Friday, September 10, 2004


Football in the Southland

As I've told a lot of people back in Chicago, I wasn't minding the whole idea of going to a city without an NFL team. I'd been in Los Angeles a couple of times when it was football season, and instead of watching the Bears play the Lions to a 6-3 battle of titans (when the actual Titans were playing the Patriots in an unbelievable display of offense), LA got the good game. There were no blackouts; no favoring a local team. There is no local team, though there's still a little radio chatter about the woeful Chargers and the over-the-hill Raiders.

Bill Plaschke of the LA Times understands this, and writes about it more eloquently than I will. I haven't mastered the whole idea of putting links on this thing yet, so bear with me. Here's the story:

This being the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the last pro football season in Los Angeles, it is perhaps a good time to mourn and remember what our community has missed by not possessing an NFL team.


We've missed nothing.

We've lost nothing.

Two teams gone? We have more teams than ever.

We have a dozen teams on living room TVs, a handful of teams on our car radios, and every single team in the cafe down the street.

We have two Monday night teams. We have two Thursday night teams. We have fantasy league teams. We have office pool teams.

We have internet teams and talk radio teams and newsletter teams and Sunday-morning-dress-up-in-your-Brown-or-Bill-or-Packer-jersey teams.

If you don't think we have teams, check out the Raider fans at Burbank airport on Sunday morning, the partying fans at an Anaheim sports bar on Sunday afternoon, the exhausted fans driving bumper-to-bumper on I-15 from Las Vegas on a Sunday night.

We have as many teams as New York, as much passion for those teams as Green Bay, and a knowledge of those teams as sophisticated as any fan's in Dallas.

A real, live, backyard team?

One that costs big money and causes huge traffic and is personally witnessed by a tiny percentage of our population for a minuscule period of time?

Fun, but not necessary. Interesting, but of little importance.

Because the NFL is everywhere else in our lives, I don't miss its occasional presence in a downtown stadium.I don't know anyone else who misses it either. Not once in the last seven or eight years have I heard anyone even complain about it.

It has taken a decade to make this point, but Los Angeles has proved what many long suspected.We're not like the smaller towns that desperately need to have their names on a football uniform to believe they are real.

We're a town that knows the difference between a monument and a "Movie of the Week."That's what the NFL has become for us, a "Movie of the Week" that we watch and cheer and enjoy from afar. If they want to start filming in our backyard again, well, whatever.

Turns out, the NFL needs us more than we need it.

Indeed, it is the NFL that looks bad by not having a team in the nation's second-largest market, not us.

Thus, it will be the NFL that will initially pay the freight when it finally returns here in 2008.For a place that has no teams, we've just scored one of the biggest NFL victories ever.

"The NFL has experienced things here that it hasn't experienced elsewhere," said John Moag, the point man for the group attempting to bring a team to the Rose Bowl. "The NFL has accepted that it is a very different culture here."

What league officials have learned, their arrogant owners will soon understand.You want to play local sites and officials against one another? The locals don't care. Play wherever. Don't play at all. Wake us when it's over.

"The league has accepted it, on its face, that it will not be able to get public funds in Los Angeles," said Moag.

You want to make statements at meetings about how much Los Angeles is being deprived by not having one of your $700-million assets? Um, fellas, we're doing just fine watching those three games every Sunday that are free.

"Having the NFL would add to our life, as opposed to changing our life," said Shel Ausman, a local businessman who was part of an earlier stadium project.

The difference there lies in millions in tax money that we will not pay, and countless unique concessions that the NFL will give.

The guess here is, next year the league will announce plans to play at the Coliseum, mostly because it's the cheapest option.

Then the league will search for an owner willing to pay back the enormous loan given to refurbish the place.

Then that owner — either of an existing or expansion team — will announce the league's most expensive ticket prices to cover his debt.

Thus, in the fall of 2008, when a Los Angeles team takes the field, it will not be forced upon us, or paid for by the general public.

It will simply show up like a new musical at the Pantages, supported only if it deserves it, embraced only if it works for it.This may not be the NFL way, but it's the L.A. way.

The league finally paying for a decade-old mistake, it's the only way.

OK, Wieland here. Couldn't have said it better.

I checked the listings for this weekend's games, and they're not yet announcing which games will be on the tube. That's cool. I do know which ones they're pitching. At 10 a.m., Fox will be showing either Rams-Cardinals or Buccaneers-Redskins; CBS will be showing Titans-Dolphins or Raiders-Steelers.

At 1 p.m., Fox will have one of three games: Giants-Eagles, 49ers-Falcons, or Cowboys-Vikings. CBS will have Denver-Kansas City.

Chicago will be showing the Bears v. the Lions. No lie.

oh just keep rubbing it in. yeah we are probably gonna be stuck with the bears and lions -- but it actually might be a good game. the lions are much improved and the bears. . .wel the bears at this point are undefeated. so there!
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