Professional American Football is one of the few bright spots in the current bleak economic landscape. When the spectre of cancelled games loomed over last offseason, the cooler heads prevailed and a deal was struck that prevented any loss of revenue or gameplay (save one preseason contest that would have involved our Cowboys).
The new deal included provisions to get an NFL stadium built in Los Angeles. The question remains, though: which team will play there?
If the NFL is as savvy as their unmitigated success would indicate, the answer is obvious....All of them.
As the Eagles and Cowboys prepare for what will undoubtedly be another classic contest in the newest of the NFL's programming pantheon, NBC's Sunday Night Football, I can't help but imagine time when the marquee game of the week will be played down the freeway and subway from my home here in the City of Angels. Why shouldn't that be the case every week?
The media has spent the years since the Rams and Raiders limped out of town concerning itself with when a new team would take their place, and who it would be. The last chance LA had for expansion was ended by the awarding of the 32nd franchise to the city of Houston, so someone would have to leave their city to bring football back to LaLaLand.
But what would Jacksonville be without the Jaguars? Buffalo without the Bills? These are cities that need to have an NFL franchise. The realities of an American economy in flux demand it. Stripping an already-downtrodden people of their only reminder that the American way actually works would be a moral loss for the entire country. And more to the point, why would anyone think that Los Angeles, where image is everything, would accept a team that wasn't good enough to succeed where in the place that they were forced to vacate?
And don't even think that LA would take the Chargers back after casting them off 50 years ago, or that San Diego would let them go without causing an intra-state war (just look at the talk of moving Comic-Con to LA to give you an idea). And taking the Raiders back would conjure too many bad memories. But the fact that LA's weekend warriors clog the Golden State Freeway from north to south whenever those teams play at home tells me 2 things: those teams staying put is good for the economy, and the people of LA are willing to pay a premium to see football.
Imagine if, instead of the lame Monday Night Football broadcasts that have become afterthoughts to the football weekend, there was a marquee game of the week, every week of the season, played at Farmer's Field in Downtown Los Angeles. The NFL's best and brightest, in the city of glitz and glamour. There would be no problem selling out the games, every fan base in the country is well represented in Southern California and fans would be more than willing to take their annual vacation to travel across the country to see their favorite teams play in the flagship 21st Century NFL venue (no offense, Cowboys Stadium).
Compare that to a scenario that has a third-rate team coming to a town that is already fickle about its devotion to professional sports teams. The Los Angeles Jaguars would be dead on arrival. And from LA's perspective, it's all win - 16 games a year rather than 8 would more than double the revenue generated by a dedicated franchise. 32 teams means that every one would get one week on this new national stage.
Not everyone will agree to this plan. Stadium owners would lose one game every two years, which is a small price to pay for the overall prosperity of the league and the country. And to those Southern Californians worried about the traffic - we're talking about 16 out of 365 days (less than 5% of the year). And traffic's bad anyway - all the more reason to take the opportunity to invest in public transportation.
Evidence points to the NFL taking its product in similarly bold new directions, as evidenced by the annual games in London and Toronto. Kudos to the Bills, by the way, who scored their first international win against the hated (by them and us) Redskins. The current reality is that football players are vagabond warriors, calling whatever city they play in that week their home.
The late Al Davis knew that LA was the NFL's promised land, but couldn't make it work. He shouldn't have tried - LA is a melting pot, and no one team (or two) could ever satisfy the entire population. We need them all. Even Ari Gold would see that this is the only plan that would make the NFL in LA sustainable.