I Love LA

The General offers up the first of a proposed series of columns on the business of pro football and offers some different insight into LA. The General loves LA and thinks it's a great sports town... just a different kind of sports town. Check out this Commentate-Off entry!

An explanation of why Los Angeles is a good sports town....  by The General

Much has been made about the coming return of "Professional" football to City of Angels.  (No offense intended to the Los Angeles Marinovichs and UCLA professional teams)  However, much more has been made about the apparent lack of fan intensity in LA for the return of the game. 

In order to understand football passion in the land of silicone and suntans you have to understand Los Angeles.  A city self-absorbed beyond reason, a city of transplants, a city obsessed with winning and being the best, where trends change almost daily and where the line between king of the world or lowliest bum is one word, one fumble, one bad movie away. Only when you can see Los Angeles as it truly is, then you can begin to understand why LA is considered, incorrectly, the land that sports forgot.

Los Angeles is a microcosm of the United States as a whole.  It is the melting pot within the melting pot.  The majority of "native" Los Angelinos are the first generation or second generation born in LA.  Their antecedents didn't necessarily come from Scotland, Ireland, England or Germany but rather Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Iowa.  Lured by the promise of beautiful women and the vision of the yearly Rose Parade bathed in sunlight and shirtsleeves.  Los Angeles also is a town that is built on and by individual achievement.  Most of Los Angeles County started out as one man's farm next to a Spanish Mission.  What passes as sports passion in L.A. was raised on the Surf Culture of Redondo Beach, or the Personal Fitness mania of the land of 10,000 health clubs, both of which are standards of individual expression and achievement.  Whether you are ripping the curl south of Point Dume, or running ultra-marathons, it's all about you.  Team sports, while quite successful are not in California what they are in Ohio, Texas or Indiana.  The mania for self-promotion and self-absorption in Los Angeles exceeds the imagination.

By nature of its growth as the "Movie Capital of the World" Los Angeles has developed a very egocentric nature.  Self-Promotion and Machiavellian tactics extend beyond young starlets and their breast enhancements and infiltrate every facet of business in Southern California.  "Team building" and "working together" have been replaced by "multi-media resumes" and executive coup d'etat's over lunch at Gladstone's or Yamashiro's.  It is "Survival of the Fittest" where substance is often over looked in favor of aesthetics. 

Los Angeles is a city based on the bottom line, what have you done for me lately, world of the self absorbed.   Narcissic Personality Disorder isn't a problem here, it's a requirement.  You are only as good as your last picture, your last script, or your last foul shot.  Only in Los Angeles are heroes AND villains are discarded quicker than yesterday's goat cheese pizza. 

However it is this very trait, so prevalent in the Los Angeles Basin, that shows why teams that do well, do well in Los Angeles.  It is now considered chic to be at Lakers games again.  Sitting down in the seats, next to Jack and Dyan.  It is a place to see and be seen, a "very L.A." thing to do.  A few years ago when the Kings had Gretzky, the Dodgers, Orel, the Lakers, Magic, LA was the envy of sports cities.  "BEAT LA" is still a chant heard in every sport, during every season (except the NFL, for now).  Like the proverbial little girl with a curl, when she is good, she is very good, and when she is bad, then she is very bad.
You are loved when you win, and ignored when you lose.  It isn't like Cleveland where you love your team win or lose.  In LA it's "… check the scoreboard… like or don't like…" Professing team affiliation and a prolonged losing streak can end your status quicker than Joe Esterhaus went from "Basic Instinct" to "Showgirls".  Case in point, the Los Angeles Lakers, 3 time World Champion, you couldn't give away tickets to Lakers games during the heady "Del Harris and Kurt Rambis" eras.  Magic Johnson coached the team for a couple of weeks and realized that his star power was dropping, and even though he is hooked on publicity like Robert Downey Jr. is hooked on white powder, he bailed out.  The standard bearer of LA Sports teams, the Dodgers, have not drawn well and that can be laid at the feet of a sub-standard win-loss record.

There is great football passion in Los Angeles, consistently high television numbers are recorded from the LA Market during football season, and that is why football is coming to the City of Angels.  TV people want the market, advertisers want the exposure, LA is money, and money is what drives pro sports.

Los Angeles is a city of carpetbaggers, of transients from other parts of the country.  Where folks gather in bars to watch the Browns, the Packers, or the Bears with other people in from Akron, or Appleton or Aurora.  Where on autumn Sundays stories of "Red Right 88" or "Ghost to the Post" are talked about in reverent solemnity, and stories of youth spent in the old Stadiums watching the great ones of the past play.   These memories and meetings, in an insecure society, become the grounding for these people.

LA's teams are like the people themselves, they come from all over the country, the Lakers from Minnesota, the Dodgers from Brooklyn, the Clippers from San Diego, the Raiders and Rams both came and went, and though the moves happened a long time ago, there is an air of impermanence about sports teams, that feeds on the insecurity of the city.  In an atmosphere where the line between Somebody and Nobody is razor thin and razor sharp something as trivial as the camaraderie of a Sunday spent at the Sportsman's Club becomes an calming influence and bonds strangers together in a town that doesn't believe in bonding. 

The true sports fan lives and breathes in Los Angeles.  He or she loves their teams fervently, however because Los Angeles is not like any other city in the world, it by nature cannot wholly embrace it's own teams through good times and bad.  Be it their own perception of not wanting to be affiliated with a loser, or the general lack of community caused by the constant striving of competition with your neighbors which is as fervent as a Baptist preacher at a Revival Meeting, or the fact that most people in Los Angeles want to cling onto something from their past in the midst of all this impermanence, something that grounds them to their home and family, usually far away.

Los Angeles is a great sports town, if you understand it.  Los Angeles is a great sports town - just not necessarily for Los Angeles teams.


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