Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Last August, I ended a column about the St. Louis Rams moving to Los Angeles with this precaution:
“Ninety-one thousand people may pack the Coliseum for a preseason NFL game just to check out the shiny new toy, but how many will actually show up in Week 16 to watch a team with a 3-11 record?”
I wound up one game off in my prediction — the Rams finished their woeful inaugural season back in Los Angeles with a 4-12 record, general dysfunction up and down the franchise and without a head coach.
As for the interest? Let the pictures of the half-empty Coliseum circulating around social media and the poor television ratings speak for themselves.
If owner Stan Kroenke and the Rams thought that they could short-circuit their way to the spotlight simply by moving to the City of Angels, they found out pretty soon that they were only knockin’ on heaven’s door.
Thursday morning’s announcement that the San Diego Chargers will seek relocation to Los Angeles by owner Dean Spanos is yet another sign of a team that takes the bait of thinking it can make everything work in the second largest media market in the country.
Sure, “Los Angeles Chargers” sounds better than “San Diego Chargers” — on paper (and even that is doubtful, because their new logo is objectively awful and rightfully being roasted on social media). But now, Los Angeles and Orange County will have a combined 10 professional sports teams by 2018 (including the MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy and LAFC, an expansion team launching next year in a new stadium near the USC campus). And that’s not counting USC and UCLA, whose college football teams both have a considerable and loyal fanbase.
Save for the lowly Padres, the Chargers are the team in San Diego. They’ve been there since 1961. They have supporters that remain interested because, well, what are your other sports options in January when baseball season doesn’t start for another three months?
In Los Angeles, the Chargers will have the Rams, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks, USC and UCLA to compete with for attention during their season. With a mediocre roster, a 35-year-old starting quarterback, no head coach, no recent success and no real reason to watch them, the Chargers will probably draw less interest than the two college teams.
It may explain why they are reportedly choosing the 27,000-seat StubHub Center — a soccer stadium that is vastly undersized for football games — as their temporary home while they wait for 2019, when their joint stadium with the Rams in Inglewood will be ready. At least now, a crowd that wouldn’t even fill a third of the Coliseum would be considered a sellout.
There certainly are experts fully on board the NFL-to-L.A. train. They say that the area already houses two teams in each professional sports league, and that tacking on two teams in one more league can be done. They argue that any team that goes 4-12 — like the Rams did in their first season back — will see a lukewarm reaction from fans, regardless of location.
And they may be right. But it’s more of the principle of the matter. These cases — both the Rams and Chargers moving to Los Angeles. — were not situations that had to happen. Sure, both St. Louis and San Diego couldn’t figure out their respective stadium situations. But both Kroenke and Spanos are billionaires. If they wanted to build new stadiums, they could have just done it rather than cry for taxpayer money.
Instead, what we have is both owners throwing their hands up, bolting to the “quick-fix” of Los Angeles and swindling loyal fanbases in the process. But you see, Los Angeles doesn’t need the Rams the way that St. Louis does. Same goes for the Chargers and San Diego.
Well, perhaps Angelenos dying for an NFL team are happy now, with a Rams squad in disarray just one year in and now forced to root for a Chargers franchise that very few L.A. sports fans connect with whatsoever. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and it’s a problem that Los Angeles has: too many teams, too much competition and too little time for people to care about franchises that move into their city for no other reason than money.
For now, we’ll begrudgingly welcome the Chargers to Los Angeles, a city that somehow has two NFL teams, but neither needs nor deserves even one of them.
Eric He is a sophomore studying print and digital journalism. He is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, Grinding Gears, runs on Fridays.