So it appears the Chargers will be conducting training camp at Cal State Dominguez Hills in July 2003 in a brand-new facility, and then after stumbling on the field again in San Diego, I predict they will try to move to Los Angeles on a permanent basis to begin the 2004 season.
This presents a dilemma: They will try--but should we help?
WHEN THE NFL awarded Houston an expansion franchise because it met the NFL’s extortion demand of $700 million and public money for a stadium, league leaders blamed The Times for hurting L.A.'s effort to get a team, while congratulating the cheerleaders at the Houston Chronicle for championing their city’s cause.
Joe Browne, right-hand man to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, not only blamed The Times for not doing its job in rallying the taxpayers of L.A. to fight harder in providing a new playpen for an expansion team, but said The Times was also responsible for paving the way for the Rams’ departure--failing to lead the public-money charge to keep the team here.
When Seattle Seahawk owner Ken Behring tried to move his team to Anaheim, he expressed great dismay when the L.A. media failed to greet him with puff pieces.
When Arizona Cardinal owner Bill Bidwill looked toward L.A., The Times reported that if Bidwill’s team won every game it played for the next 19 years the franchise under his leadership would still not have a .500 record.
Some people considered this negative reporting; I considered them roadblocks designed to keep losers out of town. I got here after Donald Sterling had arrived.
When Raider owner Al Davis lost his court case in L.A., which would have led to the team’s return, he said The Times changed reporters in the middle of the trial--taking away someone considered Raider-friendly, and replacing him with someone familiar with the Raiders’ shady way of doing business.
Now we have Charger owner Alex Spanos knocking at the door, which makes me long for those Russian Sputnik days when we had underground bunkers to hide in.
I WONDER now, however, if we shouldn’t take our lead from St. Louis, which embraced Georgia Frontiere--knowing full well it didn’t go well for the last seven husbands who did that--and now has the most exciting team in the NFL.
There’s even a newspaper precedent here for making this happen. The Chargers left L.A. in 1961 because Jack Murphy, sports editor and columnist for the San Diego Union, convinced team owner Baron Hilton that San Diego was ready for football, and then Murphy urged city politicians to build a stadium, which later was named after him. I have to admit I like the ring of Simers Stadium.
To do something like that here would mean replacing Dwyre as sports editor of The Times, and making me both sports editor and columnist. Frankly, I don’t see that as a big problem.
When I asked Jerry Magee, the first reporter for the San Diego Union to cover the Chargers in 1961 and now the best NFL writer in the country, if a sports editor and columnist for The Times could swing the same deal with the Chargers today and woo them back to L.A., he said, “First thing you have to do is get a dog.
“Murphy frequently wrote about ‘Abe of Spoon River,’” Magee said, “and his columns about the dog were well read by the women of the region, which was one of his strongest assets in influencing the public.”
I asked if I could lovingly substitute my wife for the dog, and Magee said, “She ought to kick your butt,” and I had to remind myself that Magee doesn’t want the Chargers to leave, so he was going to say some things to unsettle me.
Maybe I could write some positive things about the Chargers to get people excited in L.A. and help swing a deal for a new stadium.
“But Jack was a very talented writer,” Magee said, “and Jack was widely read,” and I had to remind myself Magee doesn’t want the Chargers to leave, so he was going to say some things to unsettle me.
“And Jack had a very literary style,” Magee said, and I said, “OK, we’ll get a ghostwriter for the Page Two column.”
“To be honest,” Magee said, (and who wants Magee to be honest?) “I think the Chargers will move. The city of San Diego is not going to build them another stadium. When Spanos came here he had no particular feeling for San Diego. It was just a way into the NFL. [Alex and son Dean] now think the bottom line is their God. So if someone builds them a stadium, they’ll go.”
The fact the Anschutz empire is about to strike a deal to bring the Chargers to L.A. to use the training camp facility it’s building for an NFL team is a pretty good tip-off about who might build the Chargers a stadium.
“If the Chargers do leave, I think it will be a mistake,” Magee said, “because L.A. is the worst NFL town in the United States.”
Those are stirring words, of course, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt prouder, which is going to make it very difficult to say anything that makes it easier for the NFL to come back and rip us off.
TODAY’S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Mr. Anonymous:
“Your Olympic column was laugh-out-loud-funny and I am sharing it with my three sons, who always felt it was my fault [they weren’t better athletes]. I can’t share it with my wife, however, since she bears a striking resemblance to Max Patkin.”
Larry, I kept your name out as you asked. By the way, I had a friend in school with the last name of “Rossi” too; could he be a relative?
T.J. Simers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.