The Los Angeles Chargers are struggling for a fan base in their new home and losing what little fan base they had left in San Diego.
In week two of the NFL 2017 season, the Chargers lost yet another close game to the Miami Dolphins, and TV ratings sank to a new low, making history in none other than San Diego.
The Nielsen TV rating for the Chargers-Dolphins game on KFMB Channel 8 was measured at a mere 12.3. According to the Union Tribune, that is the lowest rating for a Chargers game in San Diego since at least 1998. Last year’s week two Chargers game against the Jaguars had a 26.2 rating, about 53 percent higher than week two.
Viewer ratings may be plummeting in San Diego, but they are still faring better than the team’s new home, where the game earned a 5.1 rating.
Although there are more people watching in San Diego than in LA, most of those viewers are not in support of the team. Jacob Roth, Sports Producer at KSWB Fox 5, says that he has witnessed a mixed reaction to the fact that the Chargers are still getting airtime in San Diego. “We do get emails, phone calls and tweets from viewers saying that they change the channel as soon as we mention the Chargers,” said Roth. “At the same time, it feels like there are many San Diego fans who are still tuning in so they can watch the team fail.”
With a now 0-3 record, a partly-filled stadium that only seats 27,000 people, and a money-grubber of an owner, failure seems imminent for this Los Angeles team. Pretty soon, ex-Chargers fans will no longer feel the need to keep tuning in, making ratings almost non-existent.
Sophomore and San Diego native Carter Wood has already let go of the need to watch the Chargers play. “I have not been watching the games this season because I am not a fan of the Los Angeles Chargers. I’ve been hearing about what’s happened during the game from other people and online, but you don’t need to watch the whole game to realize that the team is bad,” Wood said.
The Chargers organization continues to use the hashtag “#fightforLA,” but each week presents a new reason as to why the Chargers don’t belong there and never did. In the most recent game against the divisional rival Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers were greeted with a “Chiefs Kingdom!” chant from a crowd comprised mainly of Kansas City fans. One Chiefs fan tweeted out a picture of StubHub Center and captioned it, “Red stands. We own Los Angeles.”
This debacle season was exactly what the NFL was afraid of, and although we are only three weeks in, rumors of the league wanting to move the Chargers back to San Diego have already started to swirl.
“I will say that I think the odds of that happening are extremely slim. It may not seem like the LA experiment is working—it certainly looks bad so far—but it’s still too early to tell,” said Roth.
Even if the Chargers did move back to San Diego, regaining the fan base that was lost in the relocation, as well as getting the ratings back to normal, might only be plausible if one key thing happens: Dean Spanos sells the team.
“As long as Dean Spanos owns the team, it will be hard for many San Diego fans to root for them. If Spanos were to sell the team and the new owner [were to] move them back to San Diego, I think people would embrace the team with open arms, which would likely mean higher ratings and more interest in local sports media,” said Roth.
While the thought of bringing the Chargers back to San Diego without Dean Spanos is a happy one, it is also highly unlikely. According to Sports Media Watch, when the league agreed to let Spanos move the team from San Diego to LA, they issued a “flip tax,” which means that Spanos is not allowed to sell the team anytime in the near future without being penalized.
Since money seems to be the motive for Dean Spanos, San Diegans should not get their hopes up, yet. For now, fans and ex-fans alike should watch (or not watch) the season unfold.