It looks like the Rams and the Chargers are heading for L.A., and everybody seems pretty cool with that
According to the Los Angeles Times, “a consensus is building” within the NFL to relocate both the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles. Although a decision is still far from being reached, it seems most likely that the Chargers and Rams will share a new facility in Inglewood, and some slight politicking aside, everybody seems pretty cool with that.
Despite the machinations of a small faction of the NFL to move the Oakland Raiders to greener pastures and television markets, the general mood is that the relocation of the Chargers and Rams to a new, $2 billion (or more) complex in Brian Wilson’s old hometown is the one that enjoys the most support and least resistance to bring an NFL team to L.A. after a 20 year absence.
This makes sense. It feels right. Let’s do this.
For one, both the Chargers and the Rams are currently located in cities that could care less about their respective franchises, and weren’t willing to be robbed by a shady conglomeration of billionaires in order to finance a new stadium to keep their team. That’s not an indictment of their fandom, but rather the insane notion that public money should be responsible for financing the stadiums of one of the most obscene money printing rackets in the world.
Both cities have other things going for them, other aspects of their civic identity that they hold closer than football teams that have wanted to leave for years. In St. Louis, it’s baseball, beer, and racism that comprise the city’s identity. In San Diego, it’s the beach and beautiful weather, which when paired with the beautiful people located there makes the city far too pleasant to care that much about a militaristic sport whose brutality and enthusiasm and devotion the game requires of fans is better reserved for cities where you need to scrape ice off your car in subzero temperatures.
With St. Louis, the Rams never really felt like their team in the first place. After leaving L.A. in 1995, they had some fun with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and the Greatest Show on Turf, won one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, and then proceeded to crap the bed for the next decade and a half in the dingiest arena you’ve ever seen.
For San Diego, this has to sting a little bit more considering they’ve been the home of the Chargers for every year since the team’s first in the AFL (which, coincidentally, was when the team was located in L.A.). But for all of their history, the franchise never did much besides generate some unbelievable fantasy seasons for LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers, give us Junior Seau (and then, arguably, take him away as well), and sport the coolest and adventurous uniforms in the league. But they played in a dump of a stadium, and their fans would rather be eating tacos and catching waves than watching their team finish in third in the AFC West yet again, and this whole thing felt unavoidable.
On the plus side, if the reporting is right and the NFL owners do table Oakland’s relocation bid, that feels like the most morally upstanding thing the league has accomplished in recent memory. For all of their bad fortune of late, the Raiders are a classic team, and keeping them in Oakland just feels right. For all of their flirtation with L.A., the NFL and Oakland need the Oakland Raiders more than we need the St. Louis Rams or the San Diego Chargers. We need a blue collar team, a team for the downtrodden and the victims of gentrification and the wrong side of the track, with fucking crazy fans and an attitude and perception that fits with their city better than almost any other team in the league.
As for Los Angeles, it’s hard not to be excited for professional football to relocate to the city after almost two generations. Moving two teams their is the only way to financially make a two freaking billion dollar stadium even come close to making sense, and the relocation of two teams into a huge market generates an instant intra-city rivalry and vaults the two teams to national prominence just as L.A.’s other mainstays — the Lakers and USC — continue their downward trend towards relative (for them) unimportance. On top of that, the move makes logical sense for the geographical alignment of divisions, bringing the Rams into the same coastline as the 49ers and Seahawks, while even the relatively modest move north for the Chargers feels like a world of difference.
While we may not know for sure who the final teams that relocate to L.A. will be for the next couple of days, at least we can rest easy knowing that soon we’ll be watching football played in Los Angeles, bathed in Pacific light, the glimmering aura of the NFL’s growing revenue streams, and images of Eric Dickerson’s goggles. What a glorious day.
Update: The NFL’s six-owner Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities just recommended a Chargers-Raiders stadium in Carson, because they hate all things joyous and beautiful in this world.