After 56 seasons in San Diego, the Chargers are moving back to Los Angeles. For local San Diegans and Chargers fans like myself, it was difficult to process. For the last two years, the Chargers’ franchise president, Dean Spanos, has threatened to relocate the Chargers to Los Angeles. The Spanos family was set on building a new stadium to replace the current Qualcomm stadium, originally constructed in 1967, but they insisted that the project be publically funded — a task that would have cost San Diego taxpayers $1.15 billion. In November, San Diego voters rejected the referendum offered by the Spanos franchise owners. This began a legitimate conversation about relocation. The long, frustrating war with San Diego legislators and taxpayers, coupled with a losing 2016-17 season, pushed Spanos to the decision of taking his franchise elsewhere.
After two months of negotiation with the Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Spanos agreed to become tenants in a $2.66 billion stadium — set to open in metro Los Angeles sometime in 2019. In one fell swoop, the Spanos family took their NFL franchise to L.A., and took the hearts of San Diegans with them.
For two weeks straight, my Facebook feed was full of everything from crying emojis to expletives posted to the ‘Los Angeles Chargers’ page. People ranted and mourned the loss of a genuine and historical San Diegan team. Though not life-altering, the Chargers leaving San Diego has been tough for lifelong Chargers fans to process for two reasons.
First, there are so many memories tied up with my San Diego hometown and the Chargers. My mom worked for the franchise for three years, often bringing me home a helmet or t-shirt of baby blue and gold. My whole family watched together as LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 broke the NFL record for touchdowns scored in a single season (31) as well as most points scored in a single season (186). I remember watching Chargers games after church and wearing their jerseys in high school rallies. I fondly recall the Antonio Gates 3rd down conversions, Philip Rivers scowls and LT’s helmet visor. And while the Chargers will still play, they won’t play for my city in the stadium across the freeway from my house. It certainly isn’t true that this NFL team was the best or even the most memorable part of my San Diego childhood — but it was still a part. It was a sweet part of my identity as an American football fan. But for this reason someone can simply mourn and move on.
The second reason, however, is worse. The Chargers’ reason for leaving is so unsatisfactory: the Spanos family wanted a new stadium. The logic of their departure is rooted in the pursuit of revenue instead of the prosperity of their city. The billionaire franchise owner decided to bind the taxpayers of a city that was faithful in winning and losing, instead of compromising to do what’s best for their fans. Many Chargers didn’t want to leave, but the whole city wanted them to stay. The Spanos family could have funded the whole stadium themselves, but instead they now have to pay roughly the same amount to finance their new stadium in L.A. — only to share it with another team.
Unfortunately for me, I am stuck with more San Diego Chargers gear than I would have ever wanted. The whole event is devastating for San Diegans, the Spanos family, Los Angeles fans, and the Chargers themselves. But by another series of unfortunate events, they will probably come crying back to San Diego someday. Sports analysts have predicted that the Los Angeles Chargers will take years to earn the loyalty of L.A. fans — if at all. The San Diego Chargers didn’t move; they were taken. And that makes it hurt all the more, leaving me with only one franchise left to root for.