By: Leigh Steinberg. Original Post on Forbes.com
90,000 excited fans packed the Los Angeles Coliseum 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, 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 fifteen million people who live in the counties comprising 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 and other cable networks has left 65 percent of the market blacked out from television broadcasts for the last three years. The Angels have a miserable win loss record and a lineup besides Mike Trout and 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 prior self. They have picked second in the lottery the last 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 L.A. Kings averaged 18,274 per game last season which is 100 fans away from an every game sellout. The Ducks drew 16,336 fans last season.
USC football has traditionally been a powerhouse and expectations are always sky-high for their alums and fans. Last year their record was a disappointing 8-6 and they still drew 75,358 a game. UCLA fans were frustrated with their 8-5 finish and they drew 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 50's and early 60's and care deeply about their progress. It is time to put the inaccurate myths to rest.