Sports Opinion & Analysis

On Relocation, Part 4-of-4: The National Football League

In NFL on July 2, 2012 at 11:59 am

So it’s come time that I finally discuss the NFL.

While some teams in the NFL are long-standing institutions and should never (ever) be considered for relocation, there are a few teams that either A) never caught-on with their respective homes, or B) make no sense as to why they are located in the community they play.

NLF team map, as of 2012.

There are teams like the Cowboys, 49ers, Dolphins, Packers, and Broncos, whose names are synonymous with their city. Who are legends in the league. Who are untouchable.

Then there are these guys.

1. Oakland Raiders

Don’t get me wrong, the Raiders are also an institution, and are absolutely synonymous with something.

Not a prison tattoo.

The first synonyms that come to mind are prison, convict, criminal, meth, carjack, riot, murder, John Madden and Firestorm (a movie starring Howie Long). Except for the last two examples, everything else are the customs of the organization. It doesn’t matter where the team plays, with their scary black-and-silver pirate-looking mascot, the Raiders just breathe fear into any other fan base. That’s who they are.

The issues with the Raiders aren’t their traditions (unless you’re a law-abiding citizen), but rather the city where these traditions occur. While some of those examples and the city of Oakland go hand-in-hand, the city itself (as I’ve mentioned one or two times already) is no longer economically viable enough to warrant a professional sports team. The Warriors already left. The A’s are trying everyday.

The city just can’t support anyone anymore.

But if you look at the team location map, there is already a city that can support a team, and just happens to have a pre-existing Raider fan base ready-and-waiting.

Like the Raiders, Los Angeles is also synonymous with prison, crime, meth, carjack, riot, and murder.

Los Angeles is going to have an NFL team one way or another. Whether they steal the vulnerable Vikings out of Minnesota, or the Chargers move up the I-5 , they are going to get a franchise. The problem is, with an already jumbled population constructed by the memories of three other teams (Chargers, Rams and Raiders) who have already played in the urban sprawl, why would anyone want to pollute the waters with a fourth culture? Teams are supposed to bring together a community, but with the already-established communities (San Deogians who moved up to LA, leftover Rams and Raider fans from yesteryear), it’s a hard to think the Vikings will ever form as solid a support system than they already have in Minnesota.

If the Chargers move north, they will find a small community of fans awaiting them, but the support will be tiny in comparison to the lingering Raider support that has lasted all of these years. Why would the hated rival of the Raiders want to relocate themselves to potentially hostile enemy territory?

Los Angeles is going to one day (soon) get an NFL team. The only thing that makes sense is for the Raiders to move back to the place they already once played. With the city and team’s long list of traditions, they deserve each other.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Let’s be honest, I really don’t need to go over why Jacksonville doesn’t deserve a football team.

Undeserving of a caption.

It’s Jacksonville.

The city can’t support them, and the team has never caught on. It’s time to set their sights abroad and help the NFL expand its international appeal. You know, that thing that keeps costing season-ticket holders (of the touring teams) a home game from their season package?

Mexico City: culture, history, and cartel violence. Maybe the Raiders should move here instead.

Mexico City was the site of the first NFL regular season game outside the United States (2005, Arizona over Mexico, 31-to-14). It set a record for NFL attendance (over 100,000 people at Azteca Soccer Stadium). It is one of the bigger cities in the word. While the issues that have faced other international teams will still be problematic (how do you pay players dollars while earning domestic currency), the NFL is such a money absorbing entity that other teams could float the bill until the league expands its brand and the Mexico City “branch” becomes self-sustaining.

Think of what the Yankees do for every other team in baseball.

Mexico has a lot of NFL fans. A team will one day play here. Why not just go ahead and give them a team no one will miss anyway?

3. Buffalo Bills

Continuing with the international appeal, the Bills should house-hunt a bit north from their current home.

What does BILLS stand for?*

Buffalo is closer to the capital of New York (Albany) than New York City. It’s the second most populous city in the state, and sits on the shore of scenic Lake Erie. So what why do they deserve a team? Apparently, because they have a long tradition of Boy I Love Losing Super-Bowls.*

Despite what you’ve seen in Hollywood movies, this city is not New York, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston or Miami.

Toronto, on the other hand, is the fifth biggest city in all of North America. It’s the biggest city in Canada. Economically, they completely overshadow Buffalo. Also, the Bills already play a game there a year (which they sell out). An average of over 15,000 Canadian fans, per game, already attend Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. There is a fan base that will support the team. There is money to support the team.

The key here, though, is the geographical relationship between Buffalo and Toronto.

With Toronto, the team is still accessible to the residents of Buffalo. Moving to Toronto would put the team in a region that is financially better suited to support them, but not far enough that the long-established fan base couldn’t still watch their team play. Unlike Jacksonville, Buffalo actually has fans, and moving them Toronto would allow the team to keep those fans, make more money, and carry on a tradition of almost-winning, which is perfect for Canada.

3. St. Louis Rams

St. Louis didn’t support the football Cardinals, and now they won’t support the Rams. Fool me once, and all that.

If it wasn’t for their logo being somewhat appealing, the Rams would be as obsolete as the Jags.

No one in St. Louis cares about anything other than the baseball Cardinals. If the Rams were to move during the summer, I doubt anyone would even notice. When they finally would notice (around week three of the NFL), they’d probably shrug it off, open a Budweiser and then mark another X on their calendar as they count down the days to Opening Day.

Yeah, it was fun when Kurt Warner won them a Super Bowl and they had the Greatest Show on Turf. How long ago was that again? Been there, done that, who’s pitching for the Cards?

If Roger Goddell gets his way, the Rams (like the Raiders should), will also move back to the new stadium being built in downtown Los Angeles.

L.A. stadium model, built entirely from popsicle sticks.

But, like the Lakers and Clippers, is doesn’t make any sense for Los Angeles, or any city, to have two teams play in the same place (I’m not even going to comment on the New York Jets and Giants playing in the same stadium in New Jersey). The Commish wants the LA stadium to be built in a way to support two NFL teams playing in it.

The problem is, LA couldn’t even maintain one team, so why do they suddenly deserve two? Start small, I say. California is already crowded with the 49ers (who could probably represent the entire state just fine), the Raiders, and the Chargers. Let the Raiders relocate down south, and use the Rams to invade another market the NFL is trying to break into.

Football is played with your feet.

Unlike the NBA, having a team in foggy London-town doesn’t create a complete and utter logistical hell. Just a slight one. If the Monday and Thursday games are scheduled properly, teams can travel across the pond, get a few days to get over the jet lag, and play their game.

Why the NFL thinks the sport will take off in a country that doesn’t care about it, is beyond me. Maybe it’s because they sell out their international games to tourists or locals who want to see the one-time-a-year novelty, and think that is a solid basis for a permanent business model. Regardless, like the other cities, Roger Goddell well solidify his legacy with permanent international games. Mexico City and Toronto will get their teams. So will London. It should just be the Rams that move there.

I guarantee St. Louis won’t even care.

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