The writing had been on the wall for months, but just recently it became a reality. Two weeks ago, on January 12th, Dean Spanos exercised his option to move the Chargers from San Diego to Los Angeles. The move not only uproots a team that called this city its home for over 50 years, but it also left San Diego with just one major professional sports team.
It was hard for me to watch. As a fan who has seen the process of relocation and has had one of his favorite teams taken from him, I had some insight into what was to come. And as someone several years removed from the pain, let me tell you something: this is not your fault. Owner Dean Spanos will tell you that if city residents had just voted to build a new stadium, the team would still be here. Mayor Kevin Faulconer will try to tell you that he did everything in his power to keep the team here and that if the people of San Diego had done more, the team could have been saved. Don’t listen to them. The odds were against you, and there was little that could be done.
The plan presented to you was a dud. A stadium downtown is a nice idea in theory, but in practice it would not have worked. There wouldn’t be enough parking, and public transit wouldn’t have handled the load well. There were also questions about whether the financial plan would cover the cost of the stadium.
I mentioned it earlier, but I should elaborate on my experience with relocation. In 2006, Seattle Supersonics ownership decided that they wanted their arena remodeled. The City of Seattle had performed remodels on the team’s arena just a decade earlier. Because of this, they declined new renovations. Frustrated with the city, the owners sold the team to a group of businessmen from Oklahoma. In 2008, professional basketball was being played in Oklahoma City, and not in Seattle.
I could have made that last paragraph a ten-page essay, but in an effort to remain as unbiased as possible, paired with the fact that none of you would read it, I had to cut it short. The point is, when big money decides what it wants to do, there is nothing you can do to stop it. The moment Spanos made up his mind to move to Los Angeles, the team was gone and the NFL was the only one thing that could stop him.
I apologize if this is a little depressing, but everything about losing your childhood team is. There may not be anything that you can do to keep the Chargers here anymore, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do.
First, urge local lawmakers to file a lawsuit against Spanos to make him leave the name and colors in town. There isn’t much legal ground to force him to do this, but he may make the decision to be gracious. Keeping the name but not the team really is like earning a participation trophy, but it would be easier to see the Los Angeles [insert generic name here] playing on a Sunday than have the precious powder blues flaunted in your face weekly. Trust me, watching the Thunder in the Finals was bad enough, but if they were the OKC Supersonics, I would have cried green and gold tears.
Second, never let your passion for the Chargers die. I mean the San Diego version. Show the NFL and the country that you are as passionate as anyone. Eventually, another NFL team will look to move and you’ll be there. Ideally, you won’t have to take someone else’s team and the NFL will look to expand. Show that you’re still rabid for football, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will have to at least consider you.
These next few years will not be easy. You’re going to see LaDainian Tomlinson’s 28-touchdown season next to an LA team in record books. It will feel like they’re trying to take your childhood memories away. I nearly have a brain aneurysm every time I see an all-time assists leaderboard with “Gary Payton, Oklahoma City” on it.
And as hard as it is for me to admit, things are going to be harder for you than they ever were for me. For one, the NFL and the NBA are very different. Football is king, and it’s going to be impossible to pretend the LA team doesn’t exist. I didn’t watch an NBA game again until 2014. Unfortunately, avoiding football will be impossible for you. You will also have to live two hours away from the team. Washington State has half of the country separating it from Oklahoma.
So, it will be rough, but remember, don’t just go away. Let Spanos know how mad you are. Let the NFL know how devoted Chargers fans were, and will always be. We from Seattle, and anyone who has had their team taken, are all in your corner.