Commentary

Dear NFL, I am L.A.'s lost generation

There is a whole generation of Angelenos with no memory of an L.A. NFL team

Updated: February 5, 2011, 3:58 PM ET
By Pedro Moura | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

I have never been to an NFL game in Los Angeles.

I am 20 years old and I can't remember the Los Angeles Rams or Los Angeles Raiders. I'm a rabid football fan, but I have never come close to a Super Bowl or even bought an NFL jersey.

I am the lost generation.

I know -- it sounds more than a bit melodramatic, sort of like a sad sports soap opera that nobody wants to watch. But hear me out. It's important.

The Rams and Raiders left the L.A. area almost together in 1994 and 1995, crushing loyal fans and angering a large subsection of people.

But that -- the collective, long-standing unrest among then-established fans who immediately became NFL orphans -- has already been covered with immeasurable detail.

My lost generation?

Georgia Frontiere
George Rose/Getty ImagesGeorgia Frontiere packed her bags and the Los Angeles Rams became the St. Louis Rams and five years later won a Super Bowl.

We've been mostly ignored -- by the NFL, the media and by the general football-fan population. Everybody forgot about us.

Remember when the Rams and Raiders left?

I don't.

But it's still worth looking back on for some perspective.

In November 1994, the two teams, both fighting to get to .500, met in Anaheim, Calif., for the final time. The Raiders won, 20-17, but the outcome wasn't all that important.

Neither team made the playoffs that season. The Rams and owner Georgia Frontiere soon announced they were headed for St. Louis. The following June, Raiders owner Al Davis agreed to move his team back to Oakland.

A Sports Illustrated piece the week following that final November game captured the scene and sense: "Sunday's game between the two Los Angeles NFL teams, the Raiders and the Rams, was not unlike a funeral ... Strange, isn't it, that Sunday's unremarkable game could presage the disappearance of pro football from the second-largest metropolitan area in the country."

Strange. That's one word.

Since, the NFL has not come back to Los Angeles. The sticking point, as you can imagine, has been the lack of anything remotely close to a modern stadium or a new stadium idea without serious hurdles.

Tim Leiweke's L.A. Live plan on behalf of AEG has gained some steam in recent weeks, prompting some to wonder where the prospective team to move to L.A. would get its fan base.

Would L.A. football fans -- especially those who would make up the crucial 18-24 demographic by the time 2015 rolls around -- abandon the various teams they have adopted over the past several years in favor of the Los Angeles Something-Or-Others?

Maybe.

Maybe answering that question becomes a little easier when you first understand our generation's common characteristics and understand our numbers.

[+] EnlargeAl Davis
MPS/US PresswireAl Davis spent 13 season in Los Angeles and his Raiders won the city's only Super Bowl in 1984.

We're accustomed to having two teams to choose from in each major sport in Los Angeles. Two teams to switch our allegiances between, if we wish. And, in large part, we like winners.

As for how big we are, I figure the lost generation would include anyone born from, say, 1987 to 2008, with a little wiggle room. Anyone 7 years old or younger at the time the teams left L.A. won't remember much of anything. Anyone born in 2009 or 2010 isn't reading this and has yet to suffer from a football-less city.

So, do you have any idea how many children were born in the L.A. area during those 20 years -- or, in other words, how many children grew up in the lost generation with no natural NFL team?

Well, figuring that more than 4 million babies are born per year in the U.S., and about 6 percent of the U.S. population resides in the L.A. area, and staggering those numbers over 20 years, we can guess over 4 million children were born in Los Angeles in that 20-year period.

Four million potential NFL fans.

Millions growing up with no NFL team in their city, and that's fairly remarkable. Think 12 Pittsburghs.

So what did we, as a generation, do? What did we do without a team in what was the most popular American sport of the past 20 years?

One of two things: (1) gave up on the NFL altogether or (2) picked a new team to root for, however natural/unnatural it may have seemed.

Halloween, in particular, has always served as a reminder to me that Los Angeles lacks an NFL team. Look to the left while trick-or-treating in a typical L.A. suburb in the early 2000s, and you'd see a kid dressed up as the Packers' Brett Favre. Look to the right and you could see a Michael Strahan impersonator in a Giants jersey -- and no, Favre wasn't rolling over for Strahan to sack him and get the record. Walk a little further and you'd see kids dressed up as the Colts' Peyton Manning, the 49ers' Terrell Owens and other children sporting jerseys from just about every other team in the NFL.

The lesson? It was all split up, completely arbitrarily. The generation has very few real team allegiances.

I picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's a long story. Other kids my age, as I recall, pretty much circled the nation with their teams.

Some picked their favorite color combination. Some picked their parents' teams from a previous home. Some decided on their favorite player and followed him wherever he went.

The Southland is scattered, both geographically and culturally. At the risk of getting even more melodramatic, the lack of a football team has scattered Los Angeles even further.

Want to achieve unity and promote togetherness? How about an NFL team for a region of some 18 million people?

Need evidence? Ask residents of New York or Chicago or Philadelphia or most other big-city NFL locales.

No, the Los Angeles Something-Or-Others are not going to solve all our woes or suddenly alleviate traffic on the 405 or 101.

But, with some success and a little luck, the team could do a lot of good for the city -- and a lot of good for the franchise and NFL.

You don't need to tell us, the lost generation.

We already know.

Pedro Moura is a regular contributor to ESPNLA.com and is co-author of the USC blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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