I was born in Los Angeles. I’ve been a Los Angeles sports fan all my life. As a kid of the nineties, that left me in quite a pickle. The Rams had just left. The Raiders were gone. And I was in imminent danger of growing up a child without a team. So, I did the only logical thing I could think of: I followed #55 down south and cheered for the Bolts as hard as I possibly could. The two-hour drive down south became one of my favorite pastimes — and Qualcomm a second (albeit dilapidated) home. On some level, I’ve yearned for the day that the Chargers announced their relocation to the city of Angels — it’s seemed like a foregone conclusion for some time now, if you read the tea leaves with a lucid eye. Now, though, with Spanos’ decision looming, I can’t help but let a singular thought permeate my mind:
Leave my Bolts alone.
Dec 20, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fans hold sign relating to the potential move to Los Angeles after the season after the game against the Miami Dolphins at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers beat the Dolphins 30-14. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego deserves better. We were supposed to win Super Bowls. We were supposed to defy odds. We were supposed to become that little brother team from that little brother city that took the league by storm and made it impossible for them to take our home away.
In some alternate reality, I like to think that things turned out that way. That a 14-2 season didn’t spell the end of Schottenheimer. And that a nagging injury didn’t keep Tomlinson out of that AFC Title Game. That would’ve changed things, right? If we had won a Super Bowl? That would have changed the owners’ minds about this relocation nonsense, right? That would have made them show us some respect – enough, at least, to make it impossible for them to haphazardly throw us into a no-win, lame duck, consolation prize conundrum… Right?
By presenting the Chargers with the “option to join” the Rams in Los Angeles this coming season, the owners have shown the ultimate sign of disrespect to what is secretly one of the most passionate fanbases in the sport.
Sure, move to LA if you want. But first, would you mind scorning the people of San Diego just one more time?
With one team slated to play in Los Angeles, and another (Raiders) waiting in the wings, turning down the opportunity to join the Rams in Los Angeles may not really be an option.
Los Angeles, as you’ve probably read on too many blog posts by now, represents a tremendous chunk of the San Diego Chargers’ market. And, though the team may be able to survive financially with one team consuming their TV exposure up North, having two teams in Los Angeles (which could be the case should Spanos choose to stay in San Diego) could be disastrous.
Consider this: If the Raiders slide in as the second Los Angeles team, they would become the number three team in a two-hundred mile radius, and would likely lose all television exposure north of San Diego County. That said, even if the Chargers’ stadium issues are miraculously solved, what is the appeal of remaining a regional afterthought when markets like St. Louis, Oakland, and possibly even London remain untouched?
Could a “folk hero-esque” decision to “Save Our Bolts” actually backfire and take our beloved Chargers even further away from San Diego?
Dec 24, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers president Dean Spanos reacts during an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
This is all about money. It always has been. Even if we (myself included) like to tell ourselves otherwise on Sunday afternoons. It’s not just about the game — the between-the-tackles storylines — the pageantry in the stands. It’s about how the combination of such elements effects the bottom line. It takes money to build a winning team in this league — it takes marketing potential, and television exposure — both of which are largely dependent on the earning potential of a team and it’s market. And though it’s fun to live in a revisionist world in which the Chargers either flourished in San Diego or became the sole proprietor of the rights to the LA market, that simply isn’t our reality.
Los Angeles is calling. And before you fire up your torches, ask yourself: is the devil we know (Los Angeles) better than the devil we don’t?
For years, I’ve made the drive down to San Diego. I’ve sat in wall-to-wall traffic listening to pre-game shows while occasionally exchanging rally cries with fellow Angelenos making the pilgrimage down South. And though I like to think that, even with one (or two) teams monopolizing Los Angeles, I’d still see those same people on the road, the harsh reality is that the convenience of a team in Inglewood makes that trek down to Friars Road horrendously unappealing.
And, though I would still make the drive — hold onto hope –pray for things to turn out alright — tell myself, while sitting in wall-to-wall traffic on the 405 freeway, that my martyr-esque fandom would ultimately be rewarded, the reality is: it wouldn’t. And what’s worse, the team could ultimately be thrust from the region entirely, stealing from me a two-hour drive that has become one of the most beloved parts of my life.
So, if the team does move to Los Angeles, try to restrain yourself. I know you’ll want to curse the Spanos name – shout expletives into the ethers. And that would be your right. But, when you truly love something as deeply as I love my Bolts, you have to be able to let it go. Even when the tectonic plates have shifted and shaken that thing so hard that you can barely even recognize it anymore. You have to understand that not all change is bad. It may take some time. That’s okay. Take your time. Reminisce about Sunday afternoons at Qualcomm stadium. About cheering for Rivers or Flutie or Fouts or whoever your gridiron hero might be. Those memories will always be yours. Nobody can take them away from you. Not even Los Angeles.
San Diego, I’ve loved you. I’ve loved your fans. I’ve loved calling you my second home. And if this truly is the end for us, I hope we meet again in Los Angeles. And just as you’ve done for me every time I’ve made that 2 hour pilgrimage down south, I’ll be waiting for you with open arms (and a tailgate beer) when you make your trip up north.