For a glimpse of the sleazy, shady dealings, and corruption permeating the NFL’s efforts to get a team back in Los Angeles, check out this article from Deadspin. The brutal game of musical chairs currently playing out between the Chargers, Raiders and Rams was intentionally organized by Roger Goodell and his cronies for their own nefarious ends and amusements.
From the get-go, the NFL’s goal has been to have two teams sharing a single stadium in LA County, similar to how Metlife Stadium hosts the Jets and the Giants. And the brutal deathmatch between these three teams to not be the one left standing when the music stops must make Goodell cackle long and hard, while noting to his advisers how everything is proceeding as he has foreseen.
But due to how the divisions are set up, and also due to how the Rams’ villainous owner publicly burned his bridges with St. Louis and its sports fans, there’s only one logical outcome to this. Let’s walk through it.
The Chargers and Raiders formed an alliance of convenience with their proposal for a joint stadium in Carson. But if these are the two teams that move over, the NFL buys itself an additional headache: a division realignment.
See, the Chargers and Raiders are both currently in the same division, the AFC West. Two teams of any sport in the same media market generally must not only be in different divisions, but also different conferences. Jets, Giants; White Sox, Cubs; Knicks, Nets. One of these teams would be forced to flip to the NFC West. And the logical option for this move would be the Chargers. The Raiders, Broncos and Chiefs fan bases share an intense three-way hatred with each other… but none really hate the Chargers, who have always been the odd-man out here. And as sports leagues love a good rivalry, the Raiders would stay in their division, and the Chargers would go.
But who in the NFC West would move back over? This brings up another headache, and represents the Rams’ ace in the hole. Here’s why.
There are four teams in the NFC West, same as all divisions. Two are the Cardinals and Seahawks, who are both strong teams expected to play well into the playoffs. I would not be surprised if one reaches the Super Bowl this year. Disrupting such a team while at its prime would be awkward, to say the least. With the fan bases and, more importantly, the corporate sponsors. Five years ago, the Cardinals would have been a no-brainer for such a move. But not now, not when they are arguably the second-best team in the entire NFL. (Or even first-best, in my opinion.)
The third team in the NFC West is the currently lackluster San Francisco 49ers. But a Raiders move would already be one kick in the teeth to the Bay Area. Would the NFL really want to deliver another by disrupting the 49ers’ traditional division and conference? The Niners are a major institution in the NFL, the ancient home of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the West Coast Offense. They have, by far, the most NFC West division titles in their history than any other team. Sure, they may be in a sorry state at the moment, but that will change within a few years, tops. Besides, they just sprung for that fancy new stadium. Bay Area football fans will be disgruntled enough from a Raiders move. Best leave them alone. So that leaves the fourth team of the NFC West, and guess which team that is?
Do you see the evil genius of Stan Kroenke’s scheme now? Why do you think he leaked that report where he not only dumped on St. Louis, but also his own fans? Either the Rams go to LA, or else his team is stuck in an aging stadium, in a rundown town and flyover state that Kroenke obviously despises, with a fan base who by now despises him and his team right back, while also switched to a completely new conference and division to boot? One that would hilariously and awkwardly see him playing in Los Angeles every single year anyway, against the Raiders? Kroenke is forcing the NFL’s hand: either play ball, or else watch as one of their franchises becomes a black hole of empty seats on camera, no merchandise sold, and negative revenue. This is a game of chicken that Kroenke is sure to win.
In terms of pure evil, Roger Goodell has finally met his match in Stan Kroenke.
So, the rest of the NFL owners will go with the path of least resistance. The Rams and the Chargers go to La-la-land; the Raiders and their fanatically loyal (even now) fan base stay put. San Diego is still kind of near Los Angeles, after all; many fans will make the drive. And besides, it’s never been a sports town anyway. Nobody is sure whether their baseball team is even in the major leagues, after all.
But the whole affair shows just how cynical the NFL has gotten, just in case their handling of the concussion issue hasn’t. Look, nobody would accuse a sports league of being full of nice, honorable people. But this league is second only to FIFA in its amoral machinations. It’s hysterically awful.