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San Diego Hopes to Keep Order

As the losses pile up, the San Diego Chargers are determined to show they have some fight left.

Just not in the stands.

To that end, the Chargers are relying on a slew of extra police officers and security guards to roam around today’s game against the Raiders, a rivalry that traditionally has devolved into a punch-a-palooza.

It’s a good idea, considering this game has brought the worst out in fans in years past. Two years ago, Qualcomm Stadium was a madhouse. Players from both teams found themselves ignoring the action on the field in favor of the fights in the stands, which red-coated security guards were only partly successful at smothering.

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Rowdy Raider fans in Oakland might have perfected the art of winging D-cell batteries at people standing on the sideline--Mike Shanahan once had one whiz by his head--but there is no NFL game that brings out more hooligans than Raiders at Chargers.

It’s no wonder the Chargers ponied up $40,000 to triple the police presence at last season’s game. There were 150 armed, off-duty police officers in addition to the 800-member, unarmed private security force. Instead of selling alcohol through the third quarter as the vendors normally did, they cut off the flow at halftime.

A year earlier, there was a different type of booze flow. A roaming band of Raider fans surrounded a car with a Charger fan driving and what looked to be his young son in the passenger seat. One of the rowdies dumped an entire cup of beer into the car through the sunroof, and the pack moved on.

Last year, a Raider fan received a five-year prison sentence for stabbing a Charger fan.

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“I tell people--especially the guys who weren’t in L.A.--when we go to San Diego, this is basically how the fans were in L.A., all the fights and all the turmoil that’s up in the stands,” Raider receiver Tim Brown said on a conference call with San Diego reporters. “That’s basically how it was in every L.A. game we had.”

San Diego police did a better job of suppressing the violence at last season’s Raider game, but two years ago, they hovered over the parking lots in helicopters and warned loiterers they would be arrested if they didn’t leave.

“It’s a great rivalry on the field, but there are some very zealous fans who like to take it off the field,” Lt. Mike Cash said. “It can get out of hand. You’ll have someone trying to bring plastic swords into the stadium, things like that. One guy tried to bring in a banner that was held up with an ax handle. You take that thing off and you’ve got a weapon. It gets pretty interesting sometimes.”

Dr. John Byrnes, president and founder of the Center for Aggression Management in Winter Park, Fla., said incidents of fan violence at football games aren’t terribly surprising.

“People who are watching a movie are going through the same firing of the synapses as if they were actually doing it,” he said. “So, if you’re watching a game, you’re actually playing alongside them in your mind.

“Add to that the impairment of alcohol and you’ve got a powder keg.”

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San Francisco’s Jeff Garcia and Miami’s Jay Fiedler--two of the game’s best quarterbacks--face each other Sunday in a game loaded with playoff implications.

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The two last met in the 1994 East-West Shrine Game, when San Jose State’s Garcia played for the West, and Dartmouth’s Fiedler played for the East. Through three quarters, Fiedler had MVP honors locked up. But Garcia threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and ran for a two-point conversion, not only lifting his team to victory but grabbing a share of the MVP trophy.

Their paths might have crossed again had Garcia accepted a contract offer from Miami. The Dolphins were the first team to make him an offer when he made the jump from the Calgary Stampeders to the NFL. But he decided to sign with the 49ers, who made him an offer a few days later.

Likewise, Fiedler took a circuitous path to the NFL, first getting some experience in NFL Europe.

Garcia feels a kinship.

“Jay Fiedler, myself, Kurt Warner were guys that were pretty much overlooked by the NFL, but we went elsewhere and were able to gain valuable experience,” said Garcia, who is 233 yards away from his third consecutive 3,000-yard season. “It helped us mature in a lot of ways.

“We’re guys who were overlooked in so many ways, and now we’re proving our worth at the top level of the NFL.”

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The Bears filed a complaint with the league after two sideline reporters--Fox’s Pam Oliver and WBBM radio’s Mike Adamle--mentioned that Chicago defensive players were shouting at Bear offensive coordinator John Shoop for his play-calling during the second quarter of last Sunday’s loss at Green Bay.

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Instead of killing the messengers, the Bears should be more concerned with an offense that has averaged 11 points in its last three games.

Winless Detroit has lost its last three games on plays that came with 20, 21 and 45 seconds to play.

Said former Lion Coach Wayne Fontes: “If the games were 55 minutes, the Detroit Lions would be 10-2.”

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His team scored just two touchdowns in a 15-14 victory over the Giants in October, but Ram Coach Mike Martz shook off the suggestion this week that New York’s defense was the reason.

“I absolutely would not give credit to the Giants,” he said. “We threw the ball all over the lot against the Giants. I’d like to line up against Jason Sehorn every week.”

Now that’s a matchup I’d pay to see: Sehorn vs. Martz.


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