Pat and I got word that the Chargers would be leaving San Diego as we drove up to Idaho on Wednesday. Actually, our cell phones have been quite busy these last two days with texts and calls about it all from family and friends. The disappointment runs deep for us, for all devoted Charger fans, and it made me reflect on why that is so.
Before I go on, I completely understand that it is “just” football! That there is real pain and suffering in this world, so please recognize I’m only talking here about this small piece of our lives — I do have perspective! — but also thought the topic deserved some focus.
After living in a zillion different places, we moved to small town Carlsbad on Labor Day Weekend, 1972. Seriously, my mom and dad moved something like 24 times in the 16 years of marriage up to that point, and I had been in four different schools by 4th grade. So, I think we all were ready, in our own ways, to settle down and embrace being a part of a community.
My dad was a businessman and understood the value of making and building relationships. So in that first fall, he started taking a couple of us girls to Carlsbad High School football games. His thought process behind this was that football was the Monday morning topic around the water cooler in offices everywhere, so we needed to be able to join in the conversation. It would help us with our work relationships and be a part of the office camaraderie. Pretty savvy on his part, I must say! I can clearly remember sitting in the stands with him and my sister, Lisa, explaining to us all about the four downs and yards-to-go. And from there, two die-hard football fans were born!
From fulling enjoying the high school football games, the late ’70s and early ’80s brought added excitement as our San Diego Chargers enjoyed the days of “Air Coryell!” QB Dan Fouts led an amazing team of players, like Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, Chuck Muncie, and my favorite, Kellen Winslow. Lisa and I were forever hooked on our beloved Bolts.
Fast forward to meeting Pat and finding out he, too, moved to the area in 1972 and he, too, became a huge Charger fan in the same years. For our entire marriage, we have had Sunday Charger dates to watch the games together, and soon, his brother, Mike, became part of the tradition. My family and friends just know that our Sunday plans during football season revolve around game times. It’s ‘our thing,’ and we are both completely and equally passionate about games. We analyze and cheer and yell and pace and help boost each other through the losing seasons.
And talk about camaraderie with others, Dad was so right. One of the first texts about the move to LA was from three of my work buddies and fellow fans. And then there was the great football connection I had with my students either enjoying Monday morning Charger talk together or talking smack with students who were Bronco or Raiders fans. For years, I had ‘jersey day’ on Fridays in my classroom and have proudly worn Antonio Gates’ #85 for almost decade and a half. I also have my football texting buddies as we text throughout the games and celebrate great plays together.
So the discussion turns to what do we do now. Pat and I have talked about choosing another team to support; he likes the Broncos, and a couple of years ago, I thought about the Seahawks as my back-up team in case this happened. And now here we are in the northwest, so that makes sense. I’m just not so excited about it yet. But they are in the playoffs!! hhmmm….. something to think about…
I told my work friends, though, that if Rivers and Gates go with the Chargers to LA, how can we not support them? Because in fact, we are fans of the players, not the owners, not the NFL. And I told Pat last night that as long as one of those players is playing, I will watch — I won’t wear an LA jersey, but I will forever cheer on the two of them. They are class acts! Rivers has been such a huge part of the San Diego culture and Catholic faith community here. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be on him and his young family. Do he and Tiffany uproot their kids’ lives and move to LA? Or does he commute? Tough decisions for all the players.
Side note: I had the privilege of photographing a Catholic charity event a few years ago and snapped this photo of the Rivers. Baby #6 was two weeks hold and asleep under the table!
So like one friend said, she feels like a girl without a team, and I agree, and am not sure what we will be doing on Sundays this coming fall. Charger fans are all in the same boat, and in the big picture of life, it is a very unimportant conundrum to be in. But it just goes to show, that it is much more than just football. For many, it’s the end of football relationships and lifelong traditions.
Fellow fans, what are you choosing to do?