I have a confession.
I haven’t been paying too much attention to the draft. Twitter tells me what I need to know. As long as I know where the players from USC end up, my job is done. I retweet, write the story and move on with my life.
I wonder if I would care more if the place I currently call home, Los Angeles, had a horse in the race. As long as I have been alive, LA hasn’t had an NFL franchise. Granted, that has only been 23 years, but considering LA is the second-largest media market in the world, that’s an anomaly in professional sports. New York has two football teams, two basketball teams, two hockey and two baseball teams.
In contrast, LA has two soccer teams, two hockey teams, two baseball teams, two basketball teams and two universities with world-renowned athletic programs.
But no NFL franchises.
Since the Raiders migrated north, and the Rams moved to St. Louis, USC has been how Los Angelenos get their football fix. And in recent years, they have proved to be more than enough. If you can’t watch the pros, watching the future pros is the next best thing.
But with all the talk of the NFL returning to LA (My response? I’ll believe it when I see it), I start to daydream.
How would it affect USC’s fanbase? How would it—gulp—affect traffic in down town LA (Admit it, half of you just shuddered at that thought)?
Would the presence of an NFL franchise help or hurt the USC football program?
Imagine this picture.
A struggling franchise moves to LA over the summer and temporarily sets up shop at the Coliseum or Rose Bowl (It would never happen but work with me here). They don’t do so well their first year so, of course, they end up with the No. 1 draft pick and take USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
Could you imagine the excitement? The hometown hero gets to stay home. And though this scenario is a little far-fetched, the possibility of an NFL franchise taking one or two USC players every year is not. USC is arguably the best NFL pipeline in the nation having more first-round draft picks and more draft picks overall than any other school in the nation.
It’s a football fan’s dream come true. You can watch some of your favorite players for the entirety of their career. The NFL can mooch off their college football fanbase just by making sure they have a Trojan on the roster every so often.
Sure, there will be a few band wagon fans that might hop off the Trojans’ caboose and latch on to the new professional franchise, but that happens to every team in Los Angeles. As long as you’re winning in LA, you have bandwagon fans. If you lose, you lose them to the beach or the bars or the five million other interesting things to do the area.
At the end of the day, the NFL has come and gone in LA, but USC football has been a mainstay for over 100 years now. I don't think it is going anywhere, anytime soon.
Now imagine something else.
It's Thanksgiving weekend. USC is playing Notre Dame at home. And the new franchise is also playing at home in its new possible stadium in downtown LA. Hopefully, that new stadium comes with a giant parking structure that possibly both teams can use. Either way, it's going to be a difficult weekend for local residents.
The point is this: a NFL team in LA would be great for the sport on both levels, but bad for traffic just like everything in LA. You learn to carpool and leave 20 minutes earlier than you think you need to.
But if it makes the NFL draft interesting, it just might be worth it.