Greason: Chargers need San Diego fans
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, January 27, 2017
If I were from San Diego, Dean Spanos would be at the top of my Most Wanted list. He left many San Diego football fans — and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — brokenhearted after announcing earlier this month their beloved Chargers would be exercising their option to relocate to Los Angeles.
The problem with the relocation is not the fact that the team is moving. Professional sports teams have long histories of moving from place to place, seeking fans, money or a fresh start and doing so successfully. The problem revolves around the fact that the Chargers are not chasing after any of those things.
After 56 years in San Diego, the Chargers have built a loyal fan base. Although that was not always reflected in home game attendance, it existed and was the lifeblood of the organization during its tenure in San Diego. But the vast majority of those loyal fans will not be following the Chargers to Los Angeles. The relocation is a stab in the back for most fans, who gathered outside the Chargers’ headquarters to dispose of their soon-to-be obsolete gear the day the relocation was officially announced.
And the Chargers certainly won’t be welcomed to Los Angeles with open arms. The NFL void that existed there was filled when the formerly St. Louis Rams came to town last season. The Rams were based in Los Angeles for 48 years before moving to St. Louis in 1994. Their return was a happy homecoming for many in the city; the Chargers, on the other hand, were never truly a Los Angeles team. They were located there for a single season. You’re more likely to run into a Raiders fan in Los Angeles than a Chargers fan. The city’s sports fans will not be jumping onto the Chargers’ bandwagon, even though San Diego fans have already abandoned ship.
Money won’t be easy to come by in the City of Angels for the Chargers, either. Without fans, it will be tough to fill a stadium, despite the fact that they will be getting their start at the StubHub Center, which has a capacity of under 30,000, while their shiny, new stadium — which will be shared with the Rams — is being built.
The Chargers organization wanted a new stadium, and it didn’t matter to them whether that stadium was built in San Diego or elsewhere. The NFL offered the organization $300 million to help finance a new stadium in San Diego, but Spanos decided the Chargers still would not be able to swing the cost and instead elected to pay the $550 million relocation fee to move to Los Angeles.
The Chargers will be looking for a strong, fresh start when they take the field in Los Angeles, as evidenced by the firing of head coach Mike McCoy after the season ended — who went out with a 28-38 record — and hiring of Anthony Lynn to his first head coaching job. But, no matter how much Lynn is able to transform the team in coming years, chances are the move will still be a bust. If a team does not have fans and cannot fill a stadium, it will not be successful in the long run, no matter how many games it wins.
Moving to a city that doesn’t want you, leaving behind fans who don’t want you to go and actively working against the mission of the NFL is never the way to go.
But it’s exactly where Dean Spanos has taken the Chargers. And it is a mistake.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.