On Sunday, February 13, the eyes of the world will be on Los Angeles. That’s the day Super Bowl LVI takes place.
It will be momentous on numerous fronts: This will be the first time L.A. (yes, technically it’s in Inglewood) hosts the NFL title game since 1993, a 29-year void. The Super Bowl, taking place in the $5 billion SoFi Stadium, is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity as visitors fill thousands of hotel rooms and throng area restaurants. Although the unpredictable coronavirus could trip up some happenings, the game is scheduled to be preceded by weeks of parties, community celebrations, and other events. The league-supported Business Connect program seeks to ensure that a diverse array of minority-, woman-, LGBTQ-, and veteran-owned businesses enjoy some of the proceeds.
“This is a great opportunity to advertise everything we’ve been building for the last ten years in L.A., including not just SoFi Stadium, which is amazing, but we have the Academy Museum that just opened, and new venues such as Banc of California Stadium,” said Kathryn Schloessman, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, which helps lure big events to L.A, and is a partner in the Super Bowl Host Committee.
“We need to jumpstart all that coming out of COVID, and we think all the media here will want to tell stories about L.A.,” Schloessman added. “This is our chance to really shine the light on what is good happening in Los Angeles.”
There is only one thing—OK, two things—that could make the day even bigger for Los Angeles: If some unlikely but not impossible football madness happens, then the game could involve the two teams who already play in SoFi Stadium.
Yes, the Los Angeles Super Bowl could pit the Los Angeles Rams against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Odds may be against this happening, but five weeks into the 17-game season, both teams boast 4-1 records and have to be considered contenders. The Rams’ tote board includes a whupping of last season’s champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Chargers’ slate is highlighted by a victory over the potent Kansas City Chiefs, and Sunday’s thrilling shootout win against a very good Cleveland Browns team.
Is this pigskin panting premature? Probably, but NFL fandom is built on over-reaction, and what does the City of Angels do better than dream up brilliant scenarios featuring itself?
The next 12 games will deliver all sorts of unexpected happenings. Each year seemingly unstoppable squads are downed by freak injuries or stars who grow old overnight. At the same time, the parity-propelled NFL regularly sees surprising teams leap from the cellar to the playoffs.
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Even before the season began, the Rams were a trendy Super Bowl pick. Owner Stan Kroenke, who moved the team back from St. Louis in 2016, and built the Inglewood football palace, has pushed all the proverbial chips in for a win-now opportunity. A big trade in 2019 netted cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who specializes in making life hell for opposing receivers. An even bigger trade this past January was the acquisition of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Rams not only gave up QB Jared Goff in the trade, but they gifted the Detroit Lions a pair of first-round draft picks.
Add in Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and you have a team built for this moment.
Are there hurdles? Absolutely. The Rams lose running backs like Spinal Tap loses drummers, and their defense might not be as good as it was last season. Getting to the Super Bowl will require surviving a playoff gauntlet likely to feature the Green Bay Packers, the rising Arizona Cardinals, and Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
But the Rams can go helmet-to-helmet with any of them. Coach Sean McVey is a smart strategist who plays to his team’s strengths. Few will be surprised if the Rams take the field at home on Super Bowl Sunday.
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The Chargers are more of a surprise. People expected the team to be decent, but the emergence of second-year quarterback Justin Herbert has them ahead of schedule. He’s a superstar in the making with a precision arm and the decision-making abilities of a ten-year veteran; he displayed efficient poise as the team came back from a 14-point second-half deficit Sunday to drop 47 points on the Browns.
Management has provided Herbert with ample weapons including receivers Keenan Allen and ascendant Mike Williams. Running back Austin Ekeler is not particularly big, but he pops through holes and displays surprising strength. If you’d like your jaw to drop, glean the video of him doing one-handed pull-ups.
The Chargers have an ugly recent history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But new coach Brandon Staley calls plays with aggression, displaying a brassy willingness to go for it on fourth down rather than kick an easy field goal. Convince your players they can do that early in the season, and it may pay off in the playoffs.
The Chargers’ road to SoFi on Super Bowl Sunday will be brutal, They’d have to continue to blow by expectations, and beating the Chiefs in week three will be nothing like facing QB Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. There’s also the threat from Buffalo and quarterback Josh Allen.
Last year the Buccaneers became the first NFL team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Rams and Chargers could double that achievement, and Schloessman points out that, unlike college football bowl games that rely on traveling fans to spur spending, the L.A. Super Bowl is primed to soar no matter who plays.
“The economic impact will still be here because everybody wants to be around the Super Bowl, especially because Tampa didn’t have any corporate events last year,” she said, referring to COVID-caused cutbacks. “All the corporations rolled their money toward L.A. With a 29-year absence and COVID, you have a double positive whammy coming to Los Angeles.”
In other words, the game will be a mega-event no matter what. But one or even two local teams could make it truly super for Los Angeles.
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