For two decades, Dan Jauregui has boasted he is the No. 1 fan of the Chargers football team.
He is certainly the most visible. Dressed as Boltman, he attends every game. Fans and players can see him whooping it up from his front-row, field-level seat.
With so many fans wanting to take his picture, it can take him 45 minutes to get from the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium to his seat.
Now with the team seemingly on the verge of departing for Carson, the 49-year-old Ramona real estate agent has taken on a new motto: Build a new stadium, save the team for San Diego. He’s the Zelig of the Charger relocation issue.
He’s at nearly every public event involving the relocation controversy: announcements, rallies, news conferences — in costume, of course. Except for the expense, he’d love to go to Chicago for the Aug. 11 meeting of the NFL barons. He’s a favorite guest on sports talk radio.
“You know it’s a big deal if Boltman shows up to your news conference or your rally,” said Tony Manolatos, spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s stadium task force. “He’s made this effort his mission.”
While some fans may be starting to suffer Charger fatigue as the issue drags on, Jauregui has not. “I’m pro-Charger, but I’m not pro-owner,” he said.
When Faulconer invited selected Charger boosters to a meeting/pep rally at City Hall, Boltman was on the list.
A photograph of the two of them shaking hands is destined to have a special spot when the long history of the Chargers relocation issue is compiled. Seven pictures of Boltman and the mayor are on Boltman’s Facebook page.
The Boltman character was born in 1995 when, while watching Super Bowl XXIX — in which the 49ers defeated the Chargers, 49-26 — Jauregui noticed that the Chargers lacked a mascot.
He volunteered and talked his way into a role. The costume has changed over the years and now consists of a Chargers jersey and pants, faux muscles and Hollywood-produced headgear, including sunglasses.
“Mascots are good luck, they’re symbols of their team,” he said. For years, his identity was an open secret — although the license plate on his pickup truck, BOLTMAN, may have provided a clue.
(While its list of championships is short, San Diego has perhaps the most famous sports character of all: the San Diego Chicken — Ted Giannoulas — a fan favorite since the mid-1970s. The Chicken, too, has had his share of disputes.)
Like a defense looking for a goal-line strategy, Jauregui has an idea for keeping the Chargers in San Diego: litigation, based on an accusation that the Chargers and the NFL are violating antitrust laws by “abuse of monopoly power.”
He sent a “demand” letter to the city attorney, and also a letter to the city attorney in St. Louis suggesting similar action against the Rams.
The idea has not gained momentum. San Diego City Atty. Jan Goldsmith, who prefers negotiation over litigation, notes that the city’s 2006 lease with the Chargers over Qualcomm Stadium included an “absolute waiver” of such litigation.
“The city is not planning to file an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and the Chargers,” Goldsmith said in a statement.
The Chargers are similarly dismissive, particularly since Jauregui’s idea seemed to have gained favor with former City Atty. Michael Aguirre, whose term in office was marked by acrimony with the Chargers over their Qualcomm lease.
“When we first heard that Mike Aguirre and Boltman were cooking up a lawsuit against the Chargers — without bothering to read the lease — we thought: Never have a client and his lawyer been more perfectly matched,” said Mark Fabiani, the Chargers’ lead counsel on relocation.
Undeterred, Jauregui has reached out to a New York lawyer involved in a 2011 antitrust lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of players to prevent a lockout. His position is that it is not legal to waive potential litigation when the public interest is involved.
“A lot of people think he’s just this cartoon character, but he’s the real deal,” Aguirre said of Jauregui. “He’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of the issue. He may be the best advocate the players have.”
Jauregui has jousted with the Chargers before. When his role as mascot went sour over expense reimbursements, he sued and reached an out-of-court settlement for $30,000 in 1999, he said.
“What they’re doing to the city today is what they did to me in 1997, strong-arm tactics, ‘my way or the highway,’” he said.
Jauregui remains confident the team will stay in San Diego — but if they don’t, he is ready. Boltman will not follow the team elsewhere. Jauregui vows to take his Boltman costume, weigh it down and toss it off the Coronado-Bay Bridge.
“If they move to Carson or Los Angeles, they’re dead to me,” he said.