The San Diego Fan Stigma

I am seriously tired of being judged as a San Diego sports fan. You hear it all the time, “the stadium is half filled with Chief fans;” “fair weather fans;” “the reason they don’t sell out is because there are so many other great things to do in San Diego.”

“San Diego fans don’t appreciate the history of sports.” “San Diego fans don’t understand the nuance of sports.” “San Diego fans just don’t appreciate their teams the way Packer fans appreciate their team,” “or Cub fans,” “or Celtic fans,” “or “blah, blah, blah.”

Being born in a specific region does not automatically qualify you for a place in the Fan Hall of Fame, just like it doesn’t disqualify you either.

I am not here to defend my San Diego brethren. I am here to defend the people I know who are passionate about San Diego sports. You know who you are.

I cannot defend a half and half crowd. I cannot defend a blackout. I cannot defend those people who would rather be at the beach, hiking in the mountains, or enjoying the city in the myriad ways that it is enjoyed. But just because people do these things doesn’t automatically remove them as hard-core fans. And frankly, as a native, I do enjoy San Diego. But I am also a passionate fan. I am a historian of sports. I am a student of the games.

With a lifetime of coaching high school sports, I know what a balk is (and what it isn’t). I know when Kobe Bryant travels on his way down the lane (even though the refs don’t call it). And I know how to manage a clock at the end of a football game (and can  judge when someone can’t).

I was in Balboa Stadium watching Lance Alworth, John Hadl, Ernie Ladd, Ron Mix, Speedy Duncan. I watched so many other great Chargers at San Diego Stadium, Jack Murphy Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium (and if you don’t know that the last three are all the SAME stadium then go back to jet skiing, paragliding, or kayaking). Believe it when I say I know the history of our local sports. I was there. (Yes, I’m old.)

I will match my fanaticism with anyone anywhere. I don’t profess to be better, but just because I was fortunate enough to be born in the great city of San Diego doesn’t make me “sports challenged” either.

It is not my intent to brag about how great I am. No, I am merely trying to say that San Diego fans can be great fans. We have intense passion for our teams. We have suffered as much (or more) than any other fans. And there are plenty of fans who have deep sports knowledge and roots.

When Nate Kaeding slid his 41 yard field goal wide right; when Antonio Cromartie did his best bull fighting “olé” instead of trying to tackle Shonn Greene; when Marlon McCree fumbled instead of falling down after his interception; when Dave Casper batted the Holy Roller forward for that horrible TD; when we endured the “ice bowl” in Cincinnati; when Peyton rallied the Broncos from 24-0 down in the first half to win; when the Dan Pastorini-less Houston Oilers beat us in the playoffs; Ed Hoculi (‘nuff said)—these are memories that no true blue (and gold) Charger fan will ever forget. And like the following great moments, the true San Diego fan doesn’t need much to recall those images– forever tattooed into our brains.

But we also have the 1963 AFL Championship against the hated Patriots; Dennis Gibson batting down Neil O’Donnell’s 4th down pass; Darren Sproles vs Indy in the playoff game (and making Peyton look silly); LT’s 31st TD in 2006 (and the first 30); any one of the 4th and forever first downs Dan Fouts picked up; the ENTIRE playoff game against the Dolphins in 1981 when Kellen Winslow had to be carried off of the field; Gary Anderson’s “dive” into the end zone; Bambi’s acrobatic catches; John Jefferson’s toe-tapping endzone catch; Junior Seau’s electric plays; Ron Mix’s road grading blocks; Charlie Joiner (the ultimate possession receiver)—there is not enough space to list all the moments, but feel free to add your own in comments… (That is, of course, if you consider yourself a true San Diego sports fan.)

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  • Nick Lee

    I love it

  • davacho

    excellent commentary!

  • Andy Knaus

    Great points!!! Get tired of being judged by attendance numbers.

  • Sergio Quintero

    Being an SD fan in general doesn’t get much respect especially in the pain suffered department, like living in this weather means that we don’t feel pain. No super bowl titles or World Series titles, and lost 2 NBA franchises. Both the chargers and Padres have found intensely painful and creative ways to rips out hearts out.

    Probably the only member of the national media who I have heard give correct pain suffered score is that jerk J.T. the brick, who does it to denigrate the SD fan, because he’s a Raider homer, but he is correct out of cities with multiple major sports teams the only one without title is SD.

    The chargers have a trustworthy 45-50 k that goes to the stadium through good and bad, it the remaining 15-20k seats they struggle to fill.

    • Sergio Quintero

      Cruel & unusual punishment for 2013: goaline failure in Washington, coverage breakdown of 3rd and 17 in Denver.

      • Gunnar Martin

        3rd and 17 will haunt my mind until we beat Denver again. That was worse to watch than 4th and 29, IMO.

      • Michael Norton

        That’s a good one (or bad one, I guess). When I was writing this I thought about that play and the Ray Rice 4th and 29, but wanted to deal with more of a range of Charger history rather than be to heavy with recent stuff. But, boy, did those moments hurt.

    • Michael Norton

      What about the San Diego Sockers 10 Championships???? (Yeah, I have a hard time trying to sell that one too.)

      • Ernie Padaon


    • joerockt

      Yea like I mentioned above, its all about the teams lineage. You can’t expect to have a huge fan base when you have more losing seasons than winning and no SB’s. Add to the fact that for several decades, there were 2 other teams here in SoCal. Its not like the Packers where they are the only team in the state since inception. I’m sure people there travel hundreds of miles to see their games.

  • tubbs45

    Great write up!
    I dont care what the rest of the world thinks about us. We live in San Diego and the faithful bleed the blue and gold… oh yeah, and HATE the raiders…

    • Pridenpoise

      Some of us loved the Holy Roller, and the Silver n Black.

  • jorge

    I don’t live in San Diego but I have always bin a die hard chargers fan! I live in Houston and and am from long beach ca. When we lost the opener it sucked around here but as the season went on nothing but good things happened for the Texans and provided me with plenty of good revenge Shit talking for my friends and family who are Texans fans. Everyone has always talked Shit about me being a charger with a father in law who is a TRADER fan and a best friend who is aDonkos fan I will always bleed blue and gold!

  • Dave O

    If I lived in Kansas City and it was 10 below in December I’d want to make a trip to see a game in San Diego too.

  • The Sports Guru

    Would be a great article if we didn’t all know he consistently shoots a 120+ round of golf. I mean, does he know anything about sports?

    • Michael Norton

      Hi Chris,
      You’re just sore because I had to show you which end of the club to hold. ;)

      (When you’re back in town let’s get out on the course.)

  • blu3ny3llow

    Maybe I’m off topic( have a few CABs under my belt right now) but what always kinda pisses me off is that no one ever gives props to world wide Chargers fans I don’t live in SD but I am a hard core fan….not just when they get a new coach or have a chance at the play offs….BOLTZ IN BOLTZ OUT

  • MachoMenos

    I would love for one of the Bolt Beat writers to write about the major reason there is so much apathy in San Diego about our Chargers that never gets written about-The Darren Smith Show, the #1 rated sports show in San Diego. All this guy does is whine about how terrible our Chargers are. Everything, everything was doom and gloom this past year for the Bolts according to this guy The show’s producer even blocked me on Twitter when I pointed out in the UT that all of her tweets during Charger games in 2012 happened when we were losing. If the Chargers were ahead she would stop tweeting completely. You would have never known the Chargers actually went to the playoffs if you are one of the sheep who loyally listen to the guy this year. After the Charger win in CIN he used the untimely death of Jerry Coleman to not talk about our win whatsoever. The only reason I still listen to him is, for some reason, he seems to have a lock on all the great interview guests-Daniel Jeremiah, Herman Edwards, etc., etc. I once wrote to their programming director about the negativity and he just laughed at me in his response back, telling me that, like Rush Limbaugh, negativity sells. So, according to this guy Daren Smith is to the Chargers as Rush Limbaugh is to President Obama? Pathetic.

    • joerockt

      I’m with you dude, I can’t stand the guy, and I listen to Rome if that tells you anything.

  • Scott Lee Miller

    More gut ripping heartache than good memories but it will never change the fact that I grew up in Clairemont now live in Austin. Even through the most horrible years I still represented My San Diego Super Chargers to the very fullest!! It’s who I Am… How about when Junoir was drafted by us. DIEGO baby… A proud moment there!!!

  • 1961 Fan

    A lot of us have been there (at the games) since the beginning, however we are getting older and the aches and pains keep us away from attending the games. Even though I have more than my share of season seats it is a hard trip for me to go to a game. If I can relax in the comfort of my living room on sold out game days why would I go through the turmoil of the pat down to sit in the company of a bunch of beer swilling dumb asses? Joe lunch bucket can no longer afford to attend a game, and if he does he must sacrifice his next months gas allowance to pay for the over priced experience. When Marty Schottenheimer was coaching and the team was winning you did not have this problem. Dean Spanos has jacked up our ticket prices to such a level it makes it very difficult for the average Joe to attend.

    • Michael Norton

      It got hard for my Dad to go to the games. it didn’t make him any less of a fan. Just saying…

  • joerockt

    Respect comes from championships and a tradition of winning. Neither of which SD has seen in any top level professional sports. I think its really that simple.

    Take Pittsburgh for example. The Steelers have multiple SB wins and consistently have winning seasons (EIGHT losing seasons since 1972. Chargers? 19 since 1972). They have a huge fan base and consistently sell out games and have won multiple SB’s, past and present. Now look at the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not one winning season between 2012 and 1993 and they rank consistently in the bottom 10 in attendance and while they’ve won 5 WS’s, they weren’t very recent and having nearly 20 years of losing can put a dent in your fan base. Contrast that with the Padres who have never won a WS and have just as consistently poor attendance and you can see the pattern here. In fact, take most pro teams who have never won a championship and have consistent loosing seasons and the story is going to be the same.

    Bottom line is, the avg fan doesn’t want to drop several hundo just to go watch a team lose. And when you live in a place like SD with all the options an avg fan has, its a no brainer what that avg fan will choose.

    We’re consistently having winning seasons, at least for the past 10 years, so that’s a start, but we’ve got to win an SB to get that ultimate respect.

    • Michael Norton

      I respectfully disagree. I don’t think how a team performs has any bearing on whether or not a fan is a great fan or not. By your argument, any moron drooling on himself who lives in Pittsburgh is a great fan.

      • joerockt

        No, you missed my point. I’m not following your whole “Great Fan” definition. A team’s lineage has everything to do with the fan base. The better a team does over the years, the larger your fan base grows. How do you think teams like Green Bay and Dallas have such a vast amount of fans all over the country? Because they’ve had more losing seasons than winning and have never won a SB? We have “great” fans, just not nearly as many as those 2 teams. There is a fraction of San Diegans that are “diehard” (if that’s what you think a “great” fan is) fans and that’s it. When this team starts winning SB’s, many of those casual fans will turn into diehards and people who where never fans in the first place will now want a piece of the winning action. Its that simple.

        It also doesn’t help the cause to make pretentious comments like “That is, of course, if you consider yourself a true San Diego sports fan.” What exactly is that suppose to mean? You’re setting these completely arbitrary lines of what you think a fan should be. I know plenty of people who occasionally go to Padres and Charger games, love to talk about the teams, but couldn’t tell you who the 2nd string left guard is or who’s the assistant hitting coach. So would that fit your definition of some who isn’t a “true SD sports fan”? If so, that’s pretty pathetic.

        Also, who exactly is questioning your sports acumen anyway? You’re coming off as someone extremely self conscious of the fact you’re a SD sports fan.

        • Michael Norton

          I think that fans that pull for teams outside of their region are bandwagoners. There might even be a term like “diehard bandwagoner.” Nothing wrong with that. The exception being perhaps something like if your Dad was from somewhere and started you as a fan– those folks can be diehard fans. A diehard fan is one who practically lives or dies with their team. A true SD sports fan is a diehard fan. Fans are people who like sports, but may know little about them. They’re fans, just not diehard fans. It’s just simply the basis for stating an opinion. No judging, just definition. At least those are my definitions, pathetic or not. Feel free to agree or disagree. I am setting lines, arbitrary or not, so that I have something to write about. I write passionately because writing dully gets no readers. This is a sports blog dedicated to the Chargers, so I’m a bit confined as to write about. I think that throwing out phrases like “pretentious,” “pathetic” and “self conscious,” makes it seem like you may be just a tad self conscious too. Welcome to the club, buddy!

          As to my “pretentious” comment– “That is, of course, if you consider yourself a true San Diego sports fan”… It got you to write a response, didn’t it? That’s all I was trying to do– get people fired up and, hopefully, respond.

  • Edward Sherman

    wow loving the passion i to am a long time long suffering bolt fan will never change go bolts FOREVER.

  • Lance E. Mroz Jr.

    Any fan