Bright Lights, Big City, No Football

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Los Angeles is a very big city – without an NFL team. NPR's Scott Simon talks with our own Ron Rapoport about why not and what fills the void.


Time now for sports.


SIMON: L.A. has it all - sun, sand, mountains, stars, smog - everything but a National Football League team.

We're joined now by our own Ron Rapoport, who knows how a city's heart can beat for its football team more than any other. Ron, good to be with you here in L.A.

RON RAPOPORT: Welcome to L.A., Scott.

SIMON: So why no football team? I mean, a basketball team, a couple of baseball teams, college football - no pro-football. You used to have two.

RAPOPORT: It's like there's a hole in the winter in the whole schedule, Scott. You know, coming out here from Chicago where the Bears make the city go around, there's just nothing here. They tried to get us interested in the Chargers, they tried to get us interested in the Raiders - they used to be here, but as like the old man said about his sex life, it's like a gun going off in another room, you know? It's just not here and there is this big void for a big city like this, and it's very, very odd.

SIMON: I have to think that, given the concentration of wealth there is out here, that somebody could buy a football team if they felt they could make a go of it.

RAPOPORT: Well, you know, the NFL has been hoisted on a silver(ph) (unintelligible). For years, they have used the fact that there is no football in Los Angeles to hold other teams hostage. When another team just, you know, doesn't get the stadium it wants, doesn't get the financial deal it wants, they, oh, we'll move you to Los Angeles if you don't give us what we want, and, of course, those cities ante up.

But the big thing is, is that there's not the kind of interest here there is in other cities. L.A. is, you know, it's kind of fractured ethnically and geographically, and the idea of spending civic money, which other cities have done, just won't fly here.

SIMON: Has college football - I'm thinking of the UCLA-USC rivalry - sort of replaced some of the intensity people might feel?

RAPOPORT: Yeah, you bet, absolutely. You know, the college football situation here is very interesting. Unlike most major college football teams which are in cities, like Ann Arbor or State College, UCLA and USC are right here in town, and so are most of their alumni who never leave. And that makes the USC-UCLA rivalry in football and in basketball very exciting in a much more immediate level than in a lot of other towns because all the alumni aren't living there year round.

SIMON: Ron, so nice talking to you.

RAPOPORT: It's a pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: Ron Rapoport speaking with us here in Culver City.

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