Although it's a less dramatic and slower developing story, ultimately this will have a much more significant impact on the league: a major buzz at the recent NFL owners meetings in Arizona may shake up the state (and location) of the San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders.
Here's a quick synopsis if you haven't been keeping up...
It seems NFL owners are solidly behind Chargers owner, president and CEO Dean Spanos in his pursuit of a new stadium. Spanos has overseen the daily operations of the Chargers since 1994 and has been pursuing a new stadium for the past fourteen years, which has been met with little or no response from the city of San Diego (which is German for "a whale's vagina," as Ron Burgundy so eloquently taught us).
Spanos's frustration has grown palpable.
The Chargers' current home, Qualcomm Stadium - formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium, which was formerly known as San Diego Stadium - was built in 1967 and is considered a relic. Spanos said recently, "We are going to try and stay in San Diego, but we will wait and see what happens," which is hardly a ringing endorsement.
This sentiment, combined with the NFL's bound determination to place a team in Los Angeles, tips the needle in favor of L.A.
It's funny how things often come full circle. If the Chargers do end up in Los Angeles (and many NFL owners are predicting that will happen as early as 2016), the team would merely be coming back home.
In 1960, Barron Hilton, one of the original eight investors in the American Football League, named his Los Angeles-based team the Chargers. A year later, they moved to San Diego.
Perhaps we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves in this Chargers-back-to-L.A. scenario, though.
An interesting wrench that has been thrown into the machine centers around another heavy hitter.
St. Louis Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, recently purchased 60 acres of "affordable" land adjacent to the famed Los Angeles Forum. He has joined forces with a group called Hollywood Park, which owns almost 300 acres of adjoining (and equally "affordable") land, which, together, makes up nearly 360 acres of fun.
The collective partnership plans a 80,000 seat stadium, a 6,000 seat entertainment complex with a surrounding wonderland of awesomeness to the tune of $1.86 billion dollars. That's some serious pocket change.
The project was unanimously approved by the Inglewood City Council in February and the Kroenke partnership has even reached an agreement with nine organized labor unions in the Los Angeles area.
This project isn't a pipe dream, it's very real. As Cowboys owner
Kroenke is not happy in the Edward Jones Dome (formerly known as the Trans World Dome). The Rams and the city of St. Louis remain almost $600 million apart in plans for renovating the 20 year-old stadium which the Rams are now leasing year-by-year.
St. Louis recently unveiled plans for a $985 million stadium on the banks of the Missouri River, but it might be too little too late for St. Louis Rams fans. Kroenke seems "all in" (as they say) on the L.A. project.
To this end, it seems almost certain we will soon see this logo again...
|The Rams called Los Angeles home from 1946 to 1994. That's a long time.|
Not lost in this discussion is the always-disgruntled Oakland Raiders, which also called Los Angeles home during the days of big hair and heavy metal. From 1982 to 1994, a pissed off Al Davis set up camp in the City of Angels, and the Raiders even won a Super Bowl as the "Los Angeles Raiders" (1983).
The Silver and Black returned to Oakland in 1995, but have once again grown disillusioned with their home and would love to move south to Los Angeles. But that seems unlikely.
In fact, a recent article in Business Insider magazine envisions the Raiders heading east to St. Louis to play in the new river front stadium originally intended for the Rams.
The St. Louis Raiders? Stranger things have happened, folks.
This, of course, is all speculation by people who know people who know someone.
But the real story is this: Lost in the shuffle are the fans of all of these teams. Just a couple of years ago there was major speculation that my beloved Vikings were on their way to Los Angeles. (It was not unprecedented for a Minnesota professional sports franchise to relocate to L.A. I mean, the L.A. Lakers were not so-named because all of the lakes found in Los Angeles).
The thought of losing the Vikings was dreadful. I had even gone so far as to seriously think about which NFL team to cheer for after the Vikings left (for the record, I had decided on the Chiefs). Luckily, a new stadium was agreed upon and the Vikings will most likely stay in Minnesota for my lifetime.
Still, I learned my lesson; don't take this stuff too seriously. It's just a game.
But for a football junkie like myself (and there a lot of you out there... in fact, if you're reading this in April, I'm guessing you're a fellow football junkie), the thought of losing my favorite NFL team was a sickening experience.
And now that mind game is being played with Chargers fans (the Chargers have been in San Diego for more than half a century), Raiders fans and Rams fans.
The fans make the NFL happen. Yet, the fans are never considered in a situation like this. And that, my friends, is bullshit (pardon my frankness).
The fans are the ones emotionally invested in these teams. They are the ones that buy the tickets, buy the merchandise; they are the ones that live and die with their team every down, every game, every season.
And they are the ones that end up getting duped. It's a raw deal, but that's how it is.
I understand that Los Angeles is the second biggest media market in the United States, but the NFL stubbornly ignores the fact that they've tried and failed twice (three times if you count the AFL Chargers) to get a team to stick in L.A. As we've seen, the Rams and Raiders were both Los Angeles-based from 1982 to 1994. But the city wasn't interested in keeping either one.
If this all becomes reality, I'm guessing that once the polish and novelty wears off on the new Los Angeles stadium, attendance will become sluggish and the beautiful people will find something more fashionable to do on a Sunday afternoon in L.A. than go to a Chargers/Rams/Raiders game. Especially if the team is not winning.
History repeats itself because nobody listens the first time. This is a classic example.