Why I want the NFL to return to LA

I came across Bob Timmerman's post on this site recently, and I can't help but to respectfully disagree.

In this post and in another, Timmerman strongly implies that the LA Times is biased in favor of an AEG-built Downtown football stadium, and presents some recent columns by TJ Simers and Bill Dwyer as evidence. Presumably an NFL team here would give the Times more to write about and it would help the sagging sports section.

In my opinion, if the Times wants LA to get an NFL team, then they've been doing a terrible job for 15 years. Yes, Simers has written two pro-AEG columns recently, but he's also bashed just about every other NFL owner and/or team that could wind up in LA. Over the years, Simers has referred to the Spanos family (which owns the Chargers) as the "Spanos Goofs." Last year, responding to reports that the Rams were considering moving to LA, he wrote an article headlined: "The Rams back in Southland? Be very afraid".

Simers has covered the NFL to LA story since the moment the Rams and Raiders left. He's never been shy to criticize Ed Roski, Eli Broad, Michael Ovitz, Ron Burkle, Marvin Davis, Ken Behring, John Moag, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and dozens of other people over the years. He's even been known to call AEG's Tim Leiweke by the name "Tim LIE-weke." Here's a sampling of Simers quips:

September 10, 2002

Every time there is an NFL report involving Los Angeles, I'm reminded of one of my all-time favorite movies, "A Thousand Clowns."


March 25, 2009

It's usually the first question when traveling if L.A. is mentioned: "When are you folks going to get an NFL team?"

It seems to be a big concern to people living elsewhere, but the answer around here is usually the same: "Who cares?"

Given all the wasted rhetoric to date, it's like waiting for Beckham to make an impact. The interest is long gone.


January 6, 2008

We love the NFL. On TV, all right.

Some people, who live elsewhere, will insist we are missing something because we don't have a team of our own to get excited about.

But then we don't pay for parking, tickets, concessions or experience a rise in the crime rate with so many more professional athletes living among us. And our dogs don't have to sleep with one eye open.

...

But whatever happens, we're probably going to be stuck with the return of the NFL, and you know what that's going to do to our Sunday TV fare.


February 27, 2002

Now we have Charger owner Alex Spanos knocking at the door, which makes me long for those Russian Sputnik days when we had underground bunkers to hide in.

...

When Seattle Seahawk owner Ken Behring tried to move his team to Anaheim, he expressed great dismay when the L.A. media failed to greet him with puff pieces.

March 26, 2002

And I guess I can understand why Staples Center-price gouger Philip Anschutz would want to keep the location of his new stadium secret until he ties up all the land at a cheap price because he's a billionaire and he doesn't want to become just a millionaire.

In fact I gave this some thought before guessing the stadium will be built in South Park because I'm not sure I could sleep knowing I might have contributed somehow to making Anschutz just a millionaire.

But then I remembered what I paid for that last Diet Pepsi at Staples Center, and I'd like to see this guy take care of his monthly bills after a night out in his arena.

...

If Leiweke is going to try to steer people away from South Park, I suggest he start spelling his name LIE-weke, and tell the truth.


January 23, 2001

I see the day when City Councilman Joel Wachs is dressed in black and gold from head to toe, standing before his brethren in City Hall, proclaiming it "Los Angeles Saints Day."

He's telling reporters, "There's nothing like pro sports to bring a city together," the people in New Orleans be damned. And one more thing, Wachs will say, "Anyone got any extra Super Bowl tickets?"

Mayor Xavier Becerra will then hand the keys of the city to an Art Modell-like carpetbagger, while proclaiming the Monday after the Super Bowl a free day for all L.A. schoolkids.

I'm predicting it right now: The time is coming when every one of you who has said that L.A. does not need the NFL, that L.A. does not miss the NFL, that L.A. never will spend a dime of public money on the NFL, will collapse under the pressure of championship fever and act like a football goof again.


Now, I actually like T.J. Simers. I find him humorous and I know not to take him too seriously. But when someone with his experience and history actually praises a football stadium plan, then you know there has to be something to it.

Times columnist Bill Plaschke has also been unenthusiastic about the idea of the NFL coming here, penning columns headlined: "Forget the NFL, LA Leads Field in Football" and "Life Without the NFL? There's Nothing to It".

Other Times writers have been similarly cynical, skeptical, and apathetic about LA football stories. The recent Dwyer and Simers columns are rare exceptions and not indicative of the Times' staff feeling as a whole.

In the meantime, I'm going to say something that few media members are willing to say in the open: I want the NFL to return to Los Angeles. I've been longing for a team to come here since Raiders left in 1995 and have openly supported every reasonable plan to do so.

Why on earth do I care? There's plenty of lip service that politicians and businessmen give to the idea of job creation, economic development, and civic pride. Many of those arguments have merit. But for me, the reason is simple: I really enjoy watching professional football and I would like a local team to call my own. I would like to attend a few NFL games a year in my own city and cheer on a team with other fans who live here.

I know it's shocking to hear someone in the LA media say that, but I'm not going to apologize for my position. And I think there are plenty of Southern Californians who agree with me. The percentage may not be as high as in Cleveland or in Baltimore, and they may not be as fanatical as fans Pittsburgh or Green Bay, but there's enough people here to fill a stadium every Sunday and avidly support a professional team.

Some people say that we don't need football in LA to survive. That's true. But we also don't need the Lakers to survive either. Or the Dodgers. Or USC and UCLA athletics. You could get rid of all of them and the sun will still find a way to rise every morning. But people enjoy watching those teams, and they would enjoy watching a competently run NFL team too.

This doesn't mean I think the people of Southern California should be swindled into a bad deal. But neither AEG nor Ed Roski are looking to swindle people with their current stadium proposals Downtown or in the City of Industry.

AEG has spearheaded a dramatic transformation of Downtown LA, despite being opposed by cynics and nimbys at every opportunity. STAPLES Center was the catalyst for economic development that has happened there this past decade, and the construction of LA Live and its adjacent hotels have given this city the opportunity to host numerous events and conventions that would not have otherwise come here. That has led to new tax revenues coming into this city, and yes, created jobs. A Downtown stadium (doubling as a convention center) would only help LA attract more high quality events and continue to help this city. No company has more credibility than AEG when it comes to stadium and event center construction. They haven't just done it in LA. They've done it all over the world. And nearly every facility they've built has become a success. If anyone can make a football stadium in LA happen in a way that is fair to taxpayers and drives economic development, then it's AEG.

Similarly, Ed Roski is another well-respected businessman in Southern California, who worked closely with AEG on projects in the past. The design for his City of Industry stadium is excellent. It might be further away for most Angelinos, but it's closer to LA than Foxboro is to Boston, and it's more convenient than living in New York and having to take a bus to East Rutherford, NJ. And people within LA city limits often forget that there is an enormous population in the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire, and this proposed stadium would be closer to them. If LA's only NFL team played in the City of Industry, then the stadium would absolutely be a success.

There have been some lousy LA stadium proposals, but neither of these are it. I'm in favor of whichever can be done and can finally bring the NFL back to Los Angeles. And if the LA Times is on board too, then that would be a pleasant surprise.


More by Phil Wallace:
USC fires Lane Kiffin
Hollywood Park back in the picture
HBO's Real Sports highlights Chivas USA's troubles
Don't get too excited about the Lakers' cap space
How Jim Buss ruined the Lakers
Previous Native Intelligence story: Angeleno Datebook-December 9, 2010

Next Native Intelligence story: Defending Arte Moreno

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