Pasadena, CA-It is time for some football. Sure, it’s summertime in Southern California, but football-mania lives all year long. For football fans in the Los Angeles area, the gridiron season can’t come any sooner. Since the Rams and the Raiders vacated the Southland years ago, Angelinos have been playing the wait-and-see-game to see if another NFL team makes their way back to the second-largest media market in the country.
After a long stay in Anaheim, the Rams wound up bolting to St. Louis, a place they now call home. The Raiders flirted with the Southland folks for a while before making their way back to Oakland, leaving Los Angeles pro football fans clamoring for another dose of the Silver & Black and aching for the NFL experience once again.
That experience is getting closer and closer to becoming reality. With the bidding process for stadium rights and the viable property needed to host an NFL team becoming much clearer in the last few years, pro football is inching along-one mountain at a time-to coming back.
And every year, the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, through its annual NFL All-Access event, helps facilitate a venue to generate buzz of bringing pro football back to town. The 10th Annual NFL All-Access event, held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, brought out some big names in the NFL circle.
The NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens, quarterback Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raiders running back Jacoby Ford, along with Tennessee Titans signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams) were among current and former NFL players to attend this year’s festivities.
Perennial All-Pro safety John Lynch and Raiders executive Amy Trask, the first female to be hired in that position in league history when Al Davis gave her the job in 1997, were also on hand. But the biggest straw to stir the nest were Hall of Fame sportscaster Al Michaels and Emmy Award-winning sports journalist Andrea Kremer, who led a panel discussion on the state of the NFL.
Among the highlights of the evening was Kremer engaging with Michaels about his career as a sportscaster and the work he’s done with other famous broadcasters such as the legendary John Madden. Perhaps the most riveting part of the conversation between Kremer and the longtime play-by-play man of “Monday Night Football,” was when Michaels described the way Madden left the game behind.
Madden’s storied broadcasting career came to an unexpected and abrupt halt following the duo’s duties of calling the Super Bowl between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.
“That turned out to be, of all crazy things, I didn’t know it at the time, turned out to be John Madden’s last game,” Michaels said. “We walked out of the booth, we were pretty happy with the game. The telecast we showed was good…it was a very good feeling. Then three months later John said he needed time to just assess where he was, and how and where he wanted to go. He said, ‘It’s time. That’s how John made his decision. That was a heck of a way to go out.”
Before the downpour of some unexpected showers that rained on the dining cuisine provided by Wolfgang Puck Catering, running both panelists and participants scrambling to a lockerroom for cover, the NFL All-Access event looked to be a hit with the players and fans alike.
Among some of the activities fans got a chance participate in were the quarterback accuracy challenge, pretending to be a wide receiver, taking tours of the stadium’s locker room and learn how to put on the equipment the way the pros do it. All this does is further increase and attract more fans to the game, said Hasselbeck.
“Overall, the game is strong,” Hasselbeck said. “The ratings are high on every level, whether it’s the draft in primetime or the Pro Bowl-does really well in ratings. Fantasy football is as big as its ever been and growing rapidly. I think it’s the greatest sport in our country. Actually, I think it’s the greatest sport in the world. I’m excited to be part of it.”