The Chargers Have Left the Building…
I was born in San Diego. I grew up with Dan Fouts throwing to John Jefferson, Chuck Muncie diving over piles into the end zone, and Louie Kelcher eating quarterbacks for lunch. In later years I watched some very good, and also some very bad Chargers football. I have written books about the team, collected their memorabilia, reorganized the team photo archive (twice), redecorated the team offices, interviewed more than 100 former players, authenticated their game used memorabilia for NFL Auctions, answered questions about team history for their own PR office, contributed to their 50th Anniversary DVD, and more that I have likely forgotten. Needless to say, the Chargers leaving my hometown has made an impression on me today.
Yet as involved as I have been at times, today I feel as distanced from the team as anyone else. Contemporary professional sports lost me many years ago. I am an old guy in a younger guy’s body, I guess, but I like things a bit simpler than they are in current day NFL. Blaring music, defensive dances after tackles made 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, choreographed touchdown celebrations, and the expectation that we should kiss the boots of the mighty NFL have turned me off to it all.
I’ve never believed that the Chargers were 100% destined for Los Angeles. Nor did I feel that they would always be in San Diego. My thoughts traveled along the lines of the dollar. Whatever location offered the most money is where they would end up – history, tradition, and fans be damned. It is a sad reality.
Honestly, I am proud that San Diego did not cave in and meet the team’s demands. I don’t live in the City of San Diego, so I did not have a vote last year. But for me, it ultimately boiled down to this: Why should the public have to fund a large portion of a stadium to make the Spanos family wealthier than they already are?
I do feel badly about this situation, but it certainly is not for the Spanos family. I feel badly for the Chargers staff members who now have to decide if they want to uproot their families and follow their employer to a city where, by all accounts, they are completely unwanted, or be out of a job. I feel badly for the fans who save all year long so that they can purchase season tickets to watch their team; the fans who are at the stadium when the gates open, enjoy their Sunday afternoons with family and friends, cheer on their Chargers, and stay late after the game. I feel badly for the pop warner kids who look up to their hometown heroes. I feel badly for anyone who thought for even a moment that the Chargers cared as much for them as they did for the Chargers. The truth is that they did not. The Chargers did not care about you. They only cared about what was in your wallet, and how much of its contents you were willing to give to them.
Honestly, the Chargers leaving doesn’t change me much at all. I still love the AFL, and will continue to share stories on this site. I will collect my signed trading cards, interview former ballplayers, and reconnect old teammates when I have the opportunity. What I won’t do is cheer for the Chargers, and maybe not for any other team either. My children and their friends participate in different sports from youth levels through high school. I will cheer for those kids, laugh with their parents on sidelines, and maybe join them for a pizza after the game. That, for the foreseeable future, will be enough for me. Honestly, I’m already looking forward to it.