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Restoring Rams to greatness would honor his mother's legacy
By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
NEW YORK — Chip Rosenbloom was 14 when his father, Carroll Rosenbloom, drowned in the rough surf near the family's beachfront home in South Florida. Chip was on the beach, the last person to see his father alive before the elder Rosenbloom disappeared into the waves.
Rosenbloom perished on April 2, 1979. But the traumatic experience haunts Chip to this day; he still speaks about it with a sense of shock. But the tragedy brought Chip Rosenbloom even closer to his mother, Georgia Frontiere, who owned the Rams until her death on Jan. 18.
Chip and his mother had an incredibly tight bond. She was not only a nurturing mother, but a best friend. Frontiere spent the final five-plus months of her life in the hospital, trying desperately but unsuccessfully to survive the devastation of
terminal breast cancer, and Chip was there with her.
During those five agonizing months, Chip maintained a bedside vigil for all but seven days. And on four of those days, he was absent only because his mother demanded that he get away to rest and be with his family.
As Rosenbloom watched over his mother, he put his successful film career on hold. His wife, Kathleen, and their son Alexander, 14, and daughter Olivia, 10, spent many hours at the hospital. But in many respects, Chip and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez, had to go this alone.
"There were moments of incredible hopes where we felt like she was going to pull through and we'd have many years with her," Rosenbloom said. "And then there were moments of incredible sadness. It was a really rough time, roughest time I've ever been through. I guarantee you my sister would say the same thing.
"At 14, losing my dad was obviously very traumatic. It was so sudden. I couldn't imagine a world that my dad wasn't in. In my mom's case, you talk about her beauty, her vitality, her charisma, her energy, just everything. She was so amazing and inspiring, and in the hospital, she still had that. I mean, you look at her face and you say, 'She shouldn't be here.' "
Rosenbloom, 43, is the Rams' new managing partner and de facto owner. But he's still grieving over his mother's death. He traveled to New York this week to meet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but there was a more soulful reason for the trip: Chip and Kathleen stayed in Georgia's Manhattan apartment, and sorted through her belongings in preparation of closing another period of her life. It saddened Chip, but his mood rallies.
"To my mother, to Georgia," Rosenbloom said as he raised a toast Monday night at Frontiere's favorite Italian restaurant. "This is what she would want, to see everyone together and being happy." MORE BERNIE
After Frontiere's death, there was only one thing that Chip and Lucia figured they could do: honor her legacy, and their father's, by restoring the Rams to greatness.
Chip and Lucia are strong family people. (Lucia and her husband have four children.) And these unbreakable family ties are a significant part of what drives Rosenbloom.
It explains why Rosenbloom is sensitive to long-term employees whom his mother viewed as "family," and for now will give them the benefit of the doubt. He wants to take ample time to observe, probe and become familiar with the organization's strengths and weaknesses.
And if you expect him to sell the Rams, it may not happen for many years, if at all. An NFL franchise has been part of the Rosenbloom family since 1953. That's important to him.
"It's a family business," Rosenbloom said. "It's so strange to even think of not having this team."
And if you expect Rosenbloom to immediately start firing people, you'll be disappointed. This goes back to Georgia, and those days and nights in the hospital.
For example: Before she died, Frontiere expressed her desire to retain head coach Scott Linehan. "She made it clear. 'You have to support him.' She made it clear he deserved a third year," Rosenbloom said.
Along those lines, Rosenbloom won't disparage, let alone terminate, team president John Shaw or general manager Jay Zygmunt. They were his mother's most trusted aides and friends. Part of that inner family circle that includes Chip.
Does that mean Shaw and Zygmunt will be in these roles for life? No. Rosenbloom is concerned with the state of the franchise. Behind the scenes he is asking tough questions, the right questions, about the organization's approach to football, marketing, business and image in the St. Louis community. Rosenbloom wants the 2008 season to play out before reaching any conclusions.
"A bunch of decisions were made prior to my mom's passing," Rosenbloom said. "I support them, including the decision to keep Scott. We want to win, and we'll do everything we can to win. But at the same time, it wouldn't be fair to her legacy, and to the people who are there, to make judgments before the season. But we all know that if you don't win, you have to assess the team."
Rosenbloom is busy with his family and his film career. He was a credited producer on the documentary "Fields of Fuel," which recently won the prestigious audience-choice selection at the Sundance Film Festival. But Rosenbloom doesn't want the Rams to be an afterthought.
"Obviously, anybody that has kids, that's your priority," he said. "But the team's a priority, too. And my career's a priority. So there is a balance. I'm going to have to find the balance. It's been 5½ weeks since my mom passed away. We're trying to get our hands around all this. And figure out how to deal with her estate, how to deal with my own career, and not upset the balance of our lives. But at the same time, give St. Louis a winning team and some consistency and have the spirit of the community behind the Rams."
Rosenbloom's heart is in the right place. I've said it before: He's a good man. And I believe he will be a good owner. It's just that he's entering a potentially overwhelming phase of his life, and needs time to adapt. But Chip is motivated to honor his mother and father by making their team a winner. And that's a powerful incentive.
Re: Restoring Rams to greatness would honor his mother's legacy
Makes you proud to be a Rams fan. =]
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