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Super Bowl XXXVII | COMMENTARY

Some Things Disappear Before You Know It

January 26, 2003|Mike Downey | Chicago Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Football fools with your head.

One day it's 1983 and Chicago Bear baron George Halas dies on Halloween, a few days before the Bears play a game in Los Angeles.

Next day it's 2003 and nobody is playing games in Los Angeles.

One day it's 1983 and the Bears are a year or two away from being good enough to win a Super Bowl, so everybody in Soldier Field is bouncing up and down.

Next day it's 2003 and nobody in Soldier Field is bouncing up and down except some guy with a jackhammer.

Times change. Tastes change.

One day the 1983 NFL season is over and who's the featured singer at the Super Bowl?

Barry Manilow.

Then one day it's 2003 and who are the featured singers at the NFL's conference championship games?

LL Cool J and Ja Rule.

Once upon a time, Raider football fans came to games on choppers, dressed like Hells Angels.

This football season, Raiders fans come to games looking like the rock band KISS, or the Broadway cast of 'Cats."

Once upon a time, Tampa's team dressed in orange and white, looking like human Creamsicles, while also looking very much like the worst NFL team of all time.

This football season, Tampa's team wears pants the color of champagne, and might well be the NFL's best team.

Like I say, football fools with you.

One day it's 4 p.m., Chicago time, April 24, 1974, when Commissioner Pete Rozelle emerges from a hotel room to announce: "The National Football League today voted to expand to Tampa, Florida, and to at least one other city to be chosen later this year. The teams are to be ready for the 1976 season. The franchises will cost $16 million each."

Then suddenly it's a new century and it's the players who cost you around $16 million each.

That day there were people from Seattle, Phoenix and Tennessee who sat outside that hotel room wondering why Tampa got a team and they didn't.

Now it's people from Los Angeles who wonder why Seattle, Phoenix and Tennessee have teams, but L.A. doesn't.

Because football plays with you.

Down here in San Diego, there were people who got a huge charge out of it when Los Angeles lost both of its NFL teams, the Raiders and the Rams.

This week in San Diego, there are people who are nervous about possibly losing their Charger football team to Los Angeles.

Faces change. Places change.

It's like up in Los Angeles, where some people arrogantly say L.A. "doesn't miss" pro football and "doesn't need" pro football, as if they personally speak for everybody from L.A.

Imagine if somebody took the Bears away, the same way they once took the Chicago Cardinals away. Imagine if somebody began saying Chicago "doesn't miss" the Bears, "doesn't need" the Bears, speaking for you.

Because some of us living in L.A. missed pro football very much.

Some of us did want a team. Some of us missed being a Super Bowl host city, as San Diego gets to be this week. Some are sad to see the Rams and Raiders make it to the Super Bowl three times in four years, but representing some other town.

You can never satisfy everybody.

It's like in Chicago, where some citizens wanted Soldier Field preserved and some wanted it condemned. And now there are some anticipating a new architectural marvel, while others are already calling it the monstrosity of the Midway.

Well, not everybody dug the Picasso or the Sears Tower either.

Give it some time.

Time can change everything. One day it's 1976, and then it's 1977, and Tampa Bay has played 26 pro football games and lost all 26.

Then suddenly it's a new century and Tampa Bay's a team that not only hosts Super Bowls, it appears in them.

It never occurred to a Raider fan that a Super Bowl played on Jan. 22, 1984, in Tampa would be the last time a Raiders team would play in one for nearly 20 years.

But football's a funny game.

There will come a day, maybe in 2013, maybe in 2023, when Soldier Field will be proposed as a site for a Super Bowl. By then it probably will be called President Colin Powell Field or Marshall Field Field or the Airline Formerly Known as United Field.

And somebody will be proud that the Bears have won the Super Bowl five years running. Or somebody will be furious that the Bears haven't won a Super Bowl for 30-some years and ought to move their sorry butts to St. Louis.

Go ahead and laugh.

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