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NBA CHAMPS | J.A. Adande

A Trophy Gained, a Trophy Lost

June 15, 2002|J.A. Adande

Three consecutive years of Laker championship parades and they haven't grown old yet. We could use even more days when people stream through the downtown streets wearing the same colors, cheering and chanting. We need more parades.

Too bad it doesn't look as though we'll have one for our very own NFL team.

On the same day Los Angeles celebrated its dominance over the NBA, it took a step away from the biggest and most exclusive club in sports.

Anschutz Entertainment Group, the group that built Staples Center, is backing off its efforts to build a new downtown stadium and lure an existing NFL franchise.

I thought this was going to work. Phil Anschutz has the money. They have the track record, primarily that big arena/parade route destination on 11th and Figueroa. The NFL was interested.

Even the Lakers were doing their part. When Game 7 of the Sacramento series pulled a higher television rating in L.A. than this year's Super Bowl, I figured the NFL owners would call up the moving vans right then. You think the league could stand by and watch an NBA playoff game outdraw the Super Bowl in the nation's second-largest market?

But three days later the Coliseum Commission decided it was going to spend up to $1 million to promote the Coliseum as an NFL site.

Why? The NFL doesn't want to go to the Coliseum. This seems to be getting through to everyone except the Coliseum Commission.

To borrow some words Laker forward Robert Horry used during the victory rally: "They must not read newspapers."

I'm as appreciative as anyone about the Coliseum's role in this city's sports history. But it should be clear it doesn't have a part in the future. By trying to involve it in the NFL mix, the commission is turning it from landmark to obstacle.

There's nothing wrong with the City Council's efforts--including a potential lawsuit--to assure the AEG project wouldn't use public funds. Someone needs to keep the private entities out of our pockets.

But the Coliseum plan is nothing more than a what-about-us? move, more self-serving than anything else. At the least, it could create a bidding war. At worst it could mean no franchise in L.A.

For now, it has served to make AEG want to say game over, man.

"The plot's thickened," AEG President Tim Leiweke said. "We've got to take a lickin'."

Has he been hanging out with Johnnie Cochran?

AEG wanted to buy the property just south of Staples Center (and it must be some valuable real estate, because I paid $30 to park there Friday), and use it for a new stadium.

Leiweke dragged a reluctant Anschutz into the mix.

Anschutz wanted breakfast in bed. He would sign for it only if Leiweke could put everything on the tray and deliver it to him. The Coliseum Commission stuck out its foot just when Leiweke stepped off the elevator.

"We were always up front with the Coliseum folks that if they jumped in, we respected that and we appreciated that, but at the same time, we'd jump out," Leiweke said. "Because we're not going to enter into a dysfunctional process and tie up tens of millions of dollars on property without knowing what the process is. And we're not going to get leveraged by the folks at the NFL on this.

"The NFL's been great. I think there is a good opportunity to bring a team back here. We just don't agree it's the Coliseum. If they want to take another shot, then they're going to do it and we'll sit on the sidelines."

They could come back, but who knows if they can regain the momentum they had?

Sports matter. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas referred to their ability to produce "psychic income," and said "it has a lot to do with the civic energy."

"The larger a city is, the more it needs things that helps them come together and be a city," Ridley-Thomas said. "Teams do that like nothing else can."

But he isn't helping when he insists that the Coliseum is the spot for an NFL team, that all the supporting infrastructure is in place.

All that's missing is someone committed to spending the $300 million to $400 million it will take to renovate the place, not to mention a willingness for the NFL to kick in $150 million to help.

You know, details.

Am I being too negative? Sorry, didn't mean to. Friday was supposed to be a time to party.

As rapper/actor/Staples Center suite-holder Ice Cube said as he walked around 11th Street: "Today is a good day. No doubt, no doubt."

It's always good for a laugh when Mark Madsen dances. He didn't appear to have his dancing shoes; he wore a pair of brown boot-like shoes that Horace Grant gave him.

"These got the job done last year," Madsen said.

And they worked just fine this time. Madsen even looked as if he had been practicing his moves.

"He did more gyrations this year," Kobe Bryant said. "More shoulder work. More footwork."

Madsen said he just followed his dad's advice and "let it flow."

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