As the last minute of Sunday’s AFC Wild Card playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers ticked away, San Diego native and lifelong Chargers fan Teri Brown watched with her head in her hands.
Brown, like many who gathered in a Grantville sports bar for the game, had experienced a wide range of emotions in the five years since the Chargers last won a playoff game.
Since then, team owner Dean Spanos was involved in a contentious fight with city leaders overfunding a new stadium for the team. The team left San Diego in January 2017 after a ballot measure for a new downtown stadium was soundly rejected by voters in 2016.
Now, with under a minute left, what had looked like a sure victory was up for grabs — the Ravens were down by a touchdown, and they had the ball.
When the Chargers announced the move north, some fans burned their gear, swearing they were done with the team. But Brown was torn.
“I wanted to quit them, but I couldn’t.” she said. “I couldn’t not root for my guys.”
McGregor’s Ale House on San Diego Mission Road sits practically in the shadow of SDCCU Stadium, blocks from the Chargers’ old home. Manager Dan Longo said the crowds have changed in the 10 years he’s worked there.
“People still come in,” he said. “It’s just not as big a crowd as it used to be.”
On Sunday, for the fans at McGregor’s, it was as if the team was still next door. Every table was spoken for, and fans cheered enthusiastically.
Longo said the type of Chargers fans he sees now are different than the ones who came in five years ago.
“In 2014, (the Chargers) were winning like crazy,” he said. “The fan base (now) is a little different. They’re not fair-weather fans.”
When cameras switched to a shot of Spanos during the first quarter, the bar erupted in boos.
Jared Vogel, of El Cajon, has been a Chargers fan for 30 years. He said he wasn’t going to let a team owner get between him and the team he loved.
“All the owners are scumbags,” he said. “I either stop watching ball or I stay with the same team. It’s not the boys’ fault.”
Vogel said he had trekked up to the new home of the Chargers for a game this season, against San Francisco, at what was then-called the StubHub Center. He came away unimpressed.
“It was like going to a game at Granite Hills High School,” he said.
Now called the Dignity Health Sports Park, the 27,000-seat stadium was designed and built for soccer. It is the temporary home of the Los Angeles Chargers. The team will eventually share a stadium with the Los Angeles Rams.
Tim Stong, who lives in Oceanside, also described himself as a “lifelong” Chargers fan. Stong said he still blamed the city for losing the team.
“I was devastated when they went to L.A.,” he said. “Everyone wants to blame the owner...I put a lot of the blame on the city.”
Vincent Alexander, a former season ticket-holder, said he was hesitant to support the team after the move.
“I could care less for the ownership,” he said. “I still love the players and the team.”
For San Diego native Rodger Moore, loyalty was bone-deep — even after the move to Los Angeles.
“It didn’t even phase me,” he said. “Even if they were losing, I’d be happy. This (playoff run) just extends my happiness.”
Brown rationalized her support of the team and distaste for the owner .
“You hate the president, but you still love the country,” she said. “I can hate the owners but I still love my team.”
After holding on to beat the Ravens 23-17, the Chargers move on to face the New England Patriots next Sunday.