Lightning Bolts, Sports Fandom and Airplanes: An Origin Story

Nov 22, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; A detailed view of the decal at midfield painted with the number 21 in honor of San Diego Chargers former runningback LaDanian Tomlinson during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; A detailed view of the decal at midfield painted with the number 21 in honor of San Diego Chargers former runningback LaDanian Tomlinson during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The U-S-of-A is a captivating place.

Democracy? Got it. Good food? Ever try a bacon cheeseburger? Quality music? Eh. Nowadays, most catchy tunes come as foreign imports.

But boy, do we love our sports. And when I say love, I mean worship every single aspect of these games, to the point where millions of us flip daily from watching a SportsCenter report on Tom Brady’s balls being deflated to Boston boys Bill Simmons and Ben Affleck engaging in a swear-filled rant against the world’s Patriots haters.

I almost forgot to introduce myself. My name is Nathan Graber-Lipperman, and I am a 17-year-old who has yet to dip his toes in the professional blogging universe–until now. I am a huge Chargers fan, a fan who fanatically gathers as much information about the team as possible. And yet, even I get tired of the online material provided during the most boring period of the annual sports calendar, where we all awkwardly wait for real football news to come back. So, for my first article, I decided to tell my 2,920.7-mile story of how I became a Chargers fan.

Born in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, I moved at an early age to The Land of Irrelevance, otherwise known as Connecticut. When my dad got a temporary job with a company near Los Angeles, I was a little kid with no real love for sports. Once I started tossing the pigskin around (a bright orange Nerf “football”, to be exact) I figured I should take up an interest in the real thing. My parents promptly took my older brother and I to the local Sports Authority to try on some gear, two kids ecstatic to get their first football jerseys.

More from Bolt Beat

Nonetheless, I was lost, staring at large men’s football jerseys as my brother picked out the light blue #21 jersey. Ladanian Tomlinson–I had heard that name at school. However, everyone who has ever had an older brother knows the unspoken rule of No-You-Can’t-Get-It-I-Already-Got-It!

I still sat pondering, a strangely meticulous man at seven years of age, when my brother came up to me with a navy blue jersey, Reebok logo popping in white. RIVERS. “Who’s that?” I asked him.

“He’s the quarterback,” my brother replied. “He entered the league not too long ago, and some think he’s already one of the best in the game,”.

The year was 2006, quite the fortunate time to become a Bolts fan.

My infatuation with Philip Rivers and the Chargers has not waned, even after I crossed the country and settled back in West Hartford ten years ago. As the numbers on my youth extra-large peeled away like Johnny Manziel when he hears police sirens, I learned more about the sport and Rivers himself.  A devout Christian from Decatur, Alabama could not be more different from a skinny, Jewish kid from Connecticut (by way of Florida); and yet, the first time I watched Phil in fiery, in-game mode, there was not a single other player I would ever root for more. There was not a single other team I would root for more.

And that’s the great thing about sports. Sports unite people from all backgrounds, whether it be socioeconomic, racial, religious, or all of the above. Sports create endless conversations of generational nostalgia; sports leave us creating blogs such as this one, pondering and debating in the annals of the comment section.

Speaking of nostalgia, the miracle run of 2013, where our Bolts ended on a five-game win streak to advance to the playoffs, serves as the pinnacle of my Chargers fandom (I know, I’m young). I had grown out of my jersey about two years prior, and I had been eyeing a Nike #17 for a while. I told myself that I would buy it if the Chargers made the playoffs that year, because, let’s be honest, $100 is $100–these things ain’t cheap. Luckily, the Bolts granted my wish, and the baby-blue beauty became mine.

Jan 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

I have not missed a single game since buying that jersey. I wear it before the game, I wear it after the game. I wear it during the game, in some form or another; many a time the last two years, my poor jersey ended up on the ground in disgust. I even wore my powder blue Rivers jersey for every single one of my Calculus tests last year as a good-luck charm, a superstition difficult to continue through April when my favorite team picked third overall.

This December 11, if you watch closely enough, you’ll see that Nike #17, a 6’3″ twig cheering on the Bolts amid a swarm of teal. My first NFL game ever will be Chargers at Panthers in Week 15, a time in which I hope the Chargers are still competing. Either way, I’m incredibly pumped and grateful to be able to go to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As an outsider, looking in from across our grand country…it’s been a long time coming.

I’ve been counting down the days until football season starts, and believe me, it’s quite monotonous and boring. Start a conversation with me about the Chargers, pro football, or life in general by tweeting to me @hakaloogie99 or by commenting below! I’m super pumped to be writing for Bolt Beat; let’s try and create the best Chargers community out there!