Rams Moving Back to LA, but Why Now?
January 18, 2016

After over two decades without a professional football team, and with the clamoring of almost no fans whatsoever to bring one back, the National Football League is returning to Los Angeles. The NFL voted 30-2 on Tuesday to allow the St. Louis Rams to relocate, gave the San Diego Chargers one year to decide if they wanted to share a new stadium with the Rams in Inglewood, and gave the Oakland Raiders the option of taking that deal if the Chargers declined.

Despite lack of publicity from time to time, the issue is apparently something that has been bugging the league for over 20 years. Both the Rams and Raiders left the southland after the 1994 season because of dissatisfaction with the buildings they played in. The Rams left Anaheim Stadium for St. Louis, and the Raiders moved back to Oakland at the same time because they couldn't get the antiquated Los Angeles Coliseum renovated, or a new building approved. Ironically, and somewhat surprising, the Coliseum will be the temporary home of the Rams next year, but more on that in a second. If you ask the popular question, “After 21 years, why is the moving coming now?”, the answer is money. The real answer, though, is private money.

After perhaps Magic Johnson (Laker hero and integral part of buying the Dodgers from Frank McCourt), a man named Stan Kroenke may be the most loved man now in LA sports. He is the most hated man in St. Louis, but he obtained ownership of the Rams in 2010 after the death of Georgia Frontiere, and sometime around the beginning of 2014, purchased 60 acres of land in Inglewood, at the site of the former Hollywood Park race track. A year ago, he announced plans to build a stadium on that site, and while that did garner large headlines, fans didn't really take notice because of numerous other stadium proposals that had been floated out there over the years.

If you haven't been keeping score, plans for a stadium in the Los Angeles area included renovation of the Rose Bowl, a downtown stadium next to Staples Center, Carson (where the Raiders and Chargers were hoping to move), a new building in Anaheim, another one in Orange County, the City of Industry, and even on land adjacent to Dodger Stadium. Every proposal apparently had some sort of public financing tied to it, which meant no deal.

Meanwhile, the entire time there was no team in LA, the NFL forbade any team to move to Los Angeles if it meant playing at the Coliseum. The league made it sound like they would rather fold than allow a team in there, but back come the Rams, and likely for three seasons. The Chargers or Raiders could even play there, too, but somehow (money), the NFL all of sudden doesn't mind. It would seem that the Rose Bowl would have been a better temporary home, but that explanation hasn't been given yet.

So while the Rams are officially back (season tickets went on sale today), Kroenke will focus on his new football palace, which will reportedly cost three billion dollars to build, and he will get a loan from the NFL to do it. Now, while admittedly that's not public financing, it's a slap in the face to St. Louis and other owners. Not only did the Rams get permission from the NFL to bail from Missouri, they were essentially paid to do it. The league will cash in, of course, getting 550 million dollars from the Rams, another 550 million if the Chargers or Raiders move, and interest from the loan to Kroenke.

Kroenke will get money from the stadium in a number of ways, including ticket sales, naming rights (which he might have to split with the Chargers or Raiders), Personal Seat Licenses (which he can't sell until 2017 if another team isn't there by then), and holding other events like concerts, a bowl game, or the NCAA basketball tournament.

The Chargers will likely join the Rams in Los Angeles, and that could happen as early as next season. San Diego owners have until March to get a deal for 2016, and a year to work out an agreement to move to LA at all. San Diego has a ballot measure for stadium financing coming up this year, but experts say it is likely to fail. That means they could spent 2016 as a lame duck in San Diego, as a third tenant at the LA Coliseum (with the Rams and USC), or as a franchise committed to stay in San Diego for decades. We'll likely know in a few months.

As for football fans in LA, it was reported that the Rams got five thousand deposits for season tickets today. There's no doubt that there will be support for one team, and maybe two, but fans over the last 20 years have been just as happy to watch the NFL on television. For example, LA fans got to see the Carolina Panthers-Atlanta Falcons game a couple of weeks ago, the only game the Panthers have lost this season. The Rams were at Seattle that day. A team in Los Angeles will also mean fewer games on network TV, because networks (mostly Fox in the Rams case) will not be allowed to show doubleheaders when the Rams play the late game.

It's been decades, but come September it may seem like they never left. A Sunday afternoon in a crumbling Coliseum, parking available miles away, restroom lines just as long, warm beer and cold hot dogs. Just like the 1970s, and let's hope the Rams wear their retro uniforms that day. (Prediction: the 2016 schedule has not been released yet, but I say the Rams open at home on a Monday night as the second game of the ESPN doubleheader. It will likely be a division opponent, and just for fun, let's say against former USC coach Pete Carroll and Seattle. The Niners would be too big of a draw for the opener, something they could save for later in the year).

Football is back, baby.

Niner impact: To my uncle, several of my cousins, and thousands if not millions more who are San Francisco 49er fans living in southern California, you can look at the Rams move this way. It means the Niners will be going down there once a year, so maybe you can see them in person. Until the new stadium is built, though, you might not be able to see them on TV that day if the game isn't sold out, and the telecast is blacked out in the LA market.

Super Bowl I: I haven't watched it yet, but Friday night, the NFL Network commemorated the anniversary of the first Super Bowl by showing the game, which wasn't as easy of a task as it sounds. The game was played on January 15, 1967 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers. It was televised on both CBS and NBC, but was treated more as an exhibition game between the AFL and NFL champs. The actual telecasts were either lost or recorded over, but NFL Films was able to piece together every play, with audio from the national radio broadcast. Critics say the NFL Network turned the re-broadcast into more of a three hour studio show, so the network will try again this Friday, this time with just an introduction, and then 90 minutes of the play by play.

Nice handoff: In the days of in-your-face celebrations and thumping of one's chest when someone scores a touchdown or makes a big play, it was both refreshing and delightful to see Carolina's Jonathan Stewart hand the football to a little girl in the front row of the stands after he scored the game's first touchdown in the Panthers' 31-24 win over Seattle Sunday. The girl, with her parents, her face painted Carolina colors, and dressed head to toe in Panthers gear, lit up when she got the ball, and seemed like the happiest kid in the world. Stewart found another lucky fan when he scored another touchdown, and a teammate followed suit later in the half.

War on Drugs?: It's disgusting how Major League Baseball continues to reward past cheaters, and also how much baseball fans don't care. Sources report first baseman-outfielder Chris Davis has agreed to a seven year, 161 million dollar deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Davis was suspended for the last 25 games of 2014 for performance enhancing drugs, and guys like Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz have also received multi-million dollar contracts after a drug suspension. Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun (among others) continue to reap millions from existing deals after lying about PED use, and then finally admitting it.

Turning Japanese: Former Gold Sox pitcher Anthony Bass has been released by the Seattle Mariners and will pitch in Japan in 2016. He has signed to play with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Pacific League. He's actually the second Gold Sox pitcher to play in Japan. Rick Guttormson did it after pitching for the professional Gold Sox of the independent Western League in 2002.

More Bass: Before heading to the Far East, Bass hosted his fourth annual pitching camp at his alma mater, Wayne State University in Detroit. This year, he brought Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker to help out. Many players do these kind of things and it's actually nice that they are not publicized, but it's still a good thing to hear about once in awhile.

What's my line?: I'll give you this list of names. You see if you can guess what their job is. Ready? Turner Ward, George Lombard, Chris Woodward, Josh Bard, Tim Hyers, and Juan Castro. Give up? How about if I add Bob Geren? Still stumped? Rick Honeycutt. Now you've got it—your 2016 Dodger coaches. Lombard will be at first, Woodward at third, Ward is the hitting coach, Bard the bullpen coach, Hyers the assistant hitting coach, Geren the bench coach, and Castro is the quality assurance coach (whatever the hell that is). All are in their first year. Honeycutt returns for his 11th season as pitching coach under new manager Dave Roberts. Pitchers and catcher report for spring training one month from tomorrow (February 19).

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