Tom Krasovic: The reality of fed-up Chargers fans, and why NFL doesn’t really care
Every so often since Jan. 12, 2017, the day when Dean Spanos, the overly enabled Chargers owner and chairman took his NFL team out of San Diego, I’ve taken the temperature of The People Formerly Known as Chargers Fans.
Dangling an asbestos thermometer made the most sense, in the early weeks especially.
And now, as local fans get a look at another Padres non-contender and Steve Fisher moving on from San Diego State?
Still a no.
Judging by my social-media feeds and other interactions, if anger is to give way to rapprochement, it may happen about the time hockey pucks are gliding across one of Dante’s circles.
A three-piece sampler:
Mike H: I’ll never cheer for them again. They’re dead to me and they’re not our embarrassment anymore. Done.
Michael K: The Chargers have the most incompetent and tone-deaf management and ownership in the NFL. They long ago lost the respect of many of their passionate fans. If the Chargers were a horse, they would have already been taken out behind the barn and shot.
Jim G: Can you imagine the fired-up fan base that the Chargers might have developed all those years if the Spanos family had lifted a finger to cultivate and to respect the people of SD? All these rabid Bolt fans who stayed true even though they got kicked in the face repeatedly by the Spanoses…
I’ve lived or worked in every region of the country, if only briefly in some instances. (A military brat, I went on to cover the Sockers, Aztecs football, Chargers, Padres and college men’s basketball as a traveling beat writer. There was adult residency in New York City and greater L.A. to go with the expansive beat travels.)
My sense is that San Diegans, my neighbors largely the past 30-plus years, are more forgiving than most sports fans.
It takes a lot to harsh their mellow, let alone cause them to swear off a team.
So, take a bow, NFL lords and Spani. You really did a number on these folks, to whom Carson may as well be Kurdistan.
What’s more, many of them vow to follow no other NFL team. Many say they’ve sworn off the League altogether.
“I’ve lost that NFL loving feeling,” one Chargers fan from the Pacific Northwest informed me Tuesday.
Oops – former Chargers fan.
It would be easy to write off the NFL leaders as being out of touch, for they often are.
But the Relocation Chess Game is, for the industry, not a spur of the moment, one-time thing. There’s enough lawyering and ciphering involved to keep the Ivy League pipeline flowing for decades.
The League and the Spanoses had to expect the fan-from-team divorces that have played out en masse since Jan. 12, 2017.
Chargers fans were data-punched into the spread sheet as collateral damage, in the League’s relentless, never-ending quest to secure the best terms on football palaces.
I still don’t believe the League or Dean Spanos truly wanted the Chargers in L.A., where the team is so out of place.
This is still a clumsy, soul-less relocation, and no matter how they spin it, the League and the Spani know it.
It’s just that the mutual desire for a “stadium solution” trumped staying, as did the desire to keep the Raiders out of Los Angeles.
Just a hunch, but there seems another factor that has contributed to the League’s eyes-wide-open willingness to alienate a passionate fan base, not only in San Diego but Oakland and, although to a lesser extent, St. Louis, all in a span of 15 months.
It’s the gambling thing. Long a gold mine for the NFL, it has also become a platinum and diamond mine in the Digital Age.
Leave aside the growth of betting on internet sports books and that the $750 million in stadium money the Raiders got from Las Vegas can be traced to the gaming industry.
The NFL is increasingly partnering with football fantasy leagues, even owning stakes in the companies.
Fantasy leagues boost consumption of NFL products. What they don’t boost is loyalty to an NFL team.
The myth of “my team, do or die” is diluted when fans are de facto general managers who invest in players of several teams, even rivals of the fan’s favorite team.
Can you imagine a Chargers fan in the late 1970s investing in the Raiders’ Dave “Holy Roller” Casper and rooting for him to catch touchdown passes?
A $14 billion industry, the NFL seems to believe that fantasy players and other gamblers will continue to pay attention, regardless of franchise shuffling, and that plenty of other gamers will come on board, too.
Admittedly, it’s a cynical view of the League’s calculus – but no other sports league has so profited from the impulse to wager.
Romans bet on chariot races. The gambling gene runs deep in the human.