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The NFL and Angeleno Disinterest

September 6th, 2017 · No Comments · Chargers, NFL, Rams

So, the NFL.

The pain begins anew, tomorrow, with the New England Patriots and the not annually concussed Tom Brady playing the Kansas City Chiefs.

The initial round of maiming for the 2017 iteration of a dead-end sport will be in prime time.

Which prompts me to think about the two teams in greater Los Angeles, up from zero just two years ago. The Rams and the Chargers.

And I wonder, from the other side of the globe, if Angelenos are paying any attention to the guys who risk life and limb and brain for our viewing pleasure.

We can agree, I believe, that the greater-L.A. sports market has never been more crowded.

Baseball’s Dodgers and Angels, the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, the NHL’s Kings and Ducks, soccer’s Galaxy and LAFC, the latter joining Major League Soccer next year — and all that on top of a couple of major major-college athletic programs (football, basketball, etc.) in USC and UCLA.

And, oh yeah, those two NFL teams.

Neither arrived under the best of circumstances.

The Rams abandoned St. Louis for Los Angeles, after having abandoned Anaheim for St. Louis and, before that, Los Angeles for Anaheim and, before that, Cleveland for Los Angeles. These guys move around a lot. But they are going to stay, this time. No, really.

And then the Chargers, a Los Angeles club as of this season. San Diego refused to build the Chargers a new stadium because, well, the city already had a 60,000-capacity stadium, which had become unworthy in the eyes of the Chargers and the NFLĀ  (though, oddly, it was a good-enough venue to host a couple of Super Bowls while the Rams were gone, including in 2003).

The Chargers took advantage of an opportunity to cast their lot with the Rams and the new stadium going up in Inglewood, the $2.6 billion mansion that will charge silly fans more money to see NFL games than you imagined possible.

Until the stadium is ready to go, in 2020, the Chargers will play at a soccer stadium, which really is a serious comedown for an NFL club. (That “other” football, and its LA Galaxy/StubHub Center capacity of 27,000 or so, offering a safe haven for the Chargers for three seasons, which perhaps is just as well, because it is not clear they can fill a big stadium. Oh, the indignity.)

So, does anyone pay attention to L.A.’s NFL teams?

The Rams were 4-12 last season, with the worst offense in the league.

Jared Goff, the quarterback taken with the top pick in the 2016 draft, was historically awful and it isn’t at all clear he will be significantly better Under New Management.

The Rams always have their defense, and defense sells tickets, as everyone knows — except that their best defensive player is Aaron Donald, and he is holding out for more money, which astonishes the rest of the league.

Do any but the most intense Rams fans (can’t say I actually know one) care about this? Does the average fan see this as a franchise where the default setting is “screwed-up”? The Rams spent a lot of high draft picks to move up and take a QB who is well on the road to “bust” status … and will not pay its best defensive player — considered by some the best defensive player in the NFL.

And the Chargers? Really.

They showed up overnight, up the I-5 from San Diego, after going 5-11 last season and moved into an MLS stadium where they will play to the smallest NFL crowds since, what, the Eisenhower administration?

The Chargers have a competent quarterback, at least, in Philip Rivers, but the Chargers have become the poster kids for serious injuries, and we all know just how serious “serious” injuries have become in the NFL.

My sense is that the leading sports preoccupations in greater L.A. rank something like this: Lakers, Dodgers, USC football, Clippers, UCLA football, Angels, UCLA basketball … and then the Rams and Chargers, probably safely ahead of the hockey teams and USC basketball.

So, I expect that sports fans in L.A. are not exactly slavering at the thought of the NFL season beginning. Not in their own town. (Ratings might be good for teams that have done something lately, like the Patriots and their never-concussed quarterback, and the Packers and Steelers and Cowboys, who actually haven’t done anything lately.)

Whether the Rams or Chargers have any fans or amount to anything as football teams this year or any year soon, it is depressing to know a bunch of guys will suffer major injuries in a market where no one can be bothered to see them get hurt.

Yes. Depressing.

 

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