Chimney Sweep

L.A. story: Soccer passions run excessive, even with no hometown professional workforce

Notre Dame High School players finish warming up before the game against Centennial in Sherman Oaks, Calif. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Washington Post)

Oh, you can play football here all weekend until your brain boils and your pupils dilate. Even without an NFL team, you can hear cheering crowds on Fridays and Saturdays and scatter them over the entire spread on Sundays. Even if the return of an NFL team remains speculation at this point – Rams? Raider? Charger? – You can still swim in Los Angeless’ futuristic patchwork quilt of pro football supporters. ¶ If you are looking for a Crisly Run Spread Offensive on a Prep Friday Night, you may see a Crisly Run Spread Offensive on a Prep Friday Night. If you catch the right Saturday, you might find two gigantic college stadiums that welcome a collective of 145,918 spectators on the same evening. On Sundays, drive like a devil, park a grouse, and hit 10 NFL team-themed bars – from the Cleveland Browns at Chimneysweep in Sherman Oaks to the Oakland Raiders crowd at the Killarney Pub & Grill in Huntington Beach the Washington Redskins at Joxer Daly’s in Culver City, somewhere in between.

Check the map.

Over three days and portions of 13 games, you could have about 50 sports talks in Los Angeles. You could hear Los Angeles swell without the NFL, but wouldn’t that make it even better? You could hear an entire generation grow from infancy to adulthood without ever knowing a local team from the country’s top division. You might even hear the classic Los Angeles sports talk that goes like this:

Two footballers sit in the stands at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks on Friday night. One is a youth coach, the other helped him. They watch their 16-year-old sons play for the Southland’s top-ranked team, according to the Los Angeles Times: the Centennial Huskies from Corona, 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Youth coach Larry Reed said, “I think you’ve been here for so long without the NFL. You have some people, yes they are hungry, but most people, it has been 20 years . . .

And the other man, Troy Spencer Jr., said, “Was it that long ago?”

It has, but not exactly. It’s been 21 years since Christmas Eve 1994 when the Raiders at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum lost to Kansas City 19-9 and the Rams lost to the Redskins 24-21 on Freeway 5 at Anaheim Stadium, and both left after that.

“Sometimes you go so long that we know how to go without it,” Spencer said before pointing to the horde of other options in the area. “I mean, it’s Southern California.”

Any new team “is well received as long as the team wins,” said Pat Haden, the Southern California athletic director who once played quarterback at the school and later for the Los Angeles Rams. “But I don’t think it’s a necessary part of the Southern California landscape, anymore.”

Raiders fans cheer at the Killarney Pub & Grill on Sunday. (Patrick T. Fallon / For the Washington Post)
Former raider John Vella signs an autograph. (Patrick T. Fallon / For the Washington Post)

Sight and sounds

This landscape is teeming with sounds, from the public address near halftime in Notre Dame on Friday evening (with Centennial 42: 0) leading – “As a reminder, there are snacks on both sides” – to the three-part, Spanish-speaking, tuba-including band, some ladies for a tailgate in front of the Los Angeles Coliseum to the disc jockey (!)

On a single Sunday in this unusual football city, at 11:11 am in Santa Monica you can hear Patriots fans groaning because Julian Edelman cannot handle Tom Brady’s passport to Redskins fans in Culver City singing, “DCD! DCD! ” as the defense stop the Rams in third place, to the Raiders fans in the south roaring in a packed crowd as Seth Roberts caught Derek Carr’s winning touchdown pass in Oakland, and then cheered again when the bar manager announced, “One fancy little tradition that we love to do here in Killarney when we win is shots!”

The landscape is also full of sights – from the last orange sunlight of the mainland as teams warm up next to a busy boulevard in Notre Dame, to the magically lit Rose Bowl from a hillside while UCLA has its third neighborhood in Arroyo Seco in. plays Pasadena, to the clipboard Victor Acosta holds with a list of Bears table reservations at 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes before kick-off, at the Tinhorn Flats Saloon & Grill in Burbank.

On a single Sunday, you might see a sign in O’Brien’s Irish Pub in Santa Monica – “All tables are reserved for the New York Giants Meetup Group only” – for enough Ravens fans to grab the happy ending up on Sunset Boulevard Baltimorean tourists Shavone Green and Jessica Gaither looked upbeat when Green said to a gathering of Seattle Seahawks fans down on Costa Mesa in a bowling alley bar, “We came up here and it felt like home.”

And there are tons of different feelings, not least the piping hot patch in the tailgate area at USC while 2Pac and NWA and J. Balvin boom in your ears, or the urgency on the Rose Bowl floor while UCLA and Brigham Young get ready and UCLA -Fans are booming in their ears, or the claustrophobia in Sunday bars with a hundred thick walls.

At the end of a football weekend in a city without professional football, the brain remembers so many jerseys from so many teams, so many years: a black Jerome Bettis # 32 (Steelers), a brown Gerard Warren # 94 (Browns), the obligatory one blue Rob Gronkowski No. 87 (Patriots), a blue Phil Simms No. 11 (Giants) with a blue Michael Strahan No. 92 (Giants), a Heath Shuler No. 5 (Redskins), a number of old Rams (Haden, Jack Youngblood, Leroy Irvin) and Ravens Purple on all four Baltimore women sitting upstairs front (Justin Forsett, Terrell Suggs, the still-loved Torrey Smith, and Anquan Boldin).

While absolutely everyone agrees that the country’s second largest metropolitan area can work without the NFL – it’s proven – it’s Los Angeles or Southland, so the angles vary from hope to desire to whatever.

She sold the high school memorabilia she created on a Friday night – Notre Dame Ladies Bling Shirts: $ 40, Scarves: $ 20, etc. – Stephanie Morgan-Russell of the San Francisco Bay Area who Affectionately reminiscent of the ’49s days of the 1980s and 1990s, said, “What’s the problem? There are two teams up there with 6 million people! 22 million people live here. And a lot of soccer fans. I do not get it.”

The Centennial Huskies enter the field before facing Notre Dame. (Patrick T. Fallon / For the Washington Post)

Matt Logan, the trainer at Centennial, a Seahawks fan because he likes Coach Pete Carroll, said, “I think it would be good. I do. However, I don’t know if I would like a team to move. I want a start-up team. I want an LA team. You know, when the Raiders come back, the Rams come back, the Chargers show up, everything’s kind of ‘been there, done that’. ”

Anthony Catalano, Centennial quarterback, a Buffalo Bills fan born in 1997, said, “I look at things when there’s an NFL team in LA, when it gets good it could be like the Lakers. It could be like a. be [shining] Franchise like that because that’s LA. I mean, everyone wants to live in Southern California. “

Southern California Trojans fan Danny Talamentes, 22, born and raised, believes a team could hold the region together, saying, for lack of a better word, walk through the Colosseum right there if you show up early enough. You see this person come in and say, ‘Oh my god this is my boy! I want to do that well! ‘ You don’t see them [now] regularly. I find it easier to identify with someone, for example Matt Leinart, than with Russell Wilson. Because Matt Leinart played here [in college]. Russell Wilson doesn’t. ”

He says, “If I had an NFL team that had the history or half the history of the Dodgers, I would be a huge NFL fan no matter which team was here.”

Members of the Southern California Rams Booster Club pose with their Return of the LA Rams scarves. (Patrick T. Fallon / For the Washington Post)
Young Rams fans spin a wheel to win a raffle prize at half time at Maggie’s Pub. (Patrick T. Fallon / For the Washington Post)

A generation not lost

They all point to a unique reality for a huge metropolis: a generation of children grew up locally without the NFL. In fact, at the big Rams meeting where fan club officers wear badges and lanyards, President Ralph Valdez discovers two such generations: the guys of today and those in their twenties, like his son, also Ralph, 28, who only talks to Tony recalls Banks playing quarterback in the final days of the Rams in Los Angeles.

“It still means the same thing because of the name ‘Rams’,” said the elder Valdez. “The St. Louis thing, they play in St. Louis, but we all feel the same. Rams fans feel no matter where the Rams are, whether it’s Greenland, Idaho, Virginia. As long as they are the Rams, we will follow them. ”At the same time:“ When you grew up as a Rams fan, you are missing something in your heart. It’s not here. “

Back under the high school lights on Friday night, Reed and Spencer marvel. Spencer says his son is missing an NFL team, but he likes the Rams because of Tavon Austin, whom he loved to watch when Austin played for West Virginia, a kind of random semi-andom that may be particularly typical in Los Angeles. “Lots of Cowboys fans, lots of Chargers fans, Seahawks fans, 49ers fans, Pittsburgh fans. . . . The diversity of fans makes it really scary to an NFL team. My thing is you’ve been away for so long, the young fans like my son, they don’t really have a team from LA, so are they really going to choose a team that lives here? “

It’s true, everyone seems to know if there’s a Packers bar on this boulevard, a Jets bar over there on this street. There is of course iron solidarity among the Raiders.

“You can’t come in here with a different jersey,” said Roland Lujan, 55, who had to watch the Raiders come and go in Los Angeles in his day. “You refuse. They don’t want fights or anything. Raider fans don’t fight against Raider fans. So you are not allowed. ”

Lujan remembers a lot of fans who long for one team, but not two, please. He thinks the Chargers should definitely stay in San Diego. His own father, 80, took him to the Raiders, lived next door, and later enjoyed his son’s daily call at 5:30 p.m. to enjoy the victory over the Ravens. At the end of a Sunday, when the last sun leaves the mainland, that is the second most touching story.

In the first, Rams Club Vice President Ernie Almeida told of that final game day against the Redskins in 1994. He remembered players lining up and high five fans saying goodbye to the Bend railings. Almeida didn’t quite believe it and shortly afterwards took a day off “to see if it was true”.

He went to Rams Park. He checked the moving van. “And my heart was broken,” he said. “It really happened. The semi-trailers drove off. It was gone.”

Shortly after the fans cheered loudly over a distant Rams sack in a large hall in a sloping football metropolis in 2015, Almeida said that if they came back, he would take off on another day and buy season tickets. He would try to see if the vans came back.

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