The front page of the Los Angeles Times had the story again today, with a new angle. It was a little over a week ago when it reported the initial turning of a tide that has heaved back and forth — caught in a limbo between neap and ebb — for a dozen years.
That tide is in the Bowl — not the toilet bowl, though something close to it. The “bowl” in question is the mythical NFL Stadium of Los Angeles, which has been the object of many men’s desire. Uncounted explorers and seekers have claimed to have found it. Although this Western land is haunted by legends of the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Seven Cities of Gold and untold riches on Let’s Make a Deal, nothing has captured the treasure-seeking spirit of the place as has the Lost Stadium of Los Lotos Eaters. The rumors are many: it’s hiding inside the Los Angeles Coliseum; it’s disguised as the Rose Bowl; it’s a ragged piece of toxic waste-impregnated ground in Carson across the freeway from the Goodyear Blimp-o-Drome; it’s even been said to have been masquerading all these years as Dodger Stadium, just waiting to be revealed. The tide is creeping to the full, as Matthew Arnold would have said, were he to have been a commentator on ESPN (that last phrase, by the way, is a past perfect subjunctive construction and you don’t come up with one just any old workday).
In short, there is no professional football team in Los Angeles, and Something Must Be Done about it. It is embarrassing to report what I have to say next, but there really is more than one team of billionaires out here who, having seen the movie “Field of Dreams,” actually believe that “if you build it, they will come” (I am going to assume that they saw the movie rather than reading Ray Kinsella’s excellent book on which it was based, “Shoeless Joe”).
There are two competing teams of billionaires, one proposing a stadium in a mostly industrial area east of downtown, away from the City of Los Angeles proper. However, their opponents are reporting that THEY have found The Lost Stadium, and it’s right next to a bunch of other really expensive properties that they also developed, like the Staples Center and Downtown LA and the Nokia Center. Shocking! Why didn’t we see it all along? Where else would it be?
Recently, AEG Corp., a division of the Anschutz Kingdom of It’s Our Money Not Yours So Don’t Tell Us What to Do With It, made their official pitch to the Los Angeles City Council, begging them to please let AEG spend a billion dollars to build a football stadium on the southern edge of downtown L.A. so that the long-suffering, football-deprived citizens of this once proud metropolis could once again stand with heads high, knowing they, too had invested millions of dollars to build a stadium in which millionaires pay millions to watch millionaires play football. They promised that they’d also revamp the decades-old Los Angeles Convention Center and that there’d be no impact on traffic because, after all, they’d studied what happens on eight Fall Sundays in Los Angeles and the result was, “nothing.” Their plea was, essentially, “Oh, please please please, Councilors, we promise it’ll be really neat and it won’t cost you a dime and, besides that, Pete Roselle visited us in a dream; it was all kind of hazy and we were in some kind of cornfield or something, but he said to us, ‘If you build it, the Big Buckos will pay the Big Bucks and all the media honkies who are weary of going to cities like Miami and New Orleans can finally work in a place that caters to their every need.’ Honest!”
No one seems to have noticed that NFL football has become the de facto American Pastime without having a team located in Los Angeles for the past fifteen years. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels-Who-Actually-Play-in-Orange-County seem to have fallen off the map. There is, for some enterprising PhD candidate in Sports Marketing Psychology (I assume some sufficiently advanced institution of higher learning has such a degree) a ready-made dissertation topic here. (It’s a proud tradition of Under Western Skies to give away dynamite ideas like this with no charge and we’re proud to continue that tradition.) What if the primary reason that football has become the national pastime is that it still exists in towns like San Diego and St. Louis and Buffalo instead of in only megalopoli like LA? What if that’s it fundamental appeal? Look at the archetypal NFL team: the Green Bay Packers; who doesn’t want them to win the Super Bowl?
This week’s latest announcement, to which I referred in the opening paragraph, was that AEG announced that they already have a major corporation signed up to pay for the “naming rights” to the stadium. Remember that this is a stadium that is not only not yet built, but not yet approved for construction on ground that is already occupied by one of the country’s largest convention centers served by some of the planet’s most congested traffic not located in Beijing, which would (were it to be built) host a team that does not yet exist.
Let’s make this a Harvard Graduate School of Business exercise. You’re the CEO of a Major Corporation. Your goal is to make every possible human being aware of your product, and entice them to spend money on it. You (and your consultants) have determined that having your name attached to a big, bodacious stadium where football is played will give you the Name Recognition you desire, and make your company’s name a Household Word. Given the fact that you have to pay to produce your product and you (regrettably) have to pay your employees and your stockholders and you still have to tuck away a few dollars here and there for those irritating things like capital improvement and R&D, WHAT WOULD YOU PAY?
Seven hundred million dollars.
That’s what an insurance company has said they will pay to have their name on the roof of the stadium and on signs inside the stadium and on press releases and probably on the soles of the shoes of the mythical players for a yet-to-be-created team and probably also tattooed onto the foreheads of season ticket holders.
Under Western Skies has readers across this land. (I take a moment to apologize to faithful readers in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia and in other places where “football” means the sport that already fills an 80,000-seat stadium a few miles south of downtown LA many times for soccer matches.) For you American followers of American football, let me ask you: have you noticed at a single moment that your life was less rich, less fulfilled, less satisfying for want of having a team in Los Angeles?
That’s what’s known in the trade as a rhetorical question.
Football streams into my house by every conceivable means. There’s the satellite antenna on the roof, and there’s the cell phone and two computers and a couple of radios in the house and a couple more in the cars parked in the driveway, all capable of providing football coverage. For all I know, the new refrigerator can play football on the little LED screen that shows the temperature if I only knew how to adjust it correctly. But, sure as Earl Warren moved from California to the Federal Bench, and sure as Ronnie Reagan moved from Sacramento to the White House, football is going to move into Farmer’s Insurance Stadium at the intersection of the 110 and 10 freeways. I’ll be able to go see it IN PERSON. LIVE. Hundred bucks a seat.
If you stand on the outside concourse of the Los Angeles Convention Center — which will be partially torn down and then reconstructed as part of the proposed stadium –you are within 20 minutes’ drive of at least three of the world’s great art museums (Getty Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art & the Norton Simon Museum), the deep wilderness of the Los Angeles National Forest, the Pacific Ocean, two of the world’s great music venues (Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl), Chinatown, Koreatown, Japantown and, the world’s finest martini at Musso & Frank. I’d rather go there. I’m not seeing it, guys.
Yet, it will be built. And when it’s built, and the team from San Diego or Minnesota or Buffalo moves here, 60,000 people will pay a hundred bucks per to drive here and watch the game that otherwise they could’ve seen on TV with instant replay (which is the reason that football exists).
All we need now is an announcement that there’ll also be a NASCAR track running around the outside the stadium!
CLICK HERE to read a story in the Los Angeles Times about the city council’s roll-over-and-beg meeting with AEG.