This team, this organization called the San Diego Chargers, is a roller coaster that never lets you off. It’s a roller coaster that makes its passengers, the fans, want to throw our arms up in the air and yell for joy one minute, and the next minute vomit like we’re filming a Jackass movie. It’s a roller coaster that defies the physics of most roller coasters because it, somehow, has more downs than ups. It’s a roller coaster that can’t find the finish line, leaving you stuck on the ride until you decide whether or not to stick with it or jump off of the ride, ending your fandom of the San Diego Chargers.
What does finishing even mean? I don’t know, I’m a San Diego Charger fan. I suppose it means winning, but I wouldn’t know much about that either. This organization has failed in almost every way imaginable for decades, on and off the field. Sunday’s most recent soiling of the bed, while trying to spoon the Saints, came as little surprise to most Charger fans. Either someone (Tom Brady) put Crisco on the footballs, or the Chargers found yet another way to lose a game. It’s gone beyond embarrassing, isn’t it? What’s wrong with this team, this organization? Why can’t they finish?
Well, there are many theories out there as to why this team can never seem to finish. Mike McCoy is the front-runner, followed closely by the Spanos Patriarchy. John Pagano, Ryan Leaf, Joey Bosa, Marlon McCree, Norv Turner, AJ Smith, Qualcomm Stadium and the ghost of Ray Kroc round out the Top-10 of 3rd place qualifiers. My point is, what is wrong with the Chargers can’t be put on one man’s shoulders.
To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, V for Vendetta: “…how did this happen, who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those that are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again, truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.”
That’s right, fans are responsible, too. After all, some of us have been supporting this team financially for most of our lives; I know I have. Support is not translating to wins, but why not?
Let’s boil the Chargers down to a failing bar that has been featured on the popular TV show Bar Rescue. The bar is a mess. The manager of the bar and head bartender are getting drunk and playing darts but none of the darts are hitting the board and the head bartender is constantly losing track of time. The employees are bumping into each other behind the bar, constantly fumbling glasses and mixing utensils. The kitchen is minutes away from catching fire or giving someone salmonella poisoning. The loyal customers are wondering why they even come here anymore.
The star of the show, world-renowned Bar Expert Jon Taffer, enters the failing bar and immediately seeks out the owner. The owner and his son’s come waddling out of the tiny office in the back, rubbing their eyes from the nap they just got rudely awakened from. Taffer begins yelling at them. They immediately start making excuses that the bar is too old and dilapidated to attract new customers, and that the town they are in doesn’t want to build them a new bar closer to the center of town. They say they are going to have to move to the next town over if things don’t change, the customers hear this and some of them leave the bar they used to love.
In this scenario, it’s easy to see that the problem with this bar is the owners; the problem with most failing businesses starts with the owners. The same can be said of the Chargers. The main difference is the Chargers can fail and still make money because they have the only “bar” in town. The owners hired the manager and head bartender who can’t get the staff to stop bumping into each other and fumbling the glasses. Some of the staff may not even be bartender material, but the head bartender wouldn’t even know because he can’t even get them to work together.
Many fans want Dean Spanos to sell the San Diego Chargers. Let me just tell you, that’s not going to happen, because Alex, Dean, John and AG Spanos all like money. The NFL makes owners LOTS of money. Most of the Spanos family’s 2.4 billion dollars (Forbes) we’re talking about came from Alex Spanos’ real estate investments in apartment housing. The Spanos family made its money in real estate, not football, and boy is it starting to show. The Spanos contingent like money so much they tried to keep about three hundred thousand dollars away from first-round pick Joey Bosa, causing an unprecedented contract holdout, injury and missed games. Withholding $300,000 when you have $2.4 billion is like chopping up a penny into four or five pieces. Let that sink in.
So what would Jon Taffer do? Well, often when he encounters a dysfunctional bar owner group that is made up of family, he suggests that one or more of the family members step away from the business and appoint a general manager who has experience to right the ship. If Dean were to sell his family’s stake in the Chargers down to a non-controlling interest, say 49%, to let’s just say AEG for argument’s sake, this would do several things.
First, and most importantly, it would get the “family” out of the “football” operations. Secondly, it would serve to preserve Dean’s legacy because if it works, he is the hero for doing what was necessary for the team to start winning. If it doesn’t work, he can point to whomever is the majority owner. Plus, Deano and Sons are still the owners in the eyes of the media and fans, they are just no longer running the team.
This potential decrease in ownership stake is not going to happen as long as the Chargers are playing in Mission Valley, because they aren’t worth enough.
Let’s just say that a new downtown stadium gets approved and built.
The Chargers are suddenly worth substantially more. They are now worth enough that Deano can sell a portion of the team; have way less responsibility; have more money to invest in the family’s true cash cow of real estate; and still make the same, if not more, money from football than when he was majority owner.
In my opinion, the only way this roller coaster, this failing bar, will start trending up is if the Spanos family is no longer at the helm. The only way that’s going to happen is if the Chargers Downtown Stadium Initiative is passed and the facility is built. Only then, when the team is worth its maximum, will Dean consider selling the team, or a portion of it.
So, what can we do besides cry ourselves to sleep every Sunday? Well, trying to punish Dean and Sons buy voting no on Measure C is definitely not the answer. This thinking is so backwards it actually makes my head spin. Voting no on C does nobody any good. Measure C is about way more than the Chargers. It’s about jobs, economic growth and a major improvement to our city. If you’re not on board with that, vote no. A yes vote on C does not guarantee the Chargers will suddenly figure out how to finish. Just like Petco Park did nothing to guarantee the Padres would be winners. I don’t follow baseball anymore, but I love going to Petco Park, and you know what? Every now and then the Padres actually win a game when I go.
The bottom line is the Chargers are never going to finish and win a Super Bowl with the Spanos family running the team. That’s not to say they are bad people, in fact, their generosity to the San Diego community over the years actually points to them being concerned about this community. They are obviously shrewd real estate moguls, but they are a totally incompetent football family. It’s time for fans to start calling it like they have been seeing it for so many years now: a failure of ownership.
Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
In what turned out to be a game of redemption for multiple Chargers, the ebb and flow of San Diego’s win over St. Louis seemed to have it all; positive and negative, that is.
I can honestly say that it took every second of three hours after the game for my heart to return to what could be considered a normal beat pattern. It is hard to imagine what it was like for the players, coaches and the entire organization.
While standing a few yards from Dean, AG and John Spanos at the end of the game, it was clear to see that they were just as concerned as to what the final outcome would be, and then their elation when the game was sealed by an interception with under a minute to go proved to be a flood of emotions as well. Tom Telesco was there near the west endzone as well. He ran down the sideline and along the way gave me a huge high-five in celebration of the win.
That last pass was picked off by safety Marcus Gilchrist. By all measures, he had a tough game up to that point. Mike McCoy even commented during the post-game press conference that “Gilly” was beat on a touchdown to Stedman Bailey in the game. Marcus then came back and redeemed himself by making what was the biggest play of his career.
Gilchrist was not alone in trading in early blunders for success that later helped seal a much-needed win. Keenan Allen immediately comes to mind. If one only looks at his receiving numbers — 6 receptions for 104 yards and a huge 35-yard touchdown reception — you might conclude that he had an excellent game. Although the “muffed” punt was credited to Allen as a fumble, it turned out that rookie Chris Davis interfered with Keenan’s ability to field the ball. One can expect that Davis probably received a stern talking to about the situation.
The former Cal wideout also had a hand in what would be another mishap. With the Chargers marching down the field and in scoring position, he slipped at the top of his cut on a route and the ball was intercepted and returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Rivers also could be at fault as it appeared that even had Keenan not slipped the throw may have still been picked off. Later in the game, after catching a pass from Philip Rivers, Allen sped down the field making moves and gaining as many yards after the catch as possible. Unfortunately, Keenan would then fumble the ball as he was tackled to the ground, giving the ball back to the Rams.
The second-year wide receiver would eventually redeem himself, similar to Gilchrist, when he caught a 29-yard touchdown pass with a little over 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. I would think that he let out a huge sigh of relief upon reaching pay dirt.
In that same Dickens’ novel, it is also written, “Keep where you are because, if I should make a mistake, it could never be set right in your lifetime.” This was said by a guard in the novel pertaining to his protection of a character in the book. There was no guard in Sunday’s game and these were not plays that would have lasted for a lifetime. But if the team had lost, the two men would be consumed with thoughts of plays that changed the game for the worse.
Both Gilchrist and Allen made mistakes. But they kept at it and found individual ways to set them right. They found their redemption and both Chargers were able to atone for their errors. Their shining moments are what will be remembered by most.
The worst times may have come first, but the best times of yesterday’s game led San Diego to a big win over the Rams.
Thanks a lot for reading.