SoFi Stadium has year to prepare for its Super Bowl

SPORTS DIGEST

By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

You have to hand it to the National Football League. There is a reason that in the last 60 years the NFL has overtaken college football and baseball as the most popular sport in the country.

No sport promotes itself like the NFL.

Less than 48 hours after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV Feb. 7 in Tampa, Florida, the NFL was promoting Super Bowl LVI, which will be held in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood Feb. 6, 2022.

The Rams, on behalf of the NFL and the Los Angeles Super Bowl Host Committee, led by Chairman Casey Wasserman, sent out a press release unveiling the official logo and launch video for Super Bowl LVI, featuring Los Angeles icon, Snoop Dogg, alongside the NFL’s trademark Super Bowl LVI mark.

“All eyes will be on the greater Los Angeles region and the transformative SoFi Stadium, as NBC will televise professional sports’ most popular and watched game that will be broadcast to more than 180 countries and territories,” the press release said.

The logo mirrors the overhead silhouette of the stadium, and proclaims Los Angeles as “host of Super Bowl LVI,” with the accompanying tagline, “Champions Shine Here.”

In other words, the league was promoting its next Super Bowl before Tampa Bay had finished celebrating its 31-9 victory over Kansas City.

Super Bowl LVI will no doubt be the first of many Super Bowls to be held in SoFi Stadium. The NFL has always liked Los Angeles — the weather, the star power provided not only by local athletes, but film, television and music stars as well and plenty of hotel rooms — for its biggest stage.

The first Super Bowl was held here in January 1967 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Even though that game failed to sell out (it was then known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game), the NFL returned in 1972 for Super Bowl VI.

The league then decided the Rose Bowl in Pasadena held more people and held Super Bowl XI there in 1977. The Rose Bowl also hosted the Super Bowl in 1980, 1983, 1987 and 1993, but when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved back to Oakland after the 1994 season, the Super Bowls left, too.

This will be the Los Angeles region’s first Super Bowl in 29 years.

“Since Los Angeles hosted the first Super Bowl back in 1967, the Super Bowl has become a spectacle larger than the league could have ever imagined,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the press release. “The return of the Super Bowl to this region is in large part thanks to Stan Kroenke‘s commitment to delivering this game-changing project at Hollywood Park.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers to bring the nation’s biggest sporting event to Los Angeles and Inglewood for Super Bowl LVI.”

And the Super Bowl is big enough for both Los Angeles and Inglewood city officials to jump on the bandwagon in promoting the game and their city in the process.

“Los Angeles is a global capital for athletic achievement — a place that understands the power of sports to unite and inspire, awe and amaze, support job creation and spur economic growth, and lift the spirits of entire communities,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Playing host to Super Bowl LVI will allow local businesses to score critical victories for our workforce, showcase our city’s commitment to equity and inclusion, and kick off another age of positive change for Angelenos and fans everywhere.”

Inglewood Mayor James Butts also weighed in.

“SoFi Stadium in Inglewood is the finest stadium in the country and will continue to host the greatest events,” he said. “The NFL is giving local diverse and minority-owned businesses a chance to compete for substantial contracts through its Business Connect program. That program will help a range of local businesses — caterers, sign makers, event producers, cleaning services, and more — compete for and win subcontracts to support the many events leading up to and surrounding the Super Bowl.”

The Rams and Chargers will both enter the 2021 season hoping to copy Tampa Bay, which became the first team in the 55 years of Super Bowls to win the season’s last game in their home stadium.

The Rams played in the Rose Bowl in the 1980 Super Bowl, losing to Pittsburgh after leading through three quarters. The franchise won its only Super Bowl in 2000 while playing in St. Louis. They won the NFL title in 1951.

They have a better history than the Chargers, who won an AFL Championship in 1964 but have only reached the Super Bowl once, losing to the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.

It’s February, so both the Chargers and Rams have visions of playing in next year’s Super Bowl, along with the other 30 teams in the league (OK, maybe not the Jets).

Let the countdown begin.

LOCAL LEGEND: Among the films that will be featured in the annual Pan African Film Festival, which will be held virtually this year from Feb. 28 to March 14, is a documentary entitled “Raymond Lewis: L.A. Legend.”

The 92-minute film, that will make its debut at the festival, was made by Ryan Matthew Polomski and Dean Prator, about Lewis, a South Los Angeles basketball prodigy in the 1970s, who never achieved the NBA stardom many predicted for him. In fact, he never played a minute in the NBA but made a name for himself as a basketball player on the streets of South Los Angeles.

Lewis attended Verbum Dei High School in Watts, which became a basketball powerhouse in the late 1960s and 1970s, sending many star players to college and later the NBA. In three years at Verbum Dei, Lewis led the Eagles to three CIF titles and an overall record of 84-4.

He reportedly received 250 scholarship offers from NCAA schools but chose to attend Cal State L.A., allegedly after receiving a flashy car and a monthly $2,000 payment.

In two years at Cal State L.A., Lewis, a 6-1 guard, averaged 39 points on the freshmen team and then averaged 32.9 on the varsity as a sophomore.

He turned pro after that and was drafted as the 18th overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1973 draft.

Things quickly went south with the 76ers. After playing spectacularly in rookie camp, including outperforming the No. 1 overall draft pick Doug Collins, he couldn’t agree on contract terms with the teams and, according to 76ers management, walked out of camp.

Lewis later said that 76ers coach Gene Shue told him to sit out a year and mature. He reported to camp in 1974 without a contract and was told he would have to make the team to earn a contract. But the team already had 12 players under contract.

Fed up with Philadelphia, Lewis tried to sign with the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association, but Philadelphia threatened a lawsuit that kept him from jumping leagues, after failing to make the 76ers in 1975, Lewis gave up his dream of playing in the NBA.

He later battled alcoholism and depression and died in 2001 at the age of 48.      

“L.A. Legend” features uncovered archival footage dating back over 50 years, along with a deep array of personal interviews that tell Lewis’ strange, heartbreaking tale. Among the interviews are professor Harry Edwards, the late UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, who coached at Long Beach State and recruited Lewis; former Southland star Reggie Theus, Sonny Vacarro, Lorenzo Romar, Michael Cooper, Gene Shue, Pat Williams.

The film also touches on the history and imagery of South Los Angeles amid the civil rights movement of the late 1960s and early 70s.

Check www.paff.org for screening dates.

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