Welcome to Los Angeles, Chargers!
By Joel Garcia
The Chargers did not need the additional two days the NFL provided for a decision. The saga has ended: The Chargers are moving north to Los Angeles and San Diego is left in the cold.
Disclaimer: I live in Los Angeles. Therefore, the news that the Chargers will be soon playing in my backyard was not the dreaded event many San Diego fans feared, but more like finding $20 in my pocket.
Los Angeles is in the unique position of having lost two major NFL teams (the Raiders to Oakland and the Rams to St. Louis) and now suddenly being home again to two teams (the Rams and Chargers). So although we are the current NFL musical chair/stadium winners, we were the jilted brides in 1995. As such, I think many of us Angelinos understand what Sand Diego is going through. Here is my take on the Chargers moving to my city:
Double the Loss
Back in 1995, I used to live in New York. I’m a born and raised Angelino, so I proudly walked around the Big Apple with my Los Angeles Raiders hat. I enjoyed watching the then (and now again) Los Angeles Rams, but as a kid, I lived near downtown and so attended Raider games with the family.
When a friend of mine told me that the Rams had moved to St. Louis, I shrugged a bit but did feel their loss. But who cares, I told myself. L.A. still has the Dodgers, Lakers, Kings and most importantly, my beloved Raiders.
Fast forward a bit and I was walking around New York with a Los Angeles Kings hat. The Raider hat that in a minuscule way connected me to home now lived in the nearest trash can I could find after hearing that the Raiders had also jumped ship, returning to Oakland and leaving Los Angeles without an NFL team (Tip: Don’t throw away your gear! More on that below).
Therefore, I am sympathetic to the San Diego fans who are feeling the loss of a major sports franchise. In a strange way, teams help to define our cities. One cannot think of the Cowboys and their connection to Dallas, the Lakers to Los Angeles or the Yankees to New York.
Likewise, one cannot think of the Chargers without thinking of San Diego… at least not yet.
Feb 16, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of San Diego Chargers navy blue helmet (1988-2006) and NFL Wilson Duke football at Santa Monica State Beach. NFL owners voted 30-2 to allow Rams owner Stan Kroenke (not pictured) to move the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. Chargers owner Dean Spanos (not pictured) has an option join the Rams in Los Angeles. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Money is King in the NFL
It is a shame that San Diego is losing the Chargers. But the answer to why is that this is simply a chase for the green. That is why the Chargers are moving here. It’s not a race for hearts or minds, it’s a race for money. Everything else, sometimes even winning, is secondary.
The NFL plays this game better than anyone. Sure, other league’s also have teams move, but none have seen the city swapping we are experiencing at the moment. All of it is in pursuit of more money.
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
NFL Returns to L.A.
The Rams were first in the race back to Los Angeles. The team was warmly welcomed back, as local Rams fans and NFL starved newbies filled the Coliseum for the first NFL game back in over 20 years. The Rams delivered a few wins and then went on to stink up the joint, causing attendance to drop and L.A. T.V. ratings to dip below St. Louis for the same games.
When the Raiders left in 1995, I remember a player stating that people in L.A. would rather go eat sushi on Melrose than watch an NFL game. That partially correct sentiment probably helped to keep the the NFL out of L.A. for so long, but to be fair, the product the Raiders and Rams were putting on the field at that time were not great, and the stadiums that housed the teams were outdated and becoming inadequate. However, that statement held some truth: L.A. does root for a winner.
Fickle L.A. Fans
With that said, it is true that L.A. fans can be fickle. Much has been written about fans arriving late, leaving games early to beat traffic and low attendance for losing teams, but teams can and do thrive here. If you’re an owner of a sport team, does it matter when fans leave, when they arrive and even if they arrive if the seat is sold?
For that reason, even losing teams win in L.A.. After all, the Clippers, who may beat the Chargers in their race for championship apathy, sold recently for a cool $2 billion.
Some may scoff at the Chargers playing their home games for two seasons in a soccer venue that currently only seats 27,000 fans. I think it’s smart. The team is looking to expand capacity to 40,000, but this will still provide L.A. fans with an intimate introduction to the Chargers and the NFL. Also, I’ve been to the venue for games and events and there are no bad seats.
Still, that doesn’t explain Los Angeles’ love for the Dodgers, a team that has not won the World Series since 1988, or the patience locals give teams like the Lakers and Kings when they rebuild.
Angelinos love teams that embrace L.A.. To the contrary, during their last years here, Al Davis and Georgia Frontiere bickered with local politicians and kept threatening to leave. Fans noticed, and so when the teams did good on their threats, most locals just shrugged their shoulders. Strangely, both teams were in a race to come back.
For teams to truly be embraced, not just succeed financially, they have to want to be in Los Angeles and they have to want to win. Fans will tolerate bad seasons (looking at you Lakers) as long as there is progress being shown and the goal of winning a championship is at the forefront.
Mar 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers helmets and the Olympic torch at the peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum will serve as the temporary home of the Rams after NFL owners voted 30-2 to allow Rams owner Stan Kroenke (not pictured) to relocate the franchise for the 2016 season. Chargers owner Dean Spanos (not pictured) has an option to join the Rams in Los Angeles. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Chargers will be fine in Los Angeles
But now the NFL is back in L.A. and, as our President Elect has a fondness of saying, back in a big league way. The Chargers join the Rams and will begin home games here at StubHub Center for the 2017 season.
Chargers have adjusted their social-media logo for third time in two days. Now reads: "Los Angeles Chargers." pic.twitter.com/mpaLcoxWVb
— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) January 13, 2017
There are those L.A. snobs who claim not to want a second NFL team. To them I say… really? You don’t want a second team in L.A. because the drawbacks are… what exactly? Did you poll all 20 million-plus people in the greater L.A. area and determine that they would rather have less?
There are no drawbacks to having two NFL teams in Los Angeles for Los Angeles. Personally, the more chances at a professional championship the better. I get it, right now the Rams and Chargers aren’t setting win records, but that has to change… right?
Need more proof that the Chargers will be fine in L.A.? FIveThirtyEight shows that L.A. fans already preferred the Chargers to the Rams. Even after the Rams returned, people still searched for Chargers’ news over the Rams.
So yeah, the Chargers will be fine in Los Angeles, at least financially. But perceived success is tied to winning, and winning has a way of fixing things. This is where the Chargers have an opportunity that the Rams blew.
Wearing out your welcome
The Chargers can learn a thing or two from the Rams’ move to L.A. and their first season here. The lessons aren’t all good.
The Rams essentially wasted their debut year by not playing their No. 1 pick, bickering with a Ram legend publicly, engaging in a game of spy vs. spy and leaking information to reporters and by firing their head coach shortly after an extension was announced.
Despite all of this, the Rams will be fine in L.A.. They will be entering the 2017 season with a new coach, the ability to sell personal seat licenses now that the Chargers have made their move official and naming rights to their new stadium, which is due to open in 2019.
So while the Rams’ financial standing may be fine, they did waste goodwill and bled fans towards the end of the season with their terrible non-competitive last few games. Surely the 2017 campaign will begin with sellouts, but the team must improve in order to keep fan interest up.
The same thing can be said for the Chargers if they don’t win right away. Again, winning has a way of fixing things and making problems go away.
Nov 27, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) walks the sidelines while the Chargers play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. San Diego Chargers won 21 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego, Sincere Condolences
So to San Diego fans, condolences. I know what losing a franchise feels like twice over. Still, if I can provide a bit of advice, hold on to those hats and jerseys. I do regret throwing my Raider hat away if only for the fact that it did say Los Angeles on it and was a reminder of fun Sunday afternoons.
Secondly, the Chargers are only playing home games a few hours north. I know this doesn’t help with the move just being announced, but being able to drive to a home game and back has to appeal to die-hard fans. By comparison, the New York Giants don’t play in New York City or even New York State.
Lastly, the Bolts will be featured on local NFL T.V. coverage. The question is, will San Diego tune in to cheer on the Bolts or root against them?
As an Angelino, I welcome the Chargers and so do many others. I look forward to following the team as they fight for relevancy in Los Angeles, and hopefully that transfers into some wins!
Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Steve Johnson (11) and quarterback Philip Rivers (17) and tackle Joe Barksdale (72) and wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) await in the tunnel during player introductions before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports