The NFL’s Fairytale of Los Angeles

Let’s step outside the Delaware Valley for a second, shall we? The big off-the-field news this week is that the Buffalo Bills have reupped their lease with Ralph Wilson Stadium for another seven years. That means they’ll stay put in Western New York until at least through 2019. With the stadium deal going through in Minnesota, the list of prospective teams to relocate to Los Angeles seems to be dwindling down to one, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

My question is why?

Los Angeles is a lucrative television market. It’s the second largest metropolitan area in the United States with over 17 million people in its expanded metropolitan area. There are a lot of television sets and a lot of people who would buy tickets if a team were to land there. Then again, it’s not like LA has been a booming area in the last 20 years. It’s pretty much been an urban juggernaut since the ‘60s. If it really were that essential a market, then why would the Rams and Raiders both have left in the mid-‘90s? If the league couldn’t survive without LA, then why has it become the most lucrative sports league in the time since it has left Los Angeles?

The truth is that the NFL doesn’t really need to be in any market to be successful. Even if the Jets and Giants were to pack up and leave for, say, Tucson and Walla Walla over the next few years, the league would not only survive, but thrive. Football, more than any other sport, has appeal that supersedes regional rooting interests. Whether it’s the limited supply of games in a given week, the emergence of fantasy football, or the ease at which people can gamble on it, you don’t necessarily need to have a horse in the race to enjoy the NFL.

So any chatter about the Jaguars needing to move to be a profitable, interesting franchise is pretty ill-informed. It ignores the fact that the team has been pretty awful in the last decade or so. They don’t need gimmicks or a change of scenery. I bet you any amount of money that if they moved to Los Angeles and still trotted out a team that lost 10+ games a year, they would draw the same as they do now in Northeastern Florida after the novelty of having a new team wore off. Hell, I don’t think the Jags are too far off anyway. They have a good defense and some playmakers on offense, especially at wide receiver with Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon.

The results would be the same in any NFL city. If you win, you get fans. If you lose, you don’t. The Eagles are in one of the best markets in America for football, but this season has pushed the limits of how hard it takes for the fans to die with how bad they’ve been. No one is going to say the Eagles should move to LA to improve attendance. Why should it be any different for teams like the Jaguars, Vikings, or Bills?

The point is that the league has other problems ahead of getting a team in LA. There’s the concussion epidemic to worry about. The asinine blackout policy is something that needs looking at. Finally, the fact that the commissioner is a totalitarian dictator wannabe who cares nothing about the players is something worth addressing more than getting a team in La-La Land.

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Tom Holzerman

Tom Holzerman has been a fan of Philadelphia sports teams for as long as he can remember. He's been writing about them and other things for almost ten years now, first as a columnist for the Drexel Triangle and then as a freelance blogger for several pages, including his own site The Wrestling Blog. He believes sports are meant to be both analyzed and savored and thinks that all the fighting between the "nerds" and the "meatheads" is unnecessary. You can follow him on Twitter @tholzerman, especially if you're a wrestling fan like he is.