"You can't keep pissing against the wind," says John Ferraro, president of the Los Angeles City Council and the Coliseum Commission.
Who cares if football is played each Sunday in Los Angeles? Can we be considered a major league city without the NFL presence?
"No big deal," says Ken Ravizza, a Cal State Fullerton professor who works in the area of sports psychology. "The psychological impact on L.A. is different than that on Cleveland. There is so much to do here and people just shift gears; it's not like a desperate sense of identity. In Nebraska what else is there to do but follow the Cornhuskers? In Cleveland how much else is there?"
"Los Angeles is a very sophisticated market," says Robert Baade, professor of economics at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill. "People there are voting with their feet; they won't take mediocrity. If you would like to go someplace else, be our guest. The indifference with which the departure of the Rams and Raiders have been met substantiates that assertion. There is an indication L.A. is getting a little fed up with pro sports.
"It's difficult from the NFL's point of view because it's abandoning the second-largest market in the country. It's a disturbing trend from Paul Tagliabue's point of view, with teams moving from larger media markets to smaller media markets. That movement is occurring because of stadium revenues. That revenue is very, very attractive to owners because it's not shared revenue with other owners, and it's a pretty clear financial incentive to go where the largest venue revenues are being offered."
But Baade, who is the author of a study suggesting professional sports teams and stadiums have no significant impact on an area's economic growth, expects the NFL to return football to Los Angeles, and soon.
"The media money from national TV will force it to happen," he said. "But I think you're going to see big cities playing hardball with the sports leagues more than in the past. Pro sports just doesn't really do that much for a local community."
Football might very well return to Los Angeles, but Callahan, the USC sports psychology professor, says it is much ado about nothing for the everyday citizen.
"It amazes me that Baltimore and St. Louis feel they need football teams," Callahan says. "There are a few individuals in a city, well-heeled individuals, who brought the team to the community. It's not like 4 or 6 million decided to do it.
"No longer is there that schoolboy approach that we must support a team. We know a team doesn't give a damn because we have seen them leave for better business deals. The fact that some people think it's mandatory to have a pro team to create a city's own identity is an amazing sort of suggestion."
What's the payoff for L.A. if football does return? How much impact does a Super Bowl really have on a city?
As incentive for a new stadium in Los Angeles, the NFL is offering the builder as many as three Super Bowls in a nine-year span of time. This could enhance marketing efforts by tying the sale of luxury boxes and club seats for the regular season to Super Bowl tickets.
"With Super Bowls, it's doable; without them, it isn't," says Soboroff, the vice chairman of Riordan's task force.
Each Super Bowl, based on Los Angeles' previous experiences, is expected to bring an estimated $250 million to the city.
"If you told me they would give us three Super Bowls if we built the stadium on the edge of the Santa Monica Pier, that's what I would be working on right now," Soboroff says. "To me, it's about getting those Super Bowls. The NFL has committed those to a Dodger Stadium venue, and I believe they would commit them to an El Segundo venue. If Hollywood Park comes out the winner, then Football L.A. would do its best to help it get the Super Bowls."
Three Super Bowls would go a long way in sprucing up the want ads for investors, and losing such an economic windfall concerns those working for the city of Los Angeles. It also concerns the city of Anaheim, which earlier this month unveiled plans for a billion-dollar sports, retail and entertainment complex and suggested it was a great idea if someone had the money to build it.
"This represents a serious community statement on behalf of Anaheim," says Rosen, chairman of Football L.A. "This will serve as a greater impetus to get something done in Los Angeles."
OK, so when? And how?
"I think Los Angeles won't see a team there until after the year 2000," says Alex Spanos, the San Diego Chargers owner. "No one is in the mood for expansion and I can't see a team moving there. The people have to want it, and eventually they will. Look at Baltimore, it took 11 years. It took seven for St. Louis. It takes time."
Maybe lots of time.
"Whatever, the league must control the market," says Carmen Policy, the San Francisco 49ers' president. "We just don't want a football team; we want proper ownership there to make sure it works this time.