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L.A.'S FOOTBALL STORY

Losing Proposition Despite Nine Lives

Rams, Raiders Are Just Two in Long Line of Local Teams That Are No More

October 27, 1998|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

Irwindale approached Davis in 1987 with a stadium proposal that included free land, free ownership of the stadium and a $10-million check for simply considering the city's offer. So Davis considered. And when he announced he was moving the Raiders to Irwindale before the start of the 1991 season, the Coliseum Commission sued for breach of contract, prompting Davis, of course, to countersue.

The deadline for Davis to sign off on the Irwindale proposal passed in 1989. With it, Flores believes, the Southland lost a grand opportunity to continue playing NFL football deep into the 1990s and beyond.

"The political people downtown just beat the hell out of it," Flores said of the Irwindale plan. "Irwindale went away with their tails between their legs.

"The politicians downtown wanted a team to play in the Coliseum, which a lot of people still do. I don't have anything against the Coliseum. But just travel around the country and see what you're competing against. I think it's not even close.

"The game has changed. With free agency and the salary cap, you've got to have cash flow to compete. Which means you have to have a state-of-the-art stadium. You can't do it with just an average stadium."

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They are The Three Commandments of Pro Football Survival in Los Angeles, and by now, they should be chiseled on the top step of the Coliseum peristyle:

Thou shalt win.

Thou shalt be entertaining.

Thou shalt score many points.

But even then, prosperity and longevity are no sure things in this city, as the Chargers discovered during their one season in Los Angeles.

On the field, the 1960 Los Angeles Chargers made every right move.

They won--10 of 14 regular-season games, the AFL's first Western Division title.

They entertained--quarterback Jack Kemp passed for 3,000 yards, halfback Paul Lowe scored 11 touchdowns.

They scored many points--45 against Boston, 50 against New York, 52 against Oakland.

They left for San Diego after one season, having lost more than $900,000 while averaging fewer than 16,000 spectators a game at the Coliseum.

Attendance for their Western Division-clinching victory over Denver was so low, 9,928, that the league, fearing national embarrassment when television cameras panned tens of thousands of empty Coliseum seats, voted to move the site of its first championship game.

From Los Angeles to Houston.

Having lost the home-field advantage, such as it was, the Chargers then lost the championship to the Oilers--24-16 on a late 88-yard touchdown pass from George Blanda to Billy Cannon.

Today, nearly four decades later, the rematch begins. Los Angeles or Houston? Another league vote will decide.

At this point in its professional football history, Los Angeles is hoping history doesn't repeat.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

L.A.'S FOOTBALL STORY

1926

Buccaneers

In their one year in the first National Football League, they never played a home game in L.A.

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1926

Wildcats

Played in first American Football League, but another L.A. team that never played a home game.

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1937

Bulldogs

Won championship in first and only year; was so much better than other teams, league folded.

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1946-49

Dons

In the 'All-American Football Conference,' the team was named after its founder, actor-owner Don Ameche.

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1946-94

Rams

Moved from Cleveland after winning the NFL championship in 1945. Won only one more (1951) in 49 seasons here.

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1974-75

Southern California Sun

Orange County's first experience with pro-football, this World Football League team was on shakey financial ground right from the start.

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1960

Chargers

Despite having a good AFL team, averaged only 15,665 at the Coliseum and moved to San Diego after only one season.

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1983-85

Express

A member of the United States Football League, the team made national headlines with the signing of quarterback Steve Young to a $48-million contract.

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1992-94

Raiders

Say what you want about the Raiders, but won this city's only Super Bowl in 1983, and brought us Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen.

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