You hate to give too much credit to Goliath, or even any, but it sure feels as if the NFL got this L.A. thing right.
For starters, it’s great the biggest league worked it out for the Rams to move back to Los Angeles. The franchise had the most historic connection to L.A. – the Bob Waterfield-Norm Van Brocklin quarterback controversy of the championship 1950s when it led the league in attendance nine of 10 years, the George Allen renaissance of the 1960s, the Ground Chuck (Knox) offense of the 1970s, and Eric Dickerson in the 1980s.
Who can forget owner Dan Reeves calling Allen at 8 a.m. on Dec. 26, 1968, with the holiday greeting, “Merry Christmas, George. You’re fired.” Reeves loved to fire coaches, with eight in 19 years. But he also broke the color barrier in professional sports, signing Kenny Washington and Woody Strode to the Rams in 1946, a year before the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson. For that reason alone, it’s good the Rams won the L.A. sweepstakes.
If you’re a 49ers fan, you should especially like the Rams’ return.
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If you’re a 49ers fan, you should especially like the Rams’ return. It resumes a rivalry that used to draw more than 100,000 to the Memorial Coliseum in L.A., and it rekindles old-timers’ memories of Kezar Stadium, where Dirty Harry shot Scorpio in the leg, in the movies, under the stadium lights.
It also gives Northern California fans another reason to scream “Beat L.A.,” as if they needed one. Did tens of thousands of fans ever shake a stadium with cries of “Beat St. Louis?” They didn’t need to – the town already had been beaten. Just ask the Rams, who ripped St. Louis and its economy as the Gateway Arch disappeared in the rear-view mirror.
The NFL also nicely positioned the Chargers and Raiders to leverage their stadium situations in San Diego and Oakland.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos was given a one-year option to lease or buy half of the new Rams stadium in Inglewood. It took Spanos about 10 seconds at Tuesday’s news conference to announce he’s interested in qualifying a stadium deal for the ballot in San Diego. With hundreds of millions in public money at stake, it’s only right that the people should get some input. If they decide they don’t want to help Spanos, they can always take the Surfliner to Inglewood. Hopefully, Amtrak will add the stop.
If Spanos doesn’t exercise the option within a year, then the deal shifts to the Raiders. Majority owner Mark Davis says he doesn’t really want to leave Oakland, and you have to believe him or otherwise conclude he lied to Raiders fans, as well as the Supreme Being, when he told them and Him at the NFL’s “public hearing” in October, “As God as my judge, I’m with you all.”
Now he has another year to prove it by working out a stadium deal in Oakland. In the meantime, the Raiders can play in O.co Coliseum on a new, one-year lease, an arrangement they should make immediately.
L.A. does not need the NFL and never did. We’ve got the oceans. We’ve got the Kardashians. We’ve got all sorts of stuff.
Daniel Durbin, USC clinical professor of communication and an expert on branding, mass media, popular culture and sports
Davis and Spanos were each given the promise of $100 million from the NFL to throw into their local stadium plans. That and about $900,000,003.50 could just about buy a football stadium and a cup of coffee at the Temple, which would be worth it. The Raiders should help retire the remaining debt from the $250 million the city and county borrowed to build Mount Davis, the Coliseum expansion monstrosity designed to bring the Raiders back from L.A. in 1994. Until they pay it off, they have a moral obligation to stay in Oakland.
While the NFL made the right moves in getting the Rams back to Southern California, it should be clear the decision was not one of public beneficence. The NFL repositioned itself into the market of 18.5 million people to enhance the best interests of its 32 owners and their $10.5 billion enterprise. Maybe the league looked into the future and saw that in another generation, it will face an existential threat from soccer to its standing as the country’s most popular sport, and that L.A. could become ground zero in the confrontation between futbol and football.
One thing’s for sure, the second-largest market in the country, amazingly, learned that for 21 years it could live quite comfortably without getting its identity from “The Shield.”
“L.A. does not need the NFL and never did,” said USC clinical professor of communication Daniel Durbin, an expert on branding, mass media, popular culture and sports. “We’ve got the oceans. We’ve got the Kardashians. We’ve got all sorts of stuff.”
When the Rams move to Inglewood, they’ll probably fill the stadium for a year or so, before the crowds fall off, which they will unless the team with nine consecutive losing seasons turns it around. But the Dodgers will still be there, and so will the Angels, Trojans, Bruins, Kings, Ducks, Clippers and Lakers, and the Galaxy, and the Hollywood Bowl, Los Lobos, Canter’s Deli, the Watts Towers, the street tacos in MacArthur Park, and the mountains and beaches and dreams of people everywhere that will forever make it the relocation capital of the world.