We have all heard it, we have all seen it. The Chargers fanbase is one that has fractured and splintered, and frankly, no one really knows how many fans are left. One thing is likely true: there are fewer fans than this time last year. Until the Chargers score their first TD in Los Angeles, I don’t think that the organization can truly count on gaining more than a baker’s dozen new fans to replace the legions they’ve left behind.
However, I’m also willing to guess that a good portion of people reading these very words wouldn’t call themselves ‘fans’ any longer, but they continue watching the Bolts’ every move. Whether it’s a reflex, like rubber-necking a burning wreck on the side of the road, or just habit to check the sites that you’ve attended for so long, there’s still some interest in what crazy moves this team will pull next. That’s good! That’s one of Dr. Michaels’ surefire steps to Unscrewing the Bolts!
Prescription 1: Schadenfreude for the dissed fan.
You’re mad. I’m mad. This friggin’ sucks. And now I want everything that reminds me of what used to be beautiful to burn. Yes. Burn. YESSS!
Believe it or not, this is good! Schadenfreude is a term that means “gaining enjoyment through the misery of others.” The 2017 Chargers season has to be like quality TV: Either surprisingly beautiful or so bad that you can’t look away. While that sounds easy, it’s much more likely that they end up like every other forgettable team— right in the middle. One of the best outcomes will be like a Best-Of episode of the Browns or the Jaguars’ worst foibles: Television that is so hilariously bad that everyone has to know what comes next.
Why is this good? Well, for one— it keeps the Chargers relevant. Second, earning adorable underdog status makes it a whole lot easier to tune in through 2018. However, most importantly, schadenfreude allows our brothers and sisters to feel like the franchise that spurned them is somewhat getting its just desserts. The Chargers floundering for a season or two would serve as some small vindication for the city of San Diego. It’s OK to want to feel this way! You want your ex to find someone visibly less attractive and/or successful than you as their next squeeze. That’s the best way to at least become friends again in the future, or at least not feel quite so hurt.
Prescription 2: A down year for the AFC West is good for everyone.
The Denver Broncos are visibly in disarray; the Romo sweepstakes would just be icing on the cake. The Raiders don’t know what city they play for, and their franchise QB now has learned pain. Any hesitation in Carr’s play will immediately change everything for them. The Chiefs are still a decent team—that has learned that they are only ever going to be a decent team. They don’t have the weapons to go the distance, and they know it well. When the Cincinnati Bengals experienced a scenario akin to an Act of God that kept their postseason losing streak alive, they plummeted near the bottom of the AFC East (excepting those wonderful Browns) in 2016. Only one of these teams believes in themselves. Despite the talent of this conference, expect the AFC West to be up-for-grabs all year long.
How does this help the Chargers current-and-former fanbase? Being in contention for the entire season does wonders for a team. Even if a 7-9 ticket punches its way into the postseason, the Chargers should have a very fair chance to hold that ticket. Even the prodigal fan will consider a return to the boob tube if the Chargers are invited to the dance.
The Miracle Cure: Facing the armpit of the NFL
It might not end up being this season, but eventually, the Los Angeles Chargers will find some sort of success. With even half-competent coaching and an arm still ready for action out of Philip Rivers, there is a very good chance that success will come early to the Chargers in 2017. Some of the lottery winnings this season are meetings with the Browns, Jaguars, Jets, Bills, and an awkward NFC East. Yes, yes, we know what happens when you circle Browns games as wins before they are played, but there is every reason to believe that 2017 will be stronger than 2016.
The truth of the matter is that if the Chargers start to find some sort of success on the field, they will earn new or returning fans. For someone to stick around an ailing franchise, they’ve got to show loyalty to their fan base (a true and honest salute to the Browns and Jags fans out there. Chargers fans might be mentioned in the same breath if we remain a mess!). For a franchise that has been less than faithful, it’s a harder battle, but being GOOD is the very best first step to recovery.