“Beat LA” chants started two hours before kickoff at Super Bowl LIII and could be heard throughout Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium until the final whistle. The two words served as a backdrop for the title bout, as the New England Patriots eventually beat the Los Angeles Rams, finishing with a historically low score of 13-3.
For the second time in just over three months, Boston stumped Los Angeles to take home a world championship — once in baseball’s World Series and now again in the Super Bowl.
Being a sports fan in this city has taken on the characteristics of an extremely dysfunctional relationship. The highs are astoundingly high, while the lows are incredibly low. And just when you think you’ve finally gotten over the hump, a major setback ensues.
The misery started in baseball with the Dodgers’ Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros in 2017, continued against the Red Sox in 2018, and has now leaked its way into another sport — football — in 2019.
In what has turned into a somber tradition, Angelenos are once again left asking the all-too-familiar question: “What if?”
What if Todd Gurley’s playoff performance resembled his dominance from the first 14 weeks of the season? And what if Brandin Cooks had held on to Jared Goff’s pinpoint pass late in the fourth that would have tied the game? The list goes on.
On a grander scale, though, what if LA hadn’t failed on the biggest stage in three straight opportunities?
In the immediate aftermath of each instance, the cost of these “what if” questions was a championship. But in the bigger picture, the “what ifs” have ultimately prevented the LA sports scene from entering a rare “golden age,” one the city hasn’t seen in over 30 years.
From 1980-1989, the Lakers won five NBA Championships with their “Showtime” squad; the Dodgers took home two World Series titles; USC and UCLA football combined to appear in seven Rose Bowl games, each winning three; the Raiders gave the city what still stands as its only Super Bowl title; and hockey great Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings near the end of the decade.
On top of all this, the city hosted the 1984 Olympic Games, and the Rose Bowl was home to three Super Bowls in 1980, 1983 and 1987. For that period of time, and even somewhat into the ’90s — especially given the hosting of the World Cup Final in 1994 — LA was the sports hub of the world.
LA is knocking on the doorsteps of an era reminiscent of the ’80s, and both the Dodgers and Rams had an opportunity to jumpstart it, but fell just short. And with LeBron James’ arrival to the Lakers last summer, LA’s most beloved team is on track to re-emerge as one of the NBA’s premier contenders.
The Dodgers have displayed their potential, winning six straight National League West division titles and two straight National League pennants. They have one of the most analytics-forward front offices in all of sports, and with a plethora of young stars, they’re set up to contend through the next decade.
For the Rams, it’s a similar story. Losing on Sunday was nothing short of disappointing, but with their youth and potential, the “Mob Squad” will inevitably be back.
Goff, in his third season, is only 24 years old and has improved significantly each year. Gurley is also 24 and will likely return to his expected dominance come next September. They’ll have sure hands in receivers Cooks and a healthy Cooper Kupp, both 25, and they have one of the greatest defensive players of all time in 27-year-old Aaron Donald, under contract for six more years, with two Defensive Player of the Year awards under his belt.
A loss in the Super Bowl only makes the Rams’ front office more eager to add key pieces to this promising young core.
By this time next year, there’s a legitimate possibility that the city of LA will sit atop three of the four major sports in the U.S. And who knows? Maybe the LA Kings will recapture the magic of their 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup runs.
Not only will LA’s teams rise to the top of their respective leagues, but just like in the ’80s, the world will look toward LA to host the biggest sporting events on the globe.
The $5 billion LA Stadium and Entertainment District in Hollywood Park is set to open in 2020 to house both the Rams and Chargers. The site is slated to host Super Bowl LVI in 2022 and the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
The stadium will also likely be a site for matches in the 2026 World Cup, which was awarded to the U.S., Canada and Mexico in a joint bid. Not to mention, the city will also host the 2028 Summer Olympic Games.
Despite Sunday’s Rams loss reminding LA fans of that all-too-familiar feeling of heartbreak, there’s so much to look forward to in this city; the end to the championship drought seems imminent.