The Los Angeles Chargers of Carson (Yes, There Are Fans in LA)
Today was tough. I moved to San Diego when I was 17 years old and admittedly, I didn’t become a dedicated NFL fan until about 1994 during the wave of excitement leading to the Chargers first (and to this day, only) Super Bowl appearance. During that time, players like Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Stan Humphries and Natrone Means became hometown heroes (and Indiana Jones became part of arguably the most bizarre halftime show in history). There was a dynamic electricity in the city that was not normally present in one of the most relaxed, serene environments I’d ever encountered. I may have jumped on the bandwagon but I was hooked and have been a die-hard Chargers fan ever since.
22 years later, I’ve encountered all the ups and downs of rooting for a team that consistently seemed to be all about potential and never the satisfaction of victory. Growing up rooting for the Red Sox, I was all too familiar with the relationship of being aligned with lovable losers who often get close but don’t bring home the prize. There has always been something different about the Chargers. Their heartbreaking, gut wrenching losses in important games would teeter on the edge of karmic retribution for some past sins that lay in secret somewhere below Jack Murphy Field. Bill Simmons once referred on his podcast to the Chargers fans as having joined Eagles fans in the role of an abused wife from a Lifetime movie who desperately wants to believe that her husband will change only to continually suffer time after time.
Over the years, I’ve watched the Chargers and Padres be relegated off to the metaphoric sidelines as the 49ers and Raiders received better coverage on Fox Sports’ Southern California Sports Report. Let me repeat that once more: Two Northern California teams received demonstrably more airtime on the “Southern California Sports Report” than the only NFL team in southern California because the LA market was far more important from a ratings standpoint. CBS stopped broadcasting the Chargers in LA this year for the first time in many years in favor of the Raiders. I’ve never understood the near universal excitement about an awful Rams team coming to LA and the current apathy about the Chargers coming. San Diego has always been disrespected and somehow slighted because of it’s bigger, more popular sister Los Angeles. That’s always bothered me and I’m sure it’s annoyed most San Diegans for decades.
For 16 years the Spanos family has been threatening to move the Chargers if they didn’t get a new stadium. For them this is a business decision and can’t be an emotional one. In my opinion, the voters and citizens of San Diego have wisely made sure that they are not going to become another city that uses public funds or substantially raises hotel taxes on tourists in order to give more money to billionaires. Just ask St. Louis how they enjoy continuing to pay for the empty stadium that no longer houses the Rams.
In a very selfish way, I was prepared for the Chargers move to LA. Having moved there myself in 2004, I’d certainly be geographically closer and more likely to attend more than 1 game a year. The team for years has held almost no home field advantage at Qualcomm Stadium and it seemed like a fresh start might do them good. Unlike cold winter cities like Green Bay or Minneapolis, I like to think that the city didn’t revolve around the Chargers as much partially because there are so many other options competing for your attention year round. The Chargers could have ended up in St. Louis or another city that is totally inaccessible to their fans. As it stands, it’s only a 2–3 hour drive to LA and not impossible for some San Diegans to stay loyal to their team. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Chargers were being searched for on the web in Los Angeles over the Rams by a margin of 11 to 1.
The idea put forth by Bill Plaschke in the LA Times that he has never met a Chargers fan in Los Angeles is absolutely ridiculous. We are here. You can see us in sports bars and in shopping malls. We are easily recognizable from the powder blue jerseys and our heads held low with that resigned, depressed look on our faces every season. Whether there’s 30,000 of us every week who will drive to Carson this year remains to be seen. What also remains to be seen is if a change of venue reroutes any of the downward momentum that Dean Spanos has set the team on since the moment that he dismissed Marty Schottenheimer after an NFL leading 14–2 season.
The toughest part of this is seeing my family and friends in San Diego hurting. My dad is cancelling his Sunday Ticket package, some friends are trying to figure out which creative way to burn their Chargers gear and fans are in tears on the local news. My love of the Chargers was one of the many reasons I still felt connected to my adopted hometown and it hurts to see a vital part of that community’s identity stripped from it. I’d love to say, “It’s just sports.” but clearly it’s not. Part of me is frustrated because there’s been more visible passion out of San Diego about the Chargers today than there has been for years. Once the dust settles and the 2017–18 season is underway everyone, including myself, might have a clearer perspective but right now it’s real hard to feel good about anything surrounding the Chargers.