After months of professional football as usual in Anaheim, Calif., Los Angeles Rams Coach John Robinson went tearing through old college scripts this week in search of ancient pep rallies.
In these desperate times for desperate Rams, Robinson needs to fan a student-body bonfire from a team of smoldering embers. Four straight losses will send most coaches running for Bartlett's."All the good stuff I've got to say I'm going to say it," Robinson said.
Six years removed from the college scene, he's still the last USC coach to have beaten Notre Dame. Let's see, how did that pregame speech go again?
Monday night, the sales pitch has been arranged to meet the team north of South Bend, Ind., just across the border into Chicago, where the Bears roam in the NFC's Midwest Division.
Welcome to the game of Us against the World.
College rah-rah tactics are difficult at best in the National Football League, where player attentions have long turned from pep-rallies to investment management.
Still, being Robinson's vocal chords worked especially hard during Friday's practice, at which Robinson coached and cursed with fervor not seen since his back was pinned to a stadium wall last season at Washington.
On that day, with his team still flailing after the loss of Eric Dickerson, Robinson pulled off a major Monday night upset over the Redskins, a team that would go on to better things, such as Super Bowl rings.
Robinson is looking for a similar emotional rescue. It's not the kind of plea that goes over big when the San Diego Chargers are coming to town. Or the Atlanta Falcons.
But the Bears are the Bears, and this is the Rams' only Monday night shot of the season. Imagine the ratings crash should the Rams bring their San Diego game-faces.
Robinson also knows that these are wounded Bears, perhaps primed to be taken on prime time. Darn the bad luck. Richard Dent, Chicago's All-Pro right defensive end, fractured an ankle during last week's 16-0 victory over Green Bay.
And making his NFL starting debut at quarterback against the Rams is Jim Harbaugh, who's taking over for Mike Tomczak (separated shoulder), who was taking over for starter Jim McMahon (knee).
How many times in life do you get an opponent's third-stringer?
But some wonder how different the Bears are with Harbaugh or Tomczak or Flutie or Fuller or . . . McMahon?
"It isn't like Denver losing John Elway," Robinson said.
Ditka has been saying it to his quarterbacks for years _ just don't lose, baby. And when could the Bears ever count on McMahon for a two-month stretch?
"People aren't willing to look back at 1985 when we had Steve Fuller in the lineup and we won four games the year we went to Super Bowl," Ditka said. "Of course, we won the games in the playoffs with Jim playing. But we won four games and beat Dallas, 44-0, with Steve in the game."