Losing is nothing new to the San Diego Chargers and their fans. In their 55-year history in San Diego, the Chargers have won their division a mere 10 times, appeared in the playoffs 13 times, won their conference only once and have never won a Super Bowl, falling to the San Francisco 49ers during their sole appearance in 1994.
Dec 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
This season, like most before it, the Chargers began with promise and hope. There was excitement and expectations were building, as the Chargers still had Philip Rivers at the helm. He is still one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks and he has Antonio Gates, one of the premier tight ends, as his primary target.
The prospect of Melvin Gordon at running back and the high draft report Charger rookies such as Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry received before the season started left fans feeling that this year’s team could overcome the awful 2015 campaign. The Chargers managed only four wins that year.
Nov 6, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fans hold up signs in reference to defensive end Joey Bosa (99) during the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Much like a looming losing season, the threat of the Chargers bolting to L.A. (yah, I know) was becoming more of a reality. There were still a few scenarios being floated around that would keep the team put in San Diego, and fans clung to those with a hopeful attitude.
When the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers had their joint Carson stadium plans beat out by the now Los Angeles Ram’s Inglewood deal, San Diego fans cheered a little. However, the consolation price option extended to the Chargers to join the Rams set things in motion.
Still, there was a semblance of hope.
Apr 23, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers fan Dan Jauregui aka Boltman poses with Charger fans during rally to gather signatures for citizen
The NFL pledged $100 million towards a new stadium if the team could work out a deal with San Diego. The team worked with local leaders to put Measure C, a plan to finance a new stadium downtown using public funds, before voters. Even players got involved, as Rivers and former Charger great LaDainian Tomlinson helped with lobbying efforts for the measure, along with team ownership, local politicians and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The proposal ended much like the final game and the whole season did for the Chargers: A solid and symbolic loss.
Voters rejected Measure C and the team ownership went on to agree to move in with the Rams in Inglewood, sharing the Colosseum with them and USC until the stadium opens in 2019. To solidify the decision to join the Rams, the Chargers leased office space in Costa Mesa and now own the following trademark: Los Angeles Chargers.
Charger Love: A California original
Still, despite losing season after losing season, fans love their San Diego Chargers. Granted, fan attendance may lack at times, but the Chargers could have addressed this with the product they put on the field and wins.
However, even when the team wasn’t winning (much like the lovable loser Chicago Cubs of old), there was a charm to the San Diego Chargers. Something about losing close games (which the Chargers should trademark), playing winter games in sunshine in front of fans in t-shirts and shorts, those powder blue uniforms and the beach imagery legends like Junior Seau brought with them made the team quirky and lovable.
Sep 1997; San Diego, CA, USA: FILE PHOTO; San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau (55) at Jack Murphy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Brouillet-US PRESSWIRE
Also, the Chargers are the original born-and-bred Southern California team, as they have played here for all their existence. The Chargers have only played home games in Southern California. They first played in Los Angeles for a single season and in San Diego since. So while some teams like the NHL’s L.A. Kings can also say that, the Chargers were and are still Southern California’s first home-born team – that has to count for something.
That is why the end of this season feels like the end of something much bigger in San Diego. It is becoming increasingly obvious that this feeling will soon be magnified, as the Chargers could make the move to Los Angeles official in the coming days. The team has until Jan. 15 to make the decision public.
If the Chargers leave, will fans follow?
No one likes losing games. No one likes losing seasons. Even worse, no one likes losing teams (we Angelinos lost the Rams and Raiders in the same year). If the expected comes to fruition later this week, will the Chargers’ decision to move to L.A. lose them fans?
The only upside to the Chargers moving (not counting the team’s worth increasing) is that San Diego fans can make the trek a few hours north on Interstate 5 and catch a live Bolts game. Angelinos had that option when we were the jilted brides in 1995.
Additionally, with the team still being in Southern California, the Chargers will have prime billing on local T.V. games. Will fans tune in to cheer on the Chargers or to watch them lose? It is worth noting that more fans tuned in to watch the Rams this season in St. Louis than did in Los Angeles.
That leads us to whether L.A. can sustain two NFL franchises. Perhaps we should rephrase: Will L.A. support two losing franchises? After all, the Rams and Chargers only managed nine wins between them in divisions where those wins would not have resulted in a playoff spot.
And probably more disconcerting for San Diego fans, will there even be a Chargers team to root for in 2017? Or will ownership decide to rebrand and leave 55 years of San Diego history down to a footnote?
Losses add up. The ones inflicted on San Diego this season feel heavier than most.
If the Chargers do indeed move to L.A., will you cheer for them?
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