It may not be kosher or even halal, but I do enjoy a regular diet of pigskin in the autumn and winter months from late August to February. For all of you who don’t jibe with the ancient jive, pigskin is an old-timey euphemism for that elongated spheroid actually made of leather these days and carried, kicked, and tossed around the gridiron in that all-American game, football. And I mean the professional brand of football — not the amateur variety, whether collegiate, high school, or pee-wee.
No love for college-level football? Some will presume I would be sky-high this time of year with bowl games galore and a national collegiate championship up for grabs. Nope. I’ll be up front about this: When it comes to team sports, I prefer the money to be on the table, not under it. Yes, I do watch a bowl game or two with friends on Jan 1 at post-New Year’s Eve recovery gatherings. But I’m more interested in sipping a spicy Bloody Mary and chowing down on the traditional Southern buffet of greens, pork, cornbread, and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day — a meal said to bring good luck in the coming months.
NINERS ON THE UPSWING
Although the NCAA may not count me as a supporter, I am, as ever, a devoted fan of the National Football League’s venerable, storied San Francisco 49ers. And for those of us who revere the scarlet and gold, this particular season has been an unabashed treat. After a number of years floundering at the bottom of the NFC’s West division, the Niners are definitely back in the playoffs. If they win out, they’ll attain the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl championship. If not, they’ve been a joy to watch: a well-balanced combination of suffocating defense built around a dominant pass rush, and an effective offense masterminded by ultra-creative coach Kyle Shanahan and run with aplomb by matinee-idol quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Not that I’ve been to a game in person. The relatively new Levi’s Stadium is starting to give the Niners a true home-field advantage with the 49er Faithful living up to their name again, but the venue remains an agronomic misstep, with one side of the stands often broiling in the daytime sun during game time. So I am happy to watch them on a nice HDTV with all the bells and whistles or on my laptop wherever I may be.
When it comes to location and fandom, I have noticed something strange in my circumstance as a part-time resident of Los Angeles. It happens that the SoCal population now has two teams vying for attention when the area was without any professional football at all for two decades. First, the NFL agreed to let the Rams return to Los Angeles, after 20 years in St. Louis where the team had relocated in 1995 despite 50 years in Los Angeles . . . a stint preceded by 10 years in Cleveland. (Can a sports franchise get frequent relocation miles?)
Of course, the Rams’ return to the Southland made sense, renewing a rivalry with the Niners that had flourished during the horned ones’ maiden Los Angeles run. Los Angeles is where the Rams spent the majority of the team’s existence, and St. Louis had refused to support the construction of a new stadium. Not so understandable was the NFL’s decision to allow the San Diego Chargers to pull up stakes and abandon their own devoted fan base due to ostensible stadium issues to share the admittedly larger Los Angeles market with the Rams.
THW NINERS’ SOUTHERN RIVALS
The moves made by the Chargers (who were originally the Los Angeles Chargers for one year, 1960, before moving to San Diego from 1961 to 2017), and the Rams were predicated on new stadiums, and one — just one, already named SoFi Stadium — is currently being built by the Rams’ ownership, with the Chargers slated to share the ostensibly luxurious space as a rent-paying tenant. Not an ideal situation. Meanwhile, each team has had to make do with makeshift homes — also not ideal.
The Rams have been playing in massive, aged Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — constructed way back in 1923 for the University of Southern California Trojans, who still call it home. In addition, the Coliseum was famously used in the 1932 Olympics, and for a time, served as the home field for the once-Oakland and soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL between 1982 and 1994, when they initially said bye-bye to the East Bay turf they had embraced since 1960. With the Coliseum’s massive capacity of more than 93,000 seats, the reminted Los Angeles Rams have had a hard time filling the place, while the Chargers found themselves just south of Los Angeles in Dignity Health Sports Park, which can handle a maximum of only 27,000 customers. Adding insult to injury, most of the attendees at Dignity Health have seemingly been rooting for the Chargers’ opponents.
Yes, the Rams were in the Super Bowl last year, even if the Chargers are stuck in suck mode. But neither team has made the playoffs this year, and as nice as SoFi Stadium might turn out to be, I’d rather deal with Levi’s Stadium for all its shortcomings and root for the considerably more stable, lovable, and ascendant Niners. Or I’ll do the sensible thing and just watch the boys go for the championship in the comfort of my home.
In either case . . . Go Niners!
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast, via GABnet.net, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter @cultureblaster