Column: Welcome back, Super Bowl. L.A. is where you belong
Hey, Super Bowl!
Hey, you big kooky lug of a rollicking national celebration disguised as a football game!
Great to have you back.
You were born in Los Angeles. You grew up here. You never should have left here. You belong here.
You spent seven different occasions here, some Coliseum, some Rose Bowl, always Hollywood. It was here you set a record for attendance. It was here you watched New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms become the first person to shout, “I’m Going To Disney World.” And, yeah, of course it was here that a halftime show was performed by Michael Jackson.
Welcome, welcome. Come on in. We know it’s different now. We understand. But put away those $10,000 tickets and gold-plated party passes for a sec and make yourself comfortable. We super missed you.
You were created at the Coliseum 55 years ago, two years before you were actually named the Super Bowl, long before the Twitter world would have obliterated those two fellas flying around that first game wearing jetpacks.
We were the first to want you. We were the first to love you, even if there were about 30,000 empty seats at your debut between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. We gave you the best football weather we can summon, 59 degrees and clear. You gave us halftime with Al Hirt. We didn’t complain.
You came back six years later when the Miami Dolphins were storming around the same Coliseum field celebrating the last unbeaten season in the NFL. You then moved up the road to the Rose Bowl five times in the next 17 years, in games featuring such iconic moments as John Madden stalking the sidelines, John Riggins storming down the field, the first nationally celebrated postgame Gatorade bath and a messy-haired Jimmy Johnson shouting, “How ‘bout them Cowboys!”
The Rams are known for making big-time acquisitions, but it was a series of less-newsworthy moves that helped them earn a spot in Super Bowl LVI.
We asked, how ‘bout Los Angeles as one of the rotating Super Bowl sites? We wondered, how perfect would it be to host this game every couple of years?
We earned you. We deserved you. The Rams were the West Coast’s first NFL team. The Rams were the first NFL team to employ a Black player, Kenny Washington signing a contract at the Coliseum’s insistence. The Rams were also the first team to have a Black quarterback start and win an NFL playoff game, thank you James Harris.
Los Angeles was the NFL at its smartest and most sophisticated and, after those first seven visits, your biggest game should have just laid down roots here.
But then you, foolishly finicky Super Bowl, blew us off.
The NFL left town and so did you, disappearing in the winter of 1993 and not returning for 29 long years, and how could you?
You went to Jacksonville, yes, there’s somewhat of a stadium there. You went to Detroit, where the game-time weather outside enclosed Ford Field was 30 degrees. You went to New York, and wasn’t that an unholy mess. You went to Indianapolis, so boring. You went to Minneapolis, where your intrepid columnist suffered frostbite waiting for an Uber.
You went all over the country when your rightful home was here. Then the NFL returned to Los Angeles in 2016, Rams owner Stan Kroenke spent $5 billion to build SoFi Stadium, he opened it in 2020, and, finally, you came to your senses.
You came back. At last.
Super Bowl LVI will be played at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13, Valentine’s Day eve, and not that you deserve it, but what a love letter we have scripted.
The Rams will be one team, only the second squad to play a Super Bowl on its home field, the manifestation of Kroenke’s investment, a star quarterback named Matthew Stafford surrounded by a glamorous and richly paid group worthy of our brightest of lights — Sunset Boulevard meets the Red Zone.
The Cincinnati Bengals will be the other team, the opposite, pesky underdogs, a kid quarterback named Joe Burrow surrounded by mostly anonymous striped helmets and a quaint little cheer that goes, “Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals … nobody!”
Some believe that cheer was stolen from the New Orleans Saints, others believe it came from a local Cincinnati beer vendor, but no matter, it will be a worthy competitor to the Rams’ cheer of, “Whose house? Rams house!”
In keeping with this city’s Super traditions, the game featuring at least one prominent first. The Los Angeles Rams have never won a Super Bowl. Neither have the Bengals. The winners will likely cry. The losers will likely cry. Just your typical histrionics on a Los Angeles Sunday afternoon that will feel like a movie audition.
This, Super Bowl, is why it’s so cool that you’re back. This soulful town fits you. It’s pulsing emotion suits you. Its perhaps the only place in America that’s not too big for you.
Of course, it’s been a minute since we’ve seen you, and while you will certainly be familiar with the dramatics, you may not recognize the location.
The Coliseum is nice, but now it’s run by the city’s third professional football team, known as USC. The Rose Bowl is historic, but it’s the domain of a UCLA team that nobody watches.
SoFi Stadium is a different animal entirely. It’s a beauty, but it’s a beast. It’s a grandiose palace with a breathtaking video board, but it’s wedged in a cluttered corner of Inglewood where the traffic is hell and the parking is worse.
You need to arrive four hours early and be prepared to pay a month’s rent for a parking spot, and even then, it could take you most of the night to exit your lot. The postgame chaos is so great, there are stories of folks attending Rams or Chargers night games who simply abandoned their cars and slept in a local motel and drove home the next morning.
Not that you’re here just for the game. In fact, since you left, you’ve become a vehicle for far more than the football field. The parties are the real guts of the Super Bowl, and for that, you’ve obviously come to the right place.
Super Bowl LVI coverage
From the Convention Center to Crypto.com Arena to Century Park to the Petersen Automotive Museum, the weekend will be filled with drinking and dancing and blatant mask removing. If the crowds at recent Los Angeles sporting events are any indication, an alarming number of fans ignore mask rules, including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom, both of who were photographed mask-less at the recent NFC championship game.
So be careful. Be safe. And if you must party, perhaps check out the one party that epitomizes the blending of Los Angeles sports and celebrity cultures. It’s called, “Shaq’s Fun House.” It’s on Friday night before the game at the Shrine Auditorium. It could be a traditional Super Bowl ripoff, but because it’s being thrown by lovable former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal, it could be fun. For a ticket that could cost as much as $1,799.99 — rip-off alert! — folks can attend a party that includes rap performances and carnival rides and almost-famous sightings.
When you were last here, Super Bowl, Shaq was a rookie with the Orlando Magic. Yeah, it’s been a long time. You’ve grown bigger and more impactful, but so has the Los Angeles sports landscape.
Since that January day at the Rose Bowl in 1993, Los Angeles has added two new cornerstone arenas while championships have been won by the Lakers and Dodgers and USC football and UCLA basketball and Kings and Sparks and Galaxy and Angels and Ducks and a bevy of others.
While the Super Bowl has become America’s premier sports event, Los Angeles has become America’s premier sports city, and the two belong together, in some regular rotating fashion, forever.
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