Last week I shared some quotes from Dean Spanos and provided commentary about his questionable leadership as the head of the San Diego Chargers. In addition to the ridiculous quotes I mentioned that I would share a personal anecdote about Dean Spanos that served as a catalyst in forming my opinion of him as a leader. This is that story. Also known as Part 1 . . .
During the dying days of the Marty Schottenheimer Era I met Dean Spanos.
Well I didn't really meet him. I observed his behavior. I was like Jane Goodall deep in the heart of Africa and Dean was a silverback gorilla humping anything within arms reach. My analogy is neither here nor there; the point being, I did not like what I saw*.
During another life I wan an integral player in the seedy and corrupt world of valet parking in the Gaslamp DIstrict. I wasn't a scumbag like the downtown Chicago attendant from Ferris Bueller's Day Off but that was only because we had a strict uniform and grooming policy. Nevertheless, we parked the big boys and made money hand over fist creating illusions of scarcity for the unsuspecting masses. But that's not what this article is about.
I received a call one day from a secretary with the San Diego Chargers. She spoke of a Christmas party and a need for approximately 30 cars to be valet parked. This Chargers employee prepaid for the parking and informed me that she would pay any additional compensation exceeding the flat rate for 30 guests on the night of the party. She informed me that this number could be as many as an additional 10 cars. This seemed like a small number to be attending a Christmas party but who was I to pretend to have intimate knowledge of the inner-workings at Murphy Canyon. I staffed the party for 60 cars to ensure smooth sailing and called it a day.
Two weeks later, when the event was all said and done, the valet stand closed, and the final keys surrendered to festive Chargers employees, the night in question would be recalled as an unmitigated disaster. With an expectation of 30 cars and staffing for 60 the Chargers delivered over 130 cars into the belly of the Gaslamp District on that December night.
For over an hour, party goers sat in a mostly patient queue which extended out into the oncoming traffic of Fifth Avenue. My company looked bad and we felt even worse. While we hustled to get folks to their party, one thought made laps around my mind: How could a company as prominent as the San Diego Chargers misfire so badly on projections for a Holiday party? I continued to manage the snafu . . . and run my balls off.
During the calamity a customer tried to cut his way into the massive Saturday evening queue, and on any other night we probably would have solicited a "special" line-jumping fee, but this was not any other night. We were working a prepaid holiday party arrangement and there was a commitment to uphold. The customer sped off through the throng of one-way traffic.
The same customer looped around the block and once again tried to line-jump. This time, rejection would not be a suitable response on our part. The guest found a small opening, nosed his Mercedes Benz into said opening, and effectively parked his car at a perpendicular angle to the sidewalk. He turned off his ignition, handed the keys to my ticket-man, said he needed to get to the party, and walked off. We parked the gentleman's car.
The gentleman in the Mercedes Benz was San Diego Chargers owner, Dean Spanos.
Holiday parties, in my estimation, serve no better purpose than to boost morale and say thank you; Thank you for a year of work and a job well done. Dean Spanos disagreed. He showed up late to his own party. He cut in front of all who waited patiently in what had become a downtown disaster and then scurried off without any regard for those in his employ.
What would I have done? Glad you asked!
I would have explained my relevance to the party to the lead valet. I would have asked the valet to take my car first so I could stand curbside and greet all of my employees who were stuck in this unfortunate mess. I would have welcomed them. I would have thanked them. And after the last of the serpentine line had climbed from their vehicle I would have walked them to the Christmas party that I was hosting in their honor. That's leadership. Dean Spanos is not a leader.
I've often thought about that night when observing questionable actions on the part of the Chargers and I always come back to this thought: Dean Spanos showed his true colors on that one night several years ago.
Is it possible that Dean did exactly what I just mentioned but at the front door of the establishment where the party was held? Of course it is. But perception is reality and in this case my perception is now my reality. Plus it's my story, I can interpret the even any way I please. Deal with it.
*I have nothing against gorillas or their ancestral home. My opinion of the mighty mammal is, however, shaped by a traumatic experience at the Lost Forrest exhibit of the World Famous San Diego Zoo in 1987. This is all I can say per a non-disclosure agreement my guardians signed on my behalf.