Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Never-ending Story

Here we go again.

The National Football League is poised to return to Los Angeles making our lives bright and meaningful after decades of darkness and despair. Praise be the football gods.

This is not mere speculation. It’s also equal parts rumor, conjecture and gossip.

The St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are all clamoring to return to L.A. If you believe the buzz.

But wait, there’s more.

Two teams could be moving here. That’s the trouble with the NFL. It thinks small. Why not move six teams here and call it the Los Angeles Division? Fans could root for a team in their own Zip code. 

So what gives legs to this latest installment of unsubstantiated tattle? A Los Angeles Times story says the league will begin a formal market assessment of the L.A. area. They will email questionnaires to about 2,000 potential customers to better gauge the demand for a team and what people want in terms of a stadium, seating and amenities.

There’s nothing like a survey to seal the deal.

Look, we’ve all seen this soap opera before. Los Angeles must hold some sort of record for being a bargaining chip, used as leverage by other cities to feather their financial nests.

And the latest development doesn’t make my pulse beat faster. The fact that the league is reaching out to “potential customers” makes me question the validity of the information they might gather.

If they accurately gauge the interest of the public at large, they may find a lukewarm reception.

Just to underscore that point:

In 2006, I reported that “the first NFL game that USC's Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Matt Leinert saw in person was the first one he played in with the Arizona Cardinals.

“When you don't have a pro franchise in town for more than a decade, that's what happens: a generation that wouldn't know a Saint from a Seahawk.”

In 2008, I said, “Let's face it. We have two college football teams with bigtime fan bases in town. UCLA drew an average of 76,000 fans to the Rose Bowl last year…and you couldn't get a ticket to a USC game at the Coliseum if your name was Tommy Trojan.

“The NFL, after an absence of 14 years, just doesn't generate much buzz around here anymore.”

In 2012, I wrote, “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 our midst.”

It’s 2014 and I haven’t seen anything that changes my mind.

Well, there is one thing.

Having declared my undying skepticism about this entire NFL-to-L.A. deal, I must admit that one scenario is tugging at my heart strings.

That would be the possibility the Rams would return to Los Angeles, the town they turned their back on in 1994.

When this old ink-stained wretch was a mere youth, the Rams was The Team in Los Angeles, the only professional franchise in town. The Dodgers were still in Brooklyn and the Lakers in Minneapolis.  The Kings, Ducks, Clippers, Angels and Galaxy were mere figments of someone’s imagination.

When we descended upon the parks and playgrounds for a day of flag football, we not only chose up sides, we adopted the names of the Rams players as well.

My friends would morph into Crazy Legs Hirsch, or Night Train Lane, or Deacon Dan Towler.  I would become Vitamin T. Smith.


Smith was a swift Texan who spent his career with the Rams as a running back/kick returner. I’m not sure how much of that I knew back then but I thought his was the coolest name ever.

If you get attached to a team at a young age, it becomes a part of your soul even as you grow older. I was no exception. I lived and died with the Rams until the day they packed up and moved to St, Louis.

And then I never cheered for them again. 

If they returned, it would be a reconciliation of sorts. There would be fond memories of games won. But there would be moments to forget as well:  a Super Bowl loss, shoddy treatment by a despicable owner.

I’m a forgiving type. I’m pretty sure I would quickly return to the Ram fold.  Besides, it would be a chance to recapture just a bit of my youth.  

I could be Vitamin T. Smith once again.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. He can be reached at Nulede@Aol.Com.

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