As we are about to start on another season without a National Football League franchise in Los Angeles – its 17th – should we really be concerned about having a team in the second largest market in the nation?
In the 16 seasons since the Raiders and Rams left, the NFL has exploded, new teams have popped up and despite the most recent lockout, the game is as popular as ever. It is easily the No. 1 sport in America.
Since Christmas Eve, 1994 there has not been a NFL team in L.A. when the Raiders and Rams drew a combined ~95,000, or a little more than the capacity of one of the stadiums. Mrs. Throwback Attack was at the Rams game that day. I was home watching the Raiders. Upon further review, neither of us were sad to see the teams leave.
And that’s one of the reasons why it’s not a big deal to have the NFL in L.A.
But, looking out the window of the Throwback Attack headquarters – situation in beautiful Southern California – we now realize why the NFL has not fully been embraced since leaving.
While there are massive heat waves encompassing the nation and a hurricane chewing up the eastern seaboard, it’s 80-something here, clear and gorgeous. It’s like that almost every day. The weather, the natural geography of Southern California and the idea of constant activity in the greater L.A. area allow too many people too many other choices.
Want to go to the beach? It’s within, at most, an hour’s drive for anyone. Want to go for a hike, or enjoy the mountains? Again, at most an hour’s dive.
A gameday experience is expensive. NFL ticket prices are high, along with parking, entertainment expenses (food, drink, team gear) will set back a pair of people a couple hundred bucks. In L.A., people would rather spend their money on all the other options – terrific food and some of the world’s best entertainment.
Let’s also not forget that Las Vegas is about a four-and-a-half hour drive for everyone in the Los Angeles area. For a couple hundred bucks – the same price as one NFL game – you can eat like a king, stay in a fancy hotel, drink until your liver explodes and have a lifetime of stories – from PG to X rated. Plus, you might come home with some winnings which is far better than just returning home from a game with a W.
Los Angeles is also a huge melting pot of people, gathered here because of the beauty and the ability to try and live out pie-in-the-sky dreams. It is full of transplants from around the country. Why do you think every year more and more people come from the Midwest? It’s because they watch a Big 10 team in the Rose Bowl and it’s 70 degrees and sunny while they’re stuck in a grey slate of snow and ice and misery. “Pack up the house, Mildred, we’re moving there!” All the people that move here already have a “home” team. Walk into a sports bar on any given Sunday during the football season and you’re bound to see at least 10 different jerseys or shirts of teams outside of SoCal. It’s a destination for people to live – manifest destiny, if you will – and they bring their team with them.
Plus, in the 16 seasons without a team any fan of the NFL has adopted a team to call their own. People in Orange County have become Chargers fans. Others like the Packers, or the Steeler, or the Cowboys because of their traditions. Think about it – a junior in high school has not had an NFL team in his lifetime. You think in the five or so years he’s been a fan of the game he hasn’t drawn some allegiances to a team?
Does bringing a team to L.A. really create a new fan base? Sure, it will be exciting, but the teams mentioned to fill Farmer’s Field – with a potential opening in 2016, another five years! – are not some of the best in the NFL. You think the fickle, front-running fans of L.A. will root for a crappy team? (Besides, when USC was dominating college football, that was L.A.’s taste of pro football since they had celebrities, [Matt Leinart] guys getting paid [most everyone] and a bunch of front-running fans. Now that USC has come back to earth a little bit, tickets are easier to come by and, as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone.)
If the NFL really, truly wanted a team in the second largest market in America, why would they allow teams to be built from the ground up in Jacksonville, Carolina, Houston and Cleveland and allow the old Browns to move to Baltimore? Oh, sure, there’s plenty of legal jargon that I don’t care about – and neither do you, frankly – but if the NFL is supposedly so powerful, they could force themselves into L.A.
- The weather and surrounding geography of L.A. entices people to do more things than go to football games.
- People in L.A. have far more options on spending their money than, say, people in Minneapolis.
- The culture of L.A. would rather worry about arts and entertainment, being foodies and shopping.
- Las Vegas beckons.
- Transplants scattered across SoCal already have a rooting interest in other teams.
- L.A. fans would not have patience for a bad team to grow. Besides, it’s a large market and you have to succeed. The Chargers get a pass every year because they are in a smaller market, but a team in L.A. that doesn’t win would lose any fans and fast.
- The NFL is grandstanding and says it cares, yet a lot of teams have been created without coming to L.A. The NFL is laughing all the way to the bank.