For the second-straight year, the NFL is uprooting a team and heaving it into the Los Angeles market, pleasing virtually no one but the league’s 32 owners. In one fell swoop, San Diego lost half its pro sports teams and a big piece of its identity. The kicker? It lost all that to an L.A. market which already has so many entertainment options that the return of the Rams was about as welcome as the bubonic plague.
The jersey burning, egging, and overall outrage of Charger fans is completely justified. After standing by the team for 56 mostly disappointing years, they lost the Chargers to the most fair-weather sports market in the nation. There are those who will say “get over it, your team is just two hours up the road.” To counter, 1) you have no concept of California traffic; 2) the element of civic pride that has been lost will keep many fans away; 3) if the Chargers need San Diego fans in order fill the stadium, perhaps they shouldn’t have moved in the first place.
While some estimates have the team’s value doubling in the move to Los Angeles, regardless of the turnout for Chargers games, big revenues won’t be realized until 2019. That’s when they’ll start crashing on Stan Kroenke’s $2 billion couch like a wacky, unwanted sitcom guest. Until then, the Bolts will be stuffed into a 30,000-seat bandbox (with only 41 luxury suites) in Carson as they try to carve out any sort of niche in an oversaturated market.
They’ll sell the experience at the StubHub Center as intimate, exciting, and stocked with enough water to actually meet demand (unlike the Coliseum). But if the only options for L.A. fans next year are to be jammed into an expensive stadium or dry out in a cavernous, cheaper one, then I can understand the urge to stay home, especially since they’d be watching a four or five-win team in either case.
There’s no doubt football is going to suck in Los Angeles for the next two seasons, but short-term promise isn’t what motivated the moves. What are the odds of long-term success for both teams as the NFL tries to master the Hollywood market a second time around?
NFL Relocation Odds
Odds of leaving Los Angeles first:
- Chargers: 1/9
- Rams: 20/1
- Both at same time: 16/1
Even though the Chargers may actually be the more popular of the two, and seem slightly closer to winning now (the only trait L.A. fans truly covet), they’ll almost certainly be first to vacate the market, since Kroenke owns their house. It won’t be anytime soon – the Rams and Raiders were able to co-exist in Los Angeles for 12 years – but this has the feeling of a partnership that can’t last forever.
Dean Spanos is only paying $1 to be a tenant in Inglewood, and while the revenue-sharing agreement between the teams isn’t known yet, it ain’t gonna favor the Bolts. Obviously, that doesn’t matter to the Chargers, since the “value” of being in L.A. is still far greater than San Diego. But how long will that value offset the feeling of being a second-class citizen? You can’t own a professional sports team unless you have a giant ego, and this partnership seems destined to wear on Spanos’, as he’ll be resigned to clinging on to Kroenke’s pant leg like a child in a crowded mall.
Over/Under how long Los Angeles has two teams: 2029
“Wait until the new stadium” is the NFL’s rallying cry for the success of football in the City of Angels. So we will wait for the new building. And then we’ll wait a few more years after that. Once the novelty wears off, the league may be forced to realize this city wasn’t craving this much football.
Odds of getting a team back first:
- St. Louis: 2/3
- San Diego: 7/1
- Neither: 5/2
In those famous words from Moneyball, “the first one through the wall always gets bloody.” San Diego put its foot down when it came to giving public funds to a billionaire for a venue that is used maybe 20 times a year (and that’s a generous estimate), and now they don’t have a team.
The stand San Diego citizens took was admirable, but won’t ultimately matter if the NFL can keep finding locations that will kowtow to its need for a new stadium every friggin season. The only chance for a team returning to the market is if the city backs down from its original stance, or the rest of the country joins in solidarity, offering no funds for new stadiums.
St. Louis was more willing to offer up money, but nothing ever materialized since Kroenke wasn’t serious about staying. It might be a good thing for St. Louis, since it is still paying off the Edward Jones Dome. But one day, the debt will be paid and, if the city is still willing to give public money, will hear its name floated as a potential spot for relocation. Although, they may have to get in line behind London, and probably Oakland.
After Oakland, which city will lose its NFL team next?
- Buffalo: 11/10
- Jacksonville: 5/4
- Washington: 25/1
The Pegula’s saved football in Buffalo when they bought the Bills, but they’ve exhausted their heroes welcome with how the operation has been managed since then. Now, they’ve said “they haven’t given much thought” to building a new stadium since the lease doesn’t expire until 2023. In an uncertain market like Buffalo, that date feels a lot closer than it is, and questions about the franchise’s future will only mount as the decade draws to a close.
The Jaguars have been exporting their terrible brand of football across the pond for four straight years now, trying to get a grasp on the title of London’s team. But as the NFL continues to send more games overseas every season, it seems less likely that England will become a home for just one team, instead becoming a brief nuisance for every team. Success in Jacksonville is tied to the team’s success, so the longer they remain a loser, the more they’ll look like a terrible market. Yet, without London, they don’t appear to have another option for relocation.
The Redskins are a darkhorse, if only because FedEx Field is getting old in stadium years (and it wasn’t nice to begin with) and whiny Dan Snyder will do whatever it takes to get a new one, even if it means moving his team to Nome.
Photo Credit: Thomas Wolf, via Wikimedia Commons[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en]
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