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Los Angeles Not Yet a Rams Town

May 29th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Football, NFL, Rams

We have been in Southern California for nearly two weeks now, and one sports concept is noticeable by its absence:

Any apparent enthusiasm for the return of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

It was in January that the NFL approved the Rams’ move from St. Louis back to the Los Angeles market. In theory, people have had nearly five months to process this news.

I raised the Rams topic in conversation several times, but never did someone ask me about them. Never did a hear a conversation about them. Often, local newspapers could go days without a single word about the Rams — in their print products, anyway.

And perhaps most interesting … I saw exactly one Rams jersey on sale in a sporting good store — and I was inside of several over the past two weeks. And I did not see a single person wearing one.

We have been told the Rams have 56,000 deposits of $100 from people interested in purchasing the nine-game season-ticket package for games at the L.A. Coliseum this fall. Well, that’s a good start.

But that has not translated into buzz of any significance — not that I can detect. Not in the media, not in advertising, not in private conversations.

Even the announcement of Los Angeles getting the 2021 Super Bowl (in the Rams’ new Inglewood home, in their $2.6 billion stadium, scheduled to open in 2019) seemed to create barely a ripple of enthusiasm — beyond various chambers of commerce.

In my wanderings through sporting good stores, I saw exactly one Rams jersey (with player name) — the running back “Gurley II”. (Apparently, he is a “junior”.) But I also saw Chargers jerseys, and that team is still in San Diego.

Seems to be a couple of ways we can interpret all this:

–It will take a while for the “mental muscle memory” of being an NFL fan — with your own, local NFL team — to return to the Los Angeles market. Small things, many of them: When the club conducts offseason workouts. When training camp opens. Where training camp will be held. (UC Irvine, perhaps.) How the team is expected to do in the coming season.

And larger things. Who is the head coach? (No, really, who is he? I’ve forgotten already.) How about his offensive and defensive coordinators? Can you, a generic NFL fan, name five players likely to be starters for the coming season? Beyond that Goff kid, the quarterback taken No. 1 in the draft?

–And then this is a possibility: The NFL was gone so long (two-plus decades) from the L.A. market, which does not lack for alternate forms of entertainment … that the club faces a slog to win over and retain fans. A process that could take years, especially if the team continues to struggle, as it did in its final years in St. Louis, with zero winning teams since 2003.

I don’t think it is a stretch to suggest the Rams at this moment are no better than the fifth-most-significant sports franchise in the Los Angeles market — ranking behind the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA and the Dodgers and Angels of Major League Baseball.

In some precincts, they may lag behind the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and Ducks, each of whom won a Stanley Cup during that 21-year Rams interlude in St. Louis.

The Rams also trail behind the two big college sports programs in the area, USC and UCLA, who never left town and have something or other going on in sports nearly every day of the year.

The question then is … if the Rams are going to become a big thing, how long will it take?

If they go 10-6 and make a playoffs run … it may not take more than a couple of years.

But if Los Angeles, which is pretty savvy about all this, never caving to the “build a stadium with public money, and then we will talk”) decides to stand back and wait to see what develops, for a team that may not be any good for years, in a sport that may not have much of a future if the concussion issue is not resolved …

Then the 55th Super Bowl will arrive in Los Angeles before the Rams as “big deal in the L.A. market” does.



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // May 31, 2016 at 12:46 PM

    I have no doubt there are some people who are really pumped up about the return of the Rams (a few of them are Facebook friends of mine). But the L.A. area is just so vast that you can probably drift along for a while without running into them.

    Out of curiosity, I Googled for the population of the greater L.A. area. The answer I got was 18.68 million. So those 56,000 people who plunked down deposits? That’s .003 percent of the population. The Rams can be a huge success if just a half-percent of the population really cares. And I say this as someone who has complete disdain for the NFL.

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