The NFL wants Los Angeles more than Los Angeles wants the NFL.
That’s been obvious for years.
When the Rams and Raiders both left after the 1994 season, there was no outcry about losing the team and no interest in building a taxpayer-funded stadium to get one back.
The NFL even awarded Los Angeles an expansion team, but Los Angeles shrugged and the team went to Houston.
The first Super Bowl was played there, and the city was so excited that the Los Angeles Coliseum was half-full.
With two teams now playing in Los Angeles, this preseason showed that L.A. still doesn’t seem to care much about the NFL.
It was going to be a struggle for one team to win over the fans. Trying to put two teams there and have them succeed is just folly.
The Rams have the advantage because of their past history in Los Angeles. But Los Angeles wants “Showtime.” The Rams are a sad franchise with no star power. They are not Showtime.
Stan Kroenke, their owner, is good at making money but not in running a pro football team. The team collapsed in St. Louis under his ownership as “The Greatest Show on Turf” fell apart.
Kroenke is building a $2.6 billion palace for the team that will open in a couple of years, but playing there won’t capture the hearts of the fickle L.A. fans if the Rams keep losing.
And then the Chargers moved to Los Angeles this year from San Diego. What a catastrophic mistake. It’s hard enough to sell one team in Los Angeles. Selling two is a bridge too far, and the Chargers are the orphans.
The Chargers are going to play three years in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium until the Inglewood palace is built. Former Chargers’ quarterback Dan Fouts called it “embarrassing’’ to play in that small a stadium. High school teams in Texas play in better stadiums.
Even more embarrassing, they’re having trouble filling it. Only 21,000 (announced) showed up for each of their two home preseason games. The crowd for the first one included about 5,000 Seattle Seahawks fans.
When they played the Rams in the Coliseum, the Rams announced the crowd as 56,000, which is probably their season-ticket base. But only about 20,000 something fans seemed to be in the stadium. And the game was the lowest nationally televised game in the preseason in 14 years.
Putting the game on national TV in the first place was a typical mistake by the NFL. Neither team has any buzz.
It won’t be long before L.A. fans are complaining they no longer get the best late-afternoon Sunday matchups on TV because they have to be shown the Rams and Chargers.
And now the Raiders, who are moving to Las Vegas, are trying to market themselves in Los Angeles because so many fans there used to visit San Diego.
Veteran San Diego columnist Nick Canepa, who has already dubbed the Chargers the “Judases’’ run by “Fredo and Sons,” is already predicting the Chargers will fail and that the Spanos family will sell them to a billionaire who will move them back to San Diego and have enough savvy to make a stadium deal there.
Canepa wrote they won’t attract the “glitterati’’ in Los Angeles with their “hopeless, amateurish drivel.’’
The Chargers’ idea of marketing was to offer free tattoos. That’s not a joke. True story.
But failing in the NFL is difficult. Each team made $244 million last year with a salary cap of $167 million. All the local revenue goes straight into the owners’ pockets.
Meanwhile, St. Louis and San Diego are left with no franchise. At least in St. Louis, they have the baseball Cardinals with their rich tradition dating back to the Gashouse Gang and Grover Cleveland Alexander coming out of the bullpen in the 1926 World Series with a hangover to strike out the Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
St. Louis will always have baseball, although the Rams had better TV ratings in St. Louis last year than they did in Los Angeles.
In San Diego, though, the Chargers were part of the fabric of the city. Granted, it’s still probably the best place in the country to live, but the Chargers had built a half-century of tradition.
As Canepa wrote earlier this year, “They are like our first love.’’
“Can you really totally forget your first love?” he wrote. “I can’t. Maybe if I tried to, I could forget them. But I don’t want to. I spent a whole lot of my life around this team. My dad took me to their first game in Balboa Stadium. So I’m supposed to forget that? How?”
The Chargers and the Rams left a lot of broken hearts behind, but they haven’t found much love in their new home. It’s just another example of NFL hubris that will one day backfire on the league.