It’s usually the first question when traveling if L.A. is mentioned: “When are you folks going to get an NFL team?”
It seems to be a big concern to people living elsewhere, but the answer around here is usually the same: “Who cares?”
Given all the wasted rhetoric to date, it’s like waiting for Beckham to make an impact. The interest is long gone.
The NFL is staying here in Dana Point at a palace this week but remains as out of touch with L.A. and clueless as it has been since the departure of the Rams and Raiders more than 14 years ago.
Cities such as Cleveland, Baltimore and St. Louis had NFL teams, lost them and fought like crazy to get another. You live in one of those cities, and you need a good reason to shovel your way out of the driveway.
Around here, though, it’s as if the NFL is dead and buried, the five stages of death eventually leading to acceptance, which is where L.A. sits after experiencing denial, anger, bargaining and depression.
In the beginning there was certainly denial, the Raiders and Rams pulling out and most everyone believing the NFL would be back the following year or shortly thereafter.
Then there was anger, and the popular opinion “the NFL needs L.A. more than L.A. needs the NFL.”
The bargaining that followed, including pitches by Eli Broad, Michael Ovitz, Ron Burkle and Ed Roski, at one point NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue standing in front of the Coliseum and announcing the league was returning to L.A.
Depression for some, most notably Broad, Ovitz, Burkle and Roski, followed when the NFL changed course and gave L.A.'s team to Houston.
And so here we are -- acceptance now that life is just fine without the NFL, in retrospect so little missed the last 14 years.
No one here has to awake every morning wondering which one of our NFL players was arrested the night before for drunk driving or abusing the women in their lives.
The NFL likes to believe the promise of a Super Bowl or Super Bowls will have a city jumping at the chance to help them build a new stadium, but whether the game is played in the Coliseum or Detroit, it looks the same while lounging on the couch.
Everywhere else there is an NFL team they are now being peppered with labor talk and the possibility of the owners locking out the players before the start of the 2011 season.
At the same time they are readying fans and sponsors to be hit up for more money with talk of an 18-game schedule.
When the NFL comes to town, people pay, the average cost of a reserved seat to the Cowboys’ new stadium this season going for $90.19, a 20-year lease for a luxury suite in some cases only $10 million.
Life is good here, all right, no seat licenses or threats every week that tickets must be sold by Thursday, or the local NFL game will not be shown on TV.
The NFL just did a new deal with DirecTV and so we will have most every NFL game available through 2014 -- no matter how bad the economy or empty the stadiums.
DirecTV gave NFL owners $1 billion, an increase of 48% on their previous deal, which tells you they are already buying an 18-game schedule to show to their customers.
DirecTV also agreed to pay $1 billion whether there is a season or a lockout, and while that’s a substantial insurance policy for NFL owners should they want to play tough with the players, a better guess is a new labor deal will be struck so everyone gets richer.
In some cases, a deal must be struck given the amount of stadium debt many of these owners are carrying.
But what do we care? If the game’s on TV, we’ll watch. If not, we’ll go outside.
In so many ways now the NFL is a bigger pain than gain, many folks in L.A. already grasping that concept as life without a NFL team is just another Sunday afternoon Lakers game come November.
You bring an NFL team to L.A. and it will most likely include another oddball owner, as it seems to be a NFL prerequisite for ownership. Bill Bidwill, Al Davis, the Spanos, McCaskey and York families, Daniel Snyder, Bud Adams, Thomas Benson, William Ford come to mind, and that’s just those who already have been certified as oddballs.
That’s the thing about the NFL, it inspires craziness, or brings the crackpots out, John Semcken, Roski’s blowhard, e-mailing Tuesday morning to repeat himself: “The NFL will be here in 2010.”
Just what we need, a rise in the crime rate.
Roski is proposing an $800-million stadium in the City of Industry, which Semcken says will be funded by seat licenses (an extra charge for fans in these tough times), an NFL loan (which is no longer available) and stadium naming rights (both Dallas and New York, to date, unable to find anyone willing to pay the big bucks for such a thing).
As for the good people of L.A., it’s everyone’s dream, of course, to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon in a traffic jam in the City of Industry.
Roski can’t even get neighboring communities excited about the return of the NFL, getting hit with lawsuits from cities who don’t want to see drunks nearby. Or, Terrell Owens moving into their neighborhood.
For the next year or more the NFL is going to spend its time trying to prove to the players it needs a better collective bargaining agreement in these tough times.
The NFL will probably welcome a drop in attendance and TV blackouts, in order to cry poor, right now the only reason they probably wish they still had a team playing in L.A.
TODAY’S LAST word comes from Jerry West in response to rumors the Clippers have asked him to be general manager:
“That’s just not true. I just had a courtesy meeting with them, but there was no job offer. They wanted some opinions about their team, but Elgin Baylor is a good friend of mine and I certainly wouldn’t be one to succeed him.”
Just another loss for the Clippers.