Mike Downey's commentary ["Los Angeles: City That Fans Forgot," Dec. 18] misses the point. It should have been entitled: "Los Angeles: City That Forgot Fans."
The "slow, gradual decay" he writes about has been caused by teams that for the most part are not competitive, the ever-increasing price of tickets and violence in the stands.
Los Angeles sports fans attend events expecting to be entertained, with the hope that their team will win, possibly enough to reach the playoffs and bring home a championship. If that possibility does not exist, fans will not pay the price to attend. It has always been this way. Then, if the team does reach the playoffs, fans are rewarded with even higher ticket prices. No wonder Dodger playoff games didn't sell out.
I imagine the press box is a relatively inexpensive and safe place to watch a sporting event. Maybe Mr. Downey should buy a ticket and sit with the fans a few times. As for me, I'll watch on television at home. It's cheaper, no beer will be spilled on me and there is no fighting, except over the remote control.
STEVEN A. FULLER
Do you really expect us to schlep along our city's overcrowded, poorly planned rapid transit system on our days off? Should we risk our lives, traveling into the violent, crime-infested neighborhoods our sports stadiums are located in? Should we allow these organizations to gouge us for everything from ticket prices to hot dogs?
Should we follow teams whose general managers and owners show less sense than a rookie owner in a garage football fantasy league? Should we be loyal and give thanks to athletes who continually show us they don't know what class is? Should we become invested in organizations and leagues that aren't invested in us?
The dying L.A. sports scene is a reflection of the impatient, frightened, materialistic, violent, impulsive, self-centered society we live in.
Here are four reasons why more people don't attend professional sporting events:
1. Money. Only a guess, but I'd guess it has been a very long time since you paid for tickets, parking, concessions, etc. Can you name a team that hasn't raised ticket prices since 1990? I can name people who haven't had a raise since then.
2. Time. Most people who have children who attend school simply do not have time to attend a sporting event during the week. On weekends, it very easily takes six to eight hours to drive, park, watch the event and drive back home.
3. Safety. The area around the Coliseum . . . need I say more? Do you think that the area around the Forum is any better? And once inside, do I dare root for a team out loud without the risk of being beaten up by someone who doesn't agree with me?
4. The attraction. I will never attend another major league baseball game for as long as I live. Football has spawned a mentality that teaches young men that it's OK to beat up people. For hockey, see the movie, "Slap Shot." And when a basketball player such as Charles Barkley says he isn't a role model, something is seriously wrong.
Be honest, Mike. Would you have supported the Rams when they packed up and left Los Angeles for Orange County, especially when there were clear implications that Georgia Frontiere had no intentions of keeping the team competitive? Are we supposed to loyally support the Raiders, when Al Davis abandoned passionate, supportive fans in Oakland to try to turn a quick buck in L.A.? Are we supposed to support the Clippers when year after year Donald Sterling snatches mediocrity from the jaws of improvement?
This country already spends way too much on professional sports and not nearly enough on more important things, such as education. So if pro sports are taking a hit in Los Angeles, maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it means this city is finally coming to its senses.
NHL hockey in L.A.? I wish I could embrace it, but somehow the concept of a guy dressed up like Donald Duck, tail feathers afire, during a pregame show, isn't my idea of a sports outing. I can't explain the diminishing attendance at Laker games, but as for the Clippers--St. Louis or Oakland, take our Clippers, please!
The dedicated L.A. fans who backed the Lakers, Rams and even the Dodgers in their glory years are probably watching them on satellite in a bar in Seattle. In 20 years, there is a chance that no pro teams will be in L.A. Not even Shaq can change that.
After the baseball strike, I wouldn't even take a free ticket to the Dodgers, much as I long ago started turning down free Ram seats. There was no way I was going to pay 10 bucks just to park when the organization wouldn't even pony up the salary for the best running back in the league.
The attendance at the USC-UCLA football game showed there are still true fans in the area. I never gave up on UCLA basketball and the feeling that L.A. produces the best hoop players in the world. The Bruins came through again, just like the Lakers will, once they get a center and a point guard. Meanwhile, I'm working too hard to make ends meet to throw my money away on this year's comics running the Lake Show.
Show heart, show desire and we'll be there. Meanwhile, I'm going surfing.
I, for one, ignored baseball during the 1995 season as my own vendetta against the players and owners. How much is enough? I am currently enjoying not watching hockey.
Once again, I'm afraid, Los Angeles is merely leading the country in a trend.
How can anyone, with a straight face, actually imagine that our leaders are responsible for bringing and keeping fickle owners here? You know what they're responsible for? Important things such as public safety, good schools and attracting/holding onto industries that employ and profit more than a select few. To even try to tie civic pride and big-time sports together is ridiculous. The players, the owners, the leagues--they don't care about you or me. They care about our money, and that's it. Or else they wouldn't move their teams every time it suited them and athletes wouldn't switch their allegiances whenever contracts were up.
Mike Downey's column must have been written facetiously.
We had two pro football teams. One was owned by an incompetent, the other by an arrogant person whose sole aim seemed to be to bilk anyone doing business with him. We have a Coliseum Commission composed of incompetent political hacks. We have a baseball industry composed of management and players who have no regard for the fans.
We have a hockey team that was owned by a person accused of serious financial wrongdoing. We have two basketball teams. One is notoriously mismanaged, the other having a performance collapse while charging astronomical ticket prices. Our two major college football teams are no better. One should have discontinued numerals on its jerseys to be replaced by dollar signs. The other scalps its own bowl tickets and plays in a venue so far from campus and with such bad traffic that a box lunch is required en route.
Rancho Palos Verdes
One only has to travel to other ballparks and stadiums in the country to understand why Los Angeles finds it hard to garner support for its athletic endeavors. It all starts with the three most important aspects of any business: "Location, location, location." That's why the Clippers can sell out The Pond but not the Sports Arena. It's even more important in a community without any rapid transit to offer. Riding the BART to a Raider game or the train to Wrigley Field facilitates fan support, believe it or not.
Ever since Mike Downey compared living next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa to living next to Dodger Stadium, I realized he's so blinded by sports that he has lost touch with the people in Los Angeles. His newest attempt to rally the troops was laughable.
First of all, L.A. is a transient city. Most everybody is from somewhere else and grew up listening to their favorite team with their father. I didn't move here to adopt another sports team, I came here for the movie business. My father and I still discuss the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers and Flyers.
As for having other things to do in L.A., it's called getting a career in a tough business. Ever work on a movie? No sleep for weeks. My one day off in 10 I'm supposed to shell out hard-earned dollars to watch millionaires do celebration dances because they tackled somebody when their team is down by 20?
Even when friends went to Laker games during the Showtime era, it was because they got free tickets and could sit near important industry people.
Some impostor must have written this Mike Downey column. Mike is too incisive not to realize that Southern Californians are the most independent people in the country. We fans have been lied to, cheated and ignored, all to the tune of "We love you and need you." Southern Californians are the harbingers of what will become a national disaffection with pro sports because of the excesses of the players and owners.
I hated to waste the energy to write to a sports page, but hopefully my hero, the real Mike Downey, will see this.
DON LA FORCE
The Raiders and Rams loudly went out shopping for better offers years ago and you expect loyalty for this? Tell your wife you're going shopping for a mistress and then check out her devotion to you.
Please don't replace the departed teams. Why pay some fat new franchise a huge bonus for coming to L.A. to [saddle] us with even higher prices? As it stands, we have our pick of three football games every Sunday, and even though we are stuck with some of those woefully bad Ram and Raider telecasts, the concessions are lots less expensive out of our fridge and the parking is peanuts. The peanuts are even less.
ROBERT F. FALLER
Are we not a world city because we don't have professional football? The "problem," as I see it, is that L.A. is too much of a world city.
Los Angeles is not Cleveland. Los Angeles has more residents of Latino descent than Cleveland has total residents. It's not that there are more things to do in L.A. than Cleveland, the point seems to me that the people here may have different (and more diverse) interests than the people of Cleveland. Not everyone in Los Angeles is a football, baseball or basketball fan. Many of them have only recently been exposed to these American sports, and perhaps many of them don't understand or care.
If you want to see fan support of the infamous "Dawg Pound" level, check out the Mexican national team the next time it plays a soccer match at the Coliseum.
P.S. Thank God sports-talk radio doesn't have an audience here. Who needs it?
I still watch football games, I just didn't do so the last two Sundays, as I was helping to collect and deliver Christmas presents to poor children in Tijuana. The previous Sunday I visited a friend in Phoenix. And I don't have an empty feeling for missing more than 50 hours in NFL games televised the last three weeks.
Downey is right that most Angelenos aren't out surfing but simply decide to watch a movie rather than attend a sports event. At $25-plus for nosebleed seats, is that such a poor decision? What greater good is there in watching rich athletes than rich movie stars?
We should dictate our terms to the NFL. I know it has been a long time, if ever, since the politicians have been responsive to the wants and needs of the people, but who knows? Maybe someone will grow a backbone and tell the NFL just where to put their terms.
I'm not saying that we have to use the Coliseum. I am saying that if the NFL wants a new stadium, let them build it.
Mike Downey just doesn't get it. Los Angeles is the best sports town in the country, not because we sit in ridiculously high-priced seats, watching some overpaid, pampered "star" go through the motions, but because we're out participating in sports. Look around you. Nowhere in the country are there so many packed fitness clubs, people walking, bicycling and running. Sports to us is doing, not watching.
Pro sports owners of the world, beware. You have killed the golden goose. It takes me two minutes to read the sports pages. Who cares about the pros? Give me snow conditions at Mammoth, some good places to go for a bike ride or more stories on local fishing. I need sports pages I can use.
If you're desperate, go to a high school event. The girls' volleyball match I watched recently was 10 times more exciting than any Raider game I ever attended. This should be a wake-up call to you, Mike, and the rest of the sports business establishment.
Mike Downey, I'm sorry that you blamed the fans. I always liked you and read you all the time. You have now lost a fan, but you probably don't care any more than the owners do.
If the owners and players want my entertainment dollar, they better provide value. I can sit at the mall and watch the girls go by for free.
Mike, get a life! Go back to sunny Chicago just in time to see your Bears [stick it to] your hometown too. There are suckers born every minute, and L.A. has had enough of it. Win, baby, or hit the road.