I went to a pro football game recently, an experience so alien to
most Southern California residents that I might as well just
announced that I lunched with the Pope or purchased a yacht.
You did what?
It wasn’t something on my bucket list. Rather, I had traveled to
Denver to visit an old friend who just happened to have two tickers
to the Broncos-Raiders game on a recent Sunday. It’s good to have old
I tried to remember the last time I attended a NFL game. I watched
the Steelers in Pittsburgh with my brother-in-law a decade or so ago.
I went to a few Raider games when they occupied the Coliseum but
found the atmosphere about as cordial as a prison yard. So I never
returned. I went to a lot of Rams games but that was a long, long
The Denver experience was an eye-opener. The Broncos play in a
relatively new stadium that has no equal here. It is modern,
aesthetically pleasing, clean and spacious with comfortable seating
and great sightlines. For those of us who have been kicking around
the Rose Bowl and Coliseum, it’s like stepping out of Model A Ford
into a Ferrari.
The fans are very loud and very intense, fueled in part by copious
amounts of Coors. And when we traveled across town to a pub following
the game, almost every street on our route was filled with people
adorned in Bronco jerseys and shirts celebrating a win.
Call it civic pride. Or mass hysteria. Probably a little of both. It
must have been the same way when the legions returned in triumph to
I couldn’t help but wonder: If the NFL returned to Los Angeles, would
the fans here demonstrate the same unabashed energy and loyalty?
Would they sell out the stadium for decades on end as they have in
Denver? Would they parade throughout the city in team colors?
Would the NFL own this town?
The simple answer is “no.” And it’s not, as myth would have it,
because we are too laid back or too distracted by myriad other
First, people here have grown weary of the “NFL to L.A.” fiasco, a
tale that contains more twists and turns than an Alfred Hitchcock
We rightly believe that we have been jerked around for decades by a
league whose attitude has been a combination of pomposity and benign
So don’t expect us to swoon at the rumored sighting of a NFL team.
And don’t expect us to fall head-over-heels in love if one lands in
Second, it wasn’t our fault the NFL abandoned Los Angeles. The Rams
left first for Orange County then St. Louis at the behest of their
owner/showgirl who yearned for the luxury and riches that only a
sweltering outpost on the Mississippi River could provide.
The Raiders moved here then returned to Oakland, a city best known
for holding up the other end of the Bay Bridge.
Now, we are not a destination, we are a threat. NFL owners play
footsie with L.A. as a way to browbeat their own fans and politicians
into building new venues. Does that make you feel like you’re being
used? Me too.
Third, the most vocal support for pro football in Los Angeles is
exhibited by wealthy business people who hope to become wealthier.
Call it trickle-down enthusiasm.
In order for the NFL to own this town, the Lakers and Dodgers would
have to move to Canada. Or beyond.
These two franchises have been continually successful and in the
process have won the hearts and minds of the fans. Even the Kings, by
winning the Stanley Cup, have secured themselves a seat on the Los
Football? Put UCLA and USC at home on the same day and 150,000 fans
will show up. No NFL city can make that claim.
A pro team would push us perilously close to, if not beyond, the saturation point. And there is talk of adding two teams? I can see the empty seats already.
We have survived a long time without the NFL. And it has survived
quite well without us.
But Los Angeles is the second largest TV market in the U.S. and the NFL is essentially a made-for-TV product. Connect the dots to see why the league is interested.
We may very well have professional football in Los Angeles some day.
As for the fans, the reaction could very well be resignation, not