There is an old adage which states that in order to make better choices for the future, we need to learn from the past. Currently the San Diego Chargers do not want the citizens of San Diego to heed these words due to the current state of the San Diego Padres.
The recent track record of producing a perennially stagnant and unexciting product out on the diamond by the Padres is, and has been, suffocating the Chargers’ efforts toward a new venue of their own. Going back to November of 1998, we see a time of immense importance for the city of San Diego.
As early as 1995 there were grumblings that the Padres could not continue playing at Qualcomm stadium due to an expansion of amenities in 1994 requested by the Chargers. Soon after, the Padres ownership of Larry Lucchino and John Moores through the help of then-mayor Golding, proposed for a citizens initiative to substantiate their claims. Ultimately green-lighting the proposal for a new Padres venue.
To spare you the long story, after many lawsuits, construction delays, political pushing and shoving, and so forth we eventually got Petco Park. An absolutely beautiful venue without a doubt, which will host its first all-star game in a few weeks. Now, did you ever wonder why in the world Major League Baseball waited more than a decade to award America’s finest city with the mid-summer classic?
On the surface it seems preposterous, a city known for its weather, major tourist attraction, etc. In actuality it is quite simple. The Padres suck, and they have for awhile now. Aside from their short run of division crowns in 2005 and 2006, it has been a miserable twelve year run since the franchise’s migration from Mission Valley to the East Village. In my eyes MLB must have been weary of awarding a franchise who, by way of current and past decisions, is absolutely inept at building anything other than mediocrity. I understand this seems like, ok is, some angry dude ripping the Padres and Chargers, I promise we’re going somewhere here. It is crucial to examine the circumstances and sports climate of the present and also back in November of 1998 when discussing the Chargers’ current stadium efforts.
Back in 1998 the Padres were good, really good. They were coming off a run to the World Series and a string of successful seasons which the city had not seen since 1984. The Chargers on the other hand, had just made a run at Championship themselves only a few years prior. Fans were still hanging on to the glory that was 1994 Super Bowl run (we still are actually) in spite of their 4-12 record in 1997 and eventual 5-11 record in 1998. In a nutshell the people were mostly giddy about their sports teams and backed them.
Fast forward to the here and now and we see a complete flip-flop in terms of sports climate. Now we have the aforementioned Padres, who are on the verge of rebuilding again, having not posted a .500 record or better since the anomaly of 2010 when they won 90 games. The Chargers for one, are coming off a horrendous 4-12 campaign and have regressed in recent years. Secondly, and more importantly, they are scurrying to rebuild their public image here in town after the epic fall-flat-on-your-face failure that was their attempt at securing the Los Angeles market.
The utterly apathetic attitude this city currently has toward its sports franchises is equally frustrating as it is evident in both extremes. Qualcomm Stadium is jam-packed, in a nutshell, it is visiting franchises fans’ yearly road game. Week after week, the opposition’s diehards pile in to support their team, becoming increasingly evident as the season progresses and Chargers ticket holders realize they can flip their seats for a profit and watch the game comfortably from home while the “home” team gets trounced.
Petco Park is a ghost town for the most part, with the exception of Dodgers and Giants series’ where their fans infiltrate and pack the venue. Even the people who are there at the ballpark are more interested in getting their selfie tweets on the big screen, watching and playing along to the mid-inning entertainment, or putting it down on the vast array of local craft beer spots and endless food options. Again, this isn’t bad at all, I partake in this because it’s awesome and makes for an incredible ballpark experience. The fact that the actual sports being played are an afterthought to a large majority of people is what should irk Padres and Chargers fans. But it doesn’t. Why should we be supporting teams that fail to keep us engaged or turn their backs on us? As consumers, which is what we all are as sports fans, we need incentive to buy the product.
Luckily there is a solution to all of this, its called W-I-N-N-I-N-G. I call bs on fans of other teams who call us San Diegans “fair-weather” fans. Any sports franchise which fails to put a consistent, exciting product out on the playing field will suffer from what we currently do. Winning creates a buzz around town, winning fosters a sense of pride and camaraderie within the community, winning is the cure. The problem here is we simply haven’t seen it of late. The current Padres futility makes one blind to all the positives Petco Park has brought the downtown community. New businesses, jobs, urban development, and the overall face-lift downtown has received are put aside when gauging success through the lens of the Sports franchises’ accomplishments. Voters and politicians are hesitant to fund a new multi-use venue in fear of having a repeat of Petco Park, as if forward progress and growth is a bad thing.
Ultimately we are in desperate need and thirsting for a winner here in town. Whether its the Chargers or the Padres, somebody please step up and be the catalyst which ignites a San Diego sports renaissance.
24 year old born and bred San Diego local, San Diego State graduate with a Communication degree. I’ve always had an insatiable appetite for our city’s culture and sports teams. Some call it an obsession, I call it unbridled passion. Hope you enjoy reading!