San Diego Prepares For Life Without The Chargers - "People Are Crushed"

San Diego Prepares For Life Without The Chargers - "People Are Crushed"
By Darren Holland

For a few months of the year, Sundays became sacred for Chargers fans. The devoted followers made the pilgrimage from their homes to their place of worship - the Qualcomm Stadium. For those moments the only thing that mattered in life was American football.

For those in attendance for the past 55 years, the arena offered a form of escapism. Now for the first time, the city is without its mecca. From the 2017 season onwards, those who once followed the club through thick and thin will now be left in the mire as the franchise is due to relocate to Los Angeles - a mere 120 miles away.

Was this a decision voted on by the supporters? Absolutely not. Lack of public interest? Nope. It stemmed from men clad in suits, sitting in an office, putting profit before the people. An all too familiar tale in America.

Lifelong San Diego Chargers fan, Richard Wade, spoke to Balls.ie about the lasting effect the decision will have on fans and the area at large;

Put simply, people are crushed.

Generations of San Diegans have grown up rooting for the Chargers. People have family traditions based around attending or watching the games. For some people, shared love of the team was how they related to a parent or siblings. Many of us have dozens of friendships that were born from our fandom.

With the team leaving, and in the manner they did it, we are faced with the decision of whether or not to continue following them. For season ticket holders, what do they do for those 8 Sundays each year? Some of us have closets full of Chargers gear or memorabilia.

The closest thing I can think of to relate this feeling to is the death of a loved one, but that doesn't capture the sense of betrayal we are also experiencing.

That betrayal in which Wade speaks of is that of CEO Dean Spanos, who ultimately signed off on the deal. A momentary journey back in time is necessary to fully comprehend how the move came to fruition.

However, as iconic as it is, the 70,561 seater Qualcomm stadium was outdated - having been constructed in 1967 - and began to financially take its toll on the city. As a result, a referendum was held to allow millions of the tax payers money in San Diego county to be pumped into the costs of the arena. It was ultimately rejected.

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The fan lobbying group, 'Save Our Bolts' tried to compromise with Dean Spanos. Their demands weren't ludicrous. All that was asked for was more time and compromise from the respective owners but their pleas fell on deaf on ears. Just like that, the lives of thousands across San Diego county changed with the stroke of a pen.

Yet, Spanos met with the other 31 respective members of the NFL owners council. He agreed to exercise the option to work with Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Rams - who too relocated to Los Angeles. The two franchises will share the Los Angeles Stadium which is currently being built in Inglewood. The venue is due to open for the 2019 NFL season.

Confirmation arrived on the 12th of January 2017;

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Naturally, a mix of emotion flowed through the greater San Diego area - anger, confusion, disgust. Whether Chargers supporters wanted to accept it or not, their beloved team was to be theirs no more.

When asked what he would say if he had the opportunity to sit down with Dean Spanos, Richard Wade responded by saying;

I tend to be too polite to say the things I would like to in a situation like that, but what I would like to do is ask him how he can even sleep at night knowing that he never operated in good faith when the city of San Diego tried to work with him to build a stadium here. That's all. I don't want to tell him to fuck off or to express some undying hatred for him. I just want to ask that question.

The entire situation was grossly mishandled but surely Los Angeles would be receptive to having a second team in the city?

Evidently not, if the reaction in the Staples Centre is anything to go by. During an interval in the game between the Lakers and Clippers, the logo of the La Chargers was displayed on the big screen. The fans reacted accordingly..

Finally, Wade reminisced of some of his fondest memories as a San Diego Chargers fan;

My favorite memory is still watching Dennis Gibson bat down Neil O'Donnell's pass at the end of the AFC Championship Game to send the Chargers to the Super Bowl. That was January 15, 1995. I was nine-years-old and that's still some of the purest joy I have ever experienced.

As an adult, my fondest memory of the Chargers was watching LaDainian Tomlinson break the touchdown record in the 2006 season. I can still clearly see the image of his teammates lifting him up in my mind's eye.

Whatever else the Chargers did to us this month, they at least can never take those memories away.

Like the death of a loved one, time will heal the wounds but it will never fill the void.

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