USA TODAY Sports Weekly

Spanos makes play to stay

Charg­ers might not re­lo­cate to L.A. af­ter all

- Jar­rett Bell jbell@us­ato­ USA TO­DAY Sports

In the ver­nac­u­lar of sports, Dean Spanos might have just snatched a big vic­tory from the jaws of de­feat.

The Charg­ers will re­main in San Diego — at least for the short run and maybe for the long haul — af­ter the team an­nounced Fri­day a fall­back deal with Los An­ge­les Rams owner Stan Kroenke with the chance to stay home and build a sta­dium.

Fooled me. It seemed a given that Spanos would move his fran­chise to Los An­ge­les and part­ner with Kroenke to cash in on the vast rev­enues pro­jected to flow from the USA’s se­cond-largest mar­ket. Like this year. It’s not over yet. Far from it. Maybe the Charg­ers will wind up in Los An­ge­les. But Spanos has taken this thing to over­time in the best way pos­si­ble. He’s on the clock with the city of San Diego to come up with a new sta­dium once more — which in­cludes set­tling on a site, se­cur­ing the fi­nanc­ing and win­ning a bal­lot mea­sure for tax­payer sup­port — to keep the team and, hey, seal the deal for more Su­per Bowls.

For more than a dozen years, one politi­cian af­ter an­other has been down this path, miss­ing wide right. Maybe Kevin Faulconer, the cur­rent San Diego mayor, will make it hap­pen.

The con­di­tions are bet­ter than ever: The Charg­ers have a now-orn­ever timetable that ex­pires next Jan­uary, and the NFL is kick­ing in $300 mil­lion. Go for it, San Diego. On some lev­els, this seems like an­other ex­am­ple of the NFL hold­ing a city hostage by threat­en­ing to leave if the pub­lic fund­ing doesn’t kick in to seal the deal.

And tweets from no­table Charg­ers play­ers Melvin In­gram and Keenan Allen did noth­ing to help the spirit for the team to gen­er­ate tax­payer sup­port.

Ac­cord­ing to ProFoot­bal­, part of In­gram’s reactionar­y post on Twit­ter read: “Ev­ery game bet­ter be sold out. Charg­ers blue ev­ery­where. Fans got what they wanted. Now come sup­port.”

Allen’s tweet, also per PFT, was even worse: “The sta­dium bet­ter be packed. The fans got what they wanted. Now let’s see sell­outs ev­ery home game!”

What pa­thetic re­ac­tions, ooz­ing with en­ti­tle­ment.

It’s a shame, too, that as Spanos took a ma­jor step to­ward re­build­ing a bridge to the city and fan base, a cou­ple of his play­ers, surely en­thu­si­as­tic, poured cold wa­ter on the team chair­man’s move with such tone-deaf de­mands on the pay­ing cus­tomers.

The Charg­ers just fin­ished 4-12, last in the AFC West. And some knuck­le­head tweets de­mands that fans had bet­ter pay up?

This is why most play­ers have no busi­ness dab­bling in pol­i­tics.

By the way, the his­tory of San Diego sports has shown the peo­ple in­deed will sup­port the team when it puts out a play­off prod­uct.

In any event, with Kroenke com­mit­ted to foot­ing the cost of his ex­trav­a­gant $1.7 bil­lion theme park of a sta­dium in In­gle­wood, Calif., and with Su­per Bowl 50 on the hori­zon in Santa Clara, Calif., it’s worth not­ing some his­tory.

No place in the coun­try has been as philo­soph­i­cally re­sis­tant to the no­tion of us­ing tax dol­lars to help build sta­di­ums (at least NFL sta­di­ums) that gen­er­ate prof­its for bil­lion­aires as Cal­i­for­nia.

That’s why Los An­ge­les didn’t have a sta­dium deal un­til now. Re­mem­ber, when Hous­ton was awarded a fran­chise in 1999 to be­gin play in 2002, the ex­pan­sion team was orig­i­nally pegged for Los An­ge­les, con­tin­gent on a sta­dium plan that never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

For the bulk of the years since, Spanos was frus­trated at ev­ery turn as one San Diego plan af­ter an­other was bogged down by pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics. So to try this again now — af­ter his joint plan with the Oak­land Raiders for a sta­dium in Car­son, Calif., was top­pled by NFL own­ers over­whelm­ingly choos­ing Kroenke’s In­gle­wood — is in­trigu­ing enough.

Just when it seemed the Charg­ers had one foot out of the door.

So why is Spanos try­ing again to make it work in San Diego?

It’s home. This is the ac­tion of a man who doesn’t want to up­root his fran­chise, nor his life, to move to Los An­ge­les, if at all pos­si­ble. Spanos has con­tended in re­cent months that, though he pur­sued the Car­son deal, he wanted to make some­thing work in San Diego. No doubt, there were con­flict­ing mes­sages, in­clud­ing sharp pub­lic ex­changes.

But it seems now that rather than part­ner with Kroenke, which would in­volve work­ing through some fric­tion stem­ming from the Los An­ge­les com­pe­ti­tion, Spanos would rather stay home.

Even with Spanos reg­u­larly declar­ing his love for San Diego, the prospect of Los An­ge­les — where the NBA Clip­pers were sold for an as­ton­ish­ing $2 bil­lion — of­fered the Charg­ers a chance to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the fran­chise’s value in ad­di­tion to their year-to-year cash flow. (Those Clip­pers, by the way, once were the San Diego Clip­pers.)

Con­sid­er­ing the long-term eco­nom­ics, and maybe the heirs, Los An­ge­les of­fered so much more than stay­ing in a city with a run­down sta­dium, while a quar­ter of the sea­son ticket base comes from Or­ange County.

But the game has changed again.

Now Spanos needs to com­plete a two-minute drive in over­time.


 ?? KIRBY LEE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS ?? Dean Spanos’ fam­ily has owned the Charg­ers since 1984.
KIRBY LEE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS Dean Spanos’ fam­ily has owned the Charg­ers since 1984.
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