The NFL in London could work with a little compromise

This coming Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars will play the third and final game of this NFL season’s International Series at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

The series began as an experiment in 2007 by the National Football League to gauge interest of the sport in the European marketplace.

And although the second largest media market in this country – Los Angeles – is on the verge of landing not one but possibly two NFL teams as soon as maybe next season after being without a team for 20 years, the League is still hell-bent on putting a team across the pond in London by 2022.

Commissioned by the NFL and a London marketing agency, the accounting firm DeLoitte released its findings last week from their study that said an NFL franchise based in London could generate more than $255 million for Britain annually.

In British pounds, we’re talking 165 million.

Pounds. Dollars. No matter what currency you reference, that’s a whole lot of coin the 32 team owners can’t ignore.

So, what about the fans both in the States and the British Isles?

A majority of NFL fans here don’t like the idea of putting a team in London because of travel logistics and the idea that it would be similar to out-sourcing American jobs to foreign countries.

Tom Bateman, president of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to London in 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams play the New England Patriots. courtesy: Tom Bateman
Tom Bateman, director of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to London in 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams play the New England Patriots.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

As for the Brits, L.A. native Tom Bateman, the director of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, traveled to merry old England for a week in October of 2012 to watch the St. Louis Rams take on the New England Patriots.

While there, Bateman spoke with British fans he discovered enjoy American football immensely but think the idea of putting a team in London permanently is a silly one.

I agree with the Brits. If a team is moved or an expansion team is awarded to London, would the league’s name be changed to the International Football League?

“Part of the appeal to the Brits is that each (International Series) game showcases different teams” said Bateman who added, “The NFL in the UK is a spectacle as much as it is a sport. Probably more so.”

British tailgaters at the 2012 NFL International Series Game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played at Wembley Stadium in London. courtesy: Tom Bateman
British tailgaters “dressed to kilt” at the 2012 NFL International Series Game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played at Wembley Stadium in London.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

He also discovered an NFL game represents everything the British love about America.

According to Bateman the Brits love the fact that we’re a show off nation.

Really, no sport or league shows off more than the NFL.

“It’s flashy, spectacular, the uniforms, the helmets, the cheerleaders, the endzone celebrations, the sack dances, all of that.” Said Bateman continuing, “But as a sport, to the Brits it can’t hold a candle to soccer or as they refer to it, real football.”

Also on the NFL’s agenda, sooner rather than later, is reducing the pre-season schedule from four games to two while expanding the regular season from its current 16-game schedule to 18.

An 18-game schedule is something the Players’ Union isn’t too keen on for player safety and the extra two games don’t increase the players’ salaries.

What about a little compromise for all parties involved so the 32 team owners, the players and Britain’s annual economy can capitalize on the projected $255 million the NFL stands to generate should it have a permanent presence in London.

Since the Brits enjoy seeing different teams play each International Series game and the logistics of having a permanent team call London home seem a bit difficult to iron out, let’s give the Brits what they want.

America's Game - NFL Football - celebrated at Wembley Stadium in London. courtesy: Tom Bateman
America’s Game – NFL Football – celebrated at Wembley Stadium in London.
courtesy: Tom Bateman

At the same time, let’s expand the regular season from 16 to 17 regular season games with the extra game for each team played each week at Wembley Stadium in London.

So what if it’s an odd number schedule. Only thing affected is a team finishing .500 which isn’t a huge deal in the grand playoff scheme of things.

This way, only teams with winning records would qualify for the postseason.

Make the 17th game match ups interconference games – AFC vs. NFC – with the match ups chosen with ping pong ball machines much like the ones used to choose the World Cup soccer groups or the NBA Draft Lottery and do it during Super Bowl Week for games in the upcoming regular season. Cut the pre-season to just two games.

You’ve added a game while having an entire regular season schedule – 16 weeks – in London with the Brits seeing all 32 NFL teams in different match ups each game and year.

It becomes a “pseudo Super Bowl” each week in London because the logistics time wise of having the Super Bowl in London – which has been discussed – just won’t work for NFL fans in the States who want to see the biggest game and spectacle on U.S. soil and rightfully so.

After all, it is America’s Game. Somewhere all 32 teams need to always call home.

No Disrespect. L.A. is the pLAce for the NFL

Downtown Los Angeles skyline at dusk.

Let me immediately debunk a serious cliché, untruth and down-right lie in regards to WE Angelenos.

It states, “WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team in Los Angeles because there are just too many other things to do here on a Sunday afternoon.”

Well, the part about plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon is spot-on. But, that’s what makes the City of Angels one of the greatest cities in the world.

The part about WE WON’T SUPPORT and NEVER HAVE SUPPORTED an NFL team is the biggest bunch of absolute garbage I’ve ever heard or read.

This clichéd rhetoric is old, tired, ignorant and completely false.

It’s a complete insult to all of US Angelenos.

Seriously!

Looking at L.A. from atop the Hollywood Sign.

Los Angeles, the second largest market in the country, home to Hollywood, a pair of MLB teams (Dodgers & Angels), a pair of NBA teams (Lakers & Clippers…and maybe the Anaheim Royals soon.), a pair of NHL teams (Kings & Ducks) a pair of major division one universities (USC & UCLA) and a pair of  MLS teams (Galaxy & Chivas USA) isn’t called the entertainment capital of the world for nothing. And although a sport, football, which includes the NFL variety, is one of the greatest forms of entertainment known to man, woman and child.

All I have to do is cite the Los Angeles Rams, the gold-standard among many pro football teams that have called L.A. home, as my example of WE Angelenos SUPPORTING an NFL team.

The L.A. Coliseum opened on May 1st 1923.

Beginning in 1946, after their move from Cleveland because they couldn’t compete with the Browns, the Los Angeles Rams called Southern California home for 49 years. The first 34 at the 100,000 seat L.A. Memorial Coliseum and the last 15 at Anaheim Stadium before moving to the Midwest in 1995.

49 YEARS!

Had the Rams not been supported by WE Angelenos throughout that half-century, you figure they would have left after year five.

The Rams called the Coliseum home from 1946 to '79.

During a 13 year period in the modern Super Bowl era from 1967 to 1979, the Rams won nine division titles, seven of those in consecutive seasons, played in seven conference championship games and one Super Bowl all the while attracting crowds at the Coliseum in excess of 65,000 to over 70,000 every Sunday afternoon.

In my interview with Hall-of-Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood and tight end Bob Klein, stars for the Rams during those years, both told me they fed off the energy of those Coliseum crowds. Fans that are still devoted to them today.

The Rams averaged just under 60,000 fans per regular season game in the 34 years they played at the Coliseum including three of the top-ten all-time league attendance single-game records exceeding 100,000 fans in the stands.

Rams called Anaheim Stadium home from 1980-'94.

The  first 12 seasons in Anaheim, they averaged about 57,000 fans. The years 1992-94 saw a significant drop-off due to rumors of a potential move first to Baltimore and, later, St. Louis. The Rams averaged about 45,000 fans those final three seasons.

Most team owners in any professional sport relocate because they can’t get the city they call home to ante up, via public funding, for a brand new arena with all the modern amenities to maximize revenue for them and their team.

Ex-Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom with a model of the Football-enclosed Anaheim Stadium.

Former L.A. Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom left L.A. for Anaheim in ’79 because the Coliseum Commission and L.A. politicians wouldn’t fork over taxpayer dollars to upgrade the Coliseum. Anaheim DID enclosing the Big “A” without its then-primary tenant, the California Angels, reaping any benefits whatsoever, so it could gain elite status as a city that an NFL team called home.

That changed in the early 90s when Georgia Frontiere wanted upgrades to the Big A via public funding. Anaheim said not this time. Off the Rams went to St. Louis.

St. Louis city officials and the state of Missouri gave the Rams everything they wanted and more including a new stadium in 1995 to return the Gateway City to elite NFL status after the Cardinals bolted a few years earlier for Arizona.

The 17 year old Edward Jones Dome is already obsolete by NFL standards.

The tables have now turned for the Gateway City. The Edwards Jones Dome needs upgrades the Rams negotiated in their original contract. St. Louis wants the Rams to pay more than half with taxpayers footing the rest of the bill.

Currently the Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills are the NFL franchises looking to upgrade their stadium situations and join the 21st Century NFL.

It’s why Al Davis moved the Raiders to L.A. from Oakland in 1982 and then back to Oakland in ‘95. ‘84 when Bob Irsay moved the Colts from Baltimore for Indianapolis. ‘87 when Bill Bidwell moved the Cardinals from St. Louis to Phoenix. ’95 when Frontiere moved the Rams to St. Louis from Anaheim. ‘96 when Art Modell moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore. ’97 when Bud Adams moved the Oilers to Tennessee from Houston.

These owners didn’t pack up their teams and leave their former cities because of the lack of fan support. It always has been and will be about stadium upgrade issues.

PERIOD.

San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium is one of the 3 most outdated stadiums in the NFL.

Not coincidentally, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are on the possible relocation list because they play in two of the three most outdated stadiums in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers were on the list playing in the third.

The 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara is scheduled to open in 2014.

The 49ers will be playing in a brand new $1.2 billion facility within the next couple of years in Santa Clara. A building privately funded with the 49ers borrowing $400 million. The Santa Clara Stadium Authority borrowing $450 million. $150 million from the league’s stadium fund. $40 million from the Santa Clara City Redevelopment Agency with the final $35 million coming from a hotel tax paid by tourists and visitors to the city.

I bring these three teams up because, if you include the L.A. Coliseum and Pasadena Rose Bowl, California has the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums. Anaheim Stadium’s out of play because it’s now a baseball-only stadium if you don’t count a high school gridiron clash or two.

California’s citizens and its government entities won’t consider stadium plans of any sort to be publicly-funded using taxpayer dollars. Especially in these tough economic times. We’re absolutely right not to.

That’s why the state is home to the five most archaic “NFL-ready” stadiums in the country.

This is the ONLY reason why Los Angeles hasn’t been a part of the NFL for 17 seasons and counting.

AEG is targeting a 2017 grand opening of Farmers Field in Los Angeles.

This “extended road-trip” Los Angeles has endured could be coming to an end soon with not just one, but possibly two teams, from the list relocating here.

"Tailgating L.A. Style." An artist's rendition of Chick Hearn Court on Game-Day Sunday. Nokia Theatre and restaurants on the right. Staples Center in the left foreground. Farmers Field in left background.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) privately funded the Downtown Los Angeles Corridor Revitalization building the Staple Center and L.A. Live, and now is committed to privately fund, without taxpayer/public dollars, the entire construction of the $1.4 billion L.A. Convention Center and Farmers Field.

AEG’s already invested over $40 million, $27 million of those for an environmental impact report and the balance going to designs for the new convention center and football stadium.

Upon releasing the 10,000 page EIR earlier this month on the steps of L.A.‘s City Hall, point-man Tim Leiweke addressed AEG’s vision for the return of the NFL to the City of Angels.

A team could be calling L.A. home in September of 2013 playing its home games at the Coliseum until Farmers Field is completed by 2017.

As for which team it will be. Take a look at the aforementioned list. The Rams (if any team should call L.A. home, it should be the Rams.) and the Vikings are the top two candidates for various reasons. Who will it be?

It’s going to happen. L.A. will be back in the NFL and the NFL will be back in Los Angeles. From any angle, it’s quite overdue.

Yes. There are plenty of things to do on a Sunday afternoon in the City of Angels, one of the greatest cities in the world, and the NFL should and will be one of them.

Photo courtesy: Eric Geller, AEG, Farmers Field, Los Angeles Times, stadiumsofprofootball.com, USA Today.

Video courtesy: Eric Geller, NFL Films

Penn State’s Tragedy A Product of an Old Boy Mentality.

Joe Paterno

Don’t be sad for former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno. A bit strange to say and type “former Penn State head football coach” when referring to JoePa.

He’s lived a charmed life in the entertainment field that is sports in one place for six decades.

Paterno patrolled the Penn State football sidelines, first as an assistant coach and 46 years as head coach, since 1950, when he was just 23 years old until his dismissal this past Wednesday night at the age of 84.

61 years.

What a tremendous run considering coaches get hired and fired in the college and pro ranks like it’s going out of style.

By now you know Paterno’s story. Worth revisiting.

After serving in the Army the final year of World War II, he went to Brown University on an athletic scholarship where he played quarterback for head coach Charles “Rip” Engle. He was to go to law school after graduation in 1950 but instead accepted an assistant coaching position at Penn State when Engle became the head coach of the Nittany Lions.

After 16 seasons, Engle retired and Paterno succeeded him.

Coaching football at Penn State is the ONLY career job Paterno’s ever known. It was HIS REALITY.

Courtesy: Sports Illustrated

Paterno’s job description always was to win football games and make Penn State athletics relevant thus making the university globally renowned from a little place called “Happy Valley.”

In 46 years as the Nittany Lions head coach, Paterno holds the record for most wins in division one college football with 409. He’s tied for the most games coached with Amos Alonzo Stagg (548). Paterno’s coached in a record 37 bowl games winning a record 24 of them, two of those being national championships.

Based on those numbers alone. Mission accomplished. Job well done.

Paterno’s life is Penn State football.

Paterno’s paychecks have been issued by the Penn State Board of Trustees for six decades.

He’s from a generation that didn’t have to worry about labor compliance legal notices posted by employees for employers regarding things like sexual harassment or violence towards others in the workplace.

This is significant.

Albeit a few years younger than Paterno, I have a very close friend who’s from that generation.

My friend was in the competitive field of  radio sales selling advertising time beginning in the late 60s. He’s told me that it wasn’t uncommon for sales reps almost coming to blows with threats of violence back in the day because one was traversing into another’s “territory.”

Threats of violence are an obvious grounds for termination of both parties, in this day and age, with labor compliance notices posted everywhere in the workplace but swept under the rug back then where no labor compliance notices posted. Things were “worked out” between the two parties by going to a superior usually without involving law enforcement.

It also wasn’t uncommon back then for “casual flirting or sexual advances” in the workplace to occur, wanted or unwanted (see a Mad Men or Pan Am episode), between parties. Another obvious grounds for termination, in this day and age, with labor compliance notices posted everywhere in the workplace but swept under the rug back then where no labor compliance notices were posted.  Things were “worked out” between the parties by going to a superior usually without involving law enforcement.

After leaving the field in the late 90s, my friend was back in the radio sales business about 10 years later. Something occurred between him and another younger sales rep where threats were exchanged initiated by my friend who felt his territory was violated by the younger rep.

Mind you, Department of Labor Laws of Compliance notices were posted everywhere in that workplace. The younger rep went to the sales supervisor alerting him of threats made by my “old school” friend. My friend was immediately terminated.

After telling me this story, I asked my friend if he would consider going back into that field. His reply, “Nah. I’m from a different generation. Today, you innocently smile at someone the wrong way and you get canned.”

Brings me to this.

All the Penn State principles in this tragedy are a product of that “old school” generation where indiscretions were kept hush-hush, in the house amongst each other, swept under the rug.

Covered up.

Jerry Sandusky

Taking a look at the 23 page grand jury report detailing the absolutely disgusting and unimaginable alleged acts done to young boys by former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky, that “old school” mindset is obvious.

Why? Here’s why. All the parties who could’ve stopped what was going on lived in a “fantasy world” where football ruled over anything that’s morally and ethically right because that is a world where everyone in a small, irrelevant  town without Penn State football, prospered financially.

A bit like organized crime.

All parties sold their souls in the best interest of  “The Family” a.k.a. Penn State Football. Nothing was done in the best interest of all those young kids whose innocence was stolen and lives ruined forever.

Mike McQueary

Had Paterno, assistant Mike McQueary, who allegedly witnessed Sandusky raping a 10 year old boy in the athletic department showers in 2002 and did nothing to stop it, McQueary’s father, athletic director Tim Curley, former Penn State president Graham Spanier, a victim’s mother, the campus police and so on and so forth IMMEDIATELY told the proper authorities of Sandusky’s deplorable acts, so many young lives would‘ve been spared indignities forced upon them by Sandusky.

Because they didn’t, all became accomplices in the alleged crimes because they did nothing except protect their personal interests.

Their jobs.

In Paterno’s case, the only job he’s ever known.

So, instead of turning in Sandusky nine years ago the “old school guys” Spanier, Curley and Paterno did what they know best.  Keep the ugly incident hush-hush, in the house amongst each other, swept under the rug.

Covered up.

Graham Spanier & Joe Paterno

Why ruin the shine in their “Football Camelot.”

Paterno’s “old school way of doing things” worked fine in his football world. In the real world, sadly, it‘s rendered his football records extremely tarnished.

Quite honestly, Paterno, and the rest of his Penn State “old boy network,” should’ve been gone a long time ago.

Photo courtesy: AP, LIFE, Sports Illustrated

Thursday Night NFL Kicks-Off Week 10.

Thursday night football begins this week through the remainder of the season. You know what that means. Thanksgiving’s around the corner, the weather’s getting cool and it’s time to rock ‘n roll.

Remember, use my picks to wager $$$ at your own risk. I pick heads-up winners, not the spread. If you lose, I had nothing to do with it. If you win beaucoup $$$, a 10% tip would be cool.  But, I’m realistic. This is just for your entertainment…or not, and for me to keep my sports “mojo” going until “I’m back in the saddle”. Remember the league’s unofficial motto…“ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, MONDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY OR SATURDAY……….

LAST WEEK:  8-6  SEASON TOTAL: 72-45

THURSDAY

OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-4) +7 @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-4) O/U 47.5 pts

-Battle for the top spot of the AFC West. Since acquiring QB Carson Palmer, Raiders have lost two straight with Palmer tossing six picks in the two games. After finally starting fast at 4-1, the Chargers have lost three straight. QB Phillip Rivers with 14 picks of his own, one more than he had all last season. 710 ESPN Los Angeles radio hosts Steve Mason & John Ireland set the over/under for interceptions between the two QBs at four. Take the over. Raiders RB Darren McFadden is out. Chargers RBs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert are questionable. Raiders swept the AFC West last season. Oakland’s 1-2 so far this season. CHARGERS (Raiders, 24-17)

How about revisiting the 1978 playoffs and the “Holy Roller!”

Remainder of week 10 on Friday.

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