The Chargers have enjoyed a long career of being a flavor-of-the-week scheduling quirk for most NFL fans. Save for the AFC West, not too many fan bases give much thought to the Chargers. They are a team that doesn’t make too much impact year-to-year, for better and for worse.
One thing that the Chargers have long been known for, however, is that team from San Diego. That’s now in the past. They don’t even have the beachy-Southern-California market cornered any more. The other thing that the Chargers represent to the bulk of NFL fans is the idea that they are a perennial underdog. They aren’t on anyone’s radar for Superbowl odds. They’re a scrappy little team from down-west that most everyone and their mother would cheer for over one of the usual dynasty teams. They represent all that is good and fun about the sport— that anyone can win if they just persevere; that a team represents the people that support them.
Well...they used to.
There was a monumental change this off-season. Although it was a long time coming, the hammer finally fell to send the Chargers to LA. The main impetus for the move was pinned on the need to have a ‘state of the art’ football stadium for the team. No one, and I do mean absolutely no one, believes that to be the true overwhelming reason for the move. This was a move to try and make an extra 2 billion with slight-of-hand trickery.
There was something beautiful about the Chargers fans who did not roll over and die. For days there were jersey burnings, protests against the move, and final, desperate pleas. During a period of the year with almost no other football news to digest, every current fan of the game (and a few that have left it) could not help but feel a bit heart-broken to see a beloved team ripped from the city that had embraced it through thick and thin.
In the eyes of many, the Chargers now represent corporate greed and a complete lack of fidelity to a fanbase. These are two of the ugliest realities of modern professional sports, and nobody at all likes them. There are slight differences between the moves of the Rams and now the Raiders that still makes the Chargers move the most egregious of all. Unfortunately, you can not cleanly separate the actions of the administration from that of the team’s general impression.
If the 2017 Chargers are dominant, they will be doubly hated. If they are terrible, they will be worse punchlines than the Rams were last year. If they are middling, the best the team can hope for is to blend in with a circus of others. Again, this team currently represents the worst parts of football for the majority of sports fans.
At last—this is where the good news arrives!
The 2017 Chargers team has the unfair burden of inheriting the sins of the father. They won’t get to enjoy the role of the scrappy underdog. Not due to performance or opposition, just from the fact that non-Chargers-fans won’t get behind this team. Unless, of course, the team itself demands that change of image. If they fight day-in and day-out; if they pull out remarkable wins in overtime; if they keep off-field distractions to a minimum and put on a show on-field, the 2017 Chargers could reclaim their role as a team that casual viewers will like.
The way that much of the football world views this team will be dependent on the heart that these players show. As the face of the franchise, the bulk of that impression will be decided by Philip Rivers. He has to choose between good and evil. He’s got to be a leader, he’s got to show heart, and he’s got to play as good or better than ever before. Otherwise, the burden of the stigma that the LA move has put on the Chargers will be too much to overcome.
And there you have it— it’s a long shot, and the computer guidance is just not enough to pull it off, so this 2017 Chargers team will have to rely on themselves to win the hearts and minds of the galaxy.
-Goro “nerf herder” Saurus