Fruit Is Rotting Away, Just Like the Chargers


I wore my L.A. baseball cap, dutifully paid the $2 for parking, stood through the entire morning practice, and remained all the way until the afternoon practice to give a welcome wagon greeting to the Spanos Goofs when they arrived in Carson on Wednesday for the start of Chargers’ training camp.

I thought a nice fruit basket would do the trick.

At some point I became concerned. It was a hot day, and you know what the heat does to fruit. I heard one of the Goofs, the one who wasn’t invited back to the old Crosby Golf Tournament because officials suspected he was cheating when he turned in his handicap, had arrived hours earlier, and we had yet to embrace.

I asked a team spokesman when the Goofs and I might get together for coffee, and without picking up a telephone to check, he said, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” As clairvoyant as he is, I wonder if he saw the Chargers’ collapse coming at mid-season the last three years.


Michael Roth, the No. 1 publicist for the Anschutz Entertainment Group and an expert at making reporters feel good about being rejected, told the Chargers’ spokesman a better response might have been: “I know [the Goof] has a busy schedule today, so I’ll check to see if he has time.”

A few minutes later the Chargers’ spokesman got back to me and said his boss was in meetings and added, “I don’t think his schedule has room to fit you in.”

What do I do with the fruit basket? (I would imagine the Goofs have a suggestion, which is probably my best chance of having one of them get back to me.)


I KNOW the folks at AEG call this place the Home Depot Center, and it’s spectacular, but as much as we’re going to hear about it and write about it, as far as I’m concerned, from now on it’s just The Depot. I do my shopping at the other place.

Anyway, one of the best football teams in the world was training at The Depot, and while I don’t know much about Lazio, the soccer team that hails from Rome, it was apparent they are loaded with talent.

You can imagine what it was like to watch the Chargers after that.

As one of the worst professional football teams in the world year in and year out, the Chargers have come here to scare the small-town folk in San Diego into thinking they might move here -- like we’re all breathing hard at the prospect of having football’s version of the Clippers in our backyard.


When the Chargers’ initial practice began -- a historic occasion considering the team began as the L.A. Chargers -- they drew 24 fans. We have 13 million people living in the area, but I had no idea the Chargers had that many fans here.

When practice ended, I chatted with the Mission Bay Shrimp to see if Doug Flutie felt like seafood out of water in Carson. “It’s not La Jolla,” he said, and you can see why he’s so good at reading defenses. “When I think of high discipline training camps, I think of isolation, and in La Jolla they had cheerleading camps and soccer camps, and here we’re going to be in our own little world.”

One hundred yards over Flutie’s shoulder, there were a bunch of kids participating in a soccer camp. No question, he’s in his own little world.


AT THE afternoon practice, I spotted Tim Leiweke, the AEG brainchild behind The Depot’s development and the five-year deal to host San Diego’s crummy football team, peering through the fence with the other fans.

Leiweke, a former ball boy for the St. Louis Cardinals, had a grand stadium plan for downtown L.A. and the return of the NFL but abandoned it when competitors surfaced. I contended he came up with the stadium plan because he thought he could get the Chargers to move here, which explained why the Chargers agreed to practice here. He continues to deny that, and said, “I’ve still never met Dean Spanos.”

So much for giving the fruit basket to Leiweke and having him pass it on to the Goof, you know, the one with the questionable golf handicap.



LEIWEKE SURPRISED me, though. For the first time since dropping stadium plans, he admitted AEG “is leaving the door open” to adding a football stadium to the AEG empire. I’ve thought all along AEG has the best chance of making such a deal work here, although I shudder at what it might charge for parking at the stadium.

“We have the best soccer stadium in the world, the best track, a wonderful tennis facility, we’re building the only indoor velodrome in the country and we have the best arena in the country,” Leiweke said. “There’s one glaring hole, and that’s a NFL stadium and team.... We’re still in touch with the NFL.”

Sounds promising ... just like most Charger seasons before they begin.


FRED McGRIFF bobblehead night is scheduled for Sept. 12. It could be his biggest contribution of the season, and the next reminder he was ever here.


RICKEY HENDERSON has now gone hitless in his last 12 at-bats and is hitting .192. The Dodgers have gone 3-4 since he arrived to spark the team.

The Dodgers, 11 1/2 games behind the Giants, are now in danger of dropping out of sight -- just like their GM Dan Evans, who failed to deliver when the season began to slip away -- making him no different, I guess, than most Dodger hitters.


TODAY’S LAST words comes in e-mail from Rogain Bros:

“Assuming you haven’t been there before, the Hooters in Old Town Pasadena has a wall that prominently displays photos of celebrity patrons. The only Dodger is Odalis Perez posing with a couple of Hooters’ waitresses.”


It’d be news if he was posing with a couple of his teammates.

T.J. Simers can be reached at