by Tommy Hough
After nearly 13 years of evasive answers, northward glances and downright lies being heaped upon the media and legions of San Diego Chargers fans by team ownership, even the San Diego Union-Tribune – until recently a sycophant lapdog for the Chargers' desire for a new stadium at any cost, no matter the burden to taxpayers or the environment – faced facts and concluded Sunday's game was indeed going to be the final San Diego Chargers home game for what may be a very long time:
Sunday, Chargers fans will fill Qualcomm Stadium for the last home game of the season – and potentially of the home team itself. Players plan to bring wives and kids onto the field afterward. Fans may stay a while, too. If it’s goodbye, it’d be good for them to know their owner is leaving for logical reasons instead of lies.
Frankly, the logical reasons are nearly as distasteful as the lies, but the crack in the facade wasn't based upon anything relating to responsible public policy. The U.T.'s change in tone was because of an unprovoked and unwarranted quote from Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who sits on the Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, also known as the Roger Goodell-organized cabal of NFL owners who are trying to land a franchise for L.A.
In a Thursday article in the Houston Chronicle, McNair dismissively discussed his reasons for cancelling a meeting with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The mayor knows the Chargers are a lost cause at this point, but is making an 11th hour push to save the Bolts that, despite some honest effort, appears to be more for show and Faulconer's legacy than any real chance of success.
In the Chronicle article, McNair said:
"In San Diego, they've been trying for about 15 years. They've had all kinds of political problems there. At one time, half the council went to jail or something. It's been pretty bad. It's hard to negotiate when you've got to go to the jail to negotiate. So they haven't accomplished anything."
Don't you love it when Texans talk smack about Californians? They never get any of it right. McNair added:
"We can't take what they're saying very seriously."
Well, first of all – shove it, Mr. McNair.
Nothing's been accomplished except for the city bending over backwards to work with the Chargers, often to the detriment of other city needs and necessities. San Diego hasn't "accomplished anything" because the Chargers aren't buying. They're not interested in staying. It's a straw man position.
The Texans owner is further trying to muddy the waters of plausible deniability by willfully confusing a brief city council scandal here 10 years ago, which only resulted in one council member going to jail and was wholly unrelated to the-then bigger pension scandal, than anything having to do with the Chargers.
Mayor Filner, of course, infamously resigned more recently in 2013 due to his personal behavior, but never went to jail. And both Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and Mayor Faulconer have honorably served the office since Filner's departure, and readily made themselves available to Chargers representatives without anyone having to crawl between bars.
For the U.T., however, the McNair dust-up was a convenient way to at last end its embarrassing bout of Chargers cheerleading, and finally throw Bolts owner Dean Spanos under the bus for failing to "stand up" for San Diego when Mr. McNair was so obviously, deliberately wrong.
Except Spanos doesn't care, and why would he? It’s not as though he was putting the Carson deal together over the last 18 months in a black hole or in a vacuum, but it would appear the U.T. has at last washed its hands of carrying water for the Chargers after breathing false hope into Bolts fans for the last several years – and trying to pin the blame for the Chargers' departure on many of the paper's (i.e., former owner Doug Manchester's) traditional adversaries.
I've heard a lot of denial about the Chargers' slow-motion divorce from San Diego for years, and I continue to hear it from folks I meet in P.B. and Clairemont, to wealthy businessmen leaving their Maserati with the valet at the U.S. Grant Hotel. It still hasn't sunk into the heads of Chargers fans yet: the team's management opted to forsake the city and its fanbase a long time ago.
It doesn't matter what stadium magic Mayor Faulconer may conjure up at this point. There is no stadium deal that can be presented that will be good enough for the team. They want out – and in fact, they've been out for months if not years.
It all goes back to 2003, the last time a Super Bowl was held in San Diego – a city as genetically-designed for such an event as any in the U.S., given our wintertime climate and volume of available hotel and convention space.
Back then, a day or two before the Super Bowl XXXVII match-up between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, NFL commissioner Paul Taglibue mock-lamented to the media that it was a shame there were no plans to get a new football stadium built in San Diego, because it would mean there couldn't be any more Super Bowls in America's Finest City.
Being new in town at the time I was surprised at what I heard, given the city's obvious hospitaility advantages and attractions being on full display before a nationwide TV audience. But I was even more surprised at the lack of anger San Diegans had for the unnecessary put-down from the head of the NFL.
What in the world was wrong with Qualcomm Stadium anyway? Not enough seats for rich white guys? Why was the public suddenly on the hook to build a new stadium now that the NFL had determined that a stadium built in 1966 was no longer fashionable enough for their Big Games?
But instead of pushing back and touting the city's built-in tourist advantages in a manner that would shame the NFL into the clear light of reason, blinders-on Chargers fans and San Diego business boosters mindlessly agreed that the answer could only be a new stadium, instead of telling the NFL to ____ off.
Now, in a scenario that could only be concocted by an entity as short-sightedly tone-deaf as the NFL, the league is prepared to enable the departure of a franchise that for 54 years has made its home in San Diego – the eighth-biggest city in the U.S. – for the sole purpose of planting an NFL franchise in Los Angeles. Quite the cynical switcheroo.
Granted, the fate of the Rams and the Raiders similarly remains up in the air, and both could also wind up in Carson or elsewhere in L.A. County very soon. But it's been apparent for months that instead of working to bring a team other than the Chargers to Los Angeles – so the NFL could have two franchises in Southern California instead of one – the league is doing the bidding of Bolts ownership to ensure they move to L.A.
While that scenario will bring massive, albeit short-term gains for Chargers owners, investors and the league, the long-term result will be the eighth-biggest city in the U.S. will hate the NFL for the next 50 years for robbing it of its franchise. And the league will still only have one franchise in Southern California instead of the two they could have.
Yeah, great plan guys.
A former San Diego broadcaster and media personality, Tommy Hough is a wilderness and conservation advocate, communications professional, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He ran as the endorsed Democratic candidate for San Diego City Council in District 6 in 2018.