Mu­si­cal chairs not work­ing for NFL

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - SPORTS -

The first sea­son of the sec­ond it­er­a­tion of the los an­ge­les rams was a fabulous one for fans of schaden­freude.

af­ter multi-bil­lion­aire owner stan Kroenke re­fused a few hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars worth of pub­lic money to­ward a new sta­dium in st. louis, which would have re­placed a pub­licly-funded sta­dium that was only 20 years old, he de­camped for los an­ge­les and the prom­ise of a new foot­ball mecca that he would build in sub­ur­ban in­gle­wood.

it could not have gone much worse. On the field, the rams were an ex­ceed­ingly bor­ing 4-12, with a first-overall draft pick in quar­ter­back Jared Goff who they were afraid to start, who then showed why: Five touch­downs in seven games, with seven in­ter­cep­tions and a 63.6 passer rat­ing. and, they fired their coach, Jeff Fisher, mid­sea­son.

Off the field, it was pretty much the equiv­a­lent of a 4-12 sea­son, with the rams draw­ing poor tele­vi­sion ratings — worse than they ever did as a share of the lo­cal mar­ket in st. louis — and get­ting none of the first-year bump that al­ways ac­com­pa­nies a team play­ing in a new mar­ket. We have come to ex­pect sold-out games even for bad teams, with fans just happy to have this new sport in town. (Or, in l.a.’s case, back in town af­ter a two-decade ab­sence.)

as a share of home-sta­dium ca­pac­ity, the rams were the sec­ond-worst draw in the na­tional Foot­ball league. and while they still man­aged to move around 80,000 tick­ets per game at the mas­sive los an­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum, there was ei­ther a lot of house-pa­per­ing go­ing on or a lot of peo­ple who de­cided to eat their tick­ets rather than bother go­ing to see a lousy rams team at an old sta­dium that re­ceived uni­formly poor re­views. Big chunks of empty seats were rou­tine. They ran out of wa­ter at the de­but game, so good thing it isn’t hot and sunny in Cal­i­for­nia.

Busi­ness is not likely to pick up in the short term. The rams will play two more sea­sons at the Coli­seum be­fore the new palace is open in 2019. By the time last sea­son ended, Goff and the rams were thumped by at­lanta be­fore a halfempty sta­dium. it was not much of a spring­board to­ward 2017.

and so, there is ap­par­ently a clear so­lu­tion to the dis­as­ter of the nfl’s re­turn to los an­ge­les: More teams.

san diego Charg­ers owner dean spanos an­nounced Thurs­day that he in­tends to fol­low the rams to los an­ge­les next sea­son. spanos, who was given an op­tion to be­come roomies with the rams in in­gle­wood when his own scheme to re­lo­cate to l.a. along­side the Oak­land raiders was re­buffed by nfl own­ers, had un­til next week to make the move of­fi­cial.

it’s a move that is, for not just spanos but the own­ers who have al­ready given him their bless­ing to re­lo­cate, breath­tak­ingly ar­ro­gant. The rams ex­per­i­ment should have been an ob­vi­ous sig­nal that the league took los an­ge­les for granted: That it thought it could just show up in a city where nfl fans had largely stopped car­ing about the team and peo­ple would flock back be­cause the nfl is a can’t-miss be­he­moth in the united states. in­stead, it proved that it can miss. in a mar­ket where fans are long used to stay­ing home on sun­days to watch the nfl, it turned out that the op­tion to stay home was still pretty ap­peal­ing. and now, spanos plans to bring a team with much less of an at­tach­ment to los an­ge­les, hav­ing seem­ingly de­tected a clam­our­ing for nfl foot­ball that was not ev­i­dent to any­one else.

The league just fin­ished a reg­u­lar sea­son that should have given it se­ri­ous pause. Tele­vi­sion ratings dropped sig­nif­i­cantly for its mar­quee games, although the resur­gent dal­las Cow­boys, the big­gest TV draw in the land, dragged them back up over the fi­nal two months. What­ever fac­tors might have com­bined to hit the TV num­bers — the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a lack of com­pelling matchups, con­tin­ued con­cus­sion un­ease — it was quite ev­i­dent that the nfl is past the point where it can as­sume there is great in­ter­est in what­ever game it hap­pens to put in prime time. Cou­pled with the l.a. ex­pe­ri­ence, where the mar­ket was in­dif­fer­ent to the sport even as the dodgers led Ma­jor league Base­ball in at­ten­dance and the l.a. an­gels (who stunk) were third in amer­i­can league at­ten­dance, you’d think the nfl’s rich­dude club might re­al­ize that this is not an ideal time to aban­don tra­di­tional mar­kets like san diego. es­pe­cially when the raiders are also fix­ing to move to las Ve­gas.

But no, the league own­ers think the nfl is im­pen­e­tra­ble, as ev­i­denced by its con­tin­u­ing to keep roger Good­ell as com­mis­sioner even though he is the liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of a pub­lic-re­la­tions mishap.

and so spanos, hav­ing been un­suc­cess­ful in try­ing to squeeze san diego for money for a new sta­dium, will in­stead leave, pay the other own­ers a re­ported $650-mil­lion in a relocation fee, and play two sea­sons who-knows-where in front of hi­lar­i­ously sparse crowds while they wait to move in with the rams. all be­cause san diego wouldn’t give him enough free money for a new build­ing. The cur­rent plan is for the Charg­ers to play two years in Car­son, in a soc­cer sta­dium that seats around 30,000. if you thought 2016 was a good year for nfl-re­lated schaden­freude, 2017 prom­ises to outdo it.

Sean M. Haf­fey/getty Im­ages

Jared Goff of the Los An­ge­les Rams runs onto the field of Los An­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum on Dec. 24. A lousy team led to many un-filled seats at the Rams’ sta­dium.

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