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.)