Those of you who read my articles know that I am a Minnesota Vikings fan. A fan who obviously does not want to see the team relocate to Los Angeles—or elsewhere, for that matter.
However, this does not mean I think Los Angeles doesn’t deserve another chance at an NFL franchise.
While I ultimately think it will fail long-term—because of the vast number of other cultural things that the city offers—any team moving there initially will be met with a crazed embrace.
The city is 46 percent Latino, a population that heavily supports soccer. This was not the case, though, in the 1990s, the first time Los Angeles had teams which relocated. The city didn't have the L.A. Galaxy or Chivas USA, which is based in nearby Carson and serves as the city’s second professional soccer club. Now this demographic has an alternative on which to spend their time and money.
However, it is precisely this diversity that is the thesis for this article. There has always been one team that the city adopted before all others. The city’s diversity was reflected in the team and in the fan base. It's precisely this union why I am hoping for the team's eventual return.
Even if the Vikings broke ground on their own stadium somewhere within the state of Minnesota (I could care less where, as long as it gets done), and thus, were never a candidate for relocation, I would still be an advocate for the NFL’s return to L.A.
Why, despite this long-term uncertainty? Along with Tecmo Super Bowl for NES and SNES, I grew up with the L.A. Rams and L.A. Raiders. To me, having either call the city home once again would be fitting. The Vikings, by their very Nordic name, belong in a cold, unforgiving climate similar to that of the old country and Scandinavia. This demographic does not appear in the California census.
The Raiders are L.A.
If you saw Ice Cube’s ESPN documentary, 30 for 30: Straight Outta L.A., which chronicled the rapper’s love affair with the football team that used to call L.A. home, than you know the effect that team has had on the city.
When I think of the Raiders, to this day, I don’t think of Oakland. I have always thought of them as L.A.’s team. That is where they belong.
Ice Cube says in his documentary, "My first impression of the Oakland Raiders was that they were violent, that they were rough around the edges, and I think that’s what I liked about them.”
He then goes on to talk about how excited he was when news broke that they would be relocating to his city, Los Angeles, in time for the 1982 season. After they beat down the the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1980 Super Bowl, Ice Cube says, “I knew they would be my team for life.”
From their mascot—a pillaging pirate—to their raucous disregard for authority, the team seems like the perfect match for the city. The irony here is, of course, that the Vikings symbolized nearly the same thing. Whereas Los Angeles is all about culture, Minnesota’s version is all about climate in its cultural fit.
In a conversation with fellow rapper Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube discusses this violent connection with L.A. The two talk about the city and its identity as they walk across the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum football field. They toss a football back and forth, while Ice Cub says, “So what you are saying football is a violent sport. Los Angeles is a pretty violent city, and it was kind of a perfect marriage.”
Snoop Dogg replies:
It really was. It was like a perfect combination, you know, we needed something like that to solidify what we was doing, to give us part of what we was missing, and they needed what we gave them what they was missing—a home.
Bill Plaschke, a writer for the L.A. Times and an ESPN personality, concludes the film by saying:
When I think of the L.A. Raiders, I think of a hidden L.A. I think of the L.A. no body notices, I think of the L.A. that showed up every Sunday madder than hell and wanted to take on the world. The kind of L.A. you don’t see on TV. The kind of L.A. that comes from Mexico, the kind of L.A. that comes from inner cities all over this country. When I think of the Raiders I think of the heart beat of Los Angeles. and some of it we didn’t like. And some of it wasn’t very pretty, it wasn’t very fun, but it was who we are, and just like that, it was gone.
The Raiders always had a unique, tough personality, but it was one they could back up. No team won more games in the '60s, '70s and '80s than the Raiders. They were dominant. They had that unique swagger and arrogance. It seemed perfect for its new city—if only we had been able to experience that a bit longer.
Considering they had already proven they could win it all—and had the vast fan support that came with that—I think they deserve a second chance. I hope this is the ultimate conclusion. That is, if and when L.A. ever gets another NFL team again.
I keep saying I don’t think it will work in the long term, because it has already been shown to fail twice. But if any team could possibly make it work, it's the Raiders. The only reason they left in the first place was the lack of a stadium and increased threats of violence at the games (shown in the documentary). You have to consider that reputation when the fan section is known as the Black Hole.
I'd like to be clear that I am not an advocate for violence. That is not a parallel I am trying to draw. You have to include the unfortunate history, though, since it tells the story of the past. That's why they left, at least in part.
In Ice Cube's documentary, actor and former rapper Ice-T goes on to say, “The legacy of them is that the logo will always be connected to L.A. for eternity.”
That is precisely what I am trying to say here.
Raiders Fan Base: Built on Diversity and Cultural Identity
Plaschke summarizes the relationship of the Raiders and the city best:
They came at the right time when L.A. was exploding in this big cultural diversity. African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, they can go to a stadium and they can be part of a scene where they weren’t looked down upon. They were just as important as anyone on the field. That is the way the Raiders made their fans feel. They had a home in the Raiders.
There is arguably no city in America more diverse than that of Los Angeles. New York and Chicago may claim to be the most diverse, but the very name, "City of Angels," demonstrates this fact best.
Much like what the re-branded Miami Marlins in baseball are doing by catering to their Cuban population, the Raiders have had a similar appeal among disfranchised minority groups that have always made up L.A. Until the team came, those groups had no identity on which to attach themselves.
The only difference is that, in Miami, the effort was a pre-meditated campaign. In L.A., these various social groups basically adopted the Raiders. The team’s marketing department was just the lucky beneficiary of a popular and in-demand product at the time.
For years, the New York Mets—and recently the Los Angeles Angels—have tried similar cultural marketing campaigns. More time is needed to see if it is working, but the Raiders created the template almost two decades ago. If their short, but successful, tenure is any indication, both teams should find similar success in the long run.
Ice Cube goes on to talk about this cultural attachment:
We saw groups that was wearin’ troupe suits, we knew that wasn’t us. We had to kind of be uniform, look like a group so we all decided whatever you do, just come in black and with that we started putting on Raiders gear on top of that because the black matched so good, and the starter jackets, the hats, it just started working.
Former NWA member, MC Ren, who was in the same group as Ice Cube, adds, “The black hats just matched with everything, you know what I’m saying? Purple and gold I don’t think would have looked good on us. NWA in purple and gold?"
Now, I don’t know when this interview took place, but I do know the documentary was aired in 2010. I don't know if MC Ren was asked about the Vikings off camera and gave this ironic response—considering those are the very colors of the Vikings—but I think its pretty telling that of all the colors, with all the teams rumored for relocation, he would pick those.
If that doesn’t tell the NFL, prospective owners, or owner Zygi Wilf (who would sell the Vikings to either Ed Roski or Philip Anschultz—who would then move the team to Los Angeles) that the Vikings don’t fit, then take it from a Southern California native.
You can’t even make the assumption that gangsta rappers of this generation would be quick to jump on a Los Angeles Vikings bandwagon. The team has to win, first of all. Angelinos reject teams that don’t win—like the L.A. Clippers—in favor of the flashier and more successful Lakers, who already share those colors.
There is perhaps not a fan base more “flavor of the month” than the L.A. market. The L.A. fans really didn’t discover the Angels before 2002. That was when their management creatively changed the team name in order to market to both Anaheim, where they play, and cut into the Dodgers fan base, which was in Los Angeles.
Carson Palmer Would Come Home
Like Todd Marinovich and Jim Plunkett, Carson Palmer continues the tradition of local quarterbacks. I am not a Carson Palmer fan, but as soon as he got traded to Oakland—along with the recent death of franchise founder Al Davis—I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn't soon find his way home. That is, if the Southern California native and former USC Trojan could stay in a Raider uniform just a bit longer.
Personally, this is yet another reason why I am hoping the Raiders ultimately move to Los Angeles. You can’t put a price on going home—nor can you fault any athlete for doing it. It would be a nice final chapter to Carson Palmer’s career.
The only thing better would be if Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley could somehow find his way to the Silver and Black next season (now that we know he’s coming back). Unless they make a Hershel Walker-type trade to move up, the Raiders won’t be in position to draft what is sure to be a top five pick next year.
Marcus Allen puts it in perspective in Ice Cube’s documentary by saying, “Personally, it was natural because I lived in L.A. so I just really changed uniforms and remained home.”
Imagine a scenario where, in 2013 (recent reports indicate no team will play in L.A. next year—if you believe them), the improved and revived Los Angeles Raiders, led by Carson Palmer, win the Super Bowl. Add to that the fact that Al Davis never wanted to leave the city anyway, (he just wanted a new stadium) and it would be a perfect ending. It's a perfect fit.
Now that sounds a whole lot better than any Los Angeles Vikings (personal feelings aside), doesn’t it?
Information and references from ESPN, YouTube, and Ice Cube’s 30 for 30: Straight Outta L.A. contributed to this article.