Football season is almost here.
With it brings a question that hangs over the Southland like the marine layer or afternoon smog.
Why doesn’t Los Angeles have a pro football team? If you ask me, they already do.
There is just one major difference. They play on Saturdays.
I give you the Southern California Trojans. Consider the following factors.
They play their home games in a stadium that used to house the local NFL franchise. Famous for hosting the Olympics twice, the L.A. Memorial Coliseum has also hosted the Super Bowl and World Series. Not your run-of-the-mill college football venue, it also holds the record for the largest crowd to ever watch an NFL game.
Their coach, Pete Carroll, came to the Trojans from the NFL’s New England Patriots. He brought notoriety and fanfare back to a floundering program and, more impressively, a ton of success. He has built a powerhouse and recruiting to the sunshine and palm trees of Southern California can’t hurt.
They frequently send players to the NFL Draft, including three Heisman trophy winners in four years between 2002-05 and could probably play with a handful of the NFL’s worst teams.
They play in the second biggest market in the country and are covered accordingly. Like Fernando Mania, Gretzky fever, the Showtime Lakers and the arrival of David Beckham, the USC Trojans are football in L.A. despite what UCLA or Rick Neuheisel may say.
The players are treated like stars. From the press to the paparazzi, these guys are the toast of the town. They own Hollywood in the fall before the Lakers or Bruins really get going and after the Dodgers have faded again. They are celebrities in their own right, think Nick Lachey sleeping on the floor of Matt Leinart’s dorm room.
They have guys that are professionals. If you count the perks heaped upon some of the players by agents-to-be and university boosters, from the well-publicized, like Reggie Bush, and more commonly unpublicized, these guys get the royal treatment.
Lastly, there are the demographics to consider. So many of Southern California’s residents are not locally born. In other words, a trip to the corner tavern on a Sunday afternoon in the fall yields a collage of colors made up of jerseys from around the country. From the classic black and yellow Steelers gear to the silver and black of the Raiders, there is no lack of NFL support around.
In other words, the NFL doesn’t need a team in Los Angeles to keep its product relevant here.
On Sunday, many locals root for the San Diego Chargers or even for the individual players that comprise their fantasy football teams.
Yet on crisp, fall Saturday afternoons, the red and gold Trojan horse lines chests and flies on flags waiving brazenly from Newport Beach to Ojai, sweeping the whole region in a football frenzy.
While the NFL logo departed with the Raiders and the Rams, the Trojans have brought back the professional pigskin to the hearts and minds of Southern California.