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Byline: Doug Krikorian

ATLANTA - Well, crime - err, greed - does pay.

The Rams, those carpetbaggers from Los Angeles who descended on St. Louis four years ago when they were able to fleece the city for a $300 million public-subsidized stadium, are now undisputed champions of the football universe in a development that is an apt reflection of the mercurial financial climate of modern-day America.

In beating the gallant Tennessee Titans 23-16 on Kurt Warner's 73-yard scoring pass to Isaac Bruce with 1:54 remaining before 72,625 at the Georgia Dome, the Rams not only won the first Super Bowl in their history, but also assured their lovable caretaker, Georgia Frontiere, a place in the sporting pantheon.

Frontiere now holds the distinction of being the first female NFL owner to accept the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which she did here Sunday evening from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to the loud applause of the good citizens of St. Louis, where this hometown gal has become an overnight icon because of the thrilling heroics of her team.

And, oh, did she take this opportunity to crow, and, oh, did she mock L.A in another classic display of her charming nature and sterling grace.

``This proves we did the right thing in going to St. Louis,'' she said.

The one-time nightclub singer isn't exactly these days a revered figure in Los Angeles, where she scandalously mismanaged the Rams franchise for so many years and became such a despised figure that she was forced into having her financial guru, John Shaw, go through the ungodly spectacle of hustling her team around the country to the highest bidder among NFL-starved cities.

St. Louis turned out to be the biggest civic spendthrift, and it's ironic that this fine hamlet next to the Mississippi River is in a position to celebrate today only because of Frontiere's shameless corporate bungling in Los Angeles and because the Missouri politicians weren't shy about sticking their constituents with taxes that would cover the Rams expenses.

After all, the Rams had been an imperative part of the Southern California landscape for 49 seasons, and their fans went through all their countless heartaches and their occasional joys that never, alas, included a Super Bowl triumph.

Ah, those old Rams loyalists in L.A. would have had a passionate fondness for this Rams team that exorcised so many past playoff demons because it happens to have a masterful quarterback, Kurt Warner, a modern-day John Unitas, who has developed a knack for throwing game-winning touchdown passes in late January games.

Somewhere, Deacon Jones, deprived in his career of even making it to the Super Bowl with punishing road losses on the tundra against the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, has to be smiling today.

So does Jack Youngblood, the great defensive end who played with a stress fracture in his leg in the Rams' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1980 Super Bowl and was deprived of making a couple of other Super Bowl appearances because of bitter losses to the Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys.

And I'm sure Dennis Harrah and Tom Mack and Fred Dryer and Roman Gabriel and Marlin McKeever, all who suffered so many frustrating moments with the Rams, have to feel a sense of happiness about the vast accomplishment of their former team that stylistically looks the same on the field with the players still adorn in the trademark Ram horn helmet and royal blue, gold and white uniforms.

Of course, the Rams, as Georgia Frontiere coyly pointed out during her postgame blatherings, is now a St. Louis proposition.

And Warner, who as recently as five years ago at this time was bagging groceries in Iowa to supplement his income, has surpassed Mark McGwire as the leading St. Louis cult figure.

There is something talismanic about Warner, because such good fortune never visited the Rams in the past when the fates always seemed to conspire against them concluding a season successfully.

He earned the MVP trophy for his 24-for-45, 414-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Titans, but it was that 73-yard scoring pass to Bruce that that will be replayed well into the new millennium and that ultimately settled the tense issue.

And what made the completion even more impressive was that Warner was heaved to the turf a moment after he threw the pass, a condition he suffered often against the fierce Tennessee rush. Nothing intimidates this remarkable rags-to-riches fellow who has emerged as one of best quarterbacks in the league, which is a shining testament to the judgment skills of NFL scouts who never thought he could play in the league.

A week earlier, Warner saved the Rams from almost certain doom against Tampa Bay with that 30-yard, game-winning scoring pass to Ricky Proehl.

And, until he and Bruce hooked up with their magic act that resulted in people dancing on the streets in St. Louis and people in Los Angeles reacting in a bittersweet manner, it seemed as though the Titans might pull off still another implausible victory.

But these Rams aren't like their failed predecessors.

The Titans, so noble, so courageous, so resilient right down to the final play of the game when Kevin Dyson was stopped at the Rams 1-yard line by linebacker Mike Jones after catching Steve McNair's pass, would quickly find that out much to their distress.

The Titans staged the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, but that made no difference.

Dick Vermeil was too old and as destined to be fired this season, but that made no difference.

Georgia Frontiere was bitterly booted out of L.A., and was advised to start her own laughing academy, but that made no difference.

She's on top of the world today.

And that's a parable that says a lot about the world in which we now reside.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 31, 2000

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