Enough is enough -- bring NFL football back to L.A.!
For me, the highlight of this holiday weekend -- the last before NFL 2009 begins -- was my fantasy football league draft. I walked off with Adrian Peterson, Steve Slaton and San Diego's Mr. Rivers, a really nice haul. So why aren't I feeling a bit more chipper this Tuesday? Frankly, it's because I'm tired of having to fill my football fix with fantasy leagues and TV games broadcast from two time zones east.
I live right smack dab in the heart of Los Angeles, the nation's second biggest city, the cornerstone of a county containing 9,862,049 people, according to official stats from 2008. Good God, 9,862,049, and we've got no NFL team ... are you kidding me?
When is this madness going to end? When will this region have a team again to root for -- live and in living color, not from the distant remove of flat-screens and keeper fantasy leagues that have me not really caring about the outcome of games so much as whether Slaton can rush for 1,200 yards and give me 10 touchdowns this season? His team plays in Texas. I don't care about Texas. I care about Los Angeles, a city with ...
And the worst thing is that there's not more angst. It's come to a point where nobody bats an eye. The gospel says the NFL's New York bosses will grant us a team when they please. So be it, we reply. We've given up the fight. Lost the vision. Lost the desire, and maybe most of all, the leadership. I say that's just sad. Can you imagine London or Barcelona or Paris without top flight professional soccer? Nope. And to think we aspire, many of us do at least, to be a truly world class city. Maybe we're just a big funky cow town that makes movies and surfboards and suffers from a glut of gangs and plastic surgeons. Maybe I'm thinking too big here. I hope not.
There are plans afoot, I know. They involve putting a stadium in an industrial corner of the smog-choked exurbs. Those plans don't make sense. And honestly, they don't appear to be going anywhere. It's not just the lousy economy, it's that those plans don't have the movers and shakers excited. Who cares about Irwindale? Who talks about Irwindale? Who has ever been to Irwindale or could even locate it on a map?
To me, any plan to draw a team with a new stadium outside the heart of this place is a red herring. And a dumb idea. A 20th century idea -- one that neglects the reality that in an age of dwindling resources and global warming we need to build up the core of our cities.
We need a downtown stadium, and I don't mean downtown Disney.
I say build a new NFL stadium in Chavez Ravine and hook it up with a subway link. Then we move the Dodgers to a nice new stadium near Staples. That way, downtown L.A. gets the revitalizing push of at least 81 days of baseball fans. That's 3 million plus walking the streets each season, stopping in the cafes and shops and the LA Live restaurants, and even just milling around a place that's just now beginning to emerge from dormancy.
Look, the economy doesn't appear to be in an all-out tailspin anymore. We appear to be stabilizing. Now's the time to start planning. Now's the time to start reaching out, maybe to the federal government for some seed money from the so-called stimulus package. What, you don't think building a new stadium helps a city improve? Been to Seattle recently? Been to Denver? Been to see the Giants play in San Francisco?
Now's the time -- ahem, Mr. Villaraigosa, calling Mr. Villaraigosa -- for the politicians to lead. For them to reel in the fat cats who'll pay for most of this, smack 'em around a bit (not literally, of course) and get them unified. Now's the time for the politicians -- Mr. Villaraigosa, calling Mr. Villaraigosa -- to get the city excited about the NFL again.
No more smoke screens. No more lack of guts. No more "we tried that in Pasadena, we tried that with the Coliseum..." Blah, blah, blah. Enough of the excuses. Let's just get it going.
Charlotte has the NFL, Oakland has the NFL, Tampa has the NFL, Nashville has the NFL. Are you kidding me? Here in L.A., when it comes to pro ball, we've got 'SC and our fantasy leagues. How crazy is that?
-- Kurt Streeter
Photo: Joe Namath with the Los Angeles Rams. Credit: Associated Press