By Bob Hiller –
King Solomon, or was it Roger McGuinn, once said, “There is…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” This week is a time to laugh and dance in Los Angeles as the NFL is returning. On the same day in 1946 that the Cleveland Rams were relocated to the City of Angels, the NFL owners voted 30-2 for a time to pluck up the St. Louis Rams and for a time to plant them back in Los Angeles. But, dear Angelinos, (and Dr. van Voorhis) please have a care. For, in St. Louis it is a time to weep and mourn. You have been there too, LA fan, so please allow some time for your St. Louis friends to lament as this is now the second time a team has been ripped from their city. To everything turn, turn, turn, I suppose.
I am writing this on Tuesday night. As of right now, the Rams are the only team coming to LA, though it looks like the San Diego Chargers may be coming North as well, but perhaps not until the 2017 season. If that doesn’t work, the Raiders have the option to come back. In which case, I’d move.
In all the excitement, you LA fans need to be asking yourself a very important question: How do we keep the NFL here? After all, you’ve lost it before. What’s to say it won’t happen again? I have some thoughts for you fans, and I think you would do well to find ways to impress such thoughts upon your beloved (and St. Louis’s reviled) Stan Kroenke. (Yes, I realize four or so people actually read this blog, but let’s pretend we’ve got some kind of audience, eh?)
Here’s the thing about the NFL: games are expensive and the product on television is better than a live game. Here’s the thing about SoCal: there’s a lot of stuff to do here that is awesome. Some of it is far cheaper than an NFL game (we have the beach!). Some of it is more expensive. If you want people to come to the games and to assure yourselves that the NFL stays in LA, then Kroenke needs to make sure the product on the field is worth the price of admission.
It is crucial for Kroenke to do everything in his power to become like Jerry Buss, the late, great owner of the LA Lakers. Buss recognized that LA was a lively city and made sure that the Lakers game was a scene. It was a place to see and be seen. He invented the Laker girls and wooed celebrities. But (and this is the main thing) he made sure the Lakers were good. The game on the floor was fantastic! From Showtime to Kobe and Shaq, Buss made the Lakers the hot ticket, not only in LA, but across the NBA.
Kroenke, if he wants to have the NFL thrive in LA, needs to learn this. He needs to make the Rams, not only competitive, but something spectacular to watch. He needs to draft well, trade well, sign big name players. He needs to spend his money wisely. He needs to make sure the Rams win. He’ll have a few seasons to do it, but the novelty of the NFL will wear off quickly if the Rams don’t compete soon and, instead, continue to remain in the lower portion of the NFC West. We SoCal folks are easily distracted and have little time for a bad show. Given the fact that, out of 21 seasons in St. Louis, the Rams had four good ones, there may be cause for concern.
Originally, I am from Colorado. Kroenke owns two of my favorite franchises in Denver: the Colorado Avalanche (NHL) and the Denver Nuggets (NBA). I’m not a big fan of ol’ Stan. For the better part of a decade, both teams have been innocuous and lame under Kroenke’s ownership. Nothing particularly exciting happens on the ice/court. I went to an Avalanche game while in Denver over my Christmas vacation. It was a good game, but poorly attended. Why? After all, the game had loud music, a light show, videos projected on the rink, “ice-girls” shoveling excess ice during television breaks, and even junior league hockey between periods. I mean, it was an incredible, multi-media event. And, though that game was fun because the Avs crushed the LA Kings, that sort of game is not the norm for those fans. People have better things to spend their money on than bad hockey.
In Los Angeles, people have a lot of other stuff to do besides spend hundreds of dollars to watch a losing team. Look, I love hearing “Cotton-Eyed Joe” blare into my ears every fifteen minutes, but all the cheerleaders, light shows, and half-time gimmicks in the world aren’t going to keep people coming to games. Only winning will do that. Keep the main thing the main thing. Spend money on good football players and good coaches. Angelinos live in a city built on entertainment, you won’t win their pocket-books with flash. You need good, hard-nosed football. That will keep the seats filled.
I hope the NFL stays in LA so I can take my kids when the Broncos come to town. I hope the Raiders stay in Oakland. I hope St. Louis gets another team as that is a wonderful sports town which deserved far better than Kroenke. I hope he isn’t merely using the Rams to build his sports mecca in Inglewood with no concern for the team itself. But, most of all, I hope for good football that will make Los Angeles a great NFL city. So, do your job Kroenke, and give us something worth watching.