COMMENTARY | It has been nearly two decades since the NFL left Los Angeles. In 1995, Al Davis moved the Raiders back to Oakland, while Georgia Frontiere packed up the now St. Louis Rams and moved them to the Gateway City. Since these franchises left the Los Angeles area, many fans believe that the region cannot support NFL football. I disagree. Here is my case for the NFL in Southern California:
The fan base
Yes, Los Angeles has its share of front-running, fair weather fans. That should be expected in a county with a population of close to 10 million people. However, if Southern California fans, as a whole, truly are front-runners, then how do we explain the strong annual attendance for the Los Angeles Clippers? This is a franchise that has spent the last couple decades under the leadership of one of the worst owners in professional sports, yet fans still showed up for games prior to the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin era.
Los Angeles supports two clubs in every major sports league in the United States, except for the NFL. The only team that hasn't caught on is MLS's Chivas USA, which is due mostly to the Los Angeles Galaxy's dominance. It doesn't matter if fans chant "We want tacos" at Lakers games. That doesn't mean they aren't die-hard supporters. That just means they want free tacos. All that matters is that the fans show up, and they do.
Winning changes everything
Even though the area's teams have strong attendance, I've seen it argued that there are too many other things to do in Southern California. This argument has merit. People in Los Angeles have a variety of options when it comes to spending their money, including Universal Studios and Disneyland.
However, that hasn't stopped fans from attending games. The Lakers, Clippers, and Kings all consistently sold out games this past season. Right now, the Dodgers and the Angels are both ranked in the top ten for MLB attendance. People in Southern California enjoy their sports, especially if they are winners.
An NFL team in Los Angeles wouldn't have a problem with attendance as long as the team ownership made a sincere effort to win. That's the nature of American sports. Fans aren't going to pay for a shoddy product. Even the great New York Yankees found that out when they struggled with their attendance prior to making the playoffs in 1995.
The NFL can succeed in Los Angeles
Many fans believe that football can't succeed in Los Angeles because the region already failed to keep two teams. What some people don't understand is that there were issues that led to both teams leaving that were outside of the actual game. Davis couldn't come to an agreement with Los Angeles on a stadium, probably because his heart was in Oakland. Meanwhile, Frontiere rebuffed any attempts by local supporters to keep the team, though she had alienated both the city of Anaheim and the fan base long before moving to St. Louis.
Fans who don't believe that Los Angeles would support the NFL can look back at the Rams' attendance records between 1945-1994. The team's numbers were comparable to the rest of the league up until Frontiere started tearing down the team following the 1989 season. In fact, the Rams consistently posted above-average attendance for nearly three decades. Many people forget that they were one of the top franchises in the NFL for years and still have a loyal group of fans in the region.
Los Angeles remains the second largest media market in the country. It has a huge population that has successfully supported eight different professional sports franchises and two major NCAA Division 1 athletic programs (USC and UCLA) for years. Los Angeles is more than capable of hosting a successful NFL franchise.
Want another point of view? Read Michael C. Jones' counterargument on the NFL in Los Angeles.
Derek Ciapala has been an NFL fan since childhood. He hopes to see the return of his beloved Rams to Los Angeles within the next few years. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala.