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San Diego Chargers Decide to Blow Town; Spanos Decides He Loves LA

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They say there are two things you can count on in life; death and taxes. Actually, there are three…if there is an arrogant, shortsighted and selfish way to approach a situation, the Spanos family will not only find it, but they will embrace it like a cute puppy.

The team made it official today; they are exercising their option to move to LA. So the reality is that San Diego, a city that has supported the Chargers for 55 years, much of it with extremely ugly football, will no longer have an NFL team to call their own. Chargers owner Dean Spanos and his inner circle, who are making what they claim is a difficult decision, have indeed pulled the plug.

By making this a $500 million-plus move, The NFL at least gave Spanos a pause. The cost was presented to him at last year’s owner’s meeting and was designed because my sources tell me the NFL wanted San Diego to have the Super Bowl in San Diego, (and the general disdain from many of his fellow owners). But that Super Bowl wish would only work for the NFL if there was a new (or at least vastly upgraded) stadium. So, his group actually made overtures as though they were interested in staying, playing a part in putting forth a deal on the November ballot that, based on the demographic and political makeup of our town, and the team’s horrendous public relations strategy, was doomed from the beginning.

Upgrading the existing Mission Valley location could have been a legitimate option, no matter what Spanos says. If two thirds of the money the Chargers will spend on the move were put into ‘The Q’, the result would have been a world class facility, which would have been more than acceptable to not only the NFL, but to the corporate clients who were finding the facilities totally unacceptable in recent years. Once the ballot initiative was defeated, the city even made an overture (albeit very late) that it would lease the facility for $1.00 per year, again providing a viable ‘stay’ option for the team.

But Spanos wanted to bail from the beginning, ever since his relationship with the prior city administration was in the crapper. Last year, the NFL, while granting the Rams move to LA (and denying his), told him to take a year to try to figure something out to stay. But once Spanos saw the increase in the Rams’ value after the move from Saint Louis, the deal was done. After all, the Spanos’ family’s net worth is said to be $1.3 billion, approximately $1 billion is related to the Charger’s value. So if they can move and more quickly (compared to building or re-building a stadium) increase the team’s value by even a conservative $600-$700 million, he wasn’t going to say no. The NFL, which is the most transparent of all the professional sports leagues when it comes to showing their true allegiances (to the owners of course) wasn’t going to stand in his way at this point.

The league has been part of at least half a dozen schemes to get cities and states to build new stadiums. And often, it’s not been because the stadiums really needed upgrades, although some like ‘The Q’ certainly deserved to be condemned, it’s because of the money that a new stadium brings to team owners. And make no mistake, the NFL Commish is employed by, that’s right, the owners. A rising tide lifts all ships, and the Chargers were pulling down the league by being in a mid-level market with an antiquated stadium. It’s as simple as that. So by paying about $150 million more than he would have had the Chargers stayed, Mr. Spanos is gambling that he will profit far more by this move. Even though he has to share a bit of the pie with Mr. K from the Rams, who by the way, is reportedly spending $1 billion on the new stadium complex up in LA LA Land.

I’ve covered the Chargers and the NFL for too many years to admit and one thing is clear. A winning team solves all (or at least the majority) of problems. Chargers fans have endured some absolutely shitty ownership and management. Look at the consistently winning teams in the NFL; the ownership gets it. By mid-season, the Rams stadium was only two-thirds full, because the team (and ownership) sucks. So good luck Mr. Spanos; you’ll need it…

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