you are on yourself when you do something bad, you should be as excited when you do something good. I think that was something I was lacking.

"He was talking about Jim Harbaugh, and I see him and he gets real excited. It made me think a lot about it. I'm starting to come out of that shell and getting more excited when things happen," Testaverde said.

One more thing he's got to copy is Harbaugh's knack for making winning plays. Testaverde's putting up good numbers, but his underthrowing Michael Jackson in the fourth period last week was another example of him not making the winning play. That's one of the reasons Harbaugh is 5-1 and Testaverde 2-4.

The Alomar factor

The Roberto Alomar spitting incident may have helped cost the San Francisco 49ers the Monday night game in Green Bay.

Coach George Seifert feels Steve Israel was penalized 15 yards on the game-tying drive for complaining to the officials because of the Alomar incident.

"We were notified prior to this game that because of what happened in baseball that the officials were going to be particularly sensitive to those types of issues.

"We talked to the club about it, but you get in those situations, and a coach talking to them for a couple of minutes after practice doesn't get the job done. It cost us," Seifert said.

Israel said he touched the official on the shoulder to get his attention in an attempt to get an explanation for a 5-yard, illegal-use-of-hands penalty he had been assessed.

The prodigal son

It was no surprise that Michael Irvin got a lot of cheers -- along with some boos -- on his return to Texas Stadium last Sunday.

As guard Nate Newton said, "Say what you want about Dallas. The Cowboys believe in forgiveness. Loyalty. Outside of murder, you can't do too much wrong on our team."

Pub Date: 10/20/96

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