Does the NFL love L.A.?

National Football Post

To quote Neil Diamond, “L.A.‘s fine, the sun shines most the time and the feeling is laid back. Palm trees grow and rents are low (obviously this was written a long time ago. I have cancelled rent checks to prove it) but you know I keep thinkin’ about making my way back.”

Those lyrics are from the Neil Diamond classic I Am...I Said, released in March of 1971. That year, the city of Los Angeles still had an NFL team. It was the Rams, and they played in the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was their 26th season in L.A.. They would vacate the coliseum and move to Anaheim a handful of years later only to leave the state entirely for St.Louis in 1994.

Meanwhile, the Raiders brief stay in Los Angeles ended in 1994 as well. For almost 20 years, the lure of Los Angeles has remained. The second largest city in the country has no NFL franchise, and it’s citizens don’t seem to mind. I didn’t mind when I lived there. I had perfect weather, could walk to the beach, and had no commuting hassles to work. I lived just three blocks from where Tom and Giselle got married. That Southern California lifestyle trumped not having a hometown NFL team. It did not stop me and my fellow Giants fans from watching “big blue” each and every week, cheering like we did back home. As Neil Diamond wrote in I Am...I Said, “Well, I’m New York City born and raised.”

DOES THE NFL NEED LOS ANGELES?

The obvious answer is no. Not only has the league survived without a team in Los Angeles, it’s thrived. Television ratings are sky high even minus a team in the number two market in the country. Rights fees paid by the television networks have skyrocketed, too. Even better for owners, the city has been used as leverage as they seek new stadius. Extortion appears to be perfectly legal in the NFL.

A RETURN TO L.A.?

Is it imminent? It could be (how many times has that been said?) The return of the NFL to Los Angeles has been a constant conversation. It’s seems odd that there is no team there, and even stranger that in a city built around the entertainment industry with countless billionaires and millionaires they have never been able to build a stadium.

AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment companies in the world. It owns among other entities the Staples Center, the NHL’s Kings, a piece of the Lakers and a soccer team. For quite some time now AEG has talked about building a downtown stadium to house an NFL team (maybe two).

Now comes word AEG is for sale. What does that mean for pro football in the City of Angels? Nobody’s quite sure.

WHO IS PATRICK SOON-SHIONG?

He’s the NFL’s type of guy. He’s a billionaire. He’s the richest guy in Los Angeles. According to Forbes, Soon-Shiong, a doctor and biotech investor is worth over 7 billion dollars. That’s music to Roger Goodell’s ears. Soon-Shiong tried to buy the Dodgers and did buy Magic Johnson’s piece of the Lakers. He’s exploring the possibility of buying AEG.

A RETURN TO THEIR ROOTS?

Someday, the NFL will return to Los Angeles, whether the people want it or not. Why? Because the league wants a team in the number two television market and with it another warm weather site for the Super Bowl.

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Qualcomm Stadium, Jake Locker
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Right now, if I had to bet on a team to move to LA, I’d look to the one just down the 405. The San Diego Chargers began as the Los Angeles Chargers back in 1960. They stayed just one season. These days, the Chargers can’t get a new stadium built and can’t sell out the one they have (Sunday’s game against Atlanta is blacked out). Soon they’ll be able to buy their way out of Qualcomm. The extortion ploy of a move to L.A. hasn’t worked for Chargers owner Dean Spanos. The public, which footed the bill for the current stadium, continues to refuse to build the billionaire a new one. Spanos bought the Chargers for under $80 million in the 1980’s. Today, the team is valued at over $900 million.

If the NFL hurries, they can get Neil Diamond to sing the national anthem before the Super Bowl. He did it at the Rose Bowl before the Giants beat the Broncos in 1987. But they have to be quick because Neil’s 71 years old. looking on the bright side I don’t think he’s lost between two shores anymore.

Bob Berger is a 35-year veteran of sports radio. For the last 18 seasons Bob hosted "Around The NFL" on Network Radio. He's on the Panel of Voters for the Associated Press NFL All-Pro team and post season awards. In recent years Bob hosted weekends on Yahoo Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio and One On One Sports. He is a graduate of the University of Miami.

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