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The NFL & The City Of Angels: The Battle For Los Angeles
Appropriately, the city with the recycled-plastic conveyor belt that pumps out our movies and television shows would be the second largest television market in America. With 5.7 million households wired for everything from local news to late-night “As Seen on TV” infomercial murk, Los Angeles, California accounts for five percent of America’s home media spectatorship.
Only New York has a larger piece of the ‘idiot box’ pie (6.5%); only seven other metro areas can claim more than two percent each (Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, California’s Bay Area, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, DC).
Those nine cities are represented by ten different NFL franchises, and yet one city listed has no team to call their own.
Wait, that might become a reality under Gary Bettman. Alright, bad example.
On Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a memo to all thirty-two NFL teams that reads like a cautiously optimistic travel brochure. In light of the prospects of stadium development being “better than they have been in many years” in Los Angeles, Goodell offers a timetable and checklist of guidelines to owners who wish to follow Horace Greeley’s sage urging of “go west, young man.”
One guideline entails filing an application to move by mid-February 2013. Not hidden in that bullet point is the implication that a club who meets that criteria could begin the 2013 season as the Los Angeles ________ (Chargers? Raiders? Jaguars?)
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk claims that the San Diego Chargers are the only real candidate that can pull off the move to Los Angeles for the 2013 season, due to stadium and ownership circumstances surrounding other likely suitors. San Diego can opt out of their stadium deal with Qualcomm within the same time frame that they would have to apply for use of Goodell’s U-HAUL trucks (or Mayflower Transit trucks, for you hard-bitten Colts fans). That is, assuming they want to play in LA in 2013.
It’s just incredible how badly Goodell wants to bring football back to Hollywood and Vine, when his predecessor allowed Los Angeles’ two franchises to exit stage left.
Despite making the playoffs eight times in the 1980s, the Los Angeles Rams had become in the early 1990s what the Jacksonville Jaguars are today: a team that couldn’t sell out home games. From 1990 to 1994, the Rams never posted a record better than 6-10. They finished dead last in the NFC West in four of those five seasons.
Owner Georgia Frontiere watched her franchise, inherited from late husband Carroll Rosenbloom, tailspin into blackout hell. Home games were played at Anaheim Stadium, which could hold 69,000 strong. Limping into the 1990’s, attendance had dropped to an average of 45,000, well below the necessary threshold for local TV airing. The blackouts offered little encouragement to a dwindling fanbase.
After the 1994 season, when Frontiere couldn’t convince anyone that building a new stadium was the keystone to turning it all around, she made the decision to move the Rams. After a failed attempt to relocate to Baltimore (pre-Ravens, remember), “Madame Ram” decided on her hometown of St. Louis, which had been spurned by the Cardinals, who left for Phoenix after 1987.
The other owners opposed Frontiere’s eastward jaunt. As the Bidwills and the Maras and the Cookes of the football world blamed Frontiere for the financial woes of her team, she went ahead and threatened legal action. Then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue relented, and allowed the move.
What Roger Goodell would do for a DeLorean right now.
Nearly fifty years of history and tradition in Los Angeles were wiped out after mismanagement, increasing fan apathy, and forceful acts from a divisive owner.
And speaking of divisive owners, this leads us to Act Two.
For a thirteen year run, NFL’s poster boys of anti-heroism were uprooted from Oakland and had their roots firmly planted in the Los Angeles Coliseum. In the early 1980s, Raiders owner Al Davis was unable to get the renovations he wanted for the Oakland Coliseum, leading to him to sign a memorandum that would move the club. After the other owners voted nearly unanimously to block it, Davis and the LA Coliseum filed an antitrust lawsuit.
In May 1982, a jury sided with Davis, and the Raiders moved 370 miles southeast to Los Angeles.
In their crowning moment in Los Angeles, the Raiders won the Super Bowl handily in the 1983 season over the Redskins. That would be their last taste of glory (for Oakland as well; the Raiders haven’t won it since), before tapering off by the end of the decade. By 1988, with the team now perennially .500-or-worse, there were rumors then that Davis would bolt back to Oakland.
Selling out the 90,000+ seat Coliseum was too daunting a task.
Even as the Raiders made playoff runs in the early 1990s under coach Art Shell, the Los Angeles honeymoon was declared over. Davis announced in March 1991 that the team would be headed home. This announcement came on the heels of two years of negotiations between Davis and Oakland.
Since then, Los Angeles has been a ghost town to NFL football, with rumors surrounding every low-attendance team concerning a football Manifest Destiny. Except now the NFL is handing out a detailed blueprint on how to populate the City of Angels with excited fans in team colors.
After the ignominious exits of the last two Los Angeles teams, let’s hope whoever winds up in TV land can actually get their games on television.
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for Wrestlechat.net and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.