USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Spanos makes play to stay
Chargers might not relocate to L.A. after all
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 ProFootballTalk.com, 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.
FOLLOW NFL COLUMNST JARRETT BELL