Monday, April 30, 2007

I want that old thing back

Catching some of this year's NFL Draft this weekend made me realize just how much I miss having an NFL team in Los Angeles. Watching teams rebuild their rosters, fill gaps in their lineups, take educated guesses as to what their futures hold -- why can't I be involved in that? I mean, the local coverage of USC's dominance of the college game in recent years has been nice, but seeing as how line-ups change so drastically every year in NCAA football, it's tough for me to enjoy it with that inconsistency. [And on that note, congrats to USC's dynamic wide receiver duo of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, who were drafted respectively by the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants -- hopefully y'all can help put your teams over the top and get 'em more national TV time, so LA heads can see y'all play in the pros.]

After both the Raiders and Rams made their escapes from LA in '94, and a couple years of personal disinterest in pro football, I adopted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as "my" team before the '97 season, based off of the rantings of radio personality Steve Mason (whose "The Big Show" with John Ireland is still on the air, previously unbeknownst to me), who picked the Bucs as a sleeper pick to do well that season, and whose opinions I often found myself agreeing with. That, coupled with the dumping of Bucco Bruce and that always-intimidating orange-and-white color scheme, and their opening day 8-6 victory over the then-dominant 49ers (a game in which Jerry Rice was injured and forced to miss most of the season), made me take notice.

My years as a Bucs fan were rewarded most handsomely with their Super Bowl win in 2002, and the fact that they whooped the Raiders' asses in that game made it even more sweet. But, even though the Bucs will always hold a place in my heart, it's just not the same as having a local NFL team to cheer for. You know how an adopted kid's parents might think to themselves who the kid's real parents are whenever that kid screws up? Watching the disaster that was the '06 Bucs, I couldn't help but remind myself, "Y'know, self, you've never even been to fucking Tampa."

I wonder what it's like in Cleveland right now. Fans are probably searching through boxes in garages and closets for their Bernie Kosar jerseys. The Browns just lucked their way into 2 of 2007's top-5 prospects in O-Linesman Joe Thomas and QB Brady Quinn (and they'll save a pretty penny on Quinn, too). Quinn, coming off of a successful tenure at Notre Dame, will get the opportunity to lead the team that plays in the city that he was born and raised in, the team that he grew up cheering for. Maybe he'll be able to pull things off as well as this other guy from Ohio that you may have heard of.

I wonder what it's like in Boston right now. Dudes named "Sullie" and "Donnie", ordering pitchers of Sam Adams at their local watering holes, debating over whether Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to 3 Super Bowls with practically no big-name receivers, will be able to co-exist with not one but TWO star wide-outs in Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth next season. One of 'em screaming that the Pats have locked up this year's championship, the other questioning just when Randy's ego will get in the way, he'll quit on the team, run himself out of town, and inspire YouTube video mock-tributes at his expense.

I wonder what's like in Miami ri... actually, these are probably pretty accurate indications of what it's like in Miami right now.

I wonder only because I simply can't know myself... and I also wonder if I'll ever be able to know. The whole "we had 2 teams, now we have none"-thing might have been funny-in-a-sad-way back when it happened, seemingly overnight, but now, it's sad-in-a-sad-way. If anybody can hear my prayers, please bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.