Last week, the NFL orchestrated town hall events in the three cities that could lose their teams. For many here in L.A., the dog-and-pony shows in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland boiled down to: "Hey, your loss, our gain." But remember the Otter.
Throw a brick in L.A., and it’ll hit an Angeleno espousing the idea that at least one team, and possibly two, will be playing in a temporary venue here next fall, and that a permanent, billion-dollar stadium will open in a few years in Inglewood or Carson. There’s only one problem: this scenario relies on the NFL.
If there’s anything we should have learned since The Rams and Raiders blew town in 1994, it’s that the NFL can’t be trusted. Do things look different this time? Yes, but they always look different to Charlie Brown right before Lucy pulls the ball away and he ends up flat on his back.
(Rams player Eric Dickerso, 1985. Chris Gulker/LAPL Herald-Examiner Collection.)
Everyone who is eagerly chirping “This time is different!” and “The process has never been farther along!” should remember the past. And the fact that the 32 NFL owners are the modern-day Illuminati, and they’ll run the show however they please.
I’m not drinking the Hater-Ade, riding the Hate-Board, or shaking up my Magic Hate Ball. I played football in high school (just one concussion!), I like to watch occasional games, and I’d enjoy having a team with ticket prices I can’t afford but that I could watch on TV with my kids. My skepticism comes from having seen the league repeatedly use L.A. as a boogeyman, threatening small-market governments that, unless they fund a new stadium, their franchise will move.
As a public service, here is the list of local sites that have been trotted out as potential homes for the NFL: the Dodger Stadium parking lot, the Coliseum in Exposition Park (twice), the City of Industry, the city of Carson, Hollywood Park, the Rose Bowl, Anaheim, and AEG’s South Park.
And here are the teams that have been confirmed, mentioned or rumored as candidates to move to L.A.: the Rams, Raiders, Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Jaguars, Vikings, Saints, Seahawks and Colts. That’s more than one-quarter of the NFL teams.
On the NFL’s side, it’s been a brilliant business tactic, as every secondary market scared of losing a team has coughed up the cash for a new stadium. And what happened to TV revenue without an L.A. team? It grew fatter than the Farmers Field blimp.
If time has proved anything, it’s that the league doesn’t need L.A., and L.A. doesn’t need the league. If one needed the other so badly, a deal would have been worked out. In fact, two decades of local leaders have actually been pretty savvy by not dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars in public money to a stadium.
Absolutely, we are seeing steps never before taken. But can we trust the league?
Remember "Animal House," when the frat brothers wreck the car Flounder was taking care of?
Otter tells Flounder, “You F---ed up. You trusted us.”
NFL, thy name is Otter.
Jon Regardie is the executive editor of the Los Angeles Downtown News.