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The NFL and Los Angeles: A (mis)match Made in Heaven

 photo courtesy of wikipedia

Any day now, fans of the San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders will learn which of their teams will be making the move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and beyond. Chances are two of them will be making the move, setting the stage for the return of pro football to the city of Angels.

This has been a culmination of a two-decade long process in which the NFL and, in recent years Roger Goodell, have been (not so gently) nudging owners to bring a team back to Los Angeles. 

It appears the NFL will get their wish by approving not one but two teams for a return to Los Angeles. A move that no doubt will be celebrated. Owners and Goodell should proceed with caution, though. After all, are football fans and the city of Los Angeles truly clamoring to bring back franchises that left the city high and dry once before?

The NFL has had its opportunity in Los Angeles in the past. The result? All three of these teams ended up leaving for greener pastures (Or in the case of the Chargers, the AFL-NFL merger in 1961 and the subsequent move from Los Angeles to San Diego).

The Raiders organization once was housed in Los Angeles under the ownership of Al Davis. Davis loved to toy with the hearts of Oakland and Los Angeles, seemingly moving this franchise between the two cities as often as the late George Steinbrenner hired and fired manager Billy Martin.

The Rams, meanwhile, left Los Angeles because they were tired of sharing a city with another franchise. And the lure of a new stadium also helped.

Now to be fair, it's not like the NFL is forcing these three teams to move. The owners went through the proper channels of filing relocation papers and the owners still have to vote on the entire situation. By November, though, the intent of the owners was pretty clear, as if they said, "Oh well.  We tried to make it happen in our current city. Plus, Los Angeles seems like a cool place."

Goodell, during his tenure as NFL commissioner, has always seemed to make it a high priority to expand the game and return a team to Los Angeles.  The idea being it is not right that one of the largest populated cities in America didn't have a team.  Pro football is America's sport and it deserves to have a team in Los Angeles. Oh, and the money generated from the television market alone will make all the owners and the NFL even richer.

Multiple failed attempts at building a new stadium in Los Angeles have failed over the years.  Bids have come up short and locations have not panned out.  Instead of stepping back and saying, "We're doing just fine as a league.  Maybe we should let a move to L.A. happen organically," the NFL has continued to press the issue, eventually letting the owners submit proposals to move their franchise to L.A., stadium plans and all. Who cares if two of these teams abandoned this city in the 90's?

Fans of the Chargers, meanwhile, are stuck because the owner and the city of San Diego refuse to find common ground in building a new stadium. Though the franchise is valued at over a billion dollars, owner Dean Spanos repeatedly asked for the city to fund the majority of building a new stadium. Fed up with the lack of progress over the years, Spanos finally submitted joint proposal with the Raiders to share a new stadium in Los Angeles (Or Carson, CA to be exact, on the grounds of a now closed landfill).

Speaking of stadiums, a new one will not even be finished until the start of the 2019 season. That's three seasons in which one (or two) of these teams won't even have a true home stadium. The Rose Bowl said 'no' to a temporary team and the Coliseum appears to have agreed to hosting one team. And it's not like the teams that get approved for relocation can continue to play in their current home cities. I know if I lived in San Diego, knowing my team was there only temporarily, I would not support the owner who moved away my team.

The NFL insists the fans of football want a team in Los Angeles. If anything, reaction has been mixed at best. I can say that when I lived in Los Angeles, I didn't exactly hear people yearning for a team in Los Angeles. The sample size was small, comparatively, to the population of L.A., but the people I knew were fans of other teams, even those old enough to be around when the Rams and Raiders were in Los Angeles. Old school Los Angeles Raiders fans may want the team to return, but the sad irony is that the Raiders, the one team fans want back, will probably get to stay in Oakland while the Chargers and the Rams make the move.

The owners in the NFL see dollar signs in their eyes and will most likely vote on sending two teams to Los Angeles. Judging by the reaction of the internet, Rams fans are saying good riddance and Chargers fans are saying too bad. There will be a few stragglers, especially for Chargers fans that will remain faithful to the careers of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, but for the most part it does not seem fans will follow their franchises to Los Angeles.

Fans will go to games in Los Angeles. For awhile, anyhow. The games will be a place to be seen, to mingle, and to root for a team they absolutely have no allegiance to. Fans will go simply because it is the hip thing to do.

Once the novelty wears off, though, the NFL will realize its mistake in moving two teams to Los Angeles. One team, or both, will inevitably struggle. With the idea of football in Los Angeles no longer enticing, fans, with no true allegiance, will stay away from the stadium. The NFL will soon ponder why they moved two teams to Los Angeles, when one wasn't even necessary to begin with. Then we can all think back to a simpler time. A time when there was no team in Los Angeles and all fans had to wonder was this: When are the London Jaguars going to make their debut?

That's where the NFL is headed. And Los Angeles is where the downfall began. Like Sunday afternoons football games in the fall in San Diego, the long-term success of pro football in L.A. will eventually become one thing: a long forgotten dream.


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