Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Why I can't support the L.A. Chargers

Stan  Humphries, still the only Chargers QB to play in a Super Bowl

The rumors persisted all of last football season that the San Diego Chargers were getting ready to join the Rams in the Los Angeles market but I guess I still held out hope and was skeptical of the reports even though the Chargers had registered an L.A. based web domain and had been the only team on the TV landscape in Southern Cal, even prior to my moving to Texas three years ago.

From a journalism and specifically sports writing and sports coverage perspective, the Chargers moving to L.A. was an interesting story and presented the dilemma of how the San Diego fans would react to the announcement that their team was abandoning them this season. Also, would the media outlets in the San Diego market continue to cover the team?

So after it finally happened and team owner Dean Spanos took the cowardly way out and announced the team's move via the web, fans were upset and understandably bitter about the decision. A number of them gathered outside the team's practice facility in San Diego to burn their jerseys and gear and to say "good riddance" to a team and an owner who had turned their back on them after 55 years.

I have been a football fan all my life and I remember as a 10 year old choosing the San Diego team as my favorite even though I lived in the L.A. area and this caused conflicts. Nobody liked the Chargers in LA. while I was growing up, most were fans of our bitter rivals the Oakland-then L.A. Raiders then back to Oakland in the 90s. Others favored the Rams until they decided to move to St. Louis in 1995.

As long as I can remember I looked forward with great anticipation to another NFL season and especially to watching my favorite team. There were many frustrations over the years watching the Chargers because they were rarely contenders and often times they seemed cursed. There was a contest in the early 80s where they lined up to kick a game winning field goal in the waning moments of a game against the Denver Broncos, only to have the kick blocked and ran back for a winning score. There was also a Monday night game against Chicago when a player seemed on his way to a sure touchdown, only to fumble the ball away before crossing the goal line. Such misfortunes seemed par for the course if you were a Chargers fan.

There were some good moments though. I remember vividly listening to a San Diego radio station, Extra Sports 690 in 1992 in disbelief as the Chargers won the AFC West after posting an 11-5 record. They had started the season 0-4 and turned it around to make the post season. Two years later they had an even  better season guided by coach Bobby Ross and quarterback Stan (the man) Humphries, still the only quarterback to have led the team to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately the 49ers were better than SD that season and they trounced my beloved team in the big game. What I remember most about that championship year was the game against Pittsburgh which the chargers won to get into the Super Bowl. I remember watching and screaming in joy at the TV as running back Natrone Means ripped through the Steelers' run defense like a runaway train on several long runs.

The Steelers had proclaimed and boasted that the Chargers would not score that day but sweet revenge, the Bolts posted 17 points on their way to the Super Bowl.

Finally, there was L.T. the magic back, the guy who shattered the NFL single season TD record in 2006 with 28 scores. That's a record that still stands today and L.T. was a complete back. He could run, he could even pass for touchdowns! Unfortunately, following a season with a 14-2 record in 2006, the team fell in the playoffs to New England and would do so again two years later with an injured L.T. watching the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl instead. It felt like someone punched you in the gut to experience that bitter loss.

Fast forward to 2017 and the punch in the gut was even worse. I had been a SD Chargers fan for 28 of my adult years prior to this season! I was sitting at a pizza joint watching last Monday night's opening Monday Night Football game between the Chargers and the Broncos and I experienced a flurry of emotions. I felt angry that my former favorite team was now referred to by the play by play guys in ESPN as "L.A." and I cursed Dean Spanos for taking the joy of another season opener away from the San Diego fans. But the sports media in San Diego has not completely abandoned the team and neither have some fans. According to a poll conducted by the SD Union Tribune, most fans still consider the Chargers their favorite team in SD.  The media has also not abandoned the team.

I may yet rejoin the Charger fandom, at the moment I don't like the L.A. Chargers brand, but I won't "hate watch" or root against them to perform badly in L.A. Mostly I will go through this season like the last, mostly in blissful ignorance of the team's performance.
Management has always made terrible moves and always sell away the best players, this time they ripped the heart out of a loyal fan base the greedy bastards. The Chargers still have a  hall of fame caliber quarterback in Phillip Rivers. However, they don't feel like my team anymore and all the fake fans who could not have cared less about the team have jumped on the bandwagon egged on by the L.A. sports hacks who are forced to cover the team along with the hapless Rams.

Most can't even remember Lionel "Train" James, Natrone Means, Air Coryell or all the other great players who have donned the powder blues or the lighting bolts on their helmet. That's a real shame.