There are few clashes in sports and/or pop culture that carry as much bitterness as this East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry
Boston vs. LA carries a special chapter in the annals of mutual distaste, from famed Celtics-Lakers matchups spanning multiple decades to the 2018 Red Sox-Dodgers World Series. On Sunday, the tradition will continue with a new installment, with the Chargers heading to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
As someone who has lived in Boston and Los Angeles and has an interest in how each city’s football culture differs, I interviewed people on both coasts and analyzed social media trends leading up to the much-anticipated playoff game.
As soon as the Chargers won their wild-card game over the Ravens last week and it was determined they would play the Patriots, Boston fans were in full swing promoting the “Beat LA” hashtag. Even the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics’ Twitter accounts were having fun with it.
“Beat LA” goes back to the iconic Celtics-Lakers rivalry and their many meetings in the NBA Finals. Safe to say almost every C’s fan has something that says “Beat LA” on it. At the 2008 NBA Finals, the Celtics handed out “Beat LA” shirts to every fan in attendance. This year, Patriots star Julian Edelman made his own version of the shirt for fans to wear leading up to Sunday’s matchup.
Even given the Chargers’ move to LA being so recent, there is a clear difference in fandom between LA and Boston.
New England is consumed with Tom Brady and Co., and anywhere one goes in the week leading up to a big game in New England, he or she will hear rumblings of predictions or hot takes from fans donning Patriots gear. In Los Angeles, the focus is not always on the coming game.
“In New England, it’s a whole-week event; that’s all you talk about for the week when there’s a Pats game, but it’s more low-key in LA,” said Cara Straus, who has lived in New England and currently attends school in LA.
Connecticut-turned-LA resident Emma Soviero said, “I haven’t seen one thing about the Chargers or the game.”
Soviero noted that, in Connecticut, the football culture was the opposite and, as Straus said, unavoidable.
“It’s not as much in-your-face as it is on the East Coast,” Straus said. “In-your-face” is the perfect way to describe the football culture in Boston. In LA, they are restarting their pro football culture.
Brooke Mommsen used to live in Connecticut; now she’s an LA resident, working in film production with LA-based Fortitude International. Her observation of the difference: “Los Angeles is excited to have a team to root for, but it’s not the same as with the Pats … families have raised their kids to love the team, so there is nostalgia there.”
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Straus echoed the nostalgia idea, noting Los Angeles is much more of a melting pot with people coming in from all over, while many New England residents were born and raised there.
“It was never a sports city,” Straus said of LA. “They’re creating new fans.”
Nici Bentivegna used to work for the Chargers and is from the Boston area. She said LA “is still in the phase of developing their football culture,” which raises an important point: The recent history of each city’s football teams has helped shape the respective cultures.
“You have to talk about record,” Straus said. “If you look at how well the Patriots have done compared to the Chargers in the past, there’s a clear difference.”
Bentivegna notes the ease of being a Boston sports fan: “The people of New England have grown accustomed to winning, and that always makes it easier to cheer for a team. But I think all sports play a major role in the lives of New Englanders. Boston is nicknamed the ‘City of Champions’ not by mistake.”
A city’s feeling about its team is impacted by advertising, as well, and Straus says there is a clear difference between Boston and LA in that regard. In Boston, a customer can buy discounted coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts after a Patriots win. Billboards everywhere display New England players and the team logo. Not in LA; not for the Chargers.
LA, of course, has two NFL teams sharing the pro football spotlight, never mind everything else going on in the city. And Southern Californians don’t seem to know how to feel about the team’s recent move from San Diego.
“There’s a lot of negative energy about the Chargers, specifically in San Diego,” Bentivegna said. “Some of that negativity has dissipated with the team’s current success, but San Diegans definitely still hold some animosity towards team ownership for moving them to LA.
“The Rams have had greater success in the last two seasons with Sean McVay at the helm, so I think anyone in the LA area who didn’t grow up cheering for any NFL team gravitated towards the Rams for (those) reasons.”
Time zone and weather are other factors, too.
In LA, Thursday, Sunday and Monday night NFL games start at roughly 5:30 local time, so many people miss the first half of the game while traveling home from work, and they’re fine with it. When they can go for walks on the beach, travel the Pacific Coast Highway or enjoy a meal outside all year round, why would they want to spend time indoors watching football?
“In LA there’s a lot to do, so watching football isn’t the first choice for a lot of people here,” Straus said. “The teams are looking to answer (the question) ‘How do you make football a priority on a Sunday when there’s so many other things happening in LA?'”
In New England, where it might be 18 degrees with a wind chill of minus-10 and there are 5 inches of snow outside, staying in and watching football is the No. 1 priority. That, paired with the Patriots’ history, makes for a different picture on Sundays.