Jan. 27, 2017
Fallout: Chargers Relocation To Los Angeles
The world of sports learned last week that the Chargers will be leaving San Diego and moving up the coast to the City of Angels for the 2017 NFL season. The news has drawn the ire of the media and has vilified Chargers owner Dean Spanos throughout the Southern California region.
The relocation of the Chargers also took on this rather indescribably strange feeling because it left the impression that the ownership, some of the players, the politicians in San Diego, and some residents in San Diego; all those factions were sorry to see the situation get to this point. These factions all left the impression that they did not want the team to leave.
This latest relocation of an NFL franchise also has a unique aspect involved in that the Los Angeles market, in general, does not really care about the Chargers and appears to be rather lukewarm to their move up the California coast. Some within the media have speculated that this sentiment of general malaise around the Chargers is two-fold: the team was always seen as belonging to San Diego (so the deeply provincial and geographic allegiances apply here), and the football team itself is not very good.
That theory has some merit, if the NFL was moving a playoff caliber team into the market to share the new stadium in Inglewood with the Rams, then the reception might be a whole different scenario. The Chargers and Rams are both mediocre football teams, at best, based on the results of their respective performance over the past few seasons.
The football fans in Los Angeles provided the Rams a tepid reception in the Coliseum this past season, and ESPN ran a whole segment about the USC Trojans remaining the most popular team in the city. Both the Rams and the Chargers fired their head coaches and are moving forward by going the young coordinator route to fill the vacancies. The Rams hired Sean McVay, who becomes the youngest coach in the NFL at just 30 years of age. The Chargers announced shortly after the L.A. move that former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn, was hired as their new head coach.
The Rams might be terrible but they have a history in Los Angeles where the franchise once played there for basically 50 years, so the fans accepted the Rams back and the team does have some fans in the region. The Chargers have no identity in the L.A. market at all.
The Chargers are tasked with the two pronged approach of connecting their franchise with a new community as well as a new fan base, and improving the roster to be a competitive football team. That is a tall order while playing in a market that, according to local L.A. based media outlets, would much rather have the Raiders play there than the Chargers.
I have written about this notion before, the Raiders are still immensely popular in Los Angeles, but the NFL powers that be did not want them moving back to L.A. for a variety of political factors. However, the NFL did want two teams in the market and wanted another team to share in the gigantic stadium in Inglewood.
The Chargers were given that opportunity because the NFL and the owners viewed the situation that Spanos had tried for over 15 years to get a new stadium in San Diego, so his consolation prize was access to the second largest metro area in America.
Conversely, Spanos has been vilified as I mentioned earlier, because he is a billionaire and many feel that he should have financed the construction of a new stadium in San Diego himself, and not with the demands he made for public money.
The Chargers, to make matters worse, could not play in L.A. Coliseum temporarily because the lease agreement between the municipal authority and USC allows for the addition of temporary games for just one NFL team, so the Rams will continue to play there until the new gargantuan stadium in Inglewood is operational.
Therefore, the Chargers will play for two years at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA which is the home stadium for the MLS soccer club, the L.A. Galaxy. The facility can hold about 30,000 for NFL football making it the smallest venue by seating capacity by far in the entire league.
In a personal note, I do have to credit the marketing department of the newly minted Los Angeles Chargers, they have spun the games at this small venue as essentially a unique and intimate opportunity to watch an NFL game. The business operations side is towing the line that the StubHub Center will allow fans to get close to the action and they believe it will help the Chargers “connect” with fans.
The reality is that the Chargers are the “second fiddle” to the Rams in the L.A. market and there are probably other teams that the Chargers will play next season that will draw more fans to the games than the “home” team. The only remedy to connecting with fans and growing a new fan base (which is very difficult to achieve) is to win football games. In simple terms, the team has to be good.
They do have a star quarterback in Philip Rivers, but he is 35 years old, so he is in the last years of his career in the NFL. He is also at the age that many guys start to decline in their skills, especially a player like Rivers who has taken his fair share of hits over the years.
The Chargers also have a talented young running back in Melvin Gordon, and they have a potential star on defense in Joey Bosa. They need to build through the draft and make smart free agent signings to start to put the building blocks together to move this team forward.
The fans in San Diego really lose here because it is still about a 200 mile trip depending on where you live in the area to get up to Los Angeles for a Sunday game. The notorious traffic on the highways and freeways of Southern California will make for a potentially very arduous road trip for the committed fans who want to transition with the team to their new home.
In the end, this move was bad for all sides: for the NFL, for San Diego, for Los Angeles, and for the Chargers. The weeks and months ahead will prove that out, and all sides will ask the inevitable question: how could we have made a deal to keep the team in San Diego? The answer is greed and it is the driving force between so many of history’s poor decisions.