Saturday, May 20, 2006

L.A. Closer to Bringing Back an NFL Team

It's no secret that outgoing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has wanted a team back in Los Angeles ever since the Rams and Raiders defected in 1994. It's the one goal he hasn't been able to accomplish in an otherwise impressive tenure.

Despite numerous rumors throughout the past decade of an expansion team or even an existing franchise moving to the City of Angels, nothing has become of it. All the while, the cash-stuffed NFL owners and management keep hoping that someday the second largest media market will have a pro football team to call its own.

Make no mistake, Tagliabue and company want a team in L.A. and will put one there before the decade is out. Even if the Southern California fan base is somewhat apathetic at times to even having an NFL team in the first place.

For those who are old enough to remember when the Rams were strutting their stuff in the seventies. A then record seven consecutive division titles, five NFC championship game appearances and even a Super Bowl berth in 1979, weren't enough to bring out the L.A. crowd.

Even with all that success, Carol Rosenbloom's Rams didn't have a sellout. Yes they played in that cavern known as the Coliseum. But even so, fellow tenant USC managed to out-draw the Rams during their Super Bowl year, causing the first blow that would eventually see the Rams leave California and call St. Louis home in 1995.

No matter. Money is what's driving the latest push to get a team in L.A. The NFL has grown so rapidly since 1994 that not having a team in the second largest media market is foolish. The revenues are too much to resist. Even at the risk of some fan apathy.

The city has picked up on Tagliabue's desire for a franchise to go back there. The Los Angeles City Council just recently voted to spend $25 million dollars on improvements at the Coliseum in hopes of speeding up the process of getting a team.

There is also a proposal on the table to spend upwards of $800 million dollars for a complete renovation of the stadium should the NFL owners approve a motion to put a team in L.A. by the 2009 season.

I for one think it would be a good idea to bring a team back to Los Angeles. It's a city that has had a rich NFL history since the Rams moved from Cleveland in 1946. It's a large TV market that will increase the amount of revenue shared between clubs and will only make the game better and more competitive because of it.

The problem comes in deciding what city will lose its franchise. We already have 32 teams so an expansion team is out of the question. It would wreak havoc with the schedule. That means an existing club will be picked. The most likely candidates are the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints and even the Colts and Vikings have been included in the talks.

The choice that makes the most sense is San Diego. The franchise started in L.A. back in 1960 and with the city council recently voting down a tax increase for a new stadium, Chargers owner Alex Spanos could be on the move.

The NFL is doing the right thing. Los Angeles needs a professional football franchise and the NFL can be even greater with the City of Angels on board for the long haul.

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