PUTTING FOOTBALL IN ITS PLACE….Speaking of California and frivolousness, though, I’m proud to say that there’s at least one thing that Los Angeles has learned ahead of the rest of the country: how to deal with the extortionists who run the National Football League. Answer: don’t.

Michael Hiltzik has a good column today about the travails of the city of San Diego, which signed a 25-year deal with the Chargers in 1995 but is now in a fight to keep them a mere eight years later due to loopholes in the contract:

[Chargers spokesman Mark] Fabiani insists that the Chargers are determined to stay in San Diego, but lots of people are suspicious. It probably didn’t help that in an April letter to Mayor Dick Murphy asking to renegotiate the lease, Dean Spanos mentioned Los Angeles three times in seven paragraphs.

Still, there is a local theory that this is all bluster, and that the NFL likes keeping the L.A. slot vacant, since the threat of relocation to Southern California has been a useful cudgel to use against other franchise cities foolish enough to resist its demands. Of course, if the Chargers moved to L.A., the league would still have a pretty good weapon in hand. It could always threaten to relocate some mutinous community’s franchise to San Diego.

Read the whole thing to get a taste of how the NFL operates. I’ve never understood how city after city can fall prey to the idea that NFL franchises bring “legitimacy” to a city, or that they pay for themselves, or some other folderol. The collective result is billions of taxpayer dollars that end up lining the pockets of owners and players and do nothing for the community.

Los Angeles has the right idea: if you want to set up shop in Los Angeles you can pay for it yourself. You won’t get a dime of public money. Not a dime.