Surprised? How could anyone be surprised by football attendance in Los Angeles over the weekend?
The Rams’ game against the Washington Redskins was attended by 56,612 at the Coliseum. The Chargers’ game against the Miami Dolphins was attended by 25,381 at the StubHub Center.
For the Rams, it was their second straight home game after a lopsided win over the Indianapolis Colts the week before. For the Chargers, it was their first game in their new home. Well, strictly speaking, it was their old home since the Chargers started out in L.A. in 1960. Well, strictly, strictly speaking, the Chargers don’t play in L.A., they play in beautiful Carson, California — Gateway to Gardena.
But for these purposes, we’ll continue to think of these Bolts as being in L.A. Otherwise, we’ll go crazier than we are already.
At least, the Chargers drew better in this L.A. opener than they did in their first. On Sept. 10, 1960, the Chargers defeated the Dallas Texans 21-20 before 17,724 at the Coliseum.
And that was their third best crowd of the season, in a year where they played for the first American Football League championship. The Chargers’ average home attendance that 1960 season at the Coliseum was 15,768.
In no game that season did the Chargers even come close to Sunday’s attendance figure of 25,381. Their best mark was 21,805 against the Houston Oilers on Nov. 13. Their worst: 9,928 against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 10.
The Rams, meanwhile, dropped from 60,128 in their opener against the Colts to their 56,612 against the Redskins. It really wasn’t all that surprising. Even though the Rams blew out the Colts, 46-9, it wasn’t all that awe-inspiring. The Colts are dreadful, especially missing quarterback Andrew Luck, and are now 0-2 for the fourth straight year.
Many took glee in pointing out that Saturday’s epic USC-Texas game at the Coliseum drew 84,714 — more than the Rams and Chargers combined.
But no one should be surprised by the relative few going to NFL games in Los Angeles so far this season. Sure, the Rams drew 91,046 in their first regular-season home game in 2016. That figure was down to an “announced” 80,729 by the end of the season, but there were actually much fewer in the stands to watch a 44-6 loss that ended the Rams’ season at 4-12.
The sheen of having the Rams back in L.A. has been tarnished by a team that fired its coach in the middle of last season and shows all the signs of continued mediocrity.
The Chargers are, frankly, in a much worse situation. Although they will one day share a glamorous stadium with the Rams in Inglewood, that one day remains in the not-too-near future. Until then, the Chargers are stuck in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center in Carson, the stadium so small, in the locker rooms the players have to go outside to change their minds.
Rim shot, anyone?
The Chargers not only followed the Rams into Los Angeles once, they did it twice. They were smart enough the first time, under original owner Barron Hilton, to move to San Diego after one season. But they were dumb enough the second time, under current owner Alex Spanos, to move back to Los Angeles.
The NFL had been gone from Los Angeles 20 years when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved back to Oakland. Angelenos had gotten along perfectly fine without it. They could watch the best games on TV every week, whether they had that Sunday Ticket thingy or not. So when the Rams decided to come back last season, it was interesting and there was definitely some pro football buzz, but by the time the season ended, everyone had long since moved on.
The Chargers had to have seen all that from Mission Valley. But they decided in January to put San Diego in their rearview mirror and move back up the coast. Spanos is spending tens of millions of dollars to put the Chargers in L.A. Imagine if he had put that much money into helping to build a new stadium in San Diego.
But here the Chargers are. Maybe they’ll be a better draw when the Inglewood stadium is finally built, but for now, they’re in a stadium that holds only about 8,000 more than Staples Center, where the Lakers and Clippers play, and they’re not even selling that out.
Maybe Spanos was crazy like a fox. Maybe he knew his team wouldn’t draw very many people early on and knew the optics of nearly filling StubHub Center would still look a lot better than the optics of the Rams only half-filling the Coliseum.
The man’s a genius.