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There's a reason why Marty is 5-12 in playoff games. Defense, an excellent quarterback, and a good front line can get you into the postseason, but once in, you need to take risks; be assured, the other team will.

So, when the Chargers had the ball on the Jets' 22-yard line, 1st down, game tied, in overtime, I absolutely knew Marty was going to call three running plays in a row. So did the Jets, the fans at Qualcomm, and the great world of men in undershorts watching the game on TV.

This time of year all the teams are good -- or at least capable of being good. Normally, every coach is trying to win. Match him with a coach who's trying not to lose, and more often than not, the coach who's trying to win, wins. Marty has never figured that out.

Then again, perhaps I'm being too harsh on the coach of the year. When I want to tune up my assumptions, I invariably look to accordions; in this instance, Ferino's Music Repair & Tuning on Robinson Avenue. An older man with a thick Italian accent answers the phone. I ask, "Did you watch Saturday's game?"

"We watched in Las Vegas. We just come last night back. My son, my son, he goes over there. He watches all the time. My son is very, very...he likes the Chargers."

"When did you realize the Chargers might lose the game?"

"I don't believe they losing."

I will take that as definitive. "How long have you been in the company of accordions?" The question is meant to move our conversation gracefully to its end.

"My father make accordion. I work in that and repair and tune piano. Every day."

Now, I'm interested. "Are there a lot of people who play accordion in San Diego?"

"Yes, we have accordion club here in San Diego. Maybe two, three hundred peoples."

I have got to attend an accordion-club meeting. "That's a lot of people."

"Yeah, a lot. It's nice. We have, every year, a convention in Las Vegas also. Next June, July we have other conventions. People come from Italy, from Canada, from anyplace. Maybe five, six hundred people."

I can't stop myself. "What instruments do you play?"

"I play accordion, but I play piano, saxophone, clarinet -- all the instruments I repairing. Also inventor. You know, inventor?"

No turning back. "What did you invent?"

"I invent the hybrid car. Electric and gas. I make, myself, car by hand. I have patents with that. Thirty-two years ago I started making hybrids. Japanese just making now."

I'll need to know where he was born, his early years, how he got to San Diego, recreational activities, family, dreams, and hopes, but first..."You've got the patent; can't you make money out of that?"

"No. You have 17 years' control with your patent. Now, no more. Everybody can make. I just watch."

* * *

"I saw it, and it was completely disappointing," says Jeremy of California Police Equipment on El Cajon Boulevard.

"At what point did you begin to think the Chargers were going to lose?"

"Halftime. They weren't playing their A game. It was very obvious. We didn't play them like we were playing for a serious win."

* * *

"Did anybody in your shop watch the game?"

Marilyn, of On Comic Ground, "Mainstream, Alternative & Underground Comics," doing business on University Avenue, replies; actually, she's talking to someone in the store. I figure he's an employee. I hear Marilyn ask, "Hey, Patrick, did you watch the game?"

Can't make out his reply. Marilyn, continuing her conversation with Patrick, says, "Okay, I heard we lost too, but I didn't watch it."

I break in, "Does anybody have an opinion about the Chargers?"

"Gee, I don't know." Marilyn moves away from the phone, asks Patrick, "Do you have an opinion about the Chargers?"

Silence. Silence. And more silence. Then a soft, scraping noise. Marilyn says, "He thinks they're doing pretty good this year."

"And you, do you think they're doing good?"

"Yeah, I would say the same thing. I mean, sure, they lost in overtime because of a kick, but you can't take away the rest of the season. I mean, how many other teams did they beat to get to where they were?"

"That's true."

"But, I'm afraid for next year. Usually when you do good one year you don't do good the next."

Time for that graceful exit. "How long have you been at On Comic Ground?"

"Ten years."

"What's your best-seller?"

"Oh, gosh, probably Astonishing X-Men right now."

"Do best-sellers come and go?"

"Yeah, it depends on the writers. If they get a better opportunity, they'll move on to something else. They usually sign for a year. So, most of them will do at least 12 issues. Sometimes, especially if the writer is really good, he can double the amount of readers you get."

Sounds like coaching in the NFL.

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