NFL can’t change L.A. sports landscape


Sunday, like the rest of America, I arrived at a Super Bowl party.

As I mingled with the other guests and wolfed down my second chili dog, the inevitable question arrived: Which team are you rooting for?

I did what I do whenever I’m asked that question regarding an NFL game — I waffled.

Yeah, the Steelers would probably win because of their experience, but the Packers had been playing great football. Troy Polamalu is a Trojan, so I’ll root for him, but then there’s Clay Matthews, a Trojan as well …

Boring, boring, boring. My answer screamed dispassion, the ugliest word in the dictionary of fandom. But that’s the problem.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I’ve heard rumors that there were once organizations known as the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders, but I was too preoccupied with Power Rangers at that point in my life to take notice.

I am an NFL wanderer, and there are many others like me in this city.

Anybody born the mid-’80s falls into this demographic. We’re too young to remember when the biggest sport in America, was here and too habituated now to care about its absence.

We’re not even allowed the dignity of calling ourselves expatriates — it is as if we never had a country.

Now, the proposal to build a stadium in Downtown has steadily been gaining momentum. There is already a naming rights deal lined up with Farmers Insurance, worth a reported $700 million.

Alternatively, there is the Ed Roski proposal to build a stadium in the City of Industry, though this idea has lost some steam recently.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

There’s just that sense in the air that the nation’s second largest market will not be NFL-less for much longer.

I was thinking about these things as I objectively watched the Steelers and the Packers battle out a fantastic Super Bowl. I could appreciate the value of the game’s competitiveness and its entertainment.

I was impressed by big plays on both sides, like a non-confrontational soccer mom who wishes both teams could win. I had nothing invested in the game other than the five dollars I wagered in the squares pool.

If anything, I was rooting for a score, not a team.

Will this all change when Los Angeles has a team again?

No matter how hard I try, I cannot visualize being morphed into a Chargers fan or a fan of whichever franchise decides to move here.

Even if my city housed the team, the team would seem like a temporary guest. Passion cannot just materialize on command.

Those that create it artificially are bandwagon fans (the second ugliest concept in the dictionary of fandom, by the way). There is no love at first sight in sports.

Passion must be organic, and there is usually a seeding period that must happen at a certain age when the conditions are right, somewhere between eight to 14 years old.

All this made me realize that it might be too late for my generation. The NFL missed out on our passion.

No hard feelings or anything.

I will still watch the games because I love the sport, but I can never feel the passion of fans who grew up with the same team their whole lives.

Part of the problem is Los Angeles — the mentality of its fans. Angelenos expect greatness every year.

Although the Lakers have played in seven of the last 11 NBA Finals, their third-place standing in the Western Conference is causing panic.

After USC’s dominance during the Pete Carroll era, notice how much quieter the Coliseum was this year.

It’s not that an L.A. team has to be great to generate interest or revenue.  The Dodgers haven’t been to a World Series in 22 years, and the team is loved all over the city. Believe it or not, people still buy season tickets to UCLA football games.

A team just has to be synonymous with Los Angeles.

It has to exude an L.A. vibe. It’s true that both the Lakers and the Dodgers, the city’s biggest pro franchises, were imports: the Lakers from Minneapolis, the Dodgers from Brooklyn. Over time, those teams became woven into the city’s fabric.

Of course, with enough time and some success, that should happen with a Los Angeles NFL team.

But for my generation of NFL wanderers, a Los Angeles team will still feel artificial, as if we are preparing for a heart transplant.

We know the new heart will beat in rhythm and keep us alive, but we’ll always know the heart is not our own.

“Middle Ground” runs Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Josh at jjovanel@usc.edu.

3 replies
  1. Rich Salas
    Rich Salas says:

    As a Trojan from SF, I welcome you all to become fans of a true california NFL franchise that has 5 Super Bowl Trophies in the case. Become a 49er!!

  2. USC Dad
    USC Dad says:

    Will the Proposed Stadium change the Trojan Landscape?
    As a NYer, I attended the 2010 Parents Weekend and the game against
    Washington. Somehow walking North to a Downtown Stadium won’t be
    the same as walking South to the Coliseum. Can the Trojans resist the
    lure of Luxury Boxes?

  3. Mike
    Mike says:

    I couldn’t disagree with you any more. You write as if your thoughts and opinions are fact, when the actual facts show differently. People like you give LA a bad image. Do you really think we will support only a winning team, when some of the biggest losers in proffessional sports have and still do call LA home, obviously they are recieving enough support to remain in LA and remain financially viable. Also metro LA is a big market, no it’s a huge market and even if 1/3rd of the popoulation supported the team, that is still more than most metro areas that actually have a team. If nobody cared about the NFL in Los Angeles, then nobody would watch the NFL in LA, but guess what the NFL in LA still draws huge ratings and usually accounts for more than half of the most watched television events in LA. NFL games consistently out rank Laker games for crying out loud. You really think nobody cares? Am I expecting Los Angeles to turn into another Green Bay, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia in its unwavering support for an NFL team, of course not. But the point is Los Angeles is so huge, that we don’t need to turn into one of those cities to support a NFL team. It always seems to be the minority that speaks the loudest on such issues, but don’t get the wrong idea, the majority of Southern Californians would welcome the NFL back with open arms.

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