Is this thing on?
I hope you haven’t been holding your breath awaiting the next entry on Long Beach From Home. I am ashamed to admit that the last post was made over one month ago. Writing had been going swimmingly, with multiple posts per week and maintaining some routine of sharing thoughts. I have opened this window with the intention of writing; I’ve attempted to bring creativity or thoughtfulness or snark. I’ve had sleepless nights contemplating themed entries. Nothing has made it to the screen in 2016, until now…
Back on the wagon. Stuff has happened since December 15th. Let’s talk about it.
- HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: The trip began with a slow minivan ride from Long Beach to LAX, then breezing through security displaying new TSA pre-check status. I did not sleep a wink on my red-eye flight and was greeted at ORD with below-freezing temperatures and an itinerary that included breakfast and basketball. (NO NAP!) I would be home for nearly nine full days and intended to pack as much quality time with family and friends as possible. What was lacking in time spent out socially was made up sampling local breweries’ products.
- HOOP DREAMS: One of the first stops back home was watching my big little brother coach freshman basketball. His calm, mature demeanor along the sidelines is something I could apply while stomping and tantrum’ing and woofing at refs. Speaking of, Saturday I was recruited to officiate basketball for the first time since moving. I dug out my whistle and glasses and stripes and kept those hooligan parents in check. And while I was home, I made arrangements to re-up coaching 4th & 5th grade basketball in Long Beach. Games begin on-campus this week at Long Beach State. I am also hoping to see a handful of Clippers or Lakers or local college basketball games in the next few weeks.
- MIX IT UP: I made the resolution to eat healthier and more home-cooked meals. The idea of a Dry January lasted until the second when I tagged along at a birthday party that traveled from El Segundo to Manhattan Beach to Long Beach between multiple Ubers and IPAs. I bring my lunch to work (almost!) every day, but happily jump on board any time dining-out or catering-in is offered. The healthiest 2016 practice thus far has been my breakfast drink. I say drink, because I bought a cheap blender and this concoction is too lumpy to be considered a juice, and its ingredients are too eccentric to be called a smoothie. My morning pick-me-up has included some combination of apples, oranges, bananas, pears, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, peppers, peanut butter, yogurt, chocolate milk, nutella, and salsa. There are no recipes. There is abundant creativity. And there is some regret for not including tortilla chips alongside the spicy salsa creation.
- REBEL, REBEL: David Bowie (1947-2016) died January 10 after suffering from liver cancer. I never fully appreciated how talented Aladdin Sane was until turning on the David Bowie Pandora station and listening to all of the bands he influenced. Ziggy Stardust and all of his alter egos broke barriers in music, fashion, movies, and culture and his influence continues to transcend. His final album Blackstar was released two days before Bowie’s death and went to Number One on the Billboard 200 Chart. The guitar player from The Eagles also recently passed away and the guy who sang about American Pie got in trouble for domestic violence.
- WEST COAST IS THE BEST COAST: Los Angeles Sports Talk Radio has been consumed by the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, the Dodgers postseason struggles, and the concept of professional football in LA. Now that Los Angeles has been awarded the Rams, with the Chargers soon to follow, talking heads will need to find another abstract idea to fill air time. I do not believe LA needs the NFL, but I do think it makes sense to have two teams in Los Angeles as opposed to St Louis or San Diego. Los Angeles will be New York West with a state-of-the-art facility hosting two teams’ home games, draft, combine, studios, housing, retail, commercial development… Hopefully an In-N-Out too.
- IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK: I continue to be open-minded and willing to try new food and drink and socialize and pal along with new people. I have reconnected with West Coast friends and continued the year long bender ritual of “Hey, wanna meet for a drink?” I’ve eaten pheasant sausage, eel sushi, pancetta pizza, shrimp & grits, and bone marrow corn with cheese… long removed from the days of plain chicken sandwiches and spaghetti. It’s great to return “home” and into the regular routine, although I’m not actually sure what that means and I’m still seeking improvement…
The National Football League has approved a deal to shift the team from St. Louis to LA, with home games likely to be played at the Los Angeles Coliseum before the team settles into its fancy new home in Inglewood in 2019.
The Rams made history when they moved from Cleveland to LA in January 1946 — the shift made the NFL a truly national sports league, with franchises spanning the totality of the American continent.
The original Los Angeles Rams won but a single title during their nearly 50 year run in LA, a 1951 championship in which they defeated the Cleveland Browns, 24-17. The game was televised coast-to-coast, an NFL first.
The Rams’ visual story is significant, too. In 1948, they became the first pro football team to feature a symbol or logo on their helmets, a primitive, hand-painted version of the ram horns that they still wear today.
The design was the brainchild of Rams running back Fred Gehrke, who had majored in art at the University of Utah. Gehrke joined the Rams in 1940 when they were still based in Cleveland. He worked as an aircraft technical illustrator for Northrop Aircraft in Los Angeles during World War II.
Gehrke was a versatile player for the Rams, playing both ways and returning punts and kickoffs. His versatility extended to the maintenance and care of the Rams’ helmets — he said that “for two years I touched up the bonnets after every game. I kept a can of blue paint and a can of gold paint in my locker, and even took them along on road trips.”
Riddell introduced plastic football helmets to the NFL in 1949 — the Rams’ horns were then baked right into the plastic, thus ending Gehrke’s helmet repair career. He retired from the NFL after the 1950 season, then became a pro football scout and executive, eventually becoming the general manager of the Denver Broncos in 1976. He passed away at the age of 83 in 2002, his unique legacy as artist/athlete forever secure.
In recognition of his Rams helmet design, the Pro Football Hall of Fame honored Gehrke in 1972 with the first Daniel F. Reeves Memorial Pioneer Award for a “significant, innovative contribution to professional football.”
The Sports Illustrated article further quoted Gehrke as saying the following: “I spent the better part of my life in football, and I’ll be best remembered for some work I did with a paintbrush, but that’s O.K. “I’ve been called the Da Vinci of football helmets, and that’s not all bad.”
In 1949, the Rams switched things up, a unique outlier year in the franchise’s mostly blue-tinged history. That year, coach Clark Shaughnessy authorized a color change to red and gold. Shaughnessy, the “Father of the T Formation,” was a graduate of the University of Minnesota. The Rams’ new color scheme could well have served as an homage to Shaughnessy’s alma mater.
LA went back to blue and yellow in 1950. The Rams eliminated yellow altogether from 1964-72, donning a very austere blue and white look that was perfect for an era in which black and white televisions dominated. They restored the yellow in 1973 — this moved with them to St. Louis, where the team won Super Bowl XXXIV.
That game would mark the final regular appearance for Rams blue and yellow. The Super Bowl champions made a switch to kick off the new millennium, to a darker, navy blue and to a metallic gold, colors that the team still wears today.
Welcome back Rams, a historic return to LA for a franchise that holds a special place in the visual history of professional sports.