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NFL Isn’t Kids’ Stuff Anymore

So the NFL has finally summoned the courage to stiff-arm the Coliseum, to take bids on a new stadium and team from anyone whose portfolio includes the moon.

Before going any further, the league should hear what I just heard.

With shirts tucked and lips buttoned, the kids filed into Vice Principal Jill Stewart’s fourth-period U.S. History class at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks on Thursday morning.

Twenty-eight of them, ages 15 to 17, among the best and brightest high school students in town.

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To me, tomorrow’s leaders.

To the NFL, tomorrow’s consumers.

For 30 minutes, we talked pro football.

Many of them love the sport. Many of them watched it on TV as recently as last weekend. Many had pleasant memories of attending Ram and Raider games.

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But when asked about the prospects of following a new Los Angeles team, with tickets and parking and concessions and fewer games every Sunday on television, their collective answer could fit into one word.

Whatever.

When asked whether any public money should be used to support that team, that one-word answer became two.

No way.

“We don’t need pro football in town to feel good about ourselves,” said Todd Fenton.

“The longer pro football is away, the less interesting it becomes,” said Jordan O’Neill.

Are you listening, NFL?

This is the sound of future ticket and merchandising dollars slipping away with every year you stay away.

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This is a generation that is being lost.

Thirty minutes with some pretty smart kids Thursday may have settled what adults have argued about during three years with no team and no real support for acquiring one.

The NFL needs Los Angeles more than Los Angeles needs the NFL.

With every year lost, future fans are lost, no matter how many people are watching it from their living rooms.

The kids in Jill Stewart’s class filled out a survey. It revealed what this town’s consistently great NFL television ratings do not.

The more you watch a sport only on TV, the less real it becomes, the less passionate you become.

To entire demographic groups too young to know any different, the NFL on Sundays is becoming like “ER” on Thursdays.

You wouldn’t miss it on the tube, but you don’t really care to drive to Burbank to watch it made, and it’s OK if you don’t know the name of the guy who plays Dr. Benton.

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How else to explain:

* Twenty-seven of the 28 students in Stewart’s class wrote that they liked to watch some form of football.

Yet half did not know who won the Super Bowl last year. More (17) knew who won the NBA championship.

* Sixteen students listed pro football as their favorite major pro team sport, with pro basketball second with seven responses.

Yet 16 could not name one NFL coach, and nine could not name one NFL quarterback.

* Twenty-one of the 28 students had seen an NFL game on TV in the last week.

Yet when asked to name their favorite team in any pro sport, there were as many that chose basketball teams as football teams, nine each.

The NFL also might be interested to know that only 11 of 28 said they had been Raider or Ram fans when the teams were town.

And that more than half--15--have never attended an NFL game of any sort.

By listening to them talk afterward, it seemed as if few were eager to have the current situation change.

“It’s really great being able to watch good games on Sunday, instead of always having to watch the Rams or Raiders,” said Arash Markazi.

Rachel Bilson said it was neat to drive to the Ram games with her family--"It was fun waiting for each Sunday to come,” she said.

And now on Sundays?

“We go to things like movies,” she said. “We are still together as a family.”

Then there was the question about using public money for the new stadium.

This is what the NFL wants.

This is not what 21 of the 28 students in Stewart’s class want.

By the time a team is settled here, guess who is going to be paying those taxes?

I told you these were smart kids.

“There are a lot of other things we need money for,” said Rachel Fort.

And if the NFL insisted on such money before coming here? “Tell the league, see ya later,” said Sami Malik. “Bye-bye.”

Are you hearing what I’m hearing, NFL?

This is not Cleveland.

This is not St. Louis.

Life’s pleasures have not ceased for the future NFL ticket buyer in this town.

Only you have.

There is no doubt that your Sunday afternoon magic is missed.

But the more that fools like me claim it is our loss, the more the marketplace insists it is yours.


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