USC

LA sports fans revel in recent success

Die-hard LA fans take pride in the meteoric rise of local sports teams

The Rams boast a record of 7-3 and are making a case for being the best team in the NFL. The Lakers and Dodgers brought championships to the City of Angels in 2020, while the Clippers made their first Western Conference Finals appearance this year.

With Los Angeles sports seemingly back on top, fans have never been more invested in the city’s sports culture.

“As a student, it allows you to have a great experience because there’s so many things to do,” said Sunay Sanghani, a USC sophomore data science and economics major and sports fanatic. “It really makes you feel like you’re in Hollywood because of the sheer amount of stars and superstars that are in LA.”

The principal reason for this newfound excitement within fans is the sheer number of professional sports teams based in LA. The metropolitan area houses 11 major league professional teams — Angelenos can essentially cherry-pick different franchises to support from the abundance of choice.

The additions of the Rams and Chargers ended a 21-year NFL absence for the nation’s second largest media market. The Rams relocated back to Los Angeles in 2016 after leaving for St. Louis in 1994, as Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s plan to build SoFi stadium in Inglewood was approved. The state-of-the-art stadium opened in September 2020, with home field advantage being a true factor — the Rams hold a 9-4 record in SoFi stadium dating back to last season.

“In L.A., to be successful in sports as a franchise, you need to win; you need to be entertaining; and you need to have star power,” said professor of sports media Jeffrey Fellenzer. “I think the L.A. teams have all of those things.”

No one brings a better combination of winning, entertainment and star power to a team than LeBron James. The Lakers went through a rough six-year period of missing out on the playoffs before James and fellow superstar Anthony Davis propelled them to the franchise’s 17th ring in the NBA bubble last fall.

After laying low due to the COVID-19 pandemic for most of 2020, fans of the Lakeshow couldn’t hold their excitement any longer, breaking health and safety protocols after the Lakers won in October of 2020 and flooding Figueroa Street for a championship parade.

With the addition of L.A. native Russell Westbrook, the Lakers, despite their 8-7 record, remain one of the most intriguing franchises in sports. All eyes are on the purple and gold to see if they can put the pieces together to bring another championship to the city.

Similar to the Rams and Chargers, the Lakers share their home stadium with the Clippers, who haven’t seen the same amount of success as the storied Lakers franchise. Although Miki Turner, a longtime Clippers fan and sports commentary professor, jokingly said she’s pretty close to giving up hope, the franchise made its first Western Conference Finals appearance in the 2021 playoffs.

Angelenos expect results, they love a winner and they will show up in droves to see one. The Clippers got the message. Their front office started to utilize its prime location in the heart of Los Angeles to attract premium free agents like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Steve Ballmer and his organization understood that they could operate in a similar fashion to the Lakers without having that same enticing pull that their neighbors across the stadium possess.

The pride heavy in the air these days when a Los Angeles sports team suits up is yet to transfer to USC’s campus.

“Because this is such a global university and people come from all over the world, I don’t know that they really invest any loyalty in any of these teams,” Turner said.

As one of the most diverse colleges in the nation, there are fewer dedicated Los Angeles sports fans than one might expect in the city’s most populous university.

However, just outside the streets of the brick-coated buildings of USC is a sports culture so rich and immersive that it makes Angelenos proud to call the city home.

And that’s when Los Angeles reaches its true potential.