There are certain events that will happen in a lifetime that truly feel impossible, even as you witness them. As I’m sure the people of Cleveland and Baltimore can tell you, one of those events is the loss of an NFL franchise. Driving to work this morning I couldn’t escape the outpouring of despair and disbelief by Chargers fans on seemingly every radio station. It was still hard to digest even as I arrived at my office, but the look on my co-worker Chuy’s face said it all. He recently added two twins to his family of four and in his own words, “knowing I’ll never be able to take my son to a Chargers game is what hurts the most. That’s what really gets me”.
For those of you who may not know by now, Owner and Chairman of the San Diego Chargers, Dean Spanos, announced this morning, January 12th 2017 that the team is officially moving and become the LA Chargers. He did this with a letter written to the fans that have supported his franchise for the past 55 years. A letter. On the internet. Not a press conference where he stood up like a man and faced the city he was screwing over, no, he “bolted” in the middle of the night and sent a letter to explain himself. Like some sort of…what’s word I’m looking for…like some sort of COWARD. Unfortunately, fans weren’t even taken by surprise because the Spanos family has never shown any interest in the city besides how much money they could make off of it. Let’s do a quick recap.
The team first mentioned a legitimate possibility of a move in 2015 when the Rams announced that they would be heading back to their LA roots. That was another billionaire, Stan Kroenke, betraying a fan base that had been undeservedly loyal to his second-rate franchise for years and years. Anyway, once the Rams had a stadium plan in place, Spanos made it known that the Chargers could be shacking up with the Rams in Los Angeles on a joint-stadium deal. The hitch was Kroenke’s clear intention to make the Spanos family a tenant rather than a partner. Chargers patriarch Alex Spanos made his fortune through real estate and has never rented anything from anyone, so that deal went right out of the window. It was then proposed that the Chargers and Raiders find some sort of stadium agreement because of Oakland’s precarious stadium situation with the Coliseum, possibly the only stadium in the NFL worse than Qualcomm. Once the Chargers-Raiders stadium plan fell through, the team confirmed they would remain in San Diego for the 2016 season and the guilt trip/blackmail/hostage situation began.
Spanos proceeded to campaign for a new stadium that would be paid for by the city and “hotel taxes on tourists”. If Chargers fans wanted the team to stay they would have to vote yes on Measure C, which would approve Spanos’ downtown waterfront stadium plan. But hold on a second, Forbes listed Alex Spanos’ net worth at $2.4 billion. TWO BILLION DOLLARS. Yet he needed the city to pay for his fancy new stadium because…? Fans were faced the ridiculous decision to vote on a stadium that they would definitely end up paying for at the risk of losing their team should they disapprove. Measure C failed to receive a two-thirds vote and the clock ticking on the team’s decision grew a little louder. All of this of course, ran parallel to the Chargers having their two worst seasons since 2003 as the team blew leads and lost key players to injury week after week.
So here we are, Dean. After threatening for years you’re finally jumping ship because you couldn’t get your greedy hands on taxpayer dollars in a city that’s supported your franchise twice as long as I’ve been alive. When you were division champs every year, the fans were there. When your kicker couldn’t handle the pressure in big moments, the fans were there. When you stopped making the playoffs, it’s been three years since your last trip and a four year hiatus before that, the fans were still there. Tailgating, screaming their heads off, returning every Sunday even as the wins grew fewer and farther between and mediocrity became the norm. The Chargers fans were always there and they always deserved better than what they got from you and your family.
You’ve got your wish now, Dean — a shiny new stadium in a big city with a large sports fan base. Don’t get too excited though, because first you’re headed to Carson and Stubhub Center which the LA Galaxy calls home. You’ll be second fiddle in a stadium that holds just 30,000 people. Based on your 5-11 record this year I’d say you can expect to see maybe half of those seats filled. Once you make it out of purgatory and get the keys to that castle in Inglewood, if Stan even gives you your own key that is, your days of being second-best are long gone. Yes sir, you’ve made it to the big time of the Los Angeles football market! Just one problem, though: the Rams have already been there for a year and at least have a young quarterback that went to Cal to draw interest. The Rams don’t even have as many LA fans as the Raiders who left that city THE YEAR I WAS BORN. Not to mention Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins remaining quite a hot ticket, and oh the USC Trojans just won an instant classic in this year’s Rose Bowl. They beat Big Ten champion Penn State in an absolute barn-burner, 52-49. The last time your Chargers scored 50 points was in 1985, Dean. In case you don’t remember, it was only your second year as Chairman of the Board.
That media market feeling cramped yet, Dean? We’re not done. The MLB season overlaps with the NFL for a couple of months, running into September and hosting their postseason in October. LA sure loves their Dodgers, plus they’ve got the Angels and A’s just in case. A seat at Staples Center is LA’s biggest ticket with both the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA playing from October to April. Feeling nervous, Dean? We’re almost there, I promise. The NHL and MLS have both seen steady growth in popularity in recent years, and LA happens to have two teams in each sport – go figure! The Kings (NHL) and Galaxy (MLS) have each won multiple championships in their respective leagues. You haven’t won a championship since 1963 in the AFL, Dean. Even the Ducks and LAFC are easily more interesting than some NFL team that just went 5-11 and oh, by the way LA’s got beaches and scenic hikes and all kinds of celebrities to stalk if you’re into that sort of thing.
So now you’re the 14th or 15th most interesting thing to do in LA and I guess I’m just wondering, who will you turn to when nobody cares about the Chargers, Dean? When the residents of your new city don’t give a damn what are you going to do? Who is going to buy your jerseys and apparel? What will the stadium staff do with all of those leftover churros that nobody’s eating? Those churros get cold and hard so quickly, Dean. I would say that I wish you all the best, but in reality I’m looking forward to watching this venture crash and burn. You could have at least done San Diego of leaving the team’s colors and history behind so that the Chargers could one day play in front of their true fans again. But of course you couldn’t even throw them that bone. Congratulations, Dean, you played yourself. Have fun doing what you do best: having your stadium filled with Raiders fans.