When I was eleven, my father started taking me to Qualcomm Stadium to watch the Chargers. He loves football – he’s the type to jump off his couch and yell at the television during football season – and I was the lucky recipient of his passion for the game. I distinctly remember sitting in the stands, absorbing the energy of the cheering fans and feeling like I was part of something bigger than myself, something special. I remember high-fiving strangers after touchdowns and wrapping my arms around seatmates as I chanted “De-Fense! De-Fense!” over and over until my throat was raspy.
We all have these stories, tales of how and why we became football fans, that are passed from parents to kids, from uncles to nephews, from friends to neighbors. They weave through us, bonding strangers into a brotherhood that knows little about race or social class. When your team scores a touchdown to win the game as the clock expires and you cheer with the person next to you, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or how much money you make or where you grew up … All that matters, in that second, is that your team won.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, YOUR story is one that is close to your heart.
And that is why I urge you to enjoy Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.
Yes, it may-well-very-could-be-possibly-is-but-not-yet-100-percent-sure the very last Chargers game EVER in San Diego. We don’t know yet, but signs point north to Los Angeles, to the green pastures of money, corporate suites and signage.
Still, I’m asking you to enjoy it.
Enjoy Philip Rivers and Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle and Mike Scifres, the remaining players on the roster who have been with this organization their entire career and have each played at least nine seasons in Qualcomm Stadium. They deserve your enjoyment. They’ve given you a lot over the years, even if the past few haven’t been so pretty.
Enjoy that one dude who sits a few rows in front of you and screeches too loudly when the offense is on the field. He is part of your story. Enjoy the tailgater who’s been parking next to you for 40-plus seasons, through divorce, illness, deaths in his family and inclement weather. Enjoy the ladies in tight tank tops with lightning bolts across their chests – (hey, San Diego weather allows for that year round) – and the fellas who break out their custom blue-and-yellow kicks just for home games. Give a knowing nod to the man who paints his chest and face every week in support of the Bolts … he, too, deserves a place in your chapter on the Chargers.
I get it. You’re angry. You have every right to be. I’m just asking you to consider pushing aside the anger, for one sweet San Diego afternoon, to enjoy the moment. Cuz it’s all you have, at this point. Don’t let this mess take it away from you, should this be it.
Perhaps it is because I’m getting older, perhaps it is because of lessons learned the hard way the past few years, but there is a peace that comes with reality. And in this situation, the reality is that the Chargers may not play in our backyard next season.
If that is the case, you can’t stop it. I appreciate that you want to — it’s a mark of your loyalty and love for your team – but you can’t. It’s done. It’s not going to matter what you do at this point. It’s not your fault they’re leaving – don’t listen to any of the hype from mouthpieces that say it is, because it’s Not. Your. Fault. It’s business. It’s always business, and sometimes business is impersonal, cold and unfair.
The thing is, this might NOT be the last game the Chargers ever play at Qualcomm Stadium. I know that’s a long shot, but it’s still accurate. They could be back. If they’re not, you’ll remember this game as the final one, and you’ll tell your kids and your grand-kids about it, and you’ll imitate Rivers’ hand gestures and say “golly gosh darn dagnabbit” and they will, in you, feel your love for football.
Your love for the players, who didn’t ask for this move, should it happen.
Don’t let the organization, and Dean Spanos, take that away from you. They’ll be taking enough if they leave.
I understand that’s asking a lot. It’s like asking you to be happy while your parents get a divorce. But we’re older now. We’ve gone through stuff, and we know that we can’t change the outcome. We might as well enjoy the ride.
I’m not saying it won’t suck if they go. I understand, believe me. If they move, I won’t get to walk around the Qualcomm parking lot and exchange witty banter with you fans for “Out & About,” which I’ve been doing since my years as a reporter with the Union-Tribune. I won’t sit in the open-air press box and feel the energy shift with the game, or close my eyes as the National Anthem plays on the too-loud sound system – (always one of my favorite moments) – or watch the outdated Jumbo-Tron stutter to churn out a replay.
That’s why I’m going to appreciate it even more on Sunday.
I’ve always enjoyed how grateful Rivers is for every game. It’s like he’s six years old again every Sunday, and he just can’t BELIEVE he gets to play quarterback in the NFL. He just can’t believe it! What a life.
On Wednesday — five days before what could be the final home game at Qualcomm Stadium — Rivers said that he will soak in the experience, like he soaks in every game, because nothing is guaranteed. (And he’s right. Even if the Chargers stay in San Diego, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow and never make it to another kickoff.)
Rivers is going to soak it in … The fans, the media, the rust and grime at Qualcomm Stadium, the cheers and the boos … it’s all part of his story. It all deserves its place, and he knows it.
I urge you to soak it in too. You owe it to yourself, and to your story.