Los Angeles has it all: beaches, mountains, vast deserts, sunny weather and most recently, the Rams and the Chargers. Despite the arrival of these new professional teams, only one football team runs L.A., the USC Trojans.
The Los Angeles sports market is massive. It is home to some of history's greatest sports franchises with teams like the Lakers, the Dodgers and the Kings. While the city has cultivated a large population of sports fans, NFL teams have struggled to fit in since the Raiders left in 1994.
On Sunday, the Rams welcomed the Indianapolis Colts for their home opener. It was an exciting victory for the L.A. team as it crushed its competition, 49 to 3, a scoreline significantly higher than their other recent results. Even with the dominating performance by the Rams, empty seats made up over a third of the Coliseum's capacity, with just 60,128 fans in attendance. The day before, USC had filled the Coliseum to the tune of 77,614 fans for their game against Stanford. In their home opener against Western Michigan, USC managed to bring in 68,459 people, their worst showing in years- still, however, 8,000 more than the Rams opener.
After such a poor showing, many Angelinos and sports journalists wonder if the Chargers and Rams will be able to earn the loyalty of fans in the years to come.
McKenna Keil of the assignment desk at the NFL network attributes some of this low attendance to L.A.'s many activities and sights, which serve as distractions from Chargers and Rams games.
"It's such a metropolitan area," Keil said. "On any given day, you could go to a football game, go to the beach or see a play."
In addition to L.A.'s bustling environment, the Chargers' and Rams' records play a part in their smaller fan bases, she said.
"Last year when the Rams were here, they didn't exactly have a winning record or a successful record," Keil said. "Once those teams start winning and creating more buzz, then they have the potential to increase attendance."
Todd Hewitt, Director of Operations at USC Athletics and former Rams' Director of Equipment Operations, agrees the teams are not playing at a level that can attract many fans.
"You have to have a winning product on the field," Hewitt said. "Their product just has not been that good, and so people get turned away."
In the past, other L.A. sports teams have faced anemic support because of their poor records. The Clippers' popularity, for example, was only able to bounce back given time, improved management, and better players, she said.
"They started rebranding themselves, and they started to sell out Staples Center" Keil said. "They started to become more relevant and they started winning."
Hewitt, on the other hand, said a major reason for the missing gap in Rams and Chargers fans will always be because of L.A.'s love for the Raiders.
"Los Angeles is still a Raider town and having them move to Las Vegas won't change that," Hewitt said.
According to Hewitt, it is unlikely that either team will leave because of poor attendance. For the NFL, he explained, TV network deals are more profitable than fan loyalty or the number of seats sold. Hewitt said fans showing up to games is nice, but not essential.
"It's like putting sprinkles on an ice cream sundae," he said. "It's just something extra."
Keil agreed that there is little-to-no chance the teams will shift locations because of their weak attendance. Over time and with the addition of the new stadium in 2020, their fan bases will grow.
"They dedicated so much money and so many resources for the new stadium," she said. "Even if it's not about football, I anticipate [the stadium] is something that will draw in more fans."
USC football continues to be a hot commodity in L.A. because it wins, has associations with celebrities and is rooted in tradition. Many attribute former Head Coach Pete Carroll for raising the bar in college football.
Keil says USC's most important advantage, however, is the loyalty of its automatic fans–its students, who dedicate a lot of time and money to the school.
"USC has a really strong group of fans that they are so closely tied with because they have a student body population and a large alumni group," she said.
Los Angeles has long been a Trojan town, and the competition is stiff. But if the Rams and Chargers can improve their records, they could too win the hearts of the city's football fans.