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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

MCCARTHY: Chargers’ move won’t solve Spanos’ woes

Photo by Amy Elliot-Miesel

Breaking up is hard to do. In Baltimore, there are still fans bitter with Jim Irsay for moving the Colts out in the dead of night nearly 35 years ago. In Cleveland, the name Art Modell still draws invectives, and even the Rams’ move last year from St. Louis to Los Angeles was not without controversy. Naturally, when you leave after 55 years together, like the Chargers and the city of San Diego, things are bound to get uncomfortable.

Most of the commentary surrounding San Diego’s move north to Los Angeles focuses on the shortsightedness of the decision. Critics point to the inadequate StubHub Center, the Chargers’ and Rams’ shared venue that seats just over a third of most modern NFL stadiums, as well as the city of Los Angeles’ lukewarm reaction to the news that a new franchise was coming to town.

There is little evidence that the Chargers will find success or enthusiastic fans in L.A., although the team’s value will certainly increase regardless. The real story is the comically poor fashion with which the Chargers organization handled the transition.

The decision to release the Chargers’ new L.A. logo the same day as the decision to move was announced was an overt sign of disrespect toward San Diego. It also didn’t help that the logo was so universally reviled online that the team promptly removed it. The Spanos family, who owns the Chargers, did not leave San Diego on good terms. Tension boiled over and former fans burned memorabilia and drove by the team’s offices honking their horns. One San Diego man even filmed himself throwing eggs at Chargers Park. Any hopes of San Diego fans sticking with the team after the move were squelched.

If burning every bridge in San Diego was not unfortunate enough, there was no one waiting in L.A. to welcome the team. Sure, the mayor of Inglewood introduced the team in a press conference, but there was a huge missed opportunity to partner with local brands and established L.A. sports teams like the Lakers or Dodgers to give the move legitimacy. Some cities offer parades to franchises that move. The Chargers were given a dull press conference where their new coach opened with “I’m so proud to be the head coach of the San Di… L.A. Chargers. Oops.”

It seems that the best solution for Dean Spanos might have been to leave the Chargers’ history in San Diego, retire the team name and start as a new organization with L.A. as its home. They’ve managed to maintain a brand that their new market doesn’t care about while alienating the only people predisposed to supporting the team.

San Diego is not too small a market to support multiple professional league sports teams. Cities like Pittsburgh and Baltimore are smaller, yet their teams receive higher levels of support due to their interaction and investment in their communities. Now, in a city where they may be the fifth most popular football team behind the Rams, Raiders, UCLA and USC, the Chargers will need to work harder than any other team in professional football to build and foster a following through community engagement.

It seems that the real problem with the Chargers was never their location, but weak ownership and an undisciplined culture. Teams as historically bad as the Browns are not supernaturally unlucky — they lack leaders with clearly defined goals who can execute their vision. The Chargers risk falling into a spiral where they lack success and a fanbase. How can you build fan support in a success-obsessed town like Los Angeles without winning?

Moving to a city that is at best indifferent to your franchise is tough enough, but the execution of the Chargers’ move did the organization no favors.

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    DanJan 29, 2017 at 3:44 am

    An absolutely fantastically written observation – all the way from Wisconsin right? Milwaukee is a beautiful town – I visited the pabst theater several times from San Diego to watch The musical Box – great trip, nice hotel – all was wonderful – even the weather. When I think of having watched the Bucks play the Rockets in SD with the Big O and Lew Alcindor at center – that will tell you how far back I go. My roots with football and with my Chargers are based in the AFL. It was fun, colorful and the fans had real access with the players. During the Super Chargers/Dan Fouts days, I would go to camp and became friends with many of the players. I ran laps with one of the linebackers, Ray Preston and we became friendly talking about and sharing what life was like. He was a Syracuse kid up from the ghetto getting a new life out in San Diego – he wasn’t a super star but he had solid few years at outside linebacker. Time caught up with him. The lack of speed was his door out but knowing him and others meant that the team I watched was more than a distant game. It was people that I cared for and for them it was there little town, San Diego, that they represented and were trying to get it right for.
    Milwaukee must of gone bonkers when the Bucks won with Lew at center – the kid from LA – UCLA that is. Dean Spanos had none of this real passion in his blood. He had no real connection with the PEOPLE of the city! Why would anyone hire Mark Fabiani, a guy who puts out fires, to help build a stadium? Fabian had a job to build and foster relationships – but his real job is to save people from themselves right? Had Larry Luchino, who helped get Petco park built, run the Goodship Chargers, a stadium would have been built. Larry was a people person who liked building bridges having been in with Baltimore when they constructed Camden yards – and the padres had Tony Gwynn – the towns adopted son. a real gem. The Chargers had Seau but he was chasing his now demons and with the Spanos people chasing the likes of him and Marty S out of town – this whole thing was doomed. I wonder what this city did to deserve the bad owners they have had. Spanos almost bought the 49ers in ’79 which would have left us here in SD with DeBartolo – which one would you have wanted?
    You hit the nail on the head with the poor ownership. I was a season ticket holder on and off since the 1960’s when my dad had tickets. I had been willing to give Spanos some support in the early 2000’s. But it has become more evident that he was not in it to stay and really did as little as possible to stay. He had to wait until the mid 2010’s to have the buy out on the lease drop to the current price. He had to look around for locations to due his due diligence with the NFL to look like he tried. The Hunt family in KC that goes back to the AFL founding with Barron Hilton did not want them to leave SD – unlike Jerry Jones who came up the whole scheme to share with Kreonke. Dean did not want to partner with Stan as print reports in late 2015 and early 2016 have stated.
    The real proof that Spanos is out of his league is in what you stated. He has successfully alienated the only fan base he had while the new one he needs is uninspired and unimpressed. Those seats at the Stub will be at least 250 and above. What Spanos should have done is left the brand here in SD and hired someone credible to come with an advertising plan to come with a marketing campaign of REBRANDING – with a contest for Angelinos to pick the name and the colors of the new team. Various prizes to be won including 50 yard line seats at the HUB and personal player introducitons with the participating players. But I guess one has to have a personal sensitivity, a desire to meet people and build the thing up from the ground. After all Spanos firebombed his fan base and now he needs a new one. So get them involved right? but Deano doesn’t think that way at all. He could care less. He has his – he gets in his lear jet and flies up and over the I-5 and I-405 traffic that his ticket buying fans will be sitting in to the local airport where the plane door opens, steps into his car and gets shuttled into his ride to the park. He is hungary so he gets his sushi or whatever he eats. wipes his face in his box seat and looks at the destruction he has created.
    What a wonderful life he has…