Los Angeles is a basketball city and always will be a basketball city. The Lakers are king, even though they don’t have The King, and they should be. They will play in their 30th NBA Finals this year and will probably win their 15th championship. But that doesn’t stop the NFL from dreaming of a football team in one of the fastest growing markets. Thankfully, the recession has forced the NFL to ignore that potential marriage. The NFL and California do not need another football team.
I can understand why the NFL wants a team in LA. It’s a growing city (and state for that matter) even with the recession hitting it hard. If you grow up in LA, the closest NFL team is in San Diego – about a 2 – 3 hour drive. However, the allure of the great USC football program, the Lakers, and Los Angeles Dodgers forces most sports fans to forget about football. Not to mention, LA is an entertainment city, and sports will always play second fiddle to the film and TV industry.
Still, the NFL knows if they can place a dedicated owner in LA, the team can gain market share and make lots of money for everybody. But the biggest question is how do they do that?
For some reason, NFL officials will not rule out expansion as a means of placing a team in Los Angeles or Anaheim. I do not understand why they even talk about expansion. It’s stranger than Detroit Red Wings fans singing along to Journey at the Joe Louis Arena. I’m not bashing Journey, but “Don’t Stop Believing” doesn’t feel like a hockey song (even if it has “south Detroit” in it). You don’t hear Boston fans singing to Augustana’s song Boston. You hear them singing to Dropkick Murphys. Detroit is weird.
If the NFL expands to 33 or 34 teams, the talent will be like the NFL Europe, or worse the XFL. NFL owners have noted if the NFL expands to 33 teams, the league will have to add another team to make the conferences equal. Instead of needing another 56 players, the NFL would need 112, and that number does not include practice squads or if one of the 112 players is injured. Talent is always stretched thin as it is. The Detroit Lions can’t buy a superstar, and the New England Patriots consistently sign players off the street when the injury bug hits them in the middle of the season.
One or two more teams would also ruin the format of the divisions, the scheduling and rivalries. Currently, there are four teams in each division, with each divisional rival playing each other twice throughout the season. If the NFL adds more teams, those divisions would have more divisional games than other teams. Just look at MLB’s NL Central.
I hate when teams relocate. It’s a conflict of fan interest. You are sending a team to another city that most likely rooted for another team. For example, football fans in Los Angeles probably root for the San Diego Chargers, the Oakland Raiders or the San Francisco 49ers. If the Minnesota Vikings relocate to Los Angeles, 49er fans who live in LA will not know if to root for their once conference rival or their team to the north. Not to mention the league will most likely anger the fans losing a team (a team that sells out almost all their games – no matter their record).
Now, if a team has failed and the team is stranded worse than the characters on Lost, then yes, by all means move that team. It worked for the Charlotte Hornets (who are now the New Orleans Hornets) and the Montreal Expos (who are now the Washington Nationals). In the case of the Hornets, the owners ruined that team by not spending on star players and caring less about their fans than Rock of Love girls care about STDs.
Other than money, what’s the lore of expanding or moving another team to California? The NFL is not like any other major American sport. There are no teams in bankruptcy and parity is king. Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns have had reasons to cheer lately. The Arizona Cardinals played in the Super Bowl last year and almost won. And the Lions took their first step to recovery: firing Matt Millen. In seven plus seasons with Millen in charge, the Lions were 31-84!
Let’s also look at the Houston Texans, who are the last expansion team. They haven’t had a winning season yet.
There is a possibility of more money, especially with a team playing in the second largest market in the United States. Fans will most likely support the team (they always do), but at what expense: football talent stretched more than a Stretch Armstrong doll, the possibility of less parity (and teams who cannot win will lose their fans and prestige), and the disappointment of a currently successful football town. The NFL should look at the success they have had without LA in the mix and forget about Hollywood unless a team starts to fail or it is producing a football movie.
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