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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

L.A.'s Still Waiting for a Committed Relationship

July 28, 1999|MIKE DOWNEY

I saw where Los Angeles' football suitors Tuesday were trying to get a firm--as in love us or leave us--commitment from the NFL, tired of playing footsie.

And I saw where Houston's football buzzards were still circling, praying and preying that L.A.'s bid would drop dead.

"I don't think the NFL has given Houston the proper respect," were the words of Robert McNair, a rich Texan who has been the head honcho--which is certainly better than being an assistant honcho--of Houston's bid to be the NFL's 32nd team.

Billionaire Bob even suggested that you can't believe a word anybody in L.A. says.

"When we say something in Houston, we mean what we say," said the George Washington-like McNair.

(As opposed to here in California, where, as everyone knows, dishonesty is our best policy.)

A clock has been ticking.

Sept. 15 was the NFL's deadline for L.A. to put up a feasible plan for a stadium or to shut up. We began with Plans A, B and C, and I believe as of Tuesday we were up the alphabet somewhere around G or H.

Howard Roark of "The Fountainhead" didn't have this much trouble getting a blueprint approved.

I don't think the NFL has given Los Angeles the proper respect.

So there, Mr. McNair.

*

L.A. has had no professional football since the Rams and Raiders left, if you call that professional.

A few weeks ago, Michael Ovitz, one of our main men in luring the NFL back, was kind enough to e-mail me: "L.A. could use the help of an influential columnist to let the NFL and the state know that we are serious players and that football needs the L.A. fan base, which has long been neglected by the league and the former L.A. owners."

I presumed what he was asking was whether I could recommend the name or number of an influential columnist.

In any case, I do continue to be a staunch proponent--pro, not o--of pro football here in Los Angeles, where all we see kicking balls are women soccer players and Dodger infielders.

I believe (although it took me a while) that the Coliseum can still be a great place to watch football. I believe that fans from Santa Ana to Santa Barbara will come to see our new team. I believe that our team should be called the Los Angeles Superstars, which is a more appropriate name than plain old Stars.

Anyplace can have a star.

Shoot, Texas can have a star.

I understand that we might need to find funds. I know that Gov. Gray Davis has explained carefully his position, which I have condensed to: "No NFL Representation With Taxation."

L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan's strong stance on pro football I take to be that if everybody wants it, so does he, but if nobody wants it, neither does he.

The governor's point man, investment banker Bill Chadwick, went to Tuesday's summit meeting in Chicago confident that the NFL would not pull up stakes in Los Angeles and go to Houston instead, like Montgomery Clift diverting John Wayne's cattle to Abilene.

If it is not too late, I would like to list at least three of the many reasons why Los Angeles and not Houston should indeed get the NFL's 32nd franchise.

1. We Need Football More.

Houston has more things to do. Los Angeles is starved for entertainment. All we have is water and sand. Houston has so much more. I can name two places right off the top of my head where a Houston person can go to have fun. Dallas and New Orleans.

2. We Know Football Less.

It'll all be new to us. Texans understand football. Texans grow up with football. Kids there play it. Adults there play it. Animals there play it. In any given barn, the horses play the cows. Out here in California, some of our young children have never seen a game. Give our poor state a break.

3. We Play Football Outdoors.

This is a radical idea, I know. Houston had a dome. Houston's players were kept out of direct sunlight, like mushrooms. Our boys are outdoorsmen. We believe football should be played in fresh air. And if we ever get any fresh air, we'll play in it.

*

I have hoped for months that the NFL would confirm the City of Angels as the league's 32nd franchise and let the City of Astros get on with its life.

Instead, this thing has just dragged on and on, with the NFL's position pretty much being Yes No Maybe Yes No Yes.

All I ever hear from people here is that they don't care if we get football or not.

It's a good thing that in L.A., we never mean what we say.

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. E-mail: mike.downey@latimes.com

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