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Merlin Olsen and a farewell to all that

March 12, 2010 |  9:29 am

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

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