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Chargers-Raiders plan: at least one NFL team in L.A. an inevitability

Bill Plaschke: L.A. still would be better off if the Rams came back to town

The skies have opened and here it comes, a torrent of bolts and pirates and horns, a deluge of threats and ultimatums, a shower of artists' renderings and architect boasts, a downpour of hilarity and hope.

Run for cover, Los Angeles! It's raining NFL!

After a 20-year professional football drought, the nation's largest city without a team has been suddenly inundated with three teams, two new stadium proposals, and zero idea about what happens next.

Chargers and Raiders and Rams, oh my.

The latest news, broken by a guy who is still this town's only active football professional — The Times' Sam Farmer — is that the longtime rival San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are going into business together to build a stadium in Carson.

No word yet on whether they are going to engage in one final parking-lot brawl before the wedding.

The possible return of the two former Los Angeles residents is big news, but complicated news because they're late to the party. It was barely six weeks ago that the St. Louis Rams vowed to build a stadium up the road from Carson in Inglewood.

So after two decades of no pro football and nobody around town really caring much about it, Los Angeles has gone from zero to potentially three teams in less than two months; three staking ground within 15 miles of each other, an instant storm swirling with suits looking for leverage, outcasts looking for rebirth, and everyone trying to get rich.

The only thing that appears certain is, when the clouds clear, something is going to stick. Somebody is going to stay. A stadium is going to be built here. At least one team is going to suit up here.

It will happen at the end of next season. The Chargers-Raiders announcement means there's too much momentum now to stop it.

Even the oft-burned cynics such as this one must admit, Los Angeles is finally going to get a pro football team again, Los Angeles taxpayers aren't going to have to pay a penny for it, and it's going to be more fun than an underinflated football.

The question is, which one or ones?

It won't be all three. No owner wants to be part of a three-team market, the league would never want to put three teams here, and for an NFL-free market that spent 20 years shrugging, even two teams seem like too many.

The vote here has been for the Rams. It's still for the Rams. They should be the first team here. They should initially be the only team here.

The Rams have a long local legacy, they have a deep-pocketed owner, and their Hollywood Park site can be transformed into the city's premier entertainment complex, a sort of LA Live And Kicking.

But the NFL has the final say, and it could choose this bizarre Chargers-Raiders tandem for one simple reason. Not surprisingly, it is a reason that has nothing to do with Los Angeles and everything to do with the NFL.

The Carson-apalooza would solve not just one, but four of the league's stadium problems.

It would remove the Chargers from the decrepit Qualcomm Stadium. It would remove the Raiders from the sewage-stained O.Co Coliseum.

It would send the Rams back to a new or improved leverage-built stadium in St. Louis, where officials are already ponying up public money (and you know how the league hates turning down public money).

Finally, it would solve the Los Angeles stadium issue on a site the league once considered purchasing, with the two Los Angeles tenants the league always envisioned.

Indeed, from its Park Avenue offices on the other side of the world, the NFL is probably celebrating Thursday's news as a chance to exploit the Los Angeles market one last time. But once again, as it has done for 20 years, the NFL would be badly misjudging Los Angeles.

When the league returns here, it needs to do so with one team, and only one team. That team needs a chance to connect with the local business community and establish a local fan base as the only NFL game in town before inviting a second team.

By immediately bringing in two teams, dollars and loyalties and attention will be so initially splintered that both teams will suffer.

The New York Giants and Jets, the only NFL teams to share a stadium, coexist well on the same New Jersey field because they both had strong established local fan bases before moving there.

That wouldn't be the case in Los Angeles. You know how they say a team with two quarterbacks has no quarterbacks? With two teams showing up at the same time, it would be the same kind of scenario here.

So if the Chargers want to come here initially alone, fine, they're a nice little franchise that actually played in the American Football League championship game in its only season in Los Angeles in 1960. But why on Earth do they want to drag along the Raiders?

With their infamous fan base and reputation for renegade behavior already having been witnessed here once, the returning Raiders would have difficulty engendering the sort of community business support necessary to run a successful operation.

In fact, if the Raiders indeed show up hanging on the shirt tail of the Chargers, they better turn into somebody else.

The Raiders would need a reboot. Change the colors. Lose the eye patch. Become more Disney than dastardly. That's the only way they have a chance of being anything other than a niche team, a cult club, the 20-years-ago Clippers.

Could Mark Davis, the son of the late Al Davis, really change that fast, that quick? And after all the problems they caused during their previous stay here, how long will it take anybody in town to truly trust them?

Whatever happens, the big story from Thursday is that finally, something is going to happen in Los Angeles. It's raining NFL. Still no word on whether we should dance in it or run from it.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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