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Graney: Super Bowl or not, Los Angeles remains Raiders town

Updated February 12, 2022 - 4:11 pm

LOS ANGELES

The gap is closing because that’s what happens when your football team makes a second Super Bowl in four years. Winning is the best tonic for any sort of apathy.

But while the Rams might be creating a new, younger fan base across this City of Angels, the Raiders remain its most popular NFL team.

You can’t just wipe away 1982-94, the Super Bowl victory and the cultural connection born from those years when the Raiders made the Los Angeles Coliseum home. The history is too profound.

The Rams meet Cincinnati in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. You can be sure there will be thousands of royal blue and gold jerseys swallowing up the place.

But not even a win against the Bengals will change which side — Raiders or Rams — reigns supreme in and around the city.

Nobody talks much about the Chargers here. A mere bug on the proverbial windshield.

First and only

“We are the first and still right now the only team from Los Angeles to win a Super Bowl,” said Raiders owner Mark Davis. “I’m rooting for the Raiders (meaning a Rams loss) on Sunday. But no matter what, we were the first.”

Davis compares that fact to the Miami Dolphins still being the only undefeated team to win a Super Bowl.

“If I drank,” Davis said, “I’d have some champagne every time Los Angeles teams were eliminated from the playoffs.”

The story has never wavered, how the Raiders moving to Los Angeles in the early ’80s crossed into a hip hop and gangsta rap generation which took hold of everything about the team. Its colors. Its logo. Its bad boy persona.

Even different relocation moves — first back to Oakland and now Las Vegas — hasn’t lessened the love countless fans in Los Angeles hold for the Raiders.

Carlos Soto is a Las Vegas resident who grew up in Torrance, California. He would watch Marcus Allen run wild in the Coliseum for Southern California on Saturdays and then cheer for the Raiders on Sundays.

He would later see Allen be named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player in 1983 for his beloved silver and black.

Soto is a season-ticket holder at both Allegiant Stadium and SoFi, allowing he and his family to see the Raiders face an AFC West foe in the Chargers a second time each season. That’s some serious dedication.

“My generation — those in their 40s and 50s — will always stick with the Raiders.” Soto said. “I do think the Rams are beginning to draw some of the millennials. Everything goes through stages.”

His wife is a Broncos fan. He has a brother who follows the 49ers. They’re not talked about much.

The door really opened for the Raiders when the Rams moved from their home at the Coliseum to Anaheim Stadium in 1980. Orange County and Los Angeles might be a short freeway drive from each other, but they’re worlds apart.

So when the late Al Davis arrived in Los Angeles with his team from Oakland, Raider Nation and its faithful erupted across the city. Still going strong.

The popularity wasn’t always reflected at the box office but instead throughout different communities. Tom Flores was the first Latino head coach in NFL history. Jim Plunkett was a quarterback born to Mexican-American parents.

“Our Hispanic fan base in L.A. remains beyond reproach,” Davis said. “It’s absolutely huge. The entire market is still very important to us. It’s in our DNA.”

Respectfully disagree

If you don’t believe him, take it from a real expert.

“This is a Raiders town, brother. Always will be. Don’t give me that (bleep) about the Rams. Get more people into your stadium wearing your colors and then talk to me. The Raiders rule L.A.”

Who better to trust than my Uber driver?

Thomas Parral, a Rams fan from Whittier who was wearing his beloved jersey at the Super Bowl Experience this week, disagrees.

“This is Rams country,” Parral said. “The Raiders don’t own L.A. This is the Rams’ house. I mean, there’s still Rams fans in St. Louis from when they were there, but they’re back here now. The Raiders can stay in Vegas. This is a Rams town.”

We respectfully disagree.

The second-most popular NFL team in Los Angeles plays for a Super Bowl title Sunday.

The first will be rooting hard for Cincinnati.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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