NEW YORK—National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced Tuesday that, after over a decade without a football team, Los Angeles would become the home of all 32 NFL franchises by 2010.
"The league has met with Los Angeles city officials several times over the past few years in an attempt to bring a football team to the nation's second-largest market," Tagliabue said in a press conference held to unveil the NFL's realignment plan. "I'm happy to announce that we have finally reached a decision: Every single NFL team will be relocated to the Los Angeles metropolitan area over the next five years."
Tagliabue noted that Los Angeles, which has been without an NFL franchise of its own since the Raiders moved back to Oakland and the Rams went to St. Louis in 1995, had everything the league was looking for in a comprehensive host city: previous experience in hosting more than one team, proximity to the nerve center of the entertainment industry, a diverse fan base, and a climate ideally suited for playing the traditionally autumnal sport of football well into the inhospitable winter months.
"Los Angeles is a perfect football city," said Gene Washington, the NFL's director of football operations. "It's a mystery to me why no team has been able to make a go of it here during the modern era, when places like Pittsburgh and Green Bay enjoy rabid fan bases. Obviously, the solution that has always eluded us is to move the most popular teams here. I'm sure the die-hard followers of the Glendale Steelers and the Orange County Packers won't abandon their teams over a little thing like geography."
"Plus, the intricate L.A. highway system will cut team travel time by almost 25 percent," Washington added.
The National Football League and city officials have reached a preliminary deal on terms to bring all the teams back to the Los Angeles area. The current divisional alignment will be preserved, with teams from the NFC and AFC North divisions making their home in northern L.A., creating such teams as the Malibu Vikings and Venice Beach Browns. Teams in the Eastern divisions would become the Compton Cowboys and Florence Avenue Jets, and so on throughout the 4,100-square mile sprawl of Los Angeles County.
All teams will play their first few seasons of games in the Los Angeles Coliseum until 31 separate stadium referenda can be agreed upon by the city's taxpayers, after which the venerable facility will become the home of the Silver Lake Jaguars.
The reaction from fans and players alike has been mixed.
"This is certainly a bold move," said Alex Smith, rookie quarterback of the Beverly Hills 49ers. "I can't say I saw it coming. But I'll continue working hard for my team, my coach, and the 49ers fans—the greatest fans in the world, no matter where they wind up living when this whole thing is over with."
"Wait What the hell?' said Albert Doherty, who has operated the Big Green Nest, a die-hard, fans-only Pasadena Eagles bar in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, since the early 1970s. "First McNabb goes down for the season, then I get told today that I've got to move my bar halfway across the country or lose my official Eagles designation. Is this true? Can they do this? Do we still get to play the Cowboys twice a year?"
"We're hoping that this announcement will put to rest any question of whether the league is considering the move of a team such as the troubled Minnesota Vikings or the currently homeless New Orleans Saints out to the West Coast," Tagliabue said. "Obviously, the answer is yes, we are—and every single other team in the league, as well."