Since the Chargers announced their move to Los Angeles more than 15 months ago, I’ve heard one suggestion from fans in other parts of the country above all others: “get over it.” Most don’t mean it in a rude way, they’re making a suggestion they believe would be best for my mental health. Today I’m here to tell you that after more than a year I can safely say that no, I will never “get over” what the Spanos family did to my city.
I used to love the NFL Draft. The build-up, the anticipation, the hoopla. I’d devour every mock draft with glee, imagining which player my team would take, and how he would impact the future. I loved it, absolutely loved it. Now that’s gone. I still study the draft for work and enjoy the event to a degree, but that gleeful, Christmas morning-like anticipation is gone. Dean Spanos and his sons took that from me.
And stay out
As the Chargers now attempt to crawl back and regain fans in the city they blew off a year ago without so much as a goodbye, I can’t help but laugh. The Spanos family moved its team to Los Angeles expecting to be welcomed by a massive throng of adoring fans. It’s obvious they fully believed that would happen based on the way they treated San Diego on their way out the door.
Reality hit them with a massive thud last fall, as they struggled to fill a diminutive soccer stadium with their own fans. LA doesn’t want the Chargers and never did. And the San Diego fans they stabbed in the back didn’t remain loyal. Funny how that works, huh?
Now the Spanos family is trying to worm its way back in to San Diego’s good graces. That ain’t gonna happen.
Despite a certain local radio personality/former Charger making it his personal mission to rehab the franchise in the eyes of the city, no one is buying it. This town wants nothing to do with the Spanos family and never will.
This will never be forgiven
Nationally, people don’t seem to get what happened here. They don’t understand the massive, gaping wound that was left on my city. The Chargers were a huge part of this town. They were something we loved and supported through thick and thin for decades. Now that’s gone forever. We lost a part of ourselves and our identity when Spanos ripped the team from us.
Some have suggested “well, they’re just up in LA, you can still support them,” which is utterly ridiculous. First off, San Diego is not a suburb of Los Angeles. That’s a six-hour round trip drive on a Sunday because of traffic. But more importantly, how would Eagles fans feel if their team relocated to the Bronx? Or what if the Giants moved to Boston? That’s still within driving distance, how would you feel? How many Browns fans stayed loyal after Art Modell bolted for Baltimore? The situation here is no different.
People suggesting San Diego fans should somehow forget this betrayal is the equivalent of your wife leaving you for your neighbor and everyone suggesting you should forgive her and remain just as close as you were. We’re angry, we’re hurt and we’re bitter. And we should be.
After embarrassingly buttering up a few media members in Los Angeles, John Spanos and A.G. Spanos have offered interviews to a few perceived “friendly” San Diego outlets. During one, they gushed about how wonderful things are in Los Angeles. They acted like the franchise was somehow not a national laughingstock and — while the feckless hosts played along — they tried to rewrite the story of their exit from San Diego.
The Brothers Fredo claim they did everything they could to stay in San Diego and still love and care about the place that subsidized their family’s business for decades. They want to reach out to former fans and bring them in on the big (largely unattended) party they’re having up north because they love those fans and want them to feel welcome. All of that is complete and utter garbage.
To believe the Spanos family wanted to stay in San Diego is to ignore a mountain of evidence to the contrary. After agreeing to a deal as a tenant in Stan Kroenke’s LA stadium, the Chargers played one more season in San Diego under the guise of attempting to work things out with the city. Anyone who lived here can tell you it was a joke.
Dean Spanos and his cronies refused to negotiate with the city, made ridiculous demands, refused to put a significant amount of money into a viable stadium project and barely campaigned for the awful ballot initiative they threw together. Oh, and they demanded a stadium downtown, where no one other than Spanos wanted it. Every reasonable human in San Diego knew that would never work and wanted a new facility in the Mission Valley area.
Even if you deny all of the above facts, there’s one point that is absolutely indisputable. The Spanos family went behind San Diego’s back and worked with Mark Davis and the Raiders on a joint stadium venture in Carson, California. Once they did that, the family’s relationship with San Diego was done. Spanos and his lackeys put everything into that pitch and then presented it to the NFL’s other owners.
Had the deal been approved, the Chargers would have been gone. There would have been no extra season in San Diego, no fraudulent attempt at getting a new stadium and no waiting around to see what happened. They were out if the Carson deal went through. But, as with all things Spanos, it was an utter failure that the league rejected by a vote of 30-2. The NFL then approved Kroenke’s plan instead. As a “thanks for playing” gift, Dean Spanos got the right to be Kroenke’s tenant and took it.
The Spanos family was checked out of San Diego from the day they announced the Carson project. There was absolutely no going back. Any of this garbage of caring about San Diego or its fans, or loving the city is a heaping pile of horse manure. Spanos and his kids don’t care about San Diego’s citizens, they only care about the money those disaffected fans could put in their pockets.
If Dean, John and A.G. actually “loved” San Diego, they would have fought for it. They would have rejected a move up Interstate 5 and stayed here, gotten their hands dirty and fought for a new facility. They would have put more money in to a stadium project, they would have scratched, clawed, sacrificed and battled until a solution was reached. That’s what you do for something you love and truly care about.
Anyone who loves something is willing to fight for it, and anyone who doesn’t fight is a coward. And that’s what Dean and his sons are, a trio of lying cowards who didn’t get their way and scurried out of town at the first available opportunity.
The fans were here all along
I often hear people claim that San Diego fans didn’t fill Qualcomm Stadium when the Chargers were here and I’m here to tell you that’s ridiculous spin. Yeah, we weren’t going to shell out money to watch the awful product the ownership group gave us, especially once they pursued the Carson deal and everyone knew they were leaving. When the team was even half-decent, those stands were packed every single week. I know because I was there and saw it first hand. There are only a few NFL fan bases that will pack the stands for bad teams, and none of them are in California.
After the Carson plan was announced, everything changed. We weren’t going to give our money to an owner we all knew was trying to leave. Still, people showed up. Even in the Chargers’ final season when everyone knew the score, the franchise sold around 50,000 season ticket packages.
Spanos was a billionaire who cried poverty when it came to building his own stadium. You’ll forgive us working stiffs for scoffing at his pleas for more money. He was only willing to fork over $300 million of his own money to build a stadium, yet he agreed to pay $650 million just for the right to move to Los Angeles. I don’t want to go all George W. Bush on you, but that’s some fuzzy math.
Here’s an idea for the NFL: In the future, if an owner can’t afford to build his own damn stadium, then he shouldn’t be allowed to buy a team.
San Diego had passionate fans who supported the team for decades. What it didn’t have was a competent, dedicated owner who wanted to stay here. It’s that simple.
This won’t change any time soon
As I’ve written about this situation over the past year, people have often asked me if I hate the Spanos family. The answer is no. I don’t hate them. In fact, a part of me feels bad for them.
They are people who abandoned everyone who loved their franchise in search of a quick buck. People whose lives are ruled by money never find lasting happiness. I find that sad. They needed San Diego more than San Diego needed them, and that’s evidenced by their weak attempt at some kind of re-connection.
I don’t hate the Chargers either, I’m indifferent towards them. I feel bad for the players because they don’t have actual fans anymore, but that’s about it. I root against the team every week because it’s enjoyable. Go into any bar in San Diego and you’ll see the same thing. The crowd absolutely erupts every time a Chargers opponent scores. Everyone copes with loss differently, that’s just how we’ve chosen to do it.
On Thursday night, fan bases across the NFL will get fired up for the 2018 NFL Draft. There will be excitement, joy, relief and maybe even some tears. It will be a wonderful night for a heck of a lot of people.
In San Diego we’ll be staring at a painful old wound, waiting for it to heal. Don’t expect that to happen any time soon.