The news just broke that the San Diego Chargers will be relocating to Los Angeles next season.
San Diego has loyally supported the team since the old AFL days in the early 60s. Win or lose, the fans loved their Bolts.
LA has never supported any football team unless it was winning, and preferably winning big. Once LA had two teams, and that was great when they won; when they hit down years, as all teams do, the Raiders and Rams were both abandoned. That’s why they left town twenty years ago, both in the same year. Last year the Rams came back… but they lost, and before season’s end, they were playing before tens of thousands of empty seats.
I’d say the same fate awaits the Chargers, except I read that they will be playing in a small 30,000 seat venue for a couple years until the new Rams stadium (where they will be a tenant, like the Jets in old Giants Stadium) is complete. That’s smart, I suppose. Nothing else about the move is.
It’s all about greed. And despite what you may have heard Gordon Gekko say, greed is NOT good. (Too many people seem to lose sight of the fact that he was the VILLAIN of that film).
I am a fan of the Giants and Jets, both of whom have great loyal fan bases and seem likely to remain where they are for decades to come… but I know what it is to have your heart torn out when a greedy owner moves your team away. When I was a child, I was a Dodgers fan… the Brooklyn Dodgers, thank you very much, the Boys of Summer, one of baseball’s great iconic franchises, playing in one of baseball’s great iconic ballparks, Ebbets Field. The Dodgers were the heart and soul of Brooklyn; never has a city loved a team so much, or had so much of its identity bound up with them. The city that was Brooklyn died when the Dodgers departed; the gentrified borough that remains is just a bedroom community for Manhattan. (Okay, they still have fantastic pizza, gotta give ’em that).
The Dodger fans (and the fans of the baseball Giants, similarly bereft) eventually got the Mets, which helped some… especially in ’69 and ’86… but the pain is still there, down deep, when we think back on it. Ebbets Field was old and run-down and small, yeah, but it was wonderful in the same way that Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are wonderful. Those ballparks have become legendary and historic, cherished by the people of Boston and Chicago respectively, and I don’t think anyone would dare to tear them down now. The same thing would have happened to Ebbets Field if only it had lasted a few more years and managed to survive the fad for building hideous concrete multi-purpose stadiums that dominated the 60s. (And indeed that is exactly what has happened in the Wild Cards universe, an alternate world where Walter O’Malley contracted the wild card virus before he could move the team. He turned into a pile of slime, but it was days before anyone noticed the difference).
Maybe because of my early childhood trauma at losing the Dodgers, I have never liked the various relocations that have plagued both football and baseball over the decades. The ONLY cases where I think it is warranted are those where a city stops supporting its team or teams… as happened in LA with the Raiders and the Rams. But the rest? Bob Irsay slinking out of Baltimore in the dead of night with the Colts? Despicable. Al Davis abandoning Oakland, spending a decade in LA, then moving back? Offensive. Art Modell moving the Browns from Cleveland? Shame, shame.
Cleveland did get a new Browns team, so at least they got to keep the name and tradition (though the original Browns, now the Ravens, are a perennial contender who won a SuperBowl after the move, while the expansion Browns have pretty much sucked since they were reborn, so it was hardly a fair swap). The good fans of Baltimore did not even get that. The ‘Colts’ name and colors should have stayed when Irsay left. Let the Indianapolis team start fresh with a new name and uni, as the Ravens did. It would be splendid if the NFL would rule that Spanos can move his team, but the name ‘Chargers’ and the lightning bolt and the powder blues should all remain with San Diego, for however long it takes for them to get an expansion team. The relocated team can be the LA Earthquakes, since I think their tenure in Lalaland is going to be pretty shaky. If what I read is true, neither the city nor the Rams want them there.
Green Bay has the right idea. The Packers are owned by the people of Green Bay. Would that were true in more cities. If I were only a billionaire (not even close, sorry), I’d buy an NFL franchise and leave it to the city upon my death… except, alas, I am told that NFL rules no longer allow that. So there will never be another Green Bay, and the billionaire owners will continue to move their teams around the country in search of ever newer, bigger, glitzier stadiums paid for by the fans and taxpayers, stadiums that can generate hundreds of millions in profits instead of merely tens of millions.
Charger fans, I feel for you.