It’s going to be a long, ugly season in Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis. And that’s even before they play out the schedule.
While NFL owners study two Los Angeles stadium proposals and try to decide which team, or teams, will get to move into that lucrative market, fans of the Raiders, Chargers and Rams already have given their opinions.
With their backsides.
Last weekend, when every team still had Super Bowl aspirations and a perfect record, droves of fans in those three cities stayed away from their season openers.
St. Louis, where Rams owner Stan Kroenke is Public Enemy Nos. 1, 2 and 3, had the worst attendance of all 16 home games, in both sheer numbers and percentage. Attendance was 51,792, or 79% capacity, according to statistics compiled by ESPN.com.
There are leagues that would be thrilled to have those numbers. The NFL is not one of them. It’s weathered a domestic violence crisis, Deflategate and fears over the long-term damage to players’ health, all without the slightest blip in attendance or interest.
To see this much outrage and/or apathy, in multiple cities, is stunning. It’s not likely to get much better, either, what with fans knowing it might only be a few months before they get dumped by their beloved team.
The NFL doesn’t like carpet-bagging owners, but it wants a team in Los Angeles. Has ever since the Rams and Raiders’ moving trucks hit the highway back in 1995. An expansion team would have been the ideal solution, giving the NFL its Los Angeles franchise while not alienating another city’s fan base.
But that didn’t happen. Nor did any of the many stadium proposals that have been floated over the years.
It wasn’t until Kroenke purchased land in Inglewood with the express purpose of building an NFL stadium that the league’s long-talked about, oft-wished for return to L.A. got fast-tracked to reality. Now the Rams, Raiders and Chargers are fighting for the right to move, and a lengthy process that’s supposed to ensure teams have exhausted all options in their existing markets is only exacerbating the pain for fans already wounded at the prospect of being jilted.
Think about it: If you knew your significant other wanted to leave you and was just waiting for a better offer, would you sit through their weekend volleyball tournament? Or buy a new outfit and shell out hundreds of dollars for a night out? I think not.
(Note: These are not to be confused with ordinary Raiders fans. You can tell the difference by the face paint.)
There could be another scenario, one that may have been Kroenke’s plan all along: Two teams move to Los Angeles while the third moves to one of the vacated markets, potentially St. Louis.
The owners of the new L.A. teams are thrilled, delighted with their shiny new stadium and a market that will make them filthy rich. Or more filthy rich than they already are. Fans in Los Angeles are giddy at the NFL coming back after a 20-year absence.
And those folks who lost one team only to get another, sort-of new one are just happy to have a new owner who’s anyone but Kroenke. (Mostly) everybody’s happy, (mostly) everybody wins.
That’s at least a season away, though. In the meantime, some fans have decided it’s better to leave their team before their team can leave them.
This article was republished with permission from the original author, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today.