Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Merlin Olsen and a farewell to all that

The Rams have been gone from Los Angeles for twice as long as Merlin Olsen ever played for them.

Olsen died this week, and the Rams field teams in a different time zone, but he and his fellow Los Angeles Rams are still more identified with the team in the curled-horn helmets than just about anyone who’s played for the team since.

The Rams came to L.A. from Cleveland in 1946, the baby-boom year after VJ Day. In those early glory days, their blue and gold helmets showed black and white on that new medium of television.

As L.A. flourished in the 1960s, so did the Rams. I always loved their ornate names, like Restoration cavaliers': Norm Van Brocklin, Roman Gabriel, Merlin Olsen, all of them in the football Hall of Fame.

The team moved away from LA – but not far away – after the 1979 season. They went as far as Anaheim, which made former Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn declare memorably, ‘’Who’d go to see the Anaheim Rams?’’ Lots of people, as it turned out, but not enough to keep the team from skedaddling to St. Louis after 15 seasons in Disneytown.

Merlin Olsen was a rare sports star whose second career at least equaled his first; his entertainment work, and then his charity work. I'm sure there were some Gen X-ers who were surprised to find in his obituary that the man they knew as Jonathan from ''Little House on the Prairie'' had played world-class football as one of the Rams' ''Fearsome Foursome.''

I don’t miss having a pro team in LA – no blackouts of any NFL games, after all. But I miss not having been here in time to know the spirit of those Rams, and that Ram in particular.

-- Patt Morrison


Comments () | Archives (5)

The comments to this entry are closed.

David A. Leon

Howdy Pat,

I have watched you on PBS and listened to you on NPR for quite some time. 18 years to be more precise. With your broad interest in the field of public affairs and political history, I was quite surprised to see you publish this tribute to Merlin Olsen.

The NFL Network is housed on Washington Blvd in Culver City, and they gave Merlin quite a tribute yesterday. Rosey Grier did an interview with them that was hard to watch. He was very grief stricken. Steve Sabol, the genius behind NFL Films presented a new short film tribute to Merlin, and made a personal statement in front of the camera. The Commish Roger Goodell issued a public statement. I can assure you that every Pro Football Hall of Famer from the 60's and 70's era will attend Merlin's funeral. They will all be there.

Expect the Rams to return to the City of Industry sometime between 2012 and 2014.

old ram fan

hey pea brain they still screw us with football telecast. why doesn't los Angeles have double headers every sunday, on all channels. and just cause you don't want a team dosen't mean other people don't!

j b

The world has lost a very special human being. A take no prisoners football player and a gentle giant on the tv screen. Merlin Olsen is gone but he won't be forgotten.


Mr. Morrison,
Thank You - in this world of, I want this and I want that, I like this and I don't like that - it's nice to read something which brings back a time when it wasn't all about money. The ends and means were favored on the means side. He was part of a simpler, honest time in this great game. A time I wish many others had a chance to enjoy as well. Keep touch those reader! and again - THANK YOU

James Hoper

WOW. I admired Merlin Olsen so much. I saw him play for the Rams on TV and knew he came from Utah State. Saw him with Michael Landon on "Little House on the Prairie" TV series and as "Father Murphy." A wonderful person and family man. As a broadcaster he had in my opinion the most beautiful golden voice of them all. Now that's going a long way with me because I was once a broadcaster myself in radio and Merlin Olsen had the golden voice if anyone did. I always knew his voice immediately on commercials and Children's Miracle Network. Earth's loss is heaven's gain. God Bless you all and the family of Merlin Olsen. Read his Biography. A truly good and true man and friend. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin_Olsen



In Case You Missed It...



Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

In Case You Missed It...