This morning, more than 500 Southern Californians will gather to watch an NFL game.
They will watch from field level. They will wear their team's jersey. They will chant their team's chant.
They will be entertained by a cheerleader named "Touchdown Taylor." They will eat peanuts and throw the shells on the ground.
When their team's game is finished, they can stay and watch another, and another, and another.
They will spend an average of $20 on food.
But their seat will be free.
"No NFL in Los Angeles?" asked Jason Del Campo, regional operations manager for National Sports Grill. "I hate to say it, but it's not a bad thing."
This morning, a dozen players from the NFL's most celebrated prep factory will gather to watch an NFL game.
They will be sitting 10 feet from the action. They will be sitting on couches. They will be sitting with friends.
They will not learn what one learns while watching a game in person. They will learn more.
They will be able to pause, rewind and study the moves of the players whose jobs they may one day steal.
"You want to know if it hurts us not to have the NFL in Los Angeles?" asked Demetrice Parks, Long Beach Poly linebacker. "What do you mean by 'hurt?' We see all the games. We know all the players. What do you mean?"
Monday morning, hundreds of Southern Californians will gather at an airport to fly to an NFL game.
They will be dressed in Oakland Raiders gear. They will be hurling Oakland Raiders invectives. They will fill several planes with silver and black and bad.
The flight will take barely an hour. The plane will land just down the street from the Raiders' home field. Tuesday morning, they can fly home in time for work.
The airline that helps make sure Los Angeles fans don't need an NFL team? It's the official airline of the NFL.
"We have many Raider fans who fly to Oakland for the games, they're very noticeable, they're very spirited, and we love them," said Brandy King, spokesperson for Southwest Airlines.
This morning, the first Sunday of the NFL season, there may be people throughout this region who are bemoaning our 11th season without an NFL team.
I'm not one of them. And I'm not alone.
During the last 11 years, I bet Angelenos have watched more pro football than anyone who lives in a town with a team.
I bet Angelenos have cheered as loudly, and argued as vociferously, and bet as much on the NFL as anyone who lives in a town with a team.
We just don't have to pay high prices for lousy seats to do it.
We know what fans in NFL towns everywhere know, but are afraid to admit.
It's the one major sport that is more fun to watch at home.
During the last 11 years, I've visited high schools and sports bars and sporting goods stores and even airport terminals, armed with an NFL question that has yet to produce an answer.
What exactly are we missing?
They say the NFL creates a sort of shoulder-to-shoulder community spirit that is unique to football.
I say, on weekends when more than 150,000 fans attend USC and UCLA games here, we have plenty of that stuff.
"In terms of going to games, our kids look at USC and UCLA like our pro teams," said Don Norford, longtime track coach and assistant football coach at Long Beach Poly.
They say that with fans spending money on everything from parking to restaurants, the NFL has a huge economic impact on a city.
I say, somehow, our economy has survived. The usual day at the National Sports Grill produces $6,000 of business, while an NFL Sunday can produce as much as $22,000. Multiply that by the hundreds of places just like it, and \o7that's\f7 economic impact.
"Bottom line, not having the NFL helps our business," Del Campo said.
They say that a generation of children is missing out on America's new national pastime. They point with amazement to Matt Leinart, who, upon joining the Arizona Cardinals, admitted that he had never attended an NFL game.
Wow. That sure hurt him, didn't it?
Most of the kids on the Long Beach Poly football team have never seen an NFL game in person. They don't wear NFL jerseys to school. They don't own NFL caps. Their favorite sport is usually basketball. Their favorite team is the Lakers.
But last spring, three alumni were drafted, increasing the number of Poly players who have appeared in the NFL to a nation-leading 51.
"Who needs the NFL when you have DirecTV?" said Norford.
It was once thought that Los Angeles needed a team to spur local television ratings, but the networks have realized that it simply isn't true. There are so many of us from so many other places, we're watching anyway, and thus the networks recently shelled out big bucks to renew league contracts without a team here.
"Come to my place and I'll show you all the fans from somewhere else," Del Campo said.
Finally, there are those who say it is simply embarrassing for this country's national sport to be absent in this country's second-largest city.
Embarrassing to whom?