“Let Them Eat Stadiums”

Ed. note: Please enjoy this Friday Sunday Feature, which is not at all stale despite being two days late.

It’s a football world after all–or at least recent developments seem to indicate that.

Disney chief Robert Iger has agreed to front the move to build a new stadium to serve as a home for the Chargers, and the Raiders…and perhaps that team from Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday, too. At this point, it’s all fictional anyway. Of course, Iger has been brought in to make sure the fiction becomes reality.

That presumed reality will be taking place in Carson, a city just a quick helicopter ride south of downtown Los Angeles. What’s that you say? You don’t generally travel by helicopter to get to where you’re going? Then I have some bad news for you:

This stadium is not being built for you.

The DFR: Sports BusinessThat’s not an accusation; according to the “first look” video of the proposed stadium, that’s a selling point.

The video is a real hoot: an ode to fanciful dreams–narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, no less–that may remind keen observers of the promo video for “The Homer” car model from the Simpsons episode “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” It is, at the very least, a match for “The Car Built For Homer” in its cluelessness.

…unless you are supremely talented at tax-dodging, I’ll bet you will be “asked” to foot the bill for all this hoo-hah.

Elitism and class warfare practically drip from the screen during the video’s full running time. Watch it and revel, if you will, in such highlighted features as “dedicated VIP lanes” on its “direct freeway access” (0:49)–dedicated lanes that undoubtedly zip the worthies directly to one of the “three premium entrances” to the stadium grounds, and from there, smoothly into the “in-stadium VIP parking.” Sorry, that’s valet in-stadium VIP parking–excuse me: “VVIP in-stadium parking”–for “premium fans” only, of course; there won’t be any scum like you loitering around in that sweet drive-up area (0:58) where you’ll drop off your Tesla. Naturally, there will be charging stations for your oh-so-chic non-combustion ride. And check out that red carpeted entryway; nice touch.

The amenities don’t stop there, my rich friends: your “premium tailgating”–I’m too poor to know what that actually means–will be augmented by an “authentic farmers market.” So all those times you’ve been out in that parking lot, grilling up a brat and downing a drink, and you’ve thought, “This is great and all…but it would be so much better with an authentic farmers’ market”–a thing of the past, buddy!

It goes on like that, with Sutherland whispering sweet nothings about any number of “premium” amenities, like exclusive clubs where rich people can get together with each other in luxury, surrounded by all sorts of bells and whistles that will ensure that they never have to be distracted by anything that’s actually going on out on the field. After all, that strategy has worked so well in Santa Clara with the 49ers’ new stadium; you’ll never hear a bad word spoken about that place. (See here for starters…)

Should we be shocked that the video, an homage to all things the .1% loves, is marked “Courtesy of Goldman Sachs”? Really, who needs satire?

You, reader, may not be wealthy enough to take advantage of the blizzard of VIP (and VVIP) amenities that the Los Angeles Stadium in Carson (working title) promises–but unless you are supremely talented at tax-dodging, I’ll bet you will be “asked” to foot the bill for all this hoo-hah. (All of this surely applies to the opposing, Stan Kroenke-led effort to build a stadium for his Rams–and possibly another team–in Inglewood.)

Watching that video brings home, quite forcefully, what a joke the recent “NFL town hall meetings” were. The cynicism is astounding–or it would be, if such open contempt for everyone who is neither yourself nor of your class had not become such a regular feature of life in these United States today.

This space has raised the question before: at what point will people get tired of the shakedowns? When do the mass of the people, whose dollars spent are the bedrock of the industry’s viability, say “enough is enough” and call it quits on supporting this ancien regime-like imperiousness? And, most pertinently, will people listen to the plain facts about giving billionaires free (or almost free) stadiums and reject the idea of being the victims of this hustle?

I doubt that folks in L.A. will balk at paying the price to bring one or two NFL teams back to town. I have no doubt at all that the oligarchs will enjoy their Xanadu, and will feel a real sense of accomplishment once they get it built, either in Carson or Inglewood. But if things keep going the way they are, I have just as little doubt that someday the not-so-VVIPs who live in the Basin will feel just as much a sense of accomplishment when they gather at that pigskin palace and burn the damn thing to the ground.


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