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Rossi: After L.A., NFL should tread carefully

| Sunday, May 24, 2015, 9:54 p.m.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to reporters during the spring meetings Wednesday, May 20, 2015, in San Francisco.

In Roger Goodell's Football America, deflating footballs is an audacious violation of all that is righteous. Whereas inflating the bank accounts of millionaire/billionaire NFL owners by bullying taxpayers into partially funding stadiums that will be barely used is simply good business.

I just want to make sure everybody knows the rules, OK?

There is only one: The NFL commissioner is going to get what he wants. And that's because he's willing to bury anybody in his path.

You can be as famous as Tom Brady. You can be as infamous as the San Diegans who reportedly are agreeable to (read: scared into) spending $600 million to keep the Chargers from bolting to Los Angeles.

You can be anybody. It doesn't matter to Goodell. Whatever he wants to do, he'll do — and we'll live with his deeds.

Because the NFL shield, no matter how stained, scuffed or even chipped, has become a golden calf, which makes Goodell's obsession with returning his league to Los Angeles such glimmering perfection.

Nowhere is adulation of false idols more commonly accepted than Los Angeles.

I don't love LA, not as an NFL town. Still, I understand Goodell's wanderlust for La-La Land.

It has nothing to do with doing right by Los Angelians still stinging from losing the Rams and Raiders.

As is the case with presidential elections, it's about the economy, stupid. And the economy of the NFL will improve, presumably dramatically (if that's even possible for a $10 billion company), with a team or two playing in the country's second-largest TV market.

This upcoming NFL season likely will be the last we know without a team in Los Angeles. That probably means the passionate sports fans of St. Louis and Oakland are about to get abandoned again by the NFL, but at least they know they'll probably get teams from the next cities where citizens are brave enough not to pay for owners' new playpens.

Ask the people of Cleveland. Or Baltimore. Or Houston. Or, for that matter, ask the folks in St. Louis, Oakland and Los Angeles.

The NFL has cut and run from every one of those cities, only to run back.

All the back-and-forth makes me wonder just how many markets really are ready for some football. The NFL hasn't tried a fresh one since Houston's Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997. Since then, multiple franchises in each of the NHL, NBA and MLB have been moved to previously untested markets.

Maybe that's just a coincidence.

Or maybe the NFL is already in too many places where it doesn't matter like it does in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Dallas, among others.

There is a reason visiting fans of all teams easily find their way into NFL stadiums in Jacksonville, Atlanta and Miami. That also happened when the league was previously in Los Angeles and probably will again upon its return.

As a product, the NFL doesn't actually play everywhere. The league's unwillingness to cultivate new markets for nearly two decades can be fairly considered evidence that it has already played its best hands in the United States.

And that's why Goodell quickly will turn his attention from Los Angeles to London, maybe Tokyo, and who knows where else. He'll be making a mistake, especially because Toronto and Mexico City — huge markets nearer to the NFL's home country — are surer bets for international expansion.

But Goodell isn't afraid of making mistakes. In addition to being its judge and jury, he's also the NFL's cleaner.

However, this exceptionally sharp big boss of one of our country's biggest businesses should take a close look at the movement of his league's teams over the last 30 years.

If the NFL can't establish new parts of Football America to inflate its worth, it probably won't prove to be good business as an export.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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