This is a great time of year to be thankful for what we have, where we have been, and what the future holds. Although the Chargers have lost their way a bit in recent years, the month of December used to hold such incredible promise! This advent calendar is an attempt to hearken back to these days of December joy. Each day will bring a new advent from the Bolts’ history that makes it wonderful to be a Chargers fan.
Dec. 21: Small Market Madness
For the majority of their history, the Chargers had a label of being a small-market team. This label was a bit counter-intuitive, seeing as the Chargers hailed from San Diego, a city that ranks 8th in the entire country for population. However, with LA split between 2...3.. who knows how many teams, Mexico offering a tough language barrier, an ocean to the west, and desert to the east, San Diego actually was near the bottom of the chart when it came to NFL Market size.
While the NFL holds a lot of this data close to its chest, some information is available regarding how different teams rank among their respective locations. In this document from 2012, the NFL listed its top 100 media markets.
1. New York 7,387,810 TV households
- 6.444% of the US.
2. Los Angeles 5,569,780
- 4.858% of the US
3. Chicago 3,493,480
- 3.047% of the US
4. Philadelphia 2,993,370
- 2.611% of the US
5. Dallas-Ft. Worth 2,571,310
- 2.243% of the US
. . .
27. San Diego 1,077,600
- 0.940% of the US
When this report was released in 2012, you probably noticed that it did not take long for the NFL to notice the gaping hole that was LA, representing nearly 5% of the entire market alone. These market sizes are tabulated using census data for all properties within 75 miles of the city center. It was very clear that LA offered greener pastures for several franchises, and the three-way race was on.
Before the trek up north, however, the Chargers were relegated as one of the ‘forgotten’ franchises of the NFL. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Tennessee Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Houston Texans, the Chargers were long considered one of those ‘other’ teams on the schedule. They didn’t have a massive corporate identity (Patriots, Cowboys, etc.), they didn’t have a Super Bowl to color national perception, and they rarely were such an overwhelming force to instill fear and dread before a season’s start. The Chargers were one of those road-teams, sort of like their fellow Padres in baseball. You kind of have to explain who they are and what they play to those outside of sports circles.
This lack of spotlight was embraced by the fans. Every win over a superbowl contender was viewed as an upset. That makes the Chargers a real easy team to root for: just by spotlight standards, they were often the underdogs.
Things have changed, however. The Chargers are now splitting the LA market with the Rams. The Raiders still have their chunk of the pie, and San Diego probably doesn’t even watch football any more. But in this metropolis, the Chargers are still the underdog. They play in the smallest NFL stadium that fans have seen in decades. Fans get outnumbered at home games, and LA is still more invested in Johnny Depp than any football team. There is still a hint of that small-market charm to the Chargers, and that’s a wonderful thing to have.
-Jason “No, really, the second largest market in the US is still considered small” Michaels