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Climate for NFL in L.A. Is Super

October 31, 1998|J.A. ADANDE


What else could it be? Why else would the NFL hold the door open for as long as it takes the two competing Los Angeles football ownership groups to get all of their paperwork in order and win themselves an expansion franchise?

Houston has everything together, the right stadium plans, the right money, all set to go. The NFL treats Houston the way a teacher ignores the class nerd, looking over his raised hand and hoping someone else wants to answer.

And that someone else will be L.A. Think climate.

It couldn't be the television market. NBC and ABC/ESPN just forked over $17 billion in rights fees, and surely the network execs were smart enough to realize the Raiders and Rams are long gone. And if the L.A. market really meant so much to the NFL, it wouldn't have changed the "Monday Night Football" starting time to 5:20 Pacific. It couldn't be the fan base. If the NFL meant so much to so many people, there would be a mass exodus to Jacksonville.

There's a reason the populace hasn't staged an insurrection to demand an NFL team. A new team in this city would basically amount to just another entertainment option--and an increasingly bad one, at that--for eight Sundays a year.

What the NFL could bring to Los Angeles and what Los Angeles could bring to the NFL can be summed up in two words: Super Bowls.

The most relevant news to Los Angeles football fans this week came in the form of a little note. New Orleans beat out San Diego for the right to host the Super Bowl in 2002.

New Orleans? San Diego? Didn't they just host the last two Super Bowls?

The NFL is running out of sites. It seems as though the league alternates between New Orleans and Miami, with the occasional San Diego or Tampa or Atlanta thrown in.

The league tried going to domes in cold-weather cities, like Detroit in 1982 and Minneapolis in 1992. Notice it hasn't been back.

Even though Texas doesn't get bitterly cold, Houston in January doesn't sound too enticing. (Come to think of it, Houston in any month doesn't sound too enticing.)

That's where L.A. comes in. This city always has had a good relationship with the Super Bowl, even before it was called the Super Bowl.

The first championship matchup between what was then the NFL champion and the American Football League champion was at the Coliseum, and the big game has been played at the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl six times since then.

These days the Super Bowl brings with it an estimated $200 million to $300 million windfall to its host city.

Obviously the owners like coming here in January or they wouldn't return so often. But the league can't fairly dole out a Super Bowl to a city without a team. And it already has used up the Hawaii option with the Pro Bowl.

It never hurts to have another player at the table. Even if Los Angeles doesn't get the Super Bowl in a given year, the league wins. Throw another city into the mix and everyone else has to compete that much harder to present attractive bids for the league to bring its big cash cow to town.

The league made it so obvious that it wants a team in L.A. that Robert McNair, the force behind Houston's bid for an expansion team, came out and said he'd be interested in bringing the Broncos to Texas if Denver doesn't give them a new stadium.

Meanwhile, Michael Ovitz all but told the owners, "Could you hurry it up with the decision process? I'm in a hurry here." Instead of telling him to get lost, the owners said, "Sure. We'll get back to you as soon as we can." The New Coliseum group members were so rushed in their revamped vision of the New New Coliseum that they didn't have a chance to unveil it to the public until Thursday--two days after the owners' meetings.

Plenty of college students procrastinate on their term papers and pull all-nighters to get them in on time, but they don't tell the professor, "Here you go, just finished," when they hand them in.

It didn't matter. The stadium fit the NFL criteria, namely:

1. It has luxury suites.

2. It's in L.A.

Be it downtown or Carson, the NFL is coming back. Better make your restaurant reservations for January 2008 now. It'll be tough to find a table with all of those visitors in town for the Super Bowl.

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