EDITOR’S NOTE: Everyone has a story to tell about their best or even worst memory being a San Diego Charger fan. What’s better than being able to share your story with others who can relate to the raw emotion you felt that day? This will be a reoccurring series that revisits various memories from Charger fandom. It will also grant other fans the opportunity to experience those vivid memories that may not have been able to at the time.
Let’s think back at least a few years ago when the San Diego Chargers were dang near impeccable. Blazing through each game leaving their opponents in the smoke was almost like taking candy from a baby. It was apparent that during the 2009 season the Bolts were destined to make the playoffs and accomplish things they haven’t arguably done since 1994. Yet, it all came crashing down by a lousy three points.
The Chargers finished the 2009 campaign with a 13-3 record and took 1st place in the AFC West. I had such an immense feeling of pride and gratification for what San Diego was able to do that year. There were even some bragging rights when Philip Rivers marched into New York and took it to Eli Manning’s house in a 21-20 victory over the Giants. There’s no doubt that he thinks about that game every now and again.
The Bolts were set up to face off against the 9-7 New York Jets in the AFC Divisional playoff game at the Q. Full of confidence, the team looked to propel themselves past this easy win to face off against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. Yet, the game was poorly overlooked.
A low scoring match turned into an anxious nail biter as the clock ticked down to its final minutes. In clutch fashion, Rivers ran into the end zone and scored a 1-yard touchdown. Desperate, the Jets were left with nothing but to attempt an onside kick. Whether it was an act of God or not, the Jets recovered on San Diego’s 29-yard line. Even with a stout defense, the Bolts couldn’t stop the Gang Green from converting on a 4th and 1; granting them the first down in the final seconds of the game.
Shortly after watching Mark Sanchez and the Jets kneel down to end regulation, I felt this emotion I hadn’t experienced before. Sick to my stomach, I sat there in my living room, glaring at the television screen in shock, and thought “how could this be?” I found myself staring aimlessly and faintly hearing my so-called friends boastfully saying “the Chokers are at it again” as they laughed in arrogance. How was it even possible that the Chargers, a team that excelled in the regular season, could have taken the Jets so lightly? My fandom took a huge hit that night as I lay speechless on the carpet floor.
No, I wasn’t around for the Holy Roller, and nor was I around for other various heartbreaking games that occurred before I was even born. Yet to me, this one was the most heartbreaking of all in most recent years. I would never admit it, but it was possible that I cried that night as I watched another AFC team that wasn’t the Bolts continue onto the AFC Conference Championship game.
As I look back, the Chargers have had some rough seasons. I honestly can’t blame non San Diego fans for criticizing the Bolts for their struggles. When the word “choke” is uttered by anyone, I can’t help but get red in the face and feel the urge to backlash. I never want to feel like I did that night, but I know that’s unlikely. Football is known for upsets, shockers, and heartbreak. Have you ever heard the term “any given Sunday”? It’s a phrase often used in professional football which implies that any team has the capability to enter a match-up and take away the win.
The 2009 AFC Divisional game has forever granted me the disgust for the New York Jets. Call it as you will, but I will always remember that game as the one that got away. I can vividly remember, probably etched in my mind by now, the incredible LaDainian Tomlinson sitting on the sideline and looking at the scoreboard in disbelief and disappointment all at the same time. I felt, as did most of you, the pure letdown of the decade in that moment. I wish the Chargers will never have a game like that again, but that’s unrealistic. It is honestly one of the worst games that will forever be imprinted in my memory.