Column

Newest NFL-in-L.A. story would be groundbreaking, if ground was broken

An actual NFL owner is making a big investment in L.A. stadium site, but The Times' Bill Plaschke is skeptical

This newspaper's latest scoop about St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke's plans to build a stadium in Inglewood would be considered groundbreaking football news but for two key missing ingredients.

A shovel and a football.

For nearly each of the 20 years since the NFL last played in Los Angeles, there have been stories about its imminent return, so excuse us if we require the appearance of those two items before proceeding with giddy optimism.

Show us the shovel. Show us somebody actually churning dirt instead of dreams. Show us somebody actually building a stadium instead of just agreeing to build a stadium. Farmers Field has been great, except for the "field" part. The City of Industry spot has been awesome, except for the complete lack of industry in actually putting something there.

Show us the football. Show us that an existing NFL team will actually jump through all the flaming hoops to move here. Numerous teams have said they might do so, but none have actually been approved to pull out the pigskin. Show us that this is not about the sport of negotiation, but the actual sport of football.

At first glance, sure, this latest deal appears to bring the NFL about a 40-yard slant pass closer to Los Angeles. For the first time, the actual owner of an actual NFL team is making a making a sizable investment in a stadium site, as Kroenke will team up with Stockbridge Capital Group to build on a nearly 300-acre Hollywood Park site.

Kroenke will soon be on a year-to-year lease with the Rams' current stadium in St. Louis, meaning he could leave there as soon as the end of next season. And the Rams, Los Angeles' original team, are a franchise that would be welcomed back with open arms and maybe even a few teary eyes.

It all makes sense. Which, given the history of this awkward dance, could possibly make it more of the same nonsense.

Just wondering, but since Kroenke can escape his lease this month, why doesn't he move the Rams right now? Oh, he's still negotiating with St. Louis to keep them there. Hmmm. Also, if stadiums were so easily built without teams, why haven't the other two Los Angeles sites, which have been in the works for several years, even started construction?

It's not so easy. We're not so trusting. We've been here before, as a sad paper trail of this columnist's work so bleakly illustrates:

•"The NFL is thrilled that Tuesday's agreement appears to pave the way for the eventual return of two teams here. The NFL is excited that the clear leading candidate for the first slot is the San Diego Chargers." — Aug. 10, 2011

That agreement was with imaginary Farmers Field, and the Chargers remain an immovable object.

•"By next summer, we'll have a team … by the fall of 2012, that team will begin play in either the Rose Bowl or Coliseum … by the fall of 2016, that team will move into Farmers Field. — July 11, 2011

The fall of 2012 was more than two years ago, and the only professional teams that appeared in the Rose Bowl or Coliseum were playing soccer.

•"Now that he has finally figured out a way to make it happen … well, that gives L.A. four months, until he officially leaves in July, to make things happen…. 'We have a window here and we're going for it,' said Pat Lynch, Coliseum general manager. We know Paul is pro-L.A. and we know this can happen before he leaves." — March 21, 2006

Instead of giving Los Angeles a team as a retirement gift, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue left with the legacy of allowing both teams to leave Los Angeles. Lynch eventually lost his job amid corruption charges.

•"The guess here is that next year the league will announce plans to play at the Coliseum." — Sept. 10, 2004

Nice guess.

•"Eli Broad could be the owner of our expansion NFL team in 2002." — Jan 22, 1999

That invisible expansion team just completed its 12th season.

•"[The NFL] has a completed deal in Houston, a solid owner and public money and great new stadium plan … yet it put Houston on hold … the team is ours to lose." — March 17, 1999

We lost it.

•"By the time the NFL returns to Los Angeles, the league's stars will be players who are now in are — you ready for this — high school." — Nov. 11, 1996

By next season, there will be players in the league who — are you ready for this? — weren't even born when the NFL last played in Los Angeles.

•"So the once-proud drifter that is the NFL has returned to our door … pro football is back, and we should be happy." — Feb. 3, 1996

Remember when the Seattle Seahawks came to town for a few days? Those were the days.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke

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