The San Diego — excuse me, now Los Angeles — Chargers enjoyed their NFL heyday way back in the early 1980s. Dan Fouts, and his admirable beard, led the Air Coryell offense — a pass-happy attack named after their coach, Don Coryell. The Chargers were fun. They played some memorable playoff games. Their lighting bolt helmets were cool.
But the team’s defense stunk. Those Chargers never even reached a Super Bowl. The team, which started out in Los Angeles in 1960 before moving south to San Diego after just one season, eventually got to its lone Super Bowl, in 1995, before the San Francisco 49ers annihilated them. Over the past two decades, the Chargers fielded a few strong regular season teams. But they always faded in the playoffs.
So it’s only fitting that a team with such an auspicious on-field history would pull off an all-time blunder. On Thursday, the Chargers announced they are moving to Los Angles next season, to set up shop in the $2.6 billion Inglewood, Calif., stadium being built by Rams owner Stan Kroenke. The new home of the Rams, and now Chargers, will open in 2019. The Chargers, after forking over a $650 million relocation fee to be split by other NFL owners, will pay $1 a year in tenant fees. Over the next two years, the Chargers will play their games at the StubHub Center, a soccer facility in Carson, Calif., that seats some 30,000 people. There are high school football stadiums in Texas approaching that capacity.
The citizens of San Diego refused to be bilked by a billionaire unsatisfied with Qualcomm Stadium, the team’s now former home. Chargers owner Dean Spanos wanted taxpayer funds to subsidize a new facility. In November, the voters rejected one final proposal at the ballot box. So Spanos, whose team is worth some $2 billion according to Forbes, fled San Diego, one of the most beautiful cities in the country — and with a suffering, but still intensely loyal fan base — for LA.
But for what? Before the Rams returned this season, Los Angeles had managed to survive without the NFL, thank you, since the 1994 season. (After that year, the Rams left for St. Louis, and the Raiders returned to Oakland). The Rams are back. Plenty of Raiders fans remain. But Oakland seems destined for Las Vegas.
The Chargers? Los Angeles wasn’t clamoring for the Chargers. The team is leaving a proven home base to play second fiddle in a city with a questionable commitment to NFL football. In his letter to fans announcing the move, Spanos said, “we must earn the respect and support of LA football fans.” Usually, when teams move to a new city, those fans are starving for a team. Spanos himself acknowledges that’s far from the case.
The team also released a new logo, which was widely mocked on social media. Observers noted that it looked like a cross between the Los Angeles Dodgers logo and that of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lighting, which led to an amusing response from the Lighting’s Twitter account. According to a Chargers spokesman, however, the LA logo won’t appear on the team’s helmets. The lighting bolt stays.
Call it a tiny consolation on an otherwise dreadful NFL day.