Nearly 90,000 excited fans packed the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday night for a meaningless pre-season game. Yes, it marked the return of the Rams after a 23-year absence, but according to myth, Southern California has a disinterested group of sports fans who only bother to show up when something dramatic is on the line. As the myth goes, fans in Los Angeles leave early from sex to avoid the traffic.
The reality is that the 15 million people who live in the counties comprising Southern California loyally support a variety of sports at the youth, high school, collegiate and professional level. Even with beautiful year-round weather and biking, boating, hiking, jogging, surfing, skateboarding, skiing and multiple entertainment options available within a few hours, spectator sports venues tend to be packed.
The Dodgers have not won a World Series since 1988. They led baseball in most tickets sold last year for the third year in a row. This is true even though a dispute between Time Warner and other cable networks has left 65 percent of the market blacked out from television broadcasts for the past three years. The Angels have a miserable win loss record and a lineup besides Mike Trout and Albert Pujols which is mostly unrecognizable. Last year they were fifth best in baseball in tickets sold.
The hapless Lakers have been a mere shadow of their former selves. They have picked second in the lottery the past two years. With an aging Kobe Bryant playing episodically, they still managed to sell out last season. The Clippers get knocked out of the playoffs every year and yet they also sell out every game. The Kings averaged 18,274 per game last season, which is 100 fans away from an every game sellout. The Ducks drew an average of 16,336 fans last season.
USC football has traditionally been a powerhouse and expectations are always sky-high for its alums and fans. Last year its record was a disappointing 8-6 and the Trojans still drew 75,358 a game. UCLA fans were frustrated with the Bruins' 8-5 finish but the average attendance was still 66,858.
It is true that the packed rush-hour traffic means that a 7 p.m. start time for a weekday game is challenging and it may take a few minutes for a stadium or arena to fill up, but Southern California fans are as dedicated as any across the country. I grew up rooting for the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Rams and local colleges in the 50s and early 60s and care deeply about their progress. It is time to put the inaccurate myths to rest.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.