L.A. gets first NFL dou­ble dose

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Josh Peter @joshlpeter11

The most im­por­tant matchup in the NFL on Sun­day isn’t on the league’s sched­ule.

The Los An­ge­les Rams vs. the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers.

The teams will be play­ing 12 miles apart, with the Rams tak­ing on the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins at Los An­ge­les Memo­rial Coli­seum at 4:25 p.m. ET and the Charg­ers fac­ing the Mi­ami Dol­phins at Stub­Hub Cen­ter in

Car­son at 4:05 p.m. ET. And so the Rams and Charg­ers will be­gin in earnest a bat­tle for the hearts, minds and dis­pos­able in­come in a town that has yet to prove it can sup­port two NFL teams.

A his­tory les­son: The last time two NFL teams played on the same day here was Dec. 24,

1994, when the Rams drew a re­ported “crowd’’ of 25,705 for their game against the Red­skins near Dis­ney­land in Ana­heim and the Los An­ge­les Raiders drew 64,130 for their game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coli­seum. Both teams promptly bolted town.

The Rams re­turned last year from St. Louis, and the Charg­ers, set to make their reg­u­larsea­son de­but af­ter 56 years in San Diego, have launched a mar­ket­ing cam­paign called “Fight for L.A.”

“It’s not about fight­ing any other team in the mar­ket,” Josh Rup­precht, vice pres­i­dent of pub­lic re­la­tions for the Charg­ers, told USA TO­DAY Sports by email. “It’s about un­der­stand­ing noth­ing is go­ing to be given to us by fans in the mar­ket­place, and we’re go­ing to have to earn their re­spect and sup­port. We don’t just ex­pect it. We’re go­ing to work for it. It’s a very bluecol­lar ap­proach. We’re fight­ing for the sup­port of the fans.”

Has much changed in the L.A. mar­ket since it last was home to NFL teams? There are more peo­ple (up to 9.8 mil­lion from

9.1 mil­lion), less smog (se­ri­ously) and a daunt­ing sports land­scape.

The Rams and Charg­ers are not only com­pet­ing with each other, they are com­pet­ing with two of ev­ery­thing — MLB teams, NBA teams, NHL teams and MLS teams (start­ing next year with Los An­ge­les FC). And, of course, the beach. A visit to Venice Beach on Wed­nes­day pro­vided some in­sight.

Kevin Egh­bali said the Rams and Charg­ers have di­vided his fam­ily, which some­times fights over which chan­nel to watch — the one broad­cast­ing the Charg­ers game or the one broad­cast­ing the Rams game.

“It gets ugly,” said Egh­bali, 19. “The house goes up in flames.”

Se­myon Gan­dlin, a cab driver, is giddy about the Charg­ers’ move to Los An­ge­les.

“We need this team in town,” he said. “Bring lots of money. Lots of fans here. Just ‘Go, Charg­ers! We love you.’ ”

Not ev­ery­body at the beach was keenly at­tuned. Three women strug­gled when asked where the Rams played be­fore com­ing back to L.A.

“Uh, the Rams played, was it In­di­ana Rams?” said one.

A friend chimed in. “Not At­lanta. That’s Fal­cons, right?”

A third friend, search­ing for the an­swer on her phone, said, “Cleve­land? I don’t know.”

Take a guess where those women will be Sun­day. Not at the Coli­seum, Stub­hub Cen­ter or even a sports bar watch­ing either game.

That’s not to say Rams vs. Charg­ers is not com­pelling. There’s ac­tu­ally quite a bit to like about th­ese teams.

THE COACHES

At 31, the Rams’ Sean McVay is younger than two of his play­ers and quite pos­si­bly at least one of the team ball boys.

At a com­par­a­tively an­cient 48, the Charg­ers’ An­thony Lynn won Su­per Bowl rings with the Den­ver Bron­cos in 1997 and 1998, when McVay was still in grade school.

Ad­van­tage: Charg­ers.

THE QUAR­TER­BACKS

The Charg­ers’ Philip Rivers has six Pro Bowl ap­pear­ances and seven chil­dren.

The Rams’ Jared Goff, 22 and in his sec­ond year of the NFL, is al­most young enough to be one of Rivers’ chil­dren.

Edge: Charg­ers.

THE CHEER­LEAD­ERS

The Charg­ers have 28 cheer­lead­ers.

The Rams have 34 cheer­lead­ers, six more than the Charg­ers! Edge: Rams.

THE MAS­COTS

Ram­page (get it) is listed at 6-1 and 200 pounds and, for the record, his fa­vorite movie is Rambo and his fa­vorite song is the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Ram It.

Bolt­man, the un­of­fi­cial Charg­ers mas­cot, de­manded the city of San Diego sue the Charg­ers for vi­o­lat­ing anti-trust laws when the team moved to Los An­ge­les.

Edge: Rams

Ram­page looked lonely Sun­day as the Rams beat the In­di­anapo­lis Colts 46-9 when the empty seats far out­num­bered the fans de­spite the of­fi­cial at­ten­dance of 60,128.

But for now, let the fight for mar­ket share be­gin.

RICHARD MACKSON, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

This Rams fan was ex­cited for Sun­day’s sea­son opener even if much of Los An­ge­les wasn’t.

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