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Raiders' move to Las Vegas will bring them that much closer to their L.A. fans

As if this market wasn't congested enough.

Already home to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, our city semi-adopted another team Monday, the Los Angeles Raiders of Las Vegas.

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The Raiders were granted permission by the NFL to move from Oakland to Las Vegas in a 31-1 vote, meaning Los Angeles will soon be closer to its favorite football team. Gives you ideas, doesn't it?

Make the four-hour drive or take a $99 one-way flight to Las Vegas on Friday night. Spend time at the tables, maybe catch a show on Saturday. Get down to the south end of the Strip and watch the Raiders in their new $1.9-billion indoor facility on Sunday.

"Make a vacation of it," said Greg Galvan, president of a Covina-based Raiders booster club.

Maybe this move doesn't work out for the Raiders. Maybe they're misguided in abandoning the sixth-largest media market for the 40th. And maybe there won't be enough fans like Galvan who plan to follow the team into the desert.

Only, as far as Los Angeles is concerned, none of that matters.

The $750 million in public funds committed to building the Raiders their stadium? That's on the Nevada Legislature, not Los Angeles.

This is about options and Los Angeles will soon have more of them than any other football market in the country. This after more than two decades without the NFL.

I wrote this when the Chargers announced their unpopular move to Los Angeles two months ago and I'll write it again: There's no downside to this.

You can be suspicious of a league that relocates three franchises in 14 months. You can be disgusted with the greed and appalled by the disregard for loyal fans. In fact, you should be.

Remember, it's not up to the fans to embrace the teams. It's up to the teams to convince fans.

As it was, the Chargers' intrusion into the market presented competition for the Rams, who now have to do more than be the only game in town to sell personal-seat licenses. The Chargers have to win over a city that viewed them as enemies, a reality they acknowledged in their marketing slogan, "Fight for L.A."

The fight now extends beyond the county line. The Rams and Chargers will have to deal with not only each other, but also the Raiders.

Make no mistake, the Rams and Chargers have home-field advantage in this scenario. An hour drive remains preferable to a four-hour drive. Clearly, the Rams and Chargers don't view the Raiders' presence in Las Vegas as an existential threat, evidenced by how they voted in favor of the team's relocation. The Rams and Chargers know that if they win, Los Angeles will back them.

But if they don't — or, more specifically, if they have the kind of seasons the Rams had last year — fans will have a place to escape. And it's just not any place. It's a city that's fun. And it's not to watch any team. It's a team that still has the heart of Los Angeles.

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There's an entire generation that considers the Raiders this city's team — pretty much anyone in their early 30s to mid-40s.

The Rams started playing in Anaheim in 1980. Only two seasons later, the Raiders moved into the Coliseum. The result is that Angelenos of a certain age equate the Rams with the Angels and the Raiders with the Dodgers.

The Raiders abandoned Los Angeles, but no team ever replaced them.

So here we are, more than two decades later, and you still see people walking around town in the silver-and-black of their childhood team. They are everywhere in Southern California, members of booster clubs that watch games together every Sunday and make occasional trips together to Oakland.

Only now, the trips will be shorter.

That was Jose Ramos' first thought when he heard of how NFL owners voted Monday at their annual meetings. The retired owner of a landscaping business and his wife make the eight- to 10-hour drive from their home in Whittier to the Oakland Coliseum a couple of times every season.

"I believe in tailgating so I have to drive," Ramos said.

Ramos is the president of the South Bay branch of the Raiders booster club, which has more than 50 members. The distance to Oakland makes group trips to home games hard to coordinate and he thinks the move to Las Vegas will help.

Steve Frazier of Alhambra leads of the 125-member Original Los Angeles Raiders Booster Club. He noted how his group often receives discounts from hotels in San Diego and Phoenix when the Raiders play there. He anticipates properties in Las Vegas will make similar offers.

"It's not only a sports city," Frazier said. "Here, you have everything — casinos, shows, concerts."

Not that Frazier's allegiance depends on such enticements. But Angelenos with undecided loyalties might think otherwise. It's up to the Rams and Chargers to make sure they don't leave town.

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