A Team Without A City

First place team, in No. 2 market in America

First place team, in the No. 2 market in America

“I’m having difficulty staying a fan this year,” said Steeler Guy at Thanksgiving Dinner. “I can’t get past the CTE.   It’s a gladiator sport.  These guys are going to be putting guns in their mouths in 20 years time.”

He admitted it didn’t stop him from walking up to Hollywood Blvd at 10 am last week to catch the early game at a bar. He too, had tremendous difficulty finding a bar willing to put the volume on, even when there were less than a dozen customers in the room.  He ended up at Hooters, of all places, where the Pittsburgh fans had taken over.

We agreed we were fortunate not to have sons to agonize over come time for the AYSO/Pop Warner family discussion.  Our imaginary parenting could be flawless while we watched someone else’s son go helmet to chest plate at top speed.

2020

2020 is foresight wishful thinking

The mockups for the new Rams stadium in Inglewood depict three tiers of luxury boxes and every seat filled to capacity in 2020.  We’re not moving in that direction.   At $2.6 billion, it will be the most expensive sports stadium ever constructed. Personal Seat Licenses will range from $175,000-$225,000 for club seats.  That’s what you pay Stan Kroenke, billionaire, to obtain the rights to pay him another $350-400 per ticket to see the game live.

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Here was the tailgate scene before the Texans game.  Based on this tableau, I would say the median Rams fan is 45 years old, drinks beer, and works in the construction trade.   Hard to see six figure PSL’s coming out of anyone’s wallet here.   Somewhere in Los Angeles, the thinking goes, lurk 70,000 rich people who aren’t going to the games now when the Rams are both a prodigal returned and winning, but will nevertheless appear deus ex machina in three years time, checkbooks open.  Rich people in LA will not allow their kids to play football.  What makes anyone think they’ll pay a fortune to subsidize a game of which they disapprove?

The people who will keep the game alive in LA are the three guys from Arizona we ran into at Dick’s Sporting Goods who drove all night from Phoenix just to see them once.  And oddballs in the Valley who are determined to have a slice of sports fan ecstasy and civic harmony after 20 years of no team.

To quote RB Todd Gurley:  “Please come to our games”.

Rail Killer, Me

Eastbound and downtown, one hour before Rams game

Eastbound and downtown, one hour before Rams game

Here’s a bittersweet factoid: halfway through a massive buildout of the rail system,  Metro ridership is down 16% in the past three years. Transit ridership is down nationally, but nowhere more so than Los Angeles, which alone accounts for nearly a quarter of all rider losses in America, even as we’ve connected the San Gabriel Valley to the beach through the addition of the Gold and Expo Lines.  Anyone want to guess how many riders ended up in the back of my car?

This is a forbidden topic of conversation in policy circles, where 30-year plans continue apace, as though rideshare never happened.

On the gentrification corridor

A Hopper-esque tableau, along the gentrification corridor

On paper, transit oriented housing has much to offer.  If we build snazzy new apartment complexes adjacent to train stations, the thinking goes, we can whisk people to and from work without anyone having to get into their car. It’ll be clean and fast, and people can sip their coffee and look down on the gridlock below with bemusement and relief. Throw in a little music, and….here, why don’t I just let Cameron Crowe perform the honors:

If we gave them great coffee! And great music!   Such was the pre-Jobsian America before the iPhone, and the Cambrian explosion of apps.

Overlooked in the optimism is an inherent contradiction in transit-oriented development.  It ain’t cheap. The very people who pay $2400 for a very modern, desirable one-bedroom apartment, fully stocked with amenities, are the least likely to utilize public transportation.  The train ushers in the housing, the housing sets gentrification in motion, the transit-oriented demographic gets pushed further away from transit lines, where people can afford to live.   If they can swing it, they take UberPool home for maybe a buck or three more.

I drive a lot of people home from work.   As rideshare spreads, this is more and more of my clientele.  In 2014, Uber lowered the per mile rate in Los Angeles to 90 cents, an act greatly decried by the drivers. The Uber argument was: the cheaper the rate, the more the demand, and greater revenue overall for drivers.  Uber runs on metadata, and the data was correct. My hourly has risen significantly each reach year I’ve driven.

Los Angeles does not run on metadata, it runs on politics.  Metadata says you match shift workers with employment zones. Which is to say, you start the rail system in Van Nuys, and East LA and Torrance, and you work your way toward downtown.  Politics says you do the reverse.  You build trains in the whitest, wealthiestliberal precincts of the city, where there is 98% approval for public transportation…for other people.  Because, climate change.

Last Sunday, we rode the Expo Line from the Rams game to Bergamot. We whisked silently along the treetops,  peering down into pedestrian-free neighborhoods brightly jeweled with succulents.  Near the stations, giant excavations were being dug for parking garages atop which fresh Bento Box transit-oriented apartments would soon sit. It was the most civilized public transportation experience I have enjoyed since crossing Puget Sound in a ferry, way back in the ’90s.

I had two thoughts. First, if we cannibalized our not insignificant equity at Chez UpintheValley, a princely sum in the red states, if I could obtain every dollar of paper profit today, fat stacks of cash in my eager hands, there was nothing we could buy here, as far as the eye could see.  Secondly, where we build trains, the whiter it gets. The whiter it gets, the more money I make driving.

Dept. of NGAF

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“Can you watch the game, just for a few minutes?”
“I’m reading.”
“We’re inside the 20. There’s 12 seconds left.”
“I told you I don’t like football.”
“Just pretend.”
“Go Giants.”
“Rams! Girl, football!”
“I’ll cross my fingers. How’s that?”

Final score: Seahawks 16, Rams 10, with the game tying pass dropped in the end zone, seconds after this photo was taken.

So it’s all her fault.

Also the fault of the bars downtown that refused to put the game on. What is up with that?
Me: Do you guys have the Rams on TV?
Mikkeller: (laughter) We never have games on.
Karl Strauss: Well, yeah. But its on mute.
Why? Why would you have a giant TV over your bar broadcasting the NFL, and sullen bar staff playing music instead?  Why would anyone watch a game they can’t hear? Its Sunday afternoon. Bars are three-quarters empty.  Thousand of CicLAVians are zipping past your door on bicycles. Some of them like football.  You going to send them back to the Valley?
Apparently, yes.

Four bars we went to with the TV on mute. Four! A gorgeous fall day we had on the bikes, ready to be topped off with a couple quarters of smashmouth football.  The Rams, vying for playoff position. Twenty years we’ve been waiting for this, and now, bupkes.

At Fifth and Spring, from an open doorway we heard a sudden roar of fandom, whistles, play-by-play, people in game jerseys spilling out on the sidewalk, the happy smells of spilled beer and fried food. All the encouraging indicia of sportsjoy.

The Rams? No.
The Chargers? No.
Packers-Cowboys.
So we have established there are NFL fans in DTLA. Only their loyalties are elsewhere.

Mrs. UpintheValley, sensing my incipient crankiness,  persuaded someone at Beelman’s Pub to put the sound on, for which I am grateful. We ordered the requisite carbohydrate-laden appetizers and settled in for excitement.

All seven of us.  Six, if you count her.