The NFL announced Tuesday that they have approved the Rams request to return to the City of Angels, while also giving the San Diego Chargers the option to move into the proposed Inglewood stadium. This development comes a little over a week after both teams, along with the Oakland Raiders, filed their applications to relocate.
This sounds like the answer to the cries of Angelenos. But just because this looks like a blessing on the outside, does it mean that LA should take on two teams?
The answer: probably not.
Yes, Los Angeles could easily support two teams, being the second-largest market in sports. They’ve done it before with the Clippers and Lakers in the NBA. But this is the National Football League. It has a different culture with different fans and an overall different atmosphere.
There are two simple reasons why LA should stick with just the Rams right now: fan base and attendance.
When you think of a football city you think of Green Bay, Chicago, New York, etc.. Cities like those eat, live, and breath football. Los Angeles is primarily a basketball town, and has been for years, even back when they had a football team. While LA loves football (i.e. UCLA and USC), there just isn’t the same passion and love for professional football as other cities.
The 20-year absence of football has caused that deep love for football to skip a big generation in LA. “There is still a residual affection in Los Angeles for professional football, but LA was never a great football town like Chicago, Philadelphia or New York, and they do have work to do to rebuild their fan base.” wrote Larry Fine of Reuters.
The Rams already have a very strong fan base in Los Angeles, so that does give them a good head start. However, the skipped generation brings the LA football atmosphere down a bit, and it will certainly take a while for a solid fan base to form. So if building a strong and lasting foundation of fans in Los Angeles for one team will take a while, adding a second team like the Chargers (and one with far less ties to the city) to the mix is only a recipe for disaster.
Attendance is another factor that could harm professional football in LA, but not for the team you might think. In the Ram’s final LA season in 1994, their average attendance was 43,312, dead last in the NFL. The absence of the Rams, coupled with their current fan base, will make for very good attendance on game day. However, the Chargers (the team most likely to join the Rams) do not have the history and the fan base that the Rams have in LA. Rather, their strong fan base and history is located back in sunny San Diego. Both teams would have to compete for big draws, albeit in one of the nation’s largest markets.
Many would point out that LA’s two basketball teams are evidence that two teams in a city can work. However, it is like comparing apples to oranges due to the fact that the average NFL attendance is between 4-5 times what the average NBA attendance is.
With the support for each team unequal in Los Angeles, and with the Rams taking up much of the territory already, the Chargers look to see a far lower attendance than their counterparts across the hall.
For the sake and future well-being of both franchises, lets put both teams where their history is, Rams in Los Angeles and Chargers in San Diego.