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Loose Ends or No, NFL Decision Calls for a Celebration

Tuesday afternoon in Arizona, the owners of 31 National Football League teams met to debate whether there should be a 32nd, and whether Los Angeles is worthy of a team.

Jacksonville, Fla., population 679,792, has a team.

Kansas City, Mo., 441,259, has a team.

Charlotte, N.C., 441,297, has a team.

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Green Bay, Wis., 103,400, has a team.

But no NFL team exists in California except for the San cities, Francisco and Diego, and good old Oakland, population 367,230. No pro game has been played in between since the Rams and Raiders packed up and moved out, lock, stock and jocks. The second-largest city in the nation has had no representation in something that calls itself a “national” football league.

And why?

Because “nobody cares,” I keep hearing.

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“Nobody misses football.” “Nobody I know even knows that it’s gone.” “Southern California people have so many other things to do.” “Everybody I talk to couldn’t care less.”

Oh. Is that so?

“Nobody” cares.

“Everybody” couldn’t care less.

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A few million people here, but not one of them wanted an NFL team? Gee whiz, I guess we shouldn’t have been given one then.

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Los Angeles, we’ve got game again.

We don’t know where our team will play, for whom it will play or what it’ll be called, but those 31-flavor NFL owners Tuesday simply couldn’t resist hanging a shingle out here, even though Houston was equally qualified and better organized.

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For those of us who DO want a team, this is a Dear Diary day. We resented being spoken for by that “nobody wants football” bunch.

I am always amazed by those who claim to know what nobody wants. Having personally polled, let’s see, EVERYBODY, they concluded conclusively that Los Angeles needed another NFL team like it needed another automobile--that those of us who enjoy a good game of football should spend our hours doing something worthwhile, like working with deaf children or saving the condor.

The stadia for Ram and Raider games were only two-thirds filled (I have heard an argument go). Therefore, due to the NFL’s sellout-or-blackout blackmail, that meant we were unable to see both ends of a doubleheader on TV.

(Which in turn meant that all of us in Southern California with “so many other things to do” had to go find something to do.)

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Whose fault was that?

Was it our fans’ responsibility to pump money into the Rams and Raiders, like buying more red noses for clowns? Did we need to subsidize the asinine decision-making of Georgia Frontiere, then beg her not to leave? To keep bringing families to the Coliseum to sniff marijuana smoke and watch police dashing about the stadium, breaking up brawls, then plead with Al Davis to stay?

The NFL didn’t even like to schedule a Monday night game at the Coliseum, let alone a Super Bowl. Yet where did L.A.'s civic leaders demand that the NFL bring a new team?

To the Coliseum.

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I took heart when I first heard Dodger Stadium’s landlord had proposed it as a future NFL site, not knowing then that L.A.'s power brokers would cajole Peter O’Malley to shelve his own dreams and schemes. I heard from Chavez Ravine residents who were opposed to adding eight to 12 football dates per year to a neighborhood that already had 80 to 90 nighttime games of baseball.

Hollywood Park volunteered land (and cleared it) for a football stadium, which made sense, particularly since airport-friendly Inglewood has always embraced this kind of entertainment, rather than repelling it. Instead, Inglewood is losing sports business, not gaining it, doing itself no favor with the NFL by opening a casino.

And then came Carson.

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Michael Ovitz, offering the NFL a quarterback option, went around end for a site between LAX and Long Beach. He found investors and the city of Carson put out a welcome mat.

(A Coliseum backer wrote The Times a letter wondering why the newspaper of Los Angeles would side with some other city. I guess he thinks Carson’s people read the Washington Post.)

By Tuesday, the NFL’s big shots still couldn’t choose between Carson and the New Coliseum. A decision will be made by Sept. 15. I believe the Coliseum will win.

What matters is, we got a team.

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I say we celebrate. We’re in the big time again, like Carolina and upper Wisconsin. Maybe we could let Houston have the Clippers.

Mike Downey’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. E-mail: mike.downey@latimes.com


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