The "Danger Zone" was the theme song for the hit film Top Gun, which was set in San Diego. For the past half-decade San Diego Chargers fans have been forced to live out the famous lyrics of "highway to the danger zone" due to the city and team being unable to agree on a deal for a new stadium.
With the news that the Los Angeles city council has approved a plan pitched by Anschutz Entertainment Group to build Farmers Field, San Diego finds itself even closer to the apex of the "Danger Zone."
Panicking does not solve anything, but the stress level over the situation is continuing to skyrocket for Chargers fans. While San Diego has been able to produce a plethora of star athletes, they have never been able to claim they are the absolute best in a major professional sport.
San Diego, Buffalo, Charlotte, and Nashville are the only cities with two organizations in the four major sports to have never won a World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, or NBA championship. In addition, the University of San Diego and San Diego State University have never been able to secure a national title in NCAA Division I basketball, football, or baseball.
Major League Baseball officially welcomed the San Diego Padres into the league in 1969. There were already two other teams established in the Southern California market in the Dodgers and Angels. Therefore, surrounding regions like Riverside and San Bernardino, which can help build up the mystique around a franchise, had no reason to jump on the Padres bandwagon. Nine consecutive losing seasons right out of the gate did little to change their mind. The franchise has only had 14 winning seasons in total.
In contrast, another California NL West rival, the Giants, had the Bay Area to themselves from 1958-1967 and started off with 14 straight winning seasons. This is one key reason why they have the ability to infiltrate Petco Park while Padres fans have never done so AT&T Park.
The Chargers won an AFL title in 1963, but there was an NFL champion (Bears) as well. The San Diego Sockers dominated the Major Indoor Soccer League in the 1980s, but that version of the franchise no longer exists. Money does not guarantee success, but the Padres have never signed a free agent to a multi-year, eight-digit per year contract.
Furthermore, the city has also lost two NBA franchises in the Clippers and Rockets. Losing the Chargers to L.A. would be devastating to put it mildly. All of these anecdotes contribute to a frustrated fan base. The despair is compounded by the fact that the national media ignores the suffering.
Cities such as Boston attained immense media sympathy for their baseball team, the Red Sox, failing to win a title. They gained support despite the fact that many Red Sox fans rooted for the Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots, who had captured 23 titles all together before the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918 in 2004.
Cubs fans are another fan base who receive attention for losing despite the fact that some of them also cheer for the Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks. All of those teams have won titles since the mid-1980s.
Sportswriters such as Michael Wilbon, Bill Simmons, Bob Ryan, and Dan Shaunessy have national presences and help enhance the myths around their favorite teams (based in Chicago and Boston). There is nothing wrong with doing so, but it helps explain why those cities get more air time on shows like Pardon the Interruption. No media personality from San Diego has ever tried or received the opportunity to promote the cities sports history on a national level for a consistent period of time.
As a result, there is a perception on message boards like ESPN’s that Chargers fans do not support the team. That is simply not true. Philip Rivers jerseys are a common sight around the city and suburbs and there was a 48-game sellout-streak that lasted until the Jacksonville game last year.
What is true is that Qualcomm Stadium is outdated. Rivals such as the Steelers and Patriots all have relatively new palaces to play in. In addition, teams like the Bears and Chiefs have significantly refurbished their old stadiums in recent years.
The Spanos family, who are the majority owners of the Chargers, want to keep up with their competitors. Qualcomm was spruced up in 1997, but doing so again is not an option right now, especially with the NFL refusing to stage another Super Bowl there.
The biggest hurdle right now is easy to pinpoint—no ballot measure for residents to vote on. It appears that the only way to get a stadium downtown is for it to be publicly financed unless a group of wealthy San Diegans miraculously fork over some money.
Some fans feel that they were fooled by former Padres owner John Moores when they approved the development of Petco Park in 1998. They assumed the new ballpark would help the team sign coveted free agents. This did not happen, but Moores was right about the park allowing the Padres to be consistently competitive. That changed, though, when he separated from his wife in 2008.
This belief by some fans is another obstacle the Chargers will have to try to overcome in their search for a stadium in San Diego. Convincing a majority of voters to hand over money to finance a stadium for a family worth of hundreds of millions of dollars will be difficult.
There is no guarantee that the Spanos family—the majority owners of the Chargers—will move the team. In fact, they could have left after the 2010 season. However, they have done little to alleviate the fears of their fans.
Team President, Dean Spanos, is playing a game of poker with San Diego in order to keep the threat of moving to L.A. as an option. Doing so sends a message to fans that they have to approve a stadium to keep the team.
The NFL no longer allows a community to buy a team and run it as a non-profit organization like Green Bay is able to do with the Packers. Thus, fans are at the mercy of their favorite team’s owner.
Dean Spanos has done a solid job over the past few years, especially in payroll. Acquiring a couple of free agents in previous years would have been nice, but he has spent the money to keep franchise-grown superstars like Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers. Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans in contrast have not been as fortunate. It must be said that a new stadium would also get San Diego back in the Super Bowl hosting conversation.
Atlanta is the last city to lose a professional team as the Thrashers departed for Winnipeg earlier this year. There is nothing worse for a fan than watching its team bolt for another city.
Other cities like Oakland would seem to be a more prime candidate to move to L.A. There are many variables that go into selling out a stadium for smaller markets, but according to an ESPN article from last September, the Raiders "had 77 of 121 regular-season home games blacked out since moving back from Los Angeles for the 1995 season." However, they have discussed joining up with the 49ers for a stadium in Santa Clara.
The Chargers have been among the premier NFL franchises since 2004. However, a Super Bowl appearance has eluded them. Time seems to be running out on the players doing so in San Diego. A poll on signonsandiego.com asks, "Is it worth public money to keep the Chargers in San Diego?" 84% of respondents say yes (as of August 14 at 6:30 pm).
One would assume a championship would boost civic pride and get more people to support a new stadium-- should there be a ballot measure. Relying on a Super Bowl victory is risky business, but it may just be the simplest way to pull San Diego further away from the "Danger Zone."