Unlock Los Angeles Hidden Football Rivalries
The obvious emerging rivalry
One is the Super Bowl champion, the other is the NFL offseason champion. One has Matthew Stafford, Sean McVay, Aaron Donaldand Jalen Ramseywhile the other has Justin Herbert, Brandon Staley, Khalil Macand Joey Bosa.
Even if a location has two professional teams, there’s only room for one to capture the heart, spirit and identity of a city. The Rams and Chargers play for the long-term soul of LA. What makes this budding rivalry so unique is two-fold: a.) they both play the high-stakes, all-chip game, now winning in the sport, b.) they share a home stadium with an equal number of superstars , and c.) the Rams’ tenure effect is not insurmountable.
The fact that the Rams only returned five years ago after a 23-year absence makes the 2021 victory lap seem a long way from the outcome of the war. Week 17 will introduce a new dynamic the city has never seen as the current owner of SoFi and its ambitious tenant face off.
The Hidden Alpha Rivalry
As compelling as these two rivalries are and can be, there are two others that could hold far greater cultural significance.
Back in the days of Pete Carroll in the 2000s, USC billed itself as Los Angeles’ pro team. Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush were celebrity stars (Bush even dated Kim Kardashian), red-carpeted in every nightclub while navigating a sea of paparazzi and doting on fans everywhere they went. LA didn’t need a pro team because they already had superstars, championships and a pre-renovated Coliseum of over 90,000 sold out every fall weekend at home.
The ESPN documentary 30 for 30 on the University of Miami explained how the Hurricanes of the 80s were so successful that their players were far more famous than the Miami Dolphins. That’s how LA felt back then without a pro team. LA didn’t need a pro team and didn’t miss one because they had SC.
There was a brief overlap in 2017 with USC trying to build on their Rose Bowl win the year before by by Sam Darnold last season, while the upstart Rams surprised everyone with an 11-5 record in McVay’s first. The Trojans died at the hands of Notre Dame and Ohio State that year to really generate a Carroll-type buzz, while the Rams were stunned by the Falcons at home in their first playoff game before anyone. can’t begin to notice.
Now the Rams have all become one of the NFL’s preeminent brands. But are they the kings of LA? The jury is still out and with USC’s spring game attendance being 33,000 while the Rams’ championship parade attendance is around 20,000, one might disagree.
Truth be told, unless you’re in Texas where football is a religion, you have to choose a team and a level in the sport. In basketball, you can head to Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday night and then Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night. You can be focused on college from January to March, then stuck for the NBA playoffs from April to June. But if you’re an adult fan, unless you have a DEEPLY UNDERSTANDING spouse, an incredibly astute divorce attorney, or desire to be a social hermit, it’s impossible to spend all day Saturday and Sunday, almost 20 weeks a year, on football. .
Trojan-rams. Game on. Let the best alpha dog win.
Fashion’s Hidden Rivalry
Fashion has a huge impact on culture. This phenomenon persists as strongly in sport as in any other area of life.
At the start of the Kelly Chip era, think of how Oregon revolutionized uniform variation to attract rookies, fans, and sponsors. Think of the multitude of stories that immigrants to the United States have had about how they chose their sports teams. Whether seeing the Cowboy Star or the cheesehead Packer on Thanksgiving Day for the first time, there are an inordinate number of stories surrounding the beauty and wonder of the uniforms they saw. Think about when ESPN first reported in 2017 that Kelly was coming to UCLA, how Kirk Herbstreit spoke of hoping to see those powder blue and gold uniforms again on national television in big games, like in his youth. Uniforms matter.
In a city still honing its youth on which teams to put down roots in the next generation, like it or not, it won’t be QBR, defensive efficiency, or (insert your PFF metric of choice here); uniforms will be a compelling reason for them to decide.
There’s only room for a powder blue and gold team in this town. Discretionary funding, wardrobe limitations or color blindness will tell you. One has a majority of its 500,000 alumni in the Southern California region, the other has a critical mass of its titular fans just two hours away on the 405 in San Diego.
Bruins-Chargers. Game on. May the best pageantry win.
How special are we in that one sport in one city has the potential for four culturally defining rivalries? This is why LAFB exists.
Our city. Our network. Our rivalries.
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