"What are you playing?"
That's the question I asked my twin brother one morning, back when we were about 12 years old. The answer to that question was Madden 09. I had no idea what Madden was, apart from vaguely knowing that it was to do with American Football, whatever that was. The game had frozen on a screen containing the logos of every NFL team, and I stared at them for a second.
"That one's the nicest," I said. "I support them."
'That one' happened to be the San Diego Chargers, and I liked their logo the most, so I decided to support them. Well, why not? I'm from England. I didn't have ties to any particular franchise. A logo seemed as good a reason to support a team as any. (Which makes it all the more galling that the very reason I started supporting the Chargers has been changed, into something that they found on the 50% off shelf at a Walmart.)
I didn't start actually caring about the NFL until three or four years later, but I remembered who my team was. I gradually started reading more and more about the NFL before one day, I decided to actually care about it for real.
It turns out that I cared about the San Diego Chargers far more than the owner ever did.
In the short space of time that I've been following the NFL, I haven't been a Chargers fan. I've been a San Diego Chargers fan. Dean Spanos might refuse to accept this, but there's a big difference between the two.
Here's the thing. I've never been to San Diego. Hell, I've never even been to America. I knew absolutely nothing about the city before I started following the Chargers, apart from the fact that it had good weather.
That was in 2013. In the four years that I've supported the Chargers, I've been indoctrinated with San Diego culture. I've learned so much about the place - and, more importantly, the people who make up it - that I genuinely feel as if I've lived there for all my life.
I know where you can find the best Fish Tacos in the country. I know the best places to sit back and enjoy a drink or two with your buddies. I know all the tourist spots, much like I know the places that are best avoided.
The only thing I don't know is what happens next.
London is where I call home, and I wouldn't change that for the world. But for all of London's positives, you don't get that feeling of community that you get elsewhere. You don't strike up a bond with someone just because you're both from London. It makes no difference. Londoners do not care about other Londoners. Because of the Chargers, San Diego has vicariously become my home and provided me with that feeling of community that isn't there in my real home - because the San Diego Chargers are a community.
At least, they were.
Everybody has a story about a special moment following the Chargers. It doesn't even have to be a successful one. Going to your first ever game as a child with your father. Becoming best friends with someone in middle school because you both support the Chargers. These are memories that spark bonds - memories and bonds that will still be around long after the Chargers leave town. Unfortunately, there won't be the chance to create any new ones. Time's run out. It's over.
You'll never get to return the favor, and one day take your own child to their first ever San Diego Chargers game, having them ask all the questions you asked your own father all those years ago. There won't be another San Diego Chargers game. Ever.
I never got to experience a moment like that in person, but if there's one thing the past few years have taught me, it's that social media is a wonderful tool. I've had discussions with people on Twitter about the Chargers, with the conversation later turning to real life matters. I've bonded with people and made some genuine friendships, and that's all thanks to the Chargers.
The San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers leaving town isn't the same for me as it is for all of you who have been born and raised in San Diego. To all those fans, I'm so sorry. There's nothing I can say that will cheer you up. This is an awful day.
The move doesn't affect me at all, logistically. But logistics aren't emotions. Logistics aren't the reason I was crying when I heard the news. I might live 5,000 miles away, but I don't see them as the Chargers. I see them as the San Diego Chargers. I fell in love with San Diego like it was my own home - which means that, even though I'm 5,000 miles away, I hate Los Angeles just as much as many San Diegans do, for the same reasons. I haven't decided if I'm going to follow the team to Los Angeles. Unless you're Dean Spanos, where money trumps all, that's a decision that takes a careful thought process, and time.
This may not be the end of my fanship, but it is for many. Who can blame them? The people of San Diego (and I tentatively include myself in there) care about the city. They don't care about the billionaire owner. Why should they? He doesn't care about them. He never did. That much is obvious now.
Goodbye, San Diego.