Spanos most hated San Die­gan ever

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - KEVIN ACEE

Dean Spanos did it.

He cre­ated a last­ing legacy. He is the most hated man in San Diego. Ever.

Per­haps we should be more ap­palled at a McDon­ald’s mas­sacre or of­fended by a mo­lest­ing mayor.

But there is no sin­gle per­son who will hence­forth elicit such vil­i­fi­ca­tion in this town as the man who moved the Charg­ers from their home of 56 years.

He made it of­fi­cial Thurs­day morn­ing, post­ing a let­ter via the team’s Twit­ter page and on its web­site say­ing he is ex­cited to take the Charg­ers to Los An­ge­les.

Spanos could have been so much of a hero had he not been so ob­sti­nate and found a way over the years to make some­thing work in San Diego on terms that weren’t all his own.

When the go­ing gets tough, the weak leave town.

And so, Spanos is the vil­lain. There are those who say the Charg­ers were pushed to L.A. by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, along with those who sat in his chair be­fore him and hold of­fices in the city coun­cil cham­bers be­neath his 11thfloor lair at city hall.

And there are cer­tainly those who don’t blame any­one, who hardly care. A pri­vate busi­ness wanted pub­lic money, and a good num­ber of peo­ple weren’t on board with that con­cept.

But nei­ther ap­a­thy nor anger di­rected else­where can al­le­vi­ate what is in store for Spanos for the rest of his days.

It is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that much of his time left walk­ing this earth can be spent on the beaches of La Jolla.

Who wants to con­tinue liv­ing in a place where they know they are so odi­ous to so many?

Spanos can­not jus­tify what he has done.

Well, he can. A pre­pos­ter­ous level of delu­sion, hav­ing con­vinced him­self he did ev­ery­thing he could to keep his team in San Diego, will help. So, too, will the fi­nan­cial re­turns he and his fam­ily ex­pect to reap in In­gle­wood, Calif. And de­spite the romantic no­tion that the team be­longed to its fans, it ac­tu­ally does be­long to the Spanos fam­ily.

But it also be­longs here, and we can be con­fi­dent that Spanos knows that.

For what­ever else, he knows he failed him­self and a good ma­jor­ity of the folks in the city he has called home for half his life. Maybe this is fit­ting. Many peo­ple lamented over the years that the Spanos fam­ily never fully in­te­grated into San Diego. That’s too sim­plis­tic, per­haps. And it is un­fair to some ex­tent. But the crit­i­cism arose from the fam­ily’s relative lack of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment, es­pe­cially when com­pared to Padres own­ers such as Joan Kroc, John Moores and Ron Fowler.

Per­haps that lack of con­nec­tion is Spanos’ best hope to es­cape in­com­pa­ra­ble scorn. He just sim­ply wasn’t part of the fab­ric of San Diego.

Art Modell was once revered in Cleve­land. In the end, they were hang­ing 10-foot-tall signs on build­ings and rais­ing hand­held card­board plac­ards and fly­ing ban­ners over the sta­dium dur­ing Browns games that read, “Jump Art,” ex­hort­ing the team owner to hur­tle to his death from his suite. Af­ter mov­ing his fran­chise to Bal­ti­more, Modell never re­turned to the North­east Ohio area he loved. His grave in Mary­land has on at least one doc­u­mented oc­ca­sion been treated as a re­stroom by a bit­ter Browns fan.

There has so long been dis­dain (with pe­ri­ods of grudg­ing in­dif­fer­ence and brief in­ter­ludes of ac­tual ac­cord) for Spanos and his fa­ther be­fore him that maybe Charg­ers fans’ ab­hor­rence has a shelf life.

Plus, this isn’t Ohio. There are beaches and sun­shine, to name two differences. Cleve­landers ac­knowl­edge that their pas­sion for the Browns is par­tially borne of their not hav­ing much else.

Maybe the worst tan­gi­ble pun­ish­ment Spanos en­dures is mov­ing from La Jolla to La­guna Niguel, fight­ing traf­fic on the high­ways and sit­ting in a sta­dium that is half-full (with op­pos­ing fans) on Sun­days.

More likely, it will be worse than that.

Dean does love his San Diego haunts, does have his close cir­cle of friends. And it is likely that the spite of San Die­gans will be shock­ing. A per­son of­ten doesn’t know how bad a cir­cum­stance can be un­til he’s in that cir­cum­stance.

“He has no idea what it’s go­ing to be like,” Jim Bai­ley, who was a Browns vice pres­i­dent dur­ing the team’s tran­si­tion to Bal­ti­more, said in late 2015 when Spanos ap­peared set on mov­ing the first time.

What­ever it looks like, overt hos­til­ity or San Diego’s laid-back ver­sion of vit­riol, it is now Dean Spanos’ legacy.

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