Guest post: Fire and football

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Scott Lewis is executive editor at He is among members of the community we have asked to post thoughts, news and follow-ups to the current Southern California wildfire story.

Throughout the week of fire, there has been a series of headlines usually tucked in below all of the important news. The stream of updates had to do with what seemed like an overly agonizing decision about when and where to play the Chargers game. Government and team officials passed this decision around like the hottest of potatoes. And they just passed it off completely. The game had been scheduled for Sunday.

About Tuesday, as the fires were raging and causing evacuations all the way to the coast, the Chargers decided to move their practices to Arizona.

By Wednesday, they had decided to pass the decision on when the game would occur over to San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders:


The Chargers are fully prepared to implement whatever decision the Mayor makes, including either playing the game at Qualcomm Stadium or relocating the game to another facility out of the San Diego area.

The mayor on Thursday sent the decision back to the Chargers:

‘Should they decide to play in San Diego, the stadium will be ready on Sunday,’ said Fred Sainz, the mayor’s spokesman. ‘It’s their decision to play in San Diego or not.’

Neither side wanted to be saddled with responsibility for a potentially controversial choice. After all, the air in San Diego is still hazy. The fires are still burning in parts of the county. It doesn’t take a genius
to figure out some choice criticism for the team or the city for callously putting resources into a game.

So no decision came.

Until Friday, when the NFL stepped in. Chargers President Dean Spanos explained that, after all that, it was the NFL’s choice all along.

The NFL Commissioner in his sole discretion has the ultimate right to decide where and when a game will be played. With that in mind, please understand it wasn’t as easy logistically as a lot of people thought it might have been.

Wait, hadn’t they said it was entirely up to the mayor? He went on:

We formally got the go-ahead late Thursday from the City that Qualcomm Stadium would be ready Sunday. Unfortunately the Commissioner and most of the NFL officials who would be involved in the decision-making process were in London for the game between the Dolphins and the Giants.

This means, in case you can’t tell by now, that the game will be held Sunday as originally scheduled.

The Chargers are accustomed to criticism from non-fans angry about how many resources and accommodations the team demands. The city is accustomed to being criticized for catering to the Chargers and blasted for not helping the team enough.

So when a tough choice came up, it was a perfect dilemma. As they tried to deal with it, we got the awkward dance of indecision that only San Diego can really pull off.

-- Scott Lewis