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About Any Given Wednesday’s Measure C Piece

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HBO’s Bill Simmons let loose with a tirade urging San Diegans to vote against Measure C. Should we care?

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Before continuing forward, everyone should watch the piece.

All Done?

Ok, here we go.

No, we shouldn’t care at all what a Massachusetts sports fanatic transplant to Los Angeles thinks about Measure C. Do your own research, reach your own conclusions.

While I find the piece mildly amusing, I also found it more than a little self-serving and irritating.

Bill Simmons has the general thrust right - in a perfect world, owners would pay for their own stadiums. But let’s look at five reasons why Simmons is not the right person to drive this train, especially as it regards San Diego.

Reason Number One: We Can’t All Have Robert Kraft Own Our Franchise

In my opinion, Robert Kraft is the best owner in the NFL. Kraft is widely regarded for preventing prior Patriots owners (including Victor Kiam and James Orthwein) from relocating the franchise to Jacksonville or St. Louis. Since purchasing the franchise in the mid-1990s, the Patriots have participated in 7 Super Bowls, winning 4, and featuring arguably the best Head Coach and QB of the Super Bowl era. And yes, in 2000 (after a public subsidy deal with Connecticut fell through), Kraft largely privately financed Gillette Stadium.

Look, a lot of us wish the Spanos family would sell the Chargers to a new ownership group, which was both wealthy enough to privately finance a stadium in San Diego while simultaneously maintaining a contending franchise for 20+ years. If Simmons (or anyone else, for that matter) can find such an ownership group, force the Spanos family to sell to that ownership group, and guarantee all this wonderfulness stays in San Diego, I’d rather he spent his time and energy doing just that.

In the meantime, there’s a unicorn hunt this weekend and I don’t want to miss it.

Reason Number Two: Stadiums Can’t Be Built Cheaply Anymore

Gillette Stadium was completed at the cost of $412 million (no more than $72 million covered by the public) in 2002. In today’s money, that translates to about $553 million. As we’ve seen in stadium discussions over the past year, the cost of stadiums has almost doubled even when allowing for inflation - US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which opened this year, has a cost of about $1.06 billion, of which $498 million is coming from city and state sources. None this accounts for changes in the cost of construction equipment and resources, both of which have increased cost at a rate greater than inflation.

It’s easy for me (or anyone else) to say that if the Spanos family can only afford $650 million, then that’s what they should build. Unfortunately for everyone involved, that’s not the way the current stadium market works - see the Raiders recent stadium news as a reference. I wish it were. But like I said a moment ago... there’s a unicorn hunt this weekend and I don’t want to miss it.

Lastly to this point, regardless of how much I favor or disfavor Measure C, Qualcomm Stadium is 50 years old and needs to be replaced.

Reason Number Three: Los Angeles is Anomalous

Simmons’ transplanted home, Los Angeles, is one of only two markets in the United States (New York being the other) which currently allows professional sports owners to privately finance stadium construction at current market requirements. Therefore, the financing methods available to a team in Los Angeles simply are not available in San Diego, both due to market size and lack of corporate presence.

Reason Number Four: Who Gives a Shit About Nick Cannon?

I found it amusing that Simmons searched for a celebrity which could articulate his predetermined talking point, and which hailed from San Diego to give it a patina of legitimacy. So, did he choose someone like Bill Walton, Phil Mickelson, or any other current or former Chargers (or Padres)? Nope, he chose skating legend, Tony Hawk.

I have nothing against Hawk. He’s a true legend and from everything I’ve seen, represents San Diego with class and dignity. However, Hawk is a curious choice to represent San Diego sports interests, considering the only thing he needs to pursue his passion is a quality skateboard and safety gear.

Furthermore, the idea that San Diego is just fine without the Chargers reeks of “Arrogant East Coast Big City Sports Fan” telling the West Coasters simultaneously that they aren’t real fans (because who cares if the Chargers leave, amirite?), and even if they do leave, the beach is free, and we still have Nick Cannon. Actually, the beach isn’t free (taxes on the local, state and federal level help maintain them), and anyone who tells another sports fan that they’ll get over their team leaving just by watching America’s Got Talent deserves every fist they get in return.

Reason Number Five: Get off the Bandwagon

John Oliver did it funnier, better, and smarter on the same network, and he did it without singling out San Diego voters. Craig Elsten did it with much more passion and concern for the fans and voters of San Diego in this podcast.

In Closing

To be completely honest, this video felt like a Boston-transplanted to-Los Angeles sports fan telling San Diego fans that they should take a stand for the real sports fans against greedy team owners because they aren’t real sports fans and won’t be hurt so bad if the team leaves.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I have no issue with people who oppose Measure C based on the idea public money spent on sports facilities is poor policy.

If you want the Chargers to stay in San Diego, but want a different stadium plan/deal and are possibly willing to gamble on Spanos exercising his Los Angeles option following this season, that’s fine as well.

If you think Measure C solves the stadium/convention center issue in one fell swoop, or simply want the Chargers to stay no matter what, then vote Yes.

There are meaningful and worthwhile discussions still to be had about Measure C. But don’t vote against Measure C because a transplanted Boston fanatic with no dog in this hunt (except his own bloated ego) told you to.