Charg­ers leave San Diego

Fans ex­press anger, al­though move was widely an­tic­i­pated

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS -

SAN DIEGO — Charg­ers fans knew for sev­eral years this dreaded day could be com­ing, when their beloved NFL team would move up the free­way to tap the per­ceived riches of Los An­ge­les.

That didn’t make it any eas­ier Thurs­day, when the San Diego Charg­ers ceased to ex­ist af­ter 56 sea­sons.

They’re now the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers, set to join the re­cently re­lo­cated Rams to give the na­tion’s sec­ond-largest me­dia mar­ket two NFL teams for the first time since 1994.

Team chair­man Dean Spanos, who tried to move to L.A. a year ear­lier, an­nounced the move to his em­ploy­ees at a morn­ing meet­ing at Charg­ers Park. At the same time, the team posted a let­ter on its Twit­ter ac­count, which was re­branded as the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers.

Just like that, decades worth of Sun­day af­ter­noons spent cheer­ing orig­i­nal AFL stars Lance Al­worth, Keith Lin­coln and John Hadl; Air Co­ryell guys such as Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow and Char­lie Joiner; and on through to Ju­nior Seau and LaDainian Tom­lin­son, be­came even more dis­tant — and now bit­ter­sweet — me­mories.

The Charg­ers were born in Los An­ge­les in 1960 and were moved to San Diego in 1961 by Bar­ron Hil­ton. They gave San Diego a unique iden­tity, with the dis­tinc­tive light­ning bolt logo on their hel­mets and pow­der blue jer­seys. Al­worth, known as “Bambi,” and Keith Lin­coln, the “Moose of the Palouse,” helped de­liver the 1963 AFL ti­tle, the city’s only ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

In a state­ment, Spanos lauded the pas­sion of the fans.

“But to­day, we turn the page and be­gin an ex­cit­ing new era as the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers,” he said.

In re­turn, fans lashed out at the fam­ily that bought the team in 1984.

As Spanos was driven to the air­port to fly to Los An­ge­les to meet with civic of­fi­cials, Chuck Homenick got close to the SUV and yelled an ob­scen­ity.

Homenick said Spanos’ de­ci­sion was “pretty hor­ri­ble. Born and raised here in San Diego and been go­ing to these games, and just can’t be­lieve they’re leav­ing,” Homenick said. “I knew the de­ci­sion was com­ing up soon and I was hop­ing they were go­ing to stay. Busi­ness de­ci­sion, but when it comes to money vs. fan sup­port and loyalty, they’re not go­ing to have much fan sup­port up in L.A.”

Joseph MacRae held a sign that read, “Alex Spanos would never leave SD! You failed us Dean.” Charg­ers owner Alex Spanos turned over con­trol to his son, Dean, years ago.

“It’s re­ally a dark day in San Diego sports his­tory,” said MacRae, 30, wear­ing a Charg­ers jacket. He said he’d been go­ing to Charg­ers games since he was 7.

Through­out the day, more fans gath­ered at Charg­ers Park. Many tossed jer­seys, caps and shirts onto a grow­ing pile in the park­ing lot. Some­one tossed a hel­met onto the pile and be­gan smash­ing it with a piece of wood.

While many fans still sup­ported the team de­spite sev­eral sea­sons of lack­lus­ter per­for­mances, they were an­gry at Spanos for his scorched-earth tac­tics the past two years.

The move had been in the works for years, as a long, bit­ter saga failed to re­sult in a re­place­ment for ag­ing Qual­comm Sta­dium.

The Charg­ers’ de­ci­sion to move comes fewer than three months af­ter San Diego vot­ers re­sound­ingly re­jected team-spon­sored Mea­sure C ask­ing for $1.15 bil­lion in in­creased ho­tel oc­cu­pancy taxes to help pay for a $1.8 bil­lion down­town sta­dium and con­ven­tion cen­ter an­nex.

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