California Dreaming

Bar Stool looks at the bed the NFL made for themselves in Los Angeles in this Commentate-Off 2K2 entry!

I remember my Dad telling me, "Son, you make your bed. You lie in it."

 

That thought struck me when I heard that the NFL, or more specifically the Commish and various league owners, was once again interested in re-entering the Los Angeles market. Their reasoning, although hardly valid, is that Los Angeles is the second biggest TV market, and that means potential lost revenue. After all, it's all about the money to these guys.

 

Never mind the fact that the league has had two chances now to put a team in L.A. Never mind the fact that two teams were already there and left. One of those teams, the Raiders, moved back to Oakland, which is where it belongs anyway.

 

Remember that the NFL shunned L.A. for the second time in favor of Houston, and the League clearly stated there was no more room for expansion. The Texans became the 32nd team and the last one.

 

Now the League is looking at L.A. again. Maybe they are trying to fix their mistakes.

 

Let's go back to the early 90's when the NFL announced that it was going to create two new expansion franchises. Here was a chance to put football back in St. Louis and Baltimore, who had lost the Cardinals and Colts respectively.

 

Those cities enjoyed NFL success, and because of that it appeared that St. Louis and Baltimore would get NFL teams once again.  In fact, they were the early favorites when the preliminary expansion talks began.

 

Consider, two cities in the top 25 TV markets, with fans that support their sports franchises. The Blues and Cardinals in St. Louis and the Orioles in Baltimore are some of the most popular and well-supported franchises in all of sports. 

 

Those two cities deserved to have the NFL again. Ask any of the old guard NFL owners and they'll tell you the League was doing just fine with football in St. Louis and Baltimore.

 

But in the end it was Carolina and Jacksonville who were awarded new franchises, while Baltimore and St. Louis were left standing at the altar.

 

Now, you can blame the bidding process or you can blame the NFL's expansion committee all you want, but you'll miss the real problem. Remember, these are smart people. There's a reason that most of them are billionaires. And the people running the NFL are wise enough to figure out that a city without a team is further motivated to do what it can do attract a sports franchise to its locale. Especially when they've tasted it once already.

 

Think about it for just a minute. Ever heard somebody utter the words, "I want it so bad that I'll do anything!" Voters suddenly become more willing to approve ridiculous stadium taxes, politicians make it their business to approve funding, and the corporate world is quick to pony up the necessary dollars. Just like that the invisible "red tape" is gone too.

 

Meanwhile, the NFL's billionaire owners are sitting back and milking it for all they can get. The NFL is like a tight fraternity. It's a brotherhood whose bond is tied by money. And these are the ties that bind.

 

Look at Baltimore as an example. We can't figure out how to properly pay for public schools in this country, yet the mayor of Baltimore, the governor of Maryland and other corporate leaders made it a priority to "do anything" and steal a franchise from another city.

 

Baltimore put together a deal that included advertising revenue, stadium naming rights, parking revenue, free rent and other incentives. It was a very attractive offer.

 

They were basically going on record as saying they were sweetening the pot to bring a team to their city – at all costs. The NFL fraternity had to be loving it, even though it meant a city with loyal fans might possibly lose their team.

 

Every NFL owner knew about the Baltimore deal, and every city without a new, corporate-named stadium was threatened by it – cities such as Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Houston and Los Angeles. Even cities with loyal fans and deep history were looking at the Baltimore deal, such as Cleveland and Buffalo.

 

In the end the NFL brotherhood made millions when a certain greedy owner finally took the Baltimore "deal." On top of that, Tampa Bay and other cities either built or started to build new stadiums. Again, more money added to the pot.

 

Then St. Louis followed the Baltimore example and enticed the Rams to move from L.A.  Figuring it could do the same, Nashville brought the Houston Oilers to town.

 

The NFL ignored two deserving cities with expansion franchises, and suddenly found itself with three more cities posting vacancy signs – L.A., Cleveland and Houston.

 

But which city wanted the NFL back so badly that they would "do anything?"

 

Cleveland did. It basically forced the NFL's hand by using an overwhelmingly persuasive PR campaign led by fans from Browns Backers clubs all over the United States, the city's mayor, and local corporations who promised to upfront the necessary dollars for a new stadium.

 

But how bad did Los Angeles want it?  They were given a second chance and lost out to Houston. Apparently, the City of Angels didn't want it bad enough. At least not as bad as Houston.

 

The fact that the NFL is even looking at L.A. (again) and trying to figure out how to get a team there is a mystery. 

 

You know, my Dad also told me once, "If you look hard enough for something, you'll find it."  Well the NFL has looked twice now in L.A. for a reason to once again field a team there.

 

What they're really looking for is more money.

 

It's under the messy bed they made.


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