This 2017 calendar year was horribly brutal for San Diego Sports.
Not that any particular year in the past has been great to America’s Finest City. Fans are still waiting for a major sports championship, which would be the first one for the city since the Bolts won the 1963 AFL Championship, now 55 years ago. San Diego is beautiful, but as lovely as the city can be, the political structure is ugly.
The failure of the city of San Diego and the corruption within it has been underplayed in this whole scenario. The abuse of power by former politicians was directly responsible for much trouble within the San Diego sports scene. The past leaders had no vision, and fans of the team were held hostage by inept decision-making.
For a long time, the Spanos’ family requested a new stadium for their team, or at least to discuss the possibilities of one. Almost immediately after “The Murph” was enclosed in 1997, the Chargers’ ownership cried fowl. The stadium was made larger to accommodate an upcoming Super Bowl, but it lost all its charm in the process. Qualcomm Stadium was a turned into a generic “bowl-like” stadium that was quickly going out of style with the national fan base.
As new modern stadiums were being built, the Chargers were stuck in an old stadium with an expensive, but inefficient remodel. The timing of the request for a new home was unfortunate, as the city just invested in a major upgrade of the stadium and a practice field for the Bolts, at the cost of $68 million dollars. But spending tens of millions of dollars instead of investing hundreds of millions of dollars would turn out to be a mistake. The city and its short-sighted officials wanted to rush the expansion at a cheaper cost to get a Super Bowl sooner. It worked, as the NFL came. But they obviously saw the mess Qualcomm had become. The NFL came back five years later in 2003 for the event, but announced then they would not return unless a new stadium was given to the Chargers. This is what happens when you put a band-aid on a gun shot wound. The city got two Super Bowls instead of potentially hosting the event every 5-7 years like the NFL envisioned. Could you imagine the revenue of a Super Bowl every five years and what it would mean to the city of San Diego? A stadium would essentially pay for itself by the time a 30-year lease was done.
Well, now it’s the late 90’s/early 00’s and like a 70-year-old La Jolla resident fresh from the plastic surgeon’s office, the Chargers were in a venue that looked oddly decent from the outside, but had horrible bones that were not addressed in any manner in any of its remodels. The stadium was a mess. To top it off, the Spanos family flat-out refused to put any money into the stadium. At this point is when things started to get really bad for this franchise. Luckily for the Spanos’ family, the Chargers of the 2000’s were really good. Fans overlooked the inefficiencies of the stadium simply to get a glimpse at one of the best teams in all of football. Oh, and there were inefficiencies.
The very same Sony JumboTron that was installed in 1996 (by the Padres and Chargers) shockingly still remains to this day. The Chargers did absolutely nothing to upgrade it, nothing. Going and watching them in their last few seasons of existence was like witnessing them play via a time machine. It was like going to a friend’s house to watch the Super Bowl and you are all crowded around watching it on an old Zenith tube TV. Fans of the team within the city limits were getting far more pleasure in watching the Chargers from home than they were trekking to the dump which was Qualcomm Stadium. Especially when the product on the field suffered. Spanos made the team what they were. He created the (dis)home-field advantage that plagued the team their end days in San Diego. He and his family made a bad situation worse, and for that I will never forgive him.
Worse is just what we got, as we all witnessed the team from L.A. (which I still refuse to say or write) form in early January of 2017.
I have seen a few Chargers games this year. I still watch the NFL when it is on. It’s hard being a fan of something so long and then having your rooting interest ripped from your heart. Watching the NFL is different for me now though, like I imagine it is for most former Charger’ fans. I have not picked another team, nor do I plan to. I am a San Diegan. I would find it difficult to root for another city, another team. At the same time, I hold no ill will towards those of you that have moved on and cheer for another squad each Sunday. We all have to do what we need to do in order to cope at a time like this. There is no reason to judge.
Which brings me to my current feelings on the team. I received no joy in the team being eliminated from the playoffs this past Sunday. If they made it in, I would have been as equally stoic. I am sadly indifferent. I refuse to hate on them (though knowing Dean Spanos is suffering is sure a fun concept), because that would mean that they are in my thoughts. Sure, if I sit down and think about the history of this team and the time I invested in rooting for them, I get upset. But that is not in the cards for me. That only leads to anger and nothing productive comes from that emotion.
I will not root against Philip Rivers and company. In fact, I cheer him on. I will not cheer as though I am a fan of the team, that has all his hopes and dreams on winning, but more like as a fan of him and the man he has become. Getting to know Philip Rivers in San Diego was a pleasure and he surely comprehends what it means to be a professional athlete. I can still root for him without pledging allegiance to his team. I can still watch the NFL without having a team. Football is just a game for entertainment and life certainly goes on.