OH, NO, here they come, another busload of unwanted transplants with big dreams and limited talents to pollute our airways and hurt our eyes. Forgive us if we don't throw a pep rally or send a welcome basket or even hold the door. It's been 20 years since the NFL left Los Angeles, and look how we've suffered. The Lakers reeled off five NBA championships. USC football claimed two straight national titles. UCLA basketball reached three straight Final Fours. The Kings lifted the Stanley Cup twice, and the Ducks did it once. The Angels won the World Series. Lob City was born. Clayton Kershaw was drafted, as was Mike Trout. We subbed Magic Johnson for Frank McCourt, Steve Ballmer for Donald Sterling.
What did we miss—and we're asking honestly, not because we've suffered any concussions. We played fantasy football. We caught Manning and Brady on basic cable. We filled the bars on Sundays. We discovered, for reasons physical and emotional, that it was healthier to witness Raiders games from afar. The teams that weren't stupid enough to bail on L.A. reaped the benefits. The Dodgers lead Major League Baseball in attendance for the third year in a row, and the Angels rank fifth. The Clippers and the Kings were at 100% capacity last season, the Lakers and the Ducks at 98.3%. In a few Saturdays the Trojans and the Bruins will draw 140,000 fans to stadiums separated by less than 15 miles. We heard you've been into deflated balls lately. Out here, we like our orbs inflated, all of them. And we don't apologize for that.
So now the race is on for the NFL, back to L.A., between the Rams, Raiders and Chargers. Representatives from those franchises converged on Chicago on Aug. 11 to present competing stadium proposals to fellow owners. The Rams intend to build in Inglewood, while the Raiders and the Chargers want to share a home in Carson. Only one project will be approved. There is more excitement for the Thursday turtle races at Brennan's Pub in Marina del Rey. Seriously, we're not talking about Pete Carroll leading the Seahawks south. We're talking about two more hours a week on the 405, tailgates in Carson and thousands of dollars in personal seat licenses to watch the Chargers mount their annual surge to 7--9. The USC spring game sounds better. The Long Beach Poly spring game sounds better.
We know, we know, in most cities the NFL is king, and no option can rival the fullback dive. But L.A. is not most cities. Transplants stick with their teams, and locals already support half a dozen superior squads. Of course the owners searching for estates in Bel Air don't mind. They'll build their shiny stadiums, sell their pricey sponsorships and watch their net worth rise. But after the buzz wears off—around the time of Nick Foles's eighth pick, let's say—they'll sit in their luxury boxes and gaze on row after row of empty seats. On second thought, that's not true. Opposing fans will hang around. It'll be an easy trip for them.
To be fair, the Raiders do have a following in Los Angeles, but they also have a following in Oakland and they still have to tarp the top deck of O.co Coliseum. At least the Raiders and Rams have won a Super Bowl. The Chargers haven't, coming close only once since the Spanos family bought the franchise in 1984. That was the same year Sterling shipped the Clippers from San Diego to L.A., the last team to move here. It took 27 years for the jokes to stop.
So unless you can help bring Kevin Durant to town next summer, do yourself a favor: Don't come. Because we're going to pick Pasadena over Carson, Song Girls over cheerleaders, bat flips over touchdown dances, purple-and-gold over Silver and Black, and we're going to do it every day of the week—and, yes, twice on Sunday.
We know, we know, in most cities the NFL is king, and no option can rival the fullback dive. L.A. is not most cities.
JEFF CURRY/USA TODAY SPORTS