Spanos most hated San Diegan ever
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.