Our House, in the Middle of the Street

Chip Rosenbloom and I have so much in common, we’re basically brothers. I mean, except for a few hundreds of millions of dollars in net worth, and the career in Hollywood, that is. No, I mean we’re both working on a pretty significant rehab project — and we’re both living in it while we’re doing it.

We’ve had this house seven years now (and I’m speaking literally here — I’ll hit a big flashing red siren when the metaphor starts), a small house in south city built in 1926 or so. When we moved in, it looked sturdy enough, even though it might could use some cosmetic upgrades here and there. So we’ve fixed up here and added on there, without getting too deep into the infrastructure (or keeping our eyes wide shut when we did).

But now, we’re looking to sell it. And just as we’re getting into making things right so we can sell at full market value (whatever that turns out to be in this economy), we’re discovering all these insidious little things wrong with the place — rotten wood in the door and window frames; mildew in the A/C; decrepit plaster hidden behind ancient wallboard; bricks buried in the yard like land mines.

Metaphor Alert!

We’ve been lucky on one hand, in that the house has a good foundation, a good roof, and a decent neighborhood. On the other hand, just like the Rams, we’re discovering so much about the place that was half-assed by some previous owner, when a whole ass or more’s worth of effort was clearly called for. Every time you start to fix something, you discover two or three related things that need fixing first.

We already tried painting over problems. And that was fine when all you wanted to do was maintain appearances, preserve the status quo. But of course, it doesn’t hold up, and sooner or later people find excuses not to come by. Even we get tired of how crappy things have become, but wonder whether it’s worth the effort to fix.

But there’s a cautionary tale just a few blocks away from us: the Cincinnati Bengals of the neighborhood. The rehab process was obviously started but never completed — expensive brand new siding covers 3/4 of the house, but the back side is completely open to the elements, and the roof is starting to cave inwards. No one knows where the owners are, or if they even give a damn, except for when they cut the lawn every three months. That’s not going to be us, not this house.

Now that we’re motivated, we’ve been throwing all kinds of resources at the place, checking off items on the big to-do list. Even though it still doesn’t look right and there’s still plenty more to do on the list, we’re proud of the effort — an honest effort for once — and the small positive results give us both satisfaction and motivation to keep this up, to make this place as good or better than it’s ever been.

And say what you want about Rosenbloom’s openly stated desire to sell the Rams — he’s already put in the difficult work of rehabbing this organization from the inside out. The Rams’ house is stronger already than it was when he and Lucia took it over. And some of these improvements should start to manifest, we hope, in this season’s outcome.

But I’m starting to feel that just dumping Shaw, Zygmunt, and the band of misfit coaches is a lot like putting a dumpy old dishwasher and some ratty old sofas out by the dumpster. Sure, the new units look great and work great by comparison, and they’re central to the house… but there’s still a lot of smaller but more insidious problems that have yet to be discovered or even fixed.

For example: we made much of the Rams’ dedication to improving the offensive line, but we are still dependent on three questionable foundation pieces in Incognito, Barron, and Bell. The Rams are breaking in a new offensive scheme that promises to be some sort of run-happy version of a west coast offense, but we’re hoping that we can find solid wood under three years of rot on Marc Bulger. Our defensive coordinators want to attack, but we have a lot of holdovers from a defense that has more weak spots in it than my front lawn.

I’m cautiously optimistic, but this kind of thinking will significantly color my thinking this week, as we get set to publish our 2009 Rams Season Prediction (Edition 1: lick finger, hold in air).