Tag Archives: sports

Jim Jodat…Buddy Holly Glasses, Iron Man

So I’m watching a Rams/49ers game from 1977 when announcer Vin Scully mentions to his cohort Sonny Jergensen that the Rams kick returner is wearing coke-bottle, Buddy Holly-style glasses, which immediately catches my attention. I had never seen such a thing and was instantly intrigued. Who was this guy? (note: this was also Joe Namath’s last game as a starter for the Rams, outdueling Jim Plunkett 34-14.)

I must admit that Jim Jodat certainly didn’t look like much of an athlete, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote.

He had a squatty build and suspect eyesight, but he sure could run. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Milwaukee native also had a fanatical work ethic and gritty determination that drove him to become Carthage College’s career leader in rushing, to play in the NFL for seven seasons, and to return the opening kickoff in Super Bowl XIV in 1980.

In 1976, Jodat was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 12th round of the NFL draft, the 344th overall pick. He went on to play with the Rams, the Seattle Seahawks, and the San Diego Chargers over seven seasons.

Jodat spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a sprained knee. In 1977 he made his mark on special teams since the Rams’ backfield was clogged with talented backs John Cappelletti, Lawrence McCutcheon, Cullen Bryant, and Wendell Tyler.

“He was behind a lot of great players with the Rams, but Jim was never a guy to try and talk a coach into more playing time,” Tom Brannon said. “He just didn’t have that kind of personality.”

In January 1980, Jodat appeared on the cover of The Sporting News as the special teams’ captain for the Rams. Jodat, as mentioned above, returned the opening kickoff for Los Angeles in Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, the Steelers won, 31-19 after the Rams let a 19-17 lead dissolve in the fourth quarter.

Jodat died on October 21, 2015, of cancer in Lake Forest, Ca.

John Hadl RIP

John Hadl played just one full season for the Los Angeles Rams, but it was one of the franchise’s best.

With Hadl at quarterback in 1973, the Rams finished 12-2 in the regular season. Never before had the Rams achieved 12 regular-season wins, not even with renowned quarterbacks such as Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, and Roman Gabriel.

Described by The Sporting News as a “quiet, majestic leader,” Hadl was 82 when he died on Nov. 30, 2022.

Hadl had 33,503 yards passing and threw for 244 touchdowns during his pro career, but his route to becoming a quarterback was hardly conventional. He was a halfback for his hometown school, the University of Kansas, before shifting to quarterback his senior year. Kansas used a Split-T formation, so Hadl mostly handed off the ball, or carried it himself, and didn’t develop a pro passing style.

The Detroit Lions selected him in the first round of the 1962 NFL draft, intending to play him at running back, but he signed with the San Diego Chargers, who took him in the third round of the AFL draft because they offered him a $17,000 salary, a new Thunderbird and a chance to play quarterback, the Kansas City Star reported.

When Hadl got to the Chargers, he had to learn to throw a spiral, according to the Star, but he was a quick study. Hadl’s long tosses to receiver Lance Alworth highlighted a wide-open offense and helped the Chargers get to the AFL championship game three times, winning once.

Hadl’s flashier counterpart, Joe Namath, called him “the best passer in the league,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, and Chargers head coach Sid Gillman told the newspaper that Hadl was “the most complete quarterback. There’s nothing about the game he doesn’t know.”

The success didn’t raise Hadl’s stature much outside San Diego. As Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray noted, “Playing in San Diego is like spying for Russia. It’s steady work. but nobody knows what you do.”

In March 1971, Hadl was thrown from a horse, fracturing his skull and damaging his left eye, but recovered in time to keep playing. The Chargers, though, had gone to a ball-control offense and it wasn’t working. After three consecutive losing seasons (1970-72), Hadl wanted out. “I’m just sick of losing with what I consider an antiquated offense,” he told the Times.

Hadl and the Rams were the right fit. Looking for help after Roman Gabriel hurt his elbow in 1972, the Rams dealt defensive end Coy Bacon and running back Bob Thomas to the Chargers for Hadl in January 1973.

According to Jim Murray, Gabriel “got near hysterical” about Hadl’s arrival. “He reacted the way a husband would if his wife left a callback number and it was Joe Namath’s apartment,” Murray wrote.

Unamused, the Rams traded Gabriel to the Philadelphia Eagles in June 1973. Gabriel had been a glamour boy in a glamour town. Hadl was, as Jim Murray wrote, “as Kansas as corn.”

“His hair, what there is of it, is short,” Murray wrote. “He conveys the impression of being pudgy, but his thighs and calves are so big you wonder if he gets his shoes at a blacksmith. The wrists look as if they could flick a football across Colorado with two throws.”

Responding to Hadl’s poise, passing and leadership, the Rams began the season with six straight wins and ended the season with another six in a row, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1969. Though they lost in the first round to the Dallas Cowboys, Hadl, 33, was hailed a success. He threw 22 touchdown passes for the 1973 Rams and was named NFC Player of the Year.

With his value at a premium, the Rams traded Hadl in October 1974 to the Green Bay Packers for five high-round draft picks, a move that helped achieve a run of eight straight playoff seasons (1973-80), including a Super Bowl appearance.

Though his stay with the Rams was brief, Hadl’s impact on the franchise was significant.

(This piece was contributed by Mark, proprietor of the impeccable Retro Simba.)

This Team Stinks

It was November football at its worst, played in the shadow of a billionaire’s shiny new toy and a cadre of bored celebrities. I have so many projects left unfinished–paintings left unattended and books left unread. Yet, I still find time to watch this team without fail every week and every week it’s the same lifeless dumpster fire. I’ve also considered that I could be doing other things like going for a hike, chugging suds at the local brew pub, or kayaking on the river. More life-affirming, nuanced pursuits. 

What happened? Well, the Rams are a horrible excuse for a football team, losing 27-17 at home to the god-awful Arizona Cardinals (who played without their own starting QB) to fall to 3-6 in a game that really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. This was an unwatchable display from every perspective and one could compare the experience to spending the weekend in a rainstorm with an ex-girlfriend that you particularly despise. This team has challenged the theory over and over that there are limits to incompetence. Still, as always, my loyalty remains…it’s just how I’m hardwired.  

Football is undoubtedly bread and circuses, but when it fails to appease why would you sit around and subconsciously suck up the endless array of overblown and heavy-handed truck and beer ads if you didn’t have to? Why would you watch an endless number of exasperating 3-and-outs while holding your head in your hands and wishing that lunatic Putin would just push the goddamn nuke button? Popular consensus and the good ol’ fashioned eyeball test tell me that this squad, frankly, sucks.

I have followed this team since 1986 when I (unfortunately?) fell head over heels in love, and have endured decades of dark and forbidding futility, including a prepubescent and unstable bedroom thrashing after a Wild Card loss to the now antiquatedly named Redskins. (that loss was a highlight compared to the 90’s dregs decade, and was also an early sign of my future psychotic behavior, or “fandom.”) Heed this stubborn and broken fan’s amusing and unjust example of testicular fortitude: “Wait ‘till next year!”

The Origin of the Horn

Fred Gehrke was a Rams halfback who was an art major in college and worked during the offseason as a technical illustrator for aircraft companies in Los Angeles. In early 1948, he had the idea to paint the team’s plain leather helmets blue with yellow ram horns. In those days, helmets sometimes had a stripe or two, but no one had ever thought to put a logo on one.

While this show of creativity seemed obvious to Fred, he had to take a helmet home and paint it for his coach to understand exactly what he was getting on about. ” I took one of those gosh-awful brown leather helmets and painted it blue, then made a free rendering of a ram’s horns in gold. It’s the same thing they have today, except the gold is now white, due to television. The blue-and-gold helmet was much prettier,” said Gehrke

When team owner Dan Reeves saw the helmet, he liked it so much that he offered Gehrke $1 per helmet to paint the rest of the team’s 75 lids over the summer. When the helmets made their debut on the field, the stunned L.A. Coliseum crowd reacted with a five-minute standing ovation. An icon was born.

Often, Gehrke would take helmets home at night to retouch the ram’s horns which suffered chipping damage from player collisions. Eventually, a logo frenzy followed. The Baltimore Colts followed with the second logo–the famous horseshoe. These were the first steps in creating team identities and brand loyalty that could be commercialized to generate income for teams and the league as a whole.

Gehrke died at the age of 83 in 2002.

Jack Snow, Palm Springs, and Chuckie Manson

“Hippie is all yesterday’s headline bullshit.” –Allen Ginsberg

Snow and Elizabeth Montgomery

Sherri was from Florida and smoked Marlboro Lights. She was from a very small town–a coastal town so humid that it called for tube tops and short shorts that barely concealed the beads of sweat dripping down her hairless legs. This was an existence of double-wide trailers, crack cocaine, titty bars, barely legible tattoos, and a life philosophy of “I need my shit.” 

Despite her dubious upbringing, I liked Sherri, so when she asked me to house-sit over a weekend in Palm Springs I obliged because I wanted to soak up some rays by her pool and maybe even party with her degenerate neighbor, who just happened to be a semi-famous game show host (now cancelled) from Vancouver that didn’t have many friends and was adamant about global warming denial. A relaxing way to commune with myself. 

“You can smoke pot inside, but there is no internet so I’m not sure you’re gonna make it out of here with your mental health intact,” she briefed. “And keep it mellow…no Miles Davis crap.” (I didn’t get the reference either, perhaps she was intimating his infamous heroin habit?) 

There was, however, a television from what looked to be the Nixon era, so I decided to embrace the nostalgia tapestry and settled on a show called Bewitched from 1969. LA Rams receiver Jack Snow just happened to be a guest on this episode, and Snow was magically transported (by a witch, of course) in this fictional world from the gridiron to a department store where high jinks ensues. When informed he was now in New York he looked dumbfounded. 

“I was just playing the Cowboys in Dallas, Texas,” he said, “and was running a down and out pattern.” (Snow was known to have excellent hands, and his son, J.T. inherited those trusty mitts as he was a 6-time gold glover in the big leagues)

There was also a Rosemary’s Baby reference in this episode which was a sobering moment as director Roman Polanski’s wife would be murdered roughly six months after it aired. A group of brainwashed, hippie dope fiends snuffed out her and her child’s life over an unrelated dispute between Charles Manson and Byrds producer Terry Melcher, who just happened to be Doris Day’s son. The so-called end of the “Summer of Love” thanks to a drug-addled criminal and a bored Beach Boy (Dennis Wilson’s solo project left much to be desired) who just simply wanted to fuck mud-caked hippies proves that there truly is only one relevant subject–the relation of beings to time. 

Rams make Bangles feel a “Manic Sunday”

Poor girls never stood a chance.

I decided to try something different and be a bit more social, so I attended a SB party at the behest and invite by my equally anti-social “lady friend.” This was the type of party where everyone would listen in rapt attention as someone recounted a plot in a movie they had seen recently or a trivial disagreement with a co-worker: a mishmash of nightmarish, repetitive, anti-narrative while the most mundane modern pop and Axe Body Spray wafted and commingled in the background.

There was a sense that everyone was desperately trying to be charming and urbane. Of course, I was made to feel like a caveman for drinking beer instead of margaritas, unapologetically tearing into the hors d’oeuvres, (kudos to the hired old lady that created them–and who was obviously unimpressed by the soul-crushing atmosphere) and actually being concerned about the outcome–but with both parties enjoying the consummate pinnacle of self-congratulatory, late capitalistic, trashy, commercialized absurdity…who can judge?

What can I say that hasn’t been blathered ad nauseam about this game? (even I’m tired of hearing about the X’s and O’s) I certainly didn’t start writing to become redundant, and that seems to be the MO of any sports writing hack with a laptop and limited knowledge of sports history and even more limited writing skills. These Bangles weren’t the mustache-twirling villains like the Patriots. No, my friends, these were the dumb-luck, up-and-comers who gave Cincinnati fans the delusional fantasy for about 2 weeks that they had the greatest QB of all time! Perhaps a fool’s paradise is a better option than a loser’s purgatory–and don’t most of these nitwits live in (shudder) Ohio? I seriously want to imbibe on whatever psychedelic substance they were collectively smoking, (I’m envisioning a Jefferson Airplane video with Grace Slick twirling around in a Ja’Marr Chase jersey, bathed in a spinning, multicolored strobe light with a couple guys off camera whipping bath towels to spread the dry ice smoke.) but as I like to often say, “sports does weird shit to people.” 

A random idiot had the gall to say L.A. was “Raiders Country” until I finally spoke up, no doubt miffed by the Radiohead/PM Dawn remix in the background. 

“I have lived in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade, good sir, and not ONCE have I seen a single piece of Raiders gear being worn by an actual human.” 

Another ham-fisted narrative, spoken for the sake of narrative, burned to the ground. Tinseltown is a city where you can’t even walk to the corner store without seeing a Dodgers cap, so the unadulterated fandom is there–just not on the side of the one-eyed pirate and their billionaire owner whose hair is occasionally cut by a blind 8-year-old with a salad bowl and pruning shears. 

We all know what happens. Cooper Kupp on a jet sweep on 4th down. Matty Stafford with the no-look pass to Kupp for a 22-yard-gain that destroyed the hearts, minds, and delusions of many Cincinnatians, (Perhaps the death of WKRP’s fictional Johnny Fever was a close second?) as Aaron Donald impersonated Lawrence Taylor in Tecmo Bowl “beast mode” to end the game. Grown men crying, formulating excuses and conspiracy theories, essentially making Cowboys fans look like the apex of masculinity and good sportsmanship. The good guys get the trophy and I’m elated because I waited 20-plus years to see this again, and all the B.S. seems to drift into the background. I stumble home knowing my cats were going to be troubled that I wasn’t there to give them dinner. It’s hard to believe, but they really don’t give a toss about the Rams or the Super Bowl…the hungry little bastards. 

This Movie Is Watchable When Drunk

Oh, boy. Another gratuitous movie review that will undoubtedly float unread in the ether, and I’m going to keep it short and sweet. Before I get into this flick–I feel the need to add that I admire Kurt Warner as a person. I always thought he was kind of humdrum–but overall he’s a likable guy, a funny prognosticator, a snazzy dresser, and someone who brought this once-proud franchise a bit of respect after being a laughingstock for a decade. 

The Kurt Warner movie American Underdog can be summed up by, “You don’t have what it takes.” 

And then he, indeed, has what it takes–the ultimate football movie trope. 

This is a very simple movie.  I expected a down and dirty, gritty football film, ( à la Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard) but what I got was The Notebook with a sprinkling of working-class “don’t have a pot to piss in” schmaltz and vague spirituality around the edges. The football scenes feel artificial, with players moving in slow motion and the QB having the follow-through of a 12-year old who has never thrown a football in his/her life. The green screen effect makes you feel as if you’re in some sort of ethereal dimension (Shazam in the Multiverse?) rather than a football stadium, and that’s once you get past the multitude of quick-cut-edits that give you a vague sense that you’re having a stroke. 

In multitude were the scenes with Kurt’s wife trying to inspire #13 and giving him advice “a man can really stand by,” which are obviously supposed to be the tear-jerking, moral fabric, meat of the movie, but I was constantly distracted by Anna Paquin’s bad wig–a haircut never seen on a woman in my general stratosphere, which can only be described as “Star Wars Cantina” or “Canadian Chic.” There was also enough 90’s denim in this movie to throw Japanese hipsters into a collective murder frenzy. (but that could be a good thing?) All of the aforementioned coagulates into giving this movie a tinge of “it’s so bad it’s good” but never quite getting there because it takes itself way too seriously even though it teeters dangerously on being a Lifetime throwaway “chick flick.”

Coping mechanism

Actor Zachary Levi is the only thing that makes this movie somewhat watchable. I loved him in Shazam! and his character is just as likable here, but his sense of humor and comedic timing–which made the DC movie so enjoyable–is sorely missing. It’s almost a joyless slog. By the hour and a half mark of the film I was screaming, “Can you please just become a great player and win the goddamn Super Bowl already!”  

What it boils down to is that this is essentially a Christian propaganda film made to appeal to the pious, family-oriented, megachurch crowd…or a Rams fan. (but juuuust barely) Otherwise, I’d pass. Call me cynical, but all this over-the-top “inspiration” can sometimes prove to be exhausting, and also demonstrates that NFL scouts either have to embrace better analytics or that players can greatly improve by playing in inferior leagues rather than standing around and carrying a clipboard with their thumbs up their butt. 

** out of 5

Vintage Cardboard Gems

I recently received these awesome vintage cards in the mail from Mark over at RetroSimba, (Check it out, it’s one of the most important baseball publications out there) and I was curious about the history of these cardboard gems. Here’s a wonderful vignette Mark wrote about those origins:

My boyhood world in the 1960s was Bayonne, N.J., a working-class city of ethnic neighborhoods across the bay from New York City. Depending on what part of town the Catholic church was in, you could hear Masses conducted in Polish, Italian, German, Spanish, English, and, of course, Latin.

Chuck Wepner, the heavyweight prizefighter, operated a liquor store on Broadway. They called him “The Bayonne Bleeder,” because of the pounding he took in the ring. Sylvester Stallone acknowledged Wepner was the model for the “Rocky” movie character. Like the city he came from, “The Bayonne Bleeder” was tough and streetwise. He went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali. When he worked the champ into a corner, Wepner stepped on his foot so he couldn’t shuffle, then knocked him on his ass.

Around the block from where I lived on 31st Street was Sam Pope’s candy store. Sam and his wife ran the place. She always was nice. Sam always was all business. He wore a wide, white apron and would pass for the twin of actor Vincent Gardenia.

The store was stuffed with stuff, but my attention was on the same items: Comic books, Spaldeens, popsicles, Chuckles candy, gum, and baseball cards.

A pack of baseball cards cost a nickel. I’d dig out a pack near the bottom of the shelf, the theory being that’s where Sam Pope was stashing the ones containing my favorite players. Nothing quite matched the exhilaration of spilling out onto the sidewalk, tearing open the pack, and examining each card, hoping that behind every Washington Senators player or checklist was a Hank Aaron or Roger Maris.

The start of the school year meant the end of the baseball card supply at Sam Pope’s. It felt like another lifetime or two would have to pass before the new sets arrived in spring.

Bring back these uni’s, please.

Then, on a visit to the store one autumn day, a batch of cards appeared on the shelf. What’s this? Football cards? Sweet Jesus. What genius thought of this?

On TV, football players were faceless people in helmets with big numbers on their backs. The football cards brought them to life. So, that’s what Merlin Olsen looks like.

The names and faces captivated the imagination. Is there a more perfect name for an offensive lineman than Tom Mack? On his football card, he looked as solid as the truck, too. A quarterback with the name of both a gladiator and an archangel? There he is–Roman Gabriel, looking the part.

I saved my baseball and football cards, adding more over the years. They accompanied me on every journey from childhood to adulthood.

Now, I like to give them to others to enjoy. Some go to a school in Indiantown. Others delight sons of friends or kids in my Florida neighborhood. And a few have found their way to a Rams blogger, a young talent with an old soul.

Horns Move On to the Bowliest of All Bowls

Not a good day for Jim Everett and company.

I needed to quell my pre-game anxiety on Sunday by self-induced psychosis, so I smoked a doobie and went on a long bike ride while listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Yes, I know it’s glorified stoner music with the lyrical content on par intellectually with the conversations I had last Saturday at 3 AM after drinking about 28 beers, but goddamn if it wasn’t working on this melancholic day. I actually saw a dog in a park running in slow motion over a large swath of grass and it made me feel quite peaceful. This 1973 album was subversive capitalism at its finest, (are those Jewish space lasers on the cover?) quite the opposite of the NFL, who punches you in the face with over-the-top commercialism while singing God Bless ‘Merica and skull-fucking logic, debate, and artistic sensitivity. I know what you’re thinking…have a beer and don’t overthink it, dummy.

These two teams had met in the playoffs only once before the current contest–the 1989 NFC Championship in which a Joe Montana-led 49ers group destroyed the Rams 30-3. I watched the game with a friend at my house, (on my mom’s forever 80’s couch that had vomited pastel flowers) and we were pre-teens so we drank sodas, ate popcorn, and talked about girls, heavy metal videos, and the new Batman movie. I quickly lost interest in the game as the boot-stomping commenced, and Montana further cemented his “Joe Cool” legacy, but the malady still lingered. I had experienced the highest of highs the week before when “Flipper” Anderson ran into the tunnel after a game-winning TD catch against the Giants in the frigid Meadowlands, and now I was going to receive piles of somewhat good-natured tauntings when I returned to school on Monday. That’s cool though, it’s all part of what it means to be a fan, and kids back then didn’t sweat the small stuff before youths became ketamine-snorting trauma-vultures and perceived slights had been raised as an art form.

This 1970 Billy Truax card was used as a sort of “good luck totem,” and it worked like a charm.

Sunday’s contest was a knock ’em down, gritty game, and I was feeling more uncomfortable as it unfolded because it seemed as if we were playing into their hands by mimicking their game. It took a brilliant 4th quarter by Matty Stafford and Cooper “YAC” Kupp to come out victorious by the smallest of margins, 20-17. I’m not going to bore you with statistics here, because that’s not what I do, but in the end, we served up revenge as it was meant to be served–cold. I can consequently let that game from 1989 be lifted from the recesses of my mind, but not before my 14-year old self dusted off a few cobwebs, climbed out from under a heavy load of memories, self-esteem issues, worthless knowledge, and mental psychosis to gift that team from San Francisco the middle finger. And I can assure you, that boy had been lying in wait for a very long time to do just that.

Rams Advance to Play the Bucs in the “Land of Strip Clubs” on Sunday

The “Bye Bye St. Louis” Bowl

What kind of idiot decides to do a weekly gridiron vignette when the season is almost over? Well, I suppose it takes a special kind of stupid but you can’t decide when inspiration strikes and that’s what ostensibly happened.

As the devil himself said via the Rolling Stones, “Please allow me to introduce myself.” I have been a Rams fan since 1986, and not once have I cried when my squad was eliminated from the playoffs. (ok, well maybe I shattered a few random things against the wall) The question is– will Cowboys fans ever shed their reputation as (literal) crybabies after being outed on national television sobbing en masse like toddlers? Redemption isn’t foreseeable anytime soon, as the memes were flying and people actually stopped watching porn or trolling political forums for a few hours Sunday evening in order to join the melee. Kick ‘em while they’re down I say–particularly those smug asswipes from Texas. Give the song “The Crying Game” a spin if you get the chance, it’s a 1964 classic crooned by Dave Berry and it’s frightfully fitting for the dystopian shit show that occurred in Arlington that day. I think we can all agree that it’s a favorable time to be a therapist in the greater Dallas area.

Tonight’s game in LaLa Land brought back memories of an ex-girlfriend whose father would play bocce ball in the park with his friends while ingesting copious amounts of red wine, prosciutto, and smoked meats. We would lay in the grass while the old men smoked cigars, and she’d read my horoscope–which I thought was a sham–but she was a beautiful Italian girl, and I let her read to me so I could listen to her voice and watch her flip her hair while the sweat would bead above her lips. Her family had transplanted to Phoenix (a desolate, hot as balls, facsimile of hell) and her dad would tell me almost gleefully, “The Rams aren’t worth a shit!” in the New York City linguistic tradition of being biased against pronouncing an “r.” How could I be offended? I’d been hearing that for over 20 years in multiple linguistics to the point of exhaustion, and I was also respectfully shagging his daughter, my fidanzata.

Well, it was a fun game for about 2 quarters, but the contest was in the barf bag pretty early helping Matty Stafford finally get the malicious playoff monkey off his back. I ran out of beer in the 3rd quarter, so I stumbled to the corner store without fear of missing anything. The Rams now advance to play Old Man “Tuck Rule” Brady and the Buccaneers next week in the tropical, and full-on batshit crazy “Land of a Million Strip Clubs.” Brady is 44 years old and apparently still playing because of his vegan diet, a nightly cold cream made from the blood of virgins, and a softer, more humane NFL. Will he be gently touched on the shoulder garnering a “roughing the passer” penalty? Tune in to find out! Earlier in the day, I was aimlessly checking out LA Rams sites where I stumbled upon an (inspirational?) poem written by an 8-year-old called “Keep on Ramming It,” and for some reason, football wasn’t the conjured imagery. Thanks for keeping pigskin innuendo alive, kid–let’s keep the spirit of John Madden in our hearts and in our dirty minds.