Dear Chargers, It's Over
A pre-emptive breakup letter to the team we love.
Illustration by Brett Affrunti
This may be premature, but sometimes you need to strike before you’re struck. So goodbye, Chargers.
Our relationship started in 1961, and lasted 54 ambiguous years. You had a disco theme song that sounded like a cover band’s version of a cover band’s version of KC and the Sunshine Band. It was awesome. And now you’re leaving behind a few million of us who think your new girlfriend, Los Angeles, is a real *****.
As a kid I had a Chargers ring. It was made of tin or lead or fossilized tears of fans. It was my most treasured possession. For winter games, a friend knitted me a Chargers helmet with Chuck Muncie’s number. I had “San Diego Super Chargers” on 45 vinyl. My belief in the concept of hope was stronger than hope itself.
No one will ever forget the Don Coryell and Dan Fouts era. Our defense played like it was concerned about the sanitation of contact football. Opposing offenses ran free, scoring 50 points. We’d score 6,000. Fouts had a beard that inspired modern hipster culture. Legend says he farmed chickens in it.
Yes, we had some great times. Like when Dennis Gibson blocked that last-second touchdown pass to get us to the Super Bowl in ’94. Or when LaDainian Tomlinson broke the record for single-season rushing touchdowns at home. He was a real hero who sold fake lawns on TV. We won the greatest game of all time when tight end Kellen Winslow blocked two Miami field goals in 1982.
But mostly, living with the Chargers in your heart is like rooting for Job to win the Bible. Bad things happen to the Chargers. Like the time the Raiders beat us by playing soccer. Or Ryan Leaf—our first-round quarterback savior-flop whose tactic for avoiding sacks was weeping in the fetal position. It took Jerry Rice all of one minute to turn our only Super Bowl into a psychotherapy session. We lost our 2005 playoff game because it rained in San Diego for the first time in 38 years. It’s hard to play football while simultaneously grappling with the metaphysical question “What is rain?”
In recent years, A.J. Smith didn’t help. As soon as someone on our team said a curse word, the holier-than-thou general manager would kick them out of his church. He never met a good player he didn’t want to exile. Oh, you’re a superstar, huh? Well, do that crap in New Orleans.
It’s easy to be a fan of a team that sucks with 100-percent accuracy, like the Jaguars. It’s harder to be a Chargers fan because, every year, a few pundits predict that we’ll win it all. Then some wild card team beats us by converting a 4th and 164. The fall is longer, and harder on vital organs like the heart.
"Foibles" is a good word. "Zoinks" works, too.
That is the Chargers way. As fans, we always peered over the fence at greatness, crying, with our sad, flaccid lightning bolts hanging at our sides. Some say it’s because the Spanos family is cheap. Others say it’s because we never fully adopted the powder-blue uniforms—the coolest fashion statement in history. Cooler than Lady Gaga’s meat suit or Donald Trump’s hair.
And now, word on the street is that you’re leaving us for Los Angeles. Our archnemesis. Leaving us for ISIS would’ve been less of a slap in the face. Every Raider game, their L.A. fans would hop into their postapocalyptic vehicles powered by virgin blood and turn our usually amiable stadium into a prison riot. They scared our women, beat up our men. It’s hard to win a fight with a man wearing an ankle bracelet, which turns out to be a pretty effective assault weapon.
But loving you taught us a lot. It’s like rooting for the male in a praying mantis sexual encounter. You know he’ll eventually get his face eaten off, but the action before that happens is pretty exciting. It produces hope. And hope, fulfilled or not, is a good thing. Hope sustained our football zeal for a half century.
Congratulations, Chargers, on your 2017 Super Bowl win. If history has taught us one thing, it’s that anyone who leaves San Diego—like, say, Rodney Harrison, Darren Sproles, Drew Brees, even the damn Clippers—becomes a champion.
Thanks for the memories. Feel free to booty call us when L.A. cheats on you with basketball or baseball or competitive kale eating. If you try to use the “Super Chargers” theme song in your new home, we will arson you.
A lifelong fan
Note: At press time, it’s not official that the Chargers are leaving San Diego. We publish this breakup letter because it seems they’re leaving us for L.A. and we’re lashing out emotionally. We hope we’re wrong.