Arizona in '15, but Super Bowl L should return to Los Angeles

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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The L.A. Coliseum hosted Super Bowl I on Jan. 15, 1967, when the Packers beat K.C. 35-10. (Getty Images)  
The L.A. Coliseum hosted Super Bowl I on Jan. 15, 1967, when the Packers beat K.C. 35-10. (Getty Images)  

HOUSTON -- So Arizona is going to host Super Bowl XLIX. Terrific. What I want to know is: Where does the NFL take the Super Bowl after that?

I'm talking Super Bowl L, and it's not too early to cast your ballot. Only I have a suggestion: Don't open it to bids. Make it one city, and make that city Los Angeles. It hosted the first Super Bowl, and it should host the 50th.

That's not an unpopular sentiment among NFL owners who were here for the annual fall meetings -- only their support appears to be conditional. While some voice support for the game in the Super Bowl's birthplace, that support is based on a couple of things happening first -- either a team commits to the Los Angeles market or a stadium is built or under construction there.

Otherwise, L.A. could be DOA.

The reason: Owners wonder why they should reward Los Angeles with the NFL's most attractive game when the city or the area may have done nothing to bring the sport to the country's second-biggest market. Well, try this: Because it brought the sport's most attractive game to L.A. in 1967, and that should count for something.

It should count for Super Bowl L.

"I would be in favor of it if there was a stadium in Los Angeles," San Diego owner Dean Spanos said, "but I would have to rethink the whole thing if there wasn't. I'm for teams that are in cities that have stadiums currently."

Spanos has plenty of company there. The NFL typically rewards Super Bowls to cities that construct new stadiums, with Arizona -- site of Super Bowl XLIX -- an example. The Cardinals were in the building two seasons before Super Bowl XLII went to Phoenix in February 2008 -- a thank-you to owner Bill Bidwill, his family, the city of Glendale and the state of Arizona for spending the money necessary to make University of Phoenix Stadium happen.

This season's Super Bowl goes to Indianapolis, with the vote made shortly after the Colts moved into Lucas Oil Stadium. Again, the feeling was that if team owner Jim Irsay was willing to assume the risk on a new stadium he should assume some reward, too -- with Super Bowl XLVI as the bonus.

I don't know what the game will mean to Irsay and the Colts, but I do know what it could mean to Indianapolis. Cards president Michael Bidwill said Tuesday that Super Bowl XLII had a $500 million economic impact on the Phoenix area.

I can only imagine where that number is in 2016. Look, I know we're ahead of ourselves here, but we're talking about a signature game that deserves special attention. Owners haven't openly discussed Super Bowl L and won't consider it before next May at the earliest.

Only that's almost certainly too aggressive. So that means we don't have a vote on it for at least another year, giving everyone time to consider their options, and when they do, I have a suggestion: consider L.A. first, last and in between.

"As far as L.A. goes," San Francisco owner John York said of Super Bowl L, "it would be a tremendous place to hold it -- if there's a place to hold it."

Without a new stadium in Los Angeles, the NFL would be looking at the Rose Bowl or Coliseum, both of which played to Super Bowls before. In fact, the Rose Bowl played to five of them and is in the midst of a $135 million renovation. Improvements in the Coliseum are expected too, now that the University of Southern California is prepared to spend money of its own to upgrade the facility.

But the feeling among NFL owners is that there must be a commitment to a new stadium for L.A. to be considered. There doesn't necessarily have to be a new building in place, but there probably has to be a stadium under construction. In the meantime, the Rose Bowl or Coliseum might suffice, with NFL insiders saying the smart money is on the Rose Bowl. "I'd support Los Angeles," Washington owner Daniel Snyder said. "Los Angeles has been historically known for some great Super Bowls. It would be a good thing. I'm just a big believer in Los Angeles, and it would be a good place to have a great game. I just think Los Angeles is a great market." It is, but it's not a great market for pro football. I mean, the NFL hasn't had a team there since the Rams left Anaheim in 1995, and nobody seems to miss it. Nevertheless, this isn't about who is there; this is about what is there. And what is there is the home to the first Super Bowl.

The NFL is big on tradition, annually paying tribute to former players and throwback uniforms. So why not take the Super Bowl back to where it began? Why not take it to L.A.?

I say it should, and it must.

"I can't say that I've made a decision on being supportive if we don't have a new deal there and there's no team," said the Colts' Irsay, a member of the league's Super Bowl committee. "We have to look at the business impact of saying, 'Does it hurt the situation if we go there without getting a deal done?' I'm not completely opposed to it, but we want to make Super Bowl L special."

But that's precisely my point. Take it to L.A., and take it to the most attractive stadium. I don't care if it's the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum or something built between now and then. Just take it there, bring back as many players from Super Bowl I as you can and make the game, as Irsay put it, "special."

Yeah, OK, so Miami and Dallas are under consideration too, but there's nothing like the game's birthplace to honor it on its 50th anniversary. So cut the debate, and just do it.

"Obviously," Irsay conceded, "L.A. can make some sense. I may be in favor of that, but I haven't really decided until we talk about it. It hasn't been brought up yet [to other owners], but as a committee we have talked about it.

"I think there's some sentiment in saying, 'Let's do something that makes Super Bowl L the most exciting.' Because when you think what the other choices are, is there any other symbolic tie-in that makes a lot of sense for 50? And I think you'd probably say, 'No.' "

I would. So make the NFL say, "Yes."

"We're focusing on Super Bowl L," said commissioner Roger Goodell, "and that's obviously a significant event for us. So we want to make sure we do it right. We're starting to focus on what's the best way of doing that, and I don't think we've taken anything off the table as far as who would host it and how it would be hosted."

Well, they should. Rule out everyone but Los Angeles and move forward. I don't know what L.A. deserves, but I know what the Super Bowl does. And it deserves nothing less than going home.

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