Qualcomm offers $50 million to pull name from Mission Valley stadium

"Q" for "Questionable Investment"?

March 1, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Qualcomm public relations director Chip Speed:

"As the debate over the Chargers' future stadium intensifies, one thing becomes increasingly clear: their current stadium, the one that has borne our name since 1997, is thoroughly unsatisfactory. Even if the Chargers do stay in San Diego, and even if they wind up playing the 2015 season at The Stadium Formerly Known as Qualcomm, it's an edifice that is now synonymous in the public imagination with decrepitude, outdatedness, and general lack-of-features undesirability. Pretty much exactly the opposite of the way you'd want someone to think of your technology company. It's like having a food poisoning outbreak at Heinz Field, or poor cell phone reception in AT&T Stadium. It's bad enough that the Chargers have proven unable to close the deal, as it were, for so many years. Some of the boys in marketing think that's why we lost Samsung for the Galaxy S6: we're starting to be thought of as good, but not quite good enough. Maybe Jack in the Box could take over; they know a thing or two about image rehabilitation."

Chargers-Raiders shared stadium proposal includes "brawl cage"

Not pent up, but still penned in

February 28, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Los Angeles Stadium designer Gruenwelt Schadenfreude:

"Brawls seem to be an inevitable, even integral part of the Chargers-Raiders football experience. Sharing a stadium will almost certainly lead to increased levels of contact between drunken fans in the stadium parking lot, which in turn will lead to increased levels of trash talking and, eventually, violence. Our hope is to apply the same system of contained expression employed by the government when dealing with certain types of protestors: you accept that they're going to do their thing, but you make sure they don't ruin the fun for everyone else by rounding them up and sticking them in a cage. There was some concern about how you could possibly make someone dumb and/or drunk enough to fight over which mediocre football program was more mediocre take his grievance to a designated space, but early testing shows that angry dudes are actually eager to "take it to the cage." We couldn't be more excited."

A reading from the Book of Spanos

A disaster of Biblical proportions?

February 26, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Then the Almighty Dollar came to Spanos a second time: "Go to the great city of San Diego and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Spanos obeyed the word of the Dollar and went to San Diego. Now San Diego was a very small market; it could not even sell out its home games. So, Spanos began by going a day’s journey north to Carson, proclaiming, “One season more and the Chargers will be in this town." The San Diegans believed Spanos. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth over their officially licensed NFL jerseys.

When Spanos's warning reached the Mayor of San Diego, he rose from his comfy desk chair, took off his navy blue suit, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust that used to be the lawns of Balboa Park. This is the proclamation he issued in San Diego: “By the decree of the Mayor: over the last 54 years, the Chargers have been a source of civic pride and inspiration to San Diegans. The people of San Diego are working in good faith to develop a plan that, if approved by the voters, will provide a home for the Chargers for generations to come. San Diego remains fully committed to working with the Chargers to keep the team in their rightful home, San Diego. Let the people give up their lukewarm fannery and their endless yammering about infrastructure. Who knows? Spanos may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce greed so that we will not lose our precious, precious football.”

When Spanos saw what the Mayor did and how he turned from his complaint about breaches of good faith, he shrugged and said, "Pony up, or you can bet your sweet butt I'll bring on you the destruction I have threatened."

Chargers departure could hit <em>U-T</em> where it hurts

Paper's commercial viability threatened by team's relocation to L.A.?

February 20, 2015 — Matt Potter

Ever since the Chargers arrived here from Los Angeles in 1961, the football team has had a godfather in what used to be known as the Union-Tribune, and before that the morning Union and the Evening Tribune.

Owned by Jim Copley, the papers heavily promoted construction of San Diego Stadium in Mission Valley, the name of which was subsequently changed to Jack Murphy Stadium, in honor of the Union’s sports writer’s role in the development.

When it later became necessary for the city to sell the stadium's naming rights to raise cash for an expansion demanded by the team, Copley's widow Helen quickly signaled support for replacing the dead scribe's name with that of mobile phone giant Qualcomm.

Political alliances between the Chargers and Jim Copley, one of the first to befriend Dick Nixon's ill-starred career, also blossomed. Star quarterback Jack Kemp was virtually adopted by Union editor and Nixon PR man Herb Klein and molded into a Republican New York congressman from Buffalo.

This week the game changed.

News that the team is partnering with the Oakland Raiders on an L.A. stadium in case San Diego taxpayers don't come up with enough scratch for one here could spell the beginning of the end for the U-T, already struggling under the ownership of voluble real estate mogul Douglas Manchester.

Exactly how much Chargers coverage and related advertising contribute to the U-T’s bottom line is a tightly held secret, but is believed by some to be one of the operation's last dependable streams of cash.

Under Manchester and his once second-in-command John Lynch, a former NFL player, the paper has loaded up on Chargers news and promotion. Consequently, readership and revenue could take a significant hit if the team leaves town.

Already, the U-T’s chief operating officer Mike Hodges has departed to run an internet marketing company, leaving the paper’s management in the hands of editor Jeff Light.

And sharks are circling in the form of Malin Burnham and his yet-to-be-identified backers, who seek to obtain the paper from Manchester and operate it through a non-profit corporation.

One in particular who may have an interest in the fate of the once-proud GOP journal is Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, the La Jolla Democratic billionaire who is rooting for Hillary Clinton in next year's presidential derby. He already has helped finance San Diego State University's public broadcasting operation and the non-profit Voice of San Diego news and opinion website.

A change of editorial posture by the paper, or its electronic successor under non-profit control, could shake up local politics in a post-Chargers era.

Like Burnham a supporter of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher for mayor in 2013, Jacobs is helping to stage what is billed as the first annual fundraiser for the California Young Democrats of the San Diego Region, featuring a galaxy of Democratic office holders and putative candidates.

According to an emailed invitation, politically ambitious San Diego school-district trustee Kevin Beiser heads the March 5 event at Hillcrest’s Bamboo Lounge. In addition to Jacobs, listed sponsors include Fletcher, city-council hopeful Barbara Bry, and Assembly speaker Toni Atkins.

Hosts include former council candidate Sarah Boot, port commissioner Rafael Castellanos, possible Bry council rival Joe LaCava, and Nancy Chase, a onetime top aide to Roger Hedgecock.

The fallen Republican mayor was a chief U-T adversary when the operation was owned by Helen Copley, who favored his rival and her close friend Maureen O'Connor.

No ballot tricks, Fabiani tells city

Two-thirds vote needed for public funding, Chargers counsel demands

February 16, 2015 — Matt Potter

As recently reported here, the San Diego City Council is grappling with how to pay $271 million in debt service for Petco Park, approved by the citizenry in a 1998 simple-majority "advisory" vote.

Sold to the public as a free lunch, the Padres’ playground is currently eating up a sizable annual chunk of taxpayer cash.

Now, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani says the football team doesn't want a repeat of that experience. Instead, he's demanding two-thirds majority voter approval of public financing for a new stadium.

"The Chargers have no interest in participating in another half-baked scheme to attempt to get around the two-thirds rule," says a February 16 letter by Fabiani to mayor Kevin Faulconer's stadium task force. 

"The City of San Diego has just wasted five years and many millions of taxpayer dollars trying to circumvent the two-thirds vote requirement with an illegal Convention Center expansion tax….

"With regard to a new stadium project, we are hearing rumblings of another ill-conceived scheme to avoid the two-thirds vote requirement: Two ballot measures, one that would raise a tax for a general purpose, and one that would be non-binding and would advise the City to spend some of the new money on a stadium. To be clear, we will not support any such effort to circumvent the State Constitution."

Adds the letter, posted on the team's website: "If the funding mechanisms that this Task Force considers cannot win two-thirds approval, when such approval is required by the California Constitution, then they should not be part of your final recommendations."

Fabiani seems to tacitly acknowledge such a super-majority might be hard to get.

"It might be that — despite the great effort that has been expended — there is at least at this time no publicly acceptable solution to the stadium issue in San Diego," he writes.

"If the facts lead you to this conclusion, we hope you will say so, even though you will be under tremendous political pressure to propose something — anything — just to show that the politicians are trying….

"Simply put, we have no intention of allowing the Chargers franchise to be manipulated for political cover — and we will call out any elected official who tries to do so."

Besides those swipes at the city's leadership, Fabiani says the team can't be expected to come up with the kind of cash that other teams have because it can't sell enough Preferred Seat Licenses to fat cats.

"Our studies — and the real world experience of the Padres — demonstrate that we cannot sell PSLs in any significant numbers here in San Diego. A Task Force recommendation that ignores this reality will be worthless….

"In addition," he adds, "some consultants have suggested that the stadium should be financed using revenue streams that, throughout the rest of the NFL, go to the teams. These revenue streams include naming rights, sponsorships, and the like.

“Of course, if the Chargers were to forego all of these revenues, then the team would fall even further behind the rest of the NFL than we are right now."

And no low-balling the stadium's ultimate cost, Fabiani warns.

"We have heard commentators say that the stadium could be built for $700 million, or even less," he writes. "These off-the-cuff estimates ignore the real world costs of stadiums now being built all around the country — from San Francisco to Minnesota to Atlanta. Looking around the country, new stadium costs are coming in at $1.2 to $1.5 billion."

Near the bottom of Fabiani’s letter comes a dire-sounding passage:

"We are keeping a close eye on developments in LA. We do not have a choice but to also monitor and evaluate our options there. Simply put, it would be irresponsible for the Chargers not to be taking every possible step to protect the future of the franchise."

Holy Ram nation, Mr. Spanos

Chargers' L.A. option may vanish if Inglewood council okays Kroenke stadium

February 13, 2015 — Don Bauder

According to two stories (February 9 and February 12), in the Los Angeles Times, the Inglewood City Council could vote as early as February 24 on developer Stan Kroenke's plan to build a $1.5 billion football stadium with a retractable roof at the former Hollywood Park racetrack. The developers have cooked up ways to bypass environmental reviews. There are more than enough signatures to put the matter on the June ballot, but it's likely the council will approve the plan for the 80,000-seat stadium outright. The stadium seems to have overwhelming public backing.

There are two other stadium proposals — one downtown — on the table, but Inglewood seems to have a big lead.

Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams, and commentators think he will try to move the team to Los Angeles. The Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. The team could not get satisfactory subsidies from a Southern California location and were able to move into a new indoor stadium in St. Louis for very little monetary outlay. Now, St. Louis is trying to put together plans for a subsidized $900 million stadium on the riverfront to keep the team.

The Times stories do not address the Chargers' situation. Management claims it gets 30 percent of its revenue from the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. Thus, if the estimate is true, the existence of one or two teams in L.A. would almost force the Chargers to move. They have not been able to work a deal in Los Angeles but may still be negotiating. One problem is that the Spanos family, owner of the Chargers, does not appear to have the funds of other National Football League owners — perhaps not enough to move to the Los Angeles area or contribute significant funds to a new St. Louis facility. But the Chargers could have the funds to occupy the current St. Louis stadium, which has been in use for only two decades.

San Diego is the 17th largest United States metropolitan area with a population of 3.2 million. St. Louis is 19th with a population of 2.8 million. However, both markets have the same problem: a shortage of extremely wealthy people who would occupy luxury suites and seats and buy personal seat licenses.

Nick's neck news

Longtime Charger center retires, citing desire to spend more time with functioning body.

February 5, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Confirming rumors that had circulated ever since a neck injury ended his 2014 season prematurely, longtime San Diego Charger Center Nick Hardwick announced his retirement from the NFL on February 3. During an emotional press conference, a substantially thinner Hardwick said his decision was motivated largely by his desire to spend more time with, as he put it, "a body that works and keeps me alive."

"I know there's conflicting evidence out there," explained Hardwick, "but when a bunch of Harvard scientists write that 'it appears that professional football players in both the United States and Canada have life expectancies in the mid- to late-50s,' it's hard not to do the math. I'm 33. That gives me about 25 more years. I'm not sure I want to spend any of that time maintaining an unnatural degree of muscle mass and slamming into brick walls masquerading as nosetackles. So yeah, 11 years on the line seems like enough. And also, I don't really want to live in a world where Tom Brady and the Patriots have four Super Bowl rings, let alone play in that league. I think everyone can understand that. So in closing, I just want to say that I will always look back on my time as a Los Angeles Charger with great fondness and gratitude. Wait, what?"

Chargers stadium task force "packed"

Financially strapped city and team owner, but, here come the experts

January 31, 2015 — Don Bauder

The U-T editorialized today (January 31) that the task force on the Chargers stadium is "packed with the right mix of expertise." Of course it is "packed" — just as all the other task forces and special committees are "packed" with corporate-welfare boosters. The task force's job is to shift as much of the burden as possible on to taxpayers and steer the profits to the private sector — socialization of the risk and privatization of the gain.

This time, though, the task force is looking at problems that appear insuperable. For example, San Diego is not only a small market (17th largest in the nation), it is a financially squeezed one.

In recent years, the National Football League's attendance focus has been on the affluent. Teams want to make their money on luxury suites and seats and personal seat licenses. The last time I checked, the Chargers had ditched the idea of personal seat licenses. There isn't the wealth in this market. Also, the team will not make the kind of money other teams do on luxury suites and seats. How many biotech executives will fete their friends in a Chargers box?

The Chargers claim that 30 percent of their revenue comes from Orange County and Los Angeles. If a team or two enters the Los Angeles market, the Chargers will be hurting severely, and the construction of a new stadium won't salve the pain, except perhaps for the first few years when the novelty effect may fill some seats. A strategy of cutting back seating (say, from 70,000 to 59,000) and then charging more for the seats and concessions may not work in the San Diego market. It hasn't worked for the Padres.

The task force may zero in on a domed stadium near Petco Park that would serve as a football field and an extension of the convention center. If the task force honestly checks experts in the convention center industry, it will find that this combination does not work, particularly when the facility is blocks away from the main center. Similarly, the plume under Qualcomm Stadium will thwart any development of that site for perhaps another decade. And does Mission Valley need more development?

If the task force does its job, it will try to determine how much money the Spanos family has. Forbes magazine says the family is worth $1.2 billion, and the Chargers account for about $1 billion of that. You can bet the Spanos family will not put $200 million into a stadium, as it claims it will, even if naming and advertising rights account for $100 million of the sum

I doubt the Chargers can move to Los Angeles unless the Spanos family sells at least half the team. Los Angeles, remember, won't put taxpayer money into a stadium. San Diego shouldn't either, particularly since its infrastructure is in such bad shape, but if the city deals with the Spanoses, it is doomed to putting at least 70 percent of the money into a structure.

The U-T says the task force is "a group that can get it done." I can name one member of the task force who didn't "get it done." He is Rod Dammeyer. He was chairman of the boards' audit committee of San Diego's biggest fraud, Peregrine Systems.

On June 3, 2002, when Peregrine was working to restate its earnings of the previous three years, and the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company, Dammeyer resigned "for personal reasons." Dammeyer has had much more success in other endeavors, but I doubt that he or anybody else on that task force can solve the big problem: neither San Diego nor the Spanos family can afford a new stadium.

Big money political players rule Chargers task force

Faulconer funders get front row seats on stadium panel

January 30, 2015 — Matt Potter

Though the fate of the San Diego Chargers and their long quest for a new taxpayer-subsidized stadium hangs in the balance, one thing is certain: the task force set up by mayor Kevin Faulconer to keep the team in town is a veritable vault stashed with big-money campaign donors and stadium-related special interests.

At the top of the list of nine is contractor Douglas Barnhart, who with his family and employees have supplied a combined $62,000 over the past decade or so to Faulconer, the GOP Lincoln Club, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, city attorney Jan Goldsmith, ex–city attorney Casey Gwinn, city councilwoman Lori Zapf, and ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, to mention a few.

As reported here back in March 1997, the big-spending Barnhart is no stranger to city stadium deals and Chargers politics, having gotten a no-bid $125,000 city contract for turning over "schematic drawings explaining how the Cantilevered Seating" at Qualcomm Stadium "will operate."

Barnhart also got a $11.6 million deal to build the so-called Chargers Park, the elaborate training center that taxpayers furnished to the team free of charge as part of the city's 1997 deal to keep the football club in town.

Then there is Jason Hughes, the commercial real estate broker who played a major behind-the-scenes role in formulating the mayor's $91 million lease-purchase deal to buy Civic Center Plaza last week. That costly undertaking has drawn criticism from city budget analyst Andrea Tevlin for its hurry-up passage and lack of transparency.

Data from the city clerk's office shows Hughes has kicked in for Faulconer, Dumanis, Goldsmith, and city councilmembers Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman, Chris Cate, Sherri Lightner, and Lorie Zapf. Hughes also gave to fallen Democratic mayor Bob Filner and his GOP rival Carl DeMaio.

Another major money player on the panel by virtue of his employment by the Sycuan casino tribe is assistant tribal manager Adam Day. The tribe owns the U.S. Grant hotel downtown, which could benefit if the Faulconer panel recommends a downtown location for a new Chargers venue.

Over the past nine years, city records show, the tribe and its employees have come up with a total of $570,625 in campaign cash for various city political committees, including $130,000 for the Lincoln Club and $60,000 each for Lincoln Club–run campaign funds benefiting Republican councilmembers Zapf and Cate.

In addition, in 2012 Sycuan gave $30,000 to a fund known as “Bonnie Dumanis for Mayor 2012, Sponsored by Airsam N492RM, LLC.” The committee’s other donor was a corporation controlled by José Susumo Azano Matsura, now awaiting trial in a federal money-laundering case.

After Day comes Rod Dammeyer, the charter-school champion, who has helped finance the campaigns of Faulconer, Demaio, Dumanis, Zapf, and Cate; and Dammeyer came up with $30,000 in December 2013 for the GOP Lincoln Club's campaign of take-no-prisoners hit pieces against city councilman David Alvarez's mayoral bid.

Dammeyer and Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs were financial allies in a costly but failed 2011 attempt to restructure the San Diego Unified School District board with unelected members.

A familiar corporate player on the panel is Sempra Energy executive vice president Jessie Knight; the company has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in local and state campaign contributions.

Aimee Faucett, chief operating officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, represents the interests of chamber head Jerry Sanders, the Republican ex-mayor who has molded Faulconer's agenda and provided hefty doses of campaign cash from the group's political action committee.

The other three members of the Faulconer task force are retired county administrator Walt Ekard, Urban Land Institute director for San Diego and Tijuana Mary Lydon, and Jim Steeg, former executive vice president and CEO of the Chargers.

"These expert volunteers will explore all possibilities to finance the project, with the clear direction from me that it must be a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers,” says the mayor's press release regarding the panel, expected to come up with a new stadium plan by fall.

"The group has been specifically tasked with conducting a thorough analysis on a new stadium at the current Qualcomm Stadium site and in the downtown’s East Village."

Jockstrap rant

Rumor: Chargers, Goldman Sachs to build L.A. stadium

January 24, 2015 — Don Bauder

Some jockstrap chat sites are running a rumor that the Chargers and Wall Street's Goldman Sachs will team up to build a stadium in Los Angeles.

The site rantsports.com ran a brief item on the rumor yesterday (January 23), attributing the story to Andy Strickland of CBS Sports. The Chargers' chief executive Dean Spanos "has a deal in place with Goldman Sachs to build a new stadium and the [National Football League] has asked him to hold off from announcing those plans," Strickland was quoted saying, citing St. Louis officials.

Stan Kroenke, multi-billionaire owner of the St. Louis Rams, has announced plans to build a stadium in the Los Angeles area and most scribes say he wants to move the Rams there.

Strickland mentioned that Spanos has locked up at least 9 NFL owners who would thumb down Kroenke's request to move the Rams to Los Angeles. To move the Rams, Kroenke would need the votes of 24 of 32 NFL owners. There is also a rumor that Kroenke would move the Rams without the league's permission. That could lead to all sorts of complications, including the Chargers suing the Rams, according to Strickland.

"Essentially, it seems like Spanos is putting all of he pieces in place to thwart the Rams' move," says rantsports.

In 2010, Alex Spanos — now suffering from severe dementia — hired Goldman Sachs to sell a minority interest in the Chargers. It's not clear if that ever happened.

Mark Fabiani's San Diego takedown

Gloria blasted as powerful lobbies collide, leaving blood on the floor

January 16, 2015 — Matt Potter

Ex–car dealer and real estate magnate Steve Cushman is a powerful member of the local Republican establishment who has left his fingerprints on everything from the Mission Valley master plan to the costly 1996 taxpayer-backed GOP convention.

Now he can count another distinction: a political bull’s-eye on his back placed by Mark Fabiani, Bill Clinton’s one-time master of disaster and longtime lobbyist for the Chargers and a new stadium.

"Over the entire time we have been working with Mayor Faulconer and his staff, we have only ever asked for one thing – and we asked for it at the very first meeting we had with the Mayor’s staff: ‘Please do not assign Steve Cushman to work on this issue; instead let’s try to find some new voices and fresh perspectives to add to this 13-year-long process, '" says Fabiani in an interview posted on the team's website.

"So hopefully the community will understand our disappointment when the one and only specific stadium initiative the Mayor announced in his State of the City speech was the appointment of Steve Cushman to be in charge of devising a financing plan."

Argues Fabiani, "If you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line….

"When the Chargers were exploring a joint-use stadium/convention center facility downtown, Cushman again told the Chargers to stay away because of the contiguous convention center expansion plan. Again, under Cushman’s leadership, the courts decisively invalidated the financing plan for the convention center project.

"And when some in the community wanted to explore Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal as a stadium location, Cushman pushed through a ban on everyone at the Port of San Diego from even so much as discussing the issue," Fabiani says.

"The fact that Mayor Faulconer has now assigned Steve Cushman — the architect of so many of San Diego’s civic failures — to work on the stadium is discouraging."

In a forest of speculation about the motives of the Chargers-owning Republican Spanos clan — and whether they may have already decided to pull the plug on the team's location here — the roots of Fabiani's discontent are traced by insiders to September 2011 and the team's professed desire to locate a dual-use stadium and convention center in the East Village section of downtown.

"The idea is to make room for convention uses in the end zones and cover the grass as needed to provide exhibit space," reported U-T San Diego at the time. "The stadium also would include restaurants and meeting spaces."

Mike McDowell, an executive with Mission Valley’s Atlas Hotels, run by big GOP donor Terry Brown, rejected the proposal out of hand, saying it relegated the convention industry to second-class status. “Who wants to sit at the little kids’ table?” U-T quoted McDowell as saying.

The hotel moguls' resistance to the team's dual-use scheme ended up with the Chargers trying to convince the California Coastal Commission to kill off the city's expansion plan, a battle Fabiani lost in October 2013. Showing up to testify against the Chargers was Faulconer, then on the city council.

"The result is no surprise, given the influence of the powerful groups supporting the project," Fabiani told the Los Angeles Times after the commission's vote. "Still, it was disappointing to see the Coastal Commission ignore its own staff's recommendation."

Then in August of last year, a state appeals court held that a hotel room tax to fund the $520 million expansion enacted by the city council was unconstitutional because it had not been put to a public vote.

The mayor and the tourist lobby has been scratching its head about what to do next ever since.

In his online interview, Fabiani also has scathing words for Faulconer and Democratic councilman Todd Gloria, who counts among his major financial backers Evans Hotels, run by one of the city's top three hotel moguls, Bill Evans.

"There were many people and organizations around town that predicted right from the outset that the Cushman convention center financing plan would be struck down as illegal.

"But Cushman and the City — with the strong support of then-downtown area Councilman Kevin Faulconer and then–City Council President Todd Gloria – decided to forge ahead anyway.

"The result: Years and years of wasted time and effort, and millions and millions of dollars of wasted tax dollars — all expended on behalf of a financing plan that was doomed from the outset.

"In light of this track record, we are not encouraged that Steve Cushman will somehow come up with a workable solution to the stadium problem that has eluded everyone else for 13 years.

"If Steve Cushman does come up with some kind of plan, our strong view is that it will be a plan designed to provide political cover — not to actually result in the building of a stadium."

Still, Fabiani insists in the interview, the team is not leaving town — yet.

"The Chargers will remain open-minded about any idea presented to us," he says.

"And we know what it means to work with a City task force and City experts because we’ve worked with many of them over the years. Mayor Murphy appointed the Citizens’ Task Force on Chargers Issues, and subsequent mayors retained — at significant taxpayer expense — two separate outside consultants.

“Whether yet another task force — which will undoubtedly hire other experts — will come up with ideas that haven’t been thought of by everyone else over the last 13 years is, of course, a real question.”

That old black magic

The problem with the Chargers is that Philip Rivers is cursed.

December 24, 2014 — Patrick Daugherty

In terms of fan interest, yes, the Chargers Saturday night comeback ranks right up there. The Bolts push on with their December heroics, every game is a must-win game, every game is a walking–to-the-edge thriller, every game everything is on the line. Will they or won’t they? THEY DO! San Diego makes the playoffs and loses in the second round!

The Niners continue playing beautifully in the first half and tanking in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter. This year San Francisco’s second-half scores stand at 76 points versus 150 points for their opponents. That’s lousy coaching and that’s why Harbaugh will be fired. Having a fingernails-on-blackboard personality greases the wheels and makes his firing more satisfying, but seeing a Harbaugh-led team, over and over, lay down in the fourth quarter is why he’s gone.

The problem with the Chargers is the quarterback. Philip Rivers is cursed. He’s always referred to as an elite quarterback, but he’s yet to play in a Super Bowl. Since Rivers became a starter in 2006, the Chargers have produced the following playoff record: 2006 lost Divisional Playoff, 2007 lost Conference Championship, 2008 lost Divisional Playoff, 2009 lost Divisional Playoff, 2010 did not make playoffs, 2011 did not make playoffs, 2012 did not make playoffs, 2013 lost Divisional Playoff.

You don’t think that kind of a record was made by chance do you? I thought not. It’s obvious Rivers is under a curse and a strong one at that. What he needs is magical self-defense. And he’s going to get it. Follows is from spellsandmagic.com. Philip, listen up.

“On the first night of the waxing moon, gather the following ingredients: a square of black cloth a little larger than your hand, one tablespoon of curry, one tablespoon of dill, one tablespoon of vervain, one tablespoon powdered ginger, one consecrated black candle, paper and black ink pen, one black string, knotted nine times.

“On paper, write the full name and birth date (if known), of the person who has cursed you. Place the paper in the center of the bag. One at a time, add the herbs, covering the slip of paper. Next, take the lit candle and drip 5–10 drops of wax over the paper and herbs. Visualize the person who has cursed you and say their name aloud three times while tying the bag shut with the knotted string.

“...bury the bag someplace on the property of the person who cursed you. The bag must remain there undisturbed until the next waxing moon. At that time, dig up the bag and burn the contents.”

I’m sure alert readers see the problem. We don’t know who cursed Rivers, we only know he is cursed.

Talliesin McKnight speaks. “If you feel that someone has put a curse on you then this is a method to send it back to them. All you need is a black candle, a mirror, and some reversing oil.

“Some folks like to use a double-action candle...it has two colors. White and black is a general double-action candle. Or, if it’s specific, if someone has cursed you in love you could use red and black. Cursed in finances you could use green and black.

Cut the candle’s top off, where the wick is, turn the candle upside down, take a knife and carve a new wick at the bottom. The symbolism is reversing, turning it around. Next, carve the enemy’s name, backwards, in the candle.”

Let me interject here. The problem, Mr. McKnight, is, we don’t know who the enemy is.

“If you don’t know your enemy’s name, you can just write My Enemy backwards. Then anoint the candle with a reversing oil. You can buy it online or make it yourself. Then burn the candle on top of a mirror, a cheap hand mirror will work. When you’re done, dispose the mirror and all of the remains away from your home.”

Okay, McKnight, you appear to have a workable spell, but your spell doesn’t have that old world, goblet-crypt feel I’m looking for. I want something that works but looks good at the same time.

Ah, here we are, “To remove a curse from yourself. Collect: one pink candle, one green candle, one black candle, bowl of water, three drops of green dye. Now, put three drops of green dye in the bowl of water. Slowly tip the bowl over each candle allowing them to be extinguished while at the same time chanting: Juina Shelt Fonsed. Do this very slowly.”

Philip, you’re playing Kansas City on Sunday. Win and in. Surely, attending to curse hygiene will be part of your game prep.


Seeking juice

December 10, 2014 — Matt Potter

The Chargers and their lobbyist Mark Fabiani, ex-president Bill Clinton’s onetime “master of disaster,” have ostensibly been hard at work on getting a new billion-dollar taxpayer-subsidized stadium in San Diego. But if they build it, will anybody come? That’s the question quietly dogging the managers of the team’s current venue, city-owned Qualcomm Stadium. At a meeting of the stadium advisory board earlier this year, general manager Mike McSweeney outlined the problem: “The NFL is currently dealing with the challenges of getting the stay-at-home fans into the stadiums,” said McSweeney, according to the board’s minutes. “Factoring in the costs of tickets, parking, food, and even the weather, why would you leave home with a 70-inch TV, surround sound, and a six-pack of Coronas in the cooler?” According to McSweeney’s report, “The league is taking an aggressive look at how to overcome and enhance the fan experience. For example, the Padres have concerts after their games. Events like these must surpass the experience they get at home [and] make it worthwhile for them to get in their car to come to the stadium.”

Though not widely publicized, the minutes say that “a series of focus groups have been meeting with the Chargers. Outcomes of some of their meetings are the infrastructure, getting in and out of the stadium parking lot, sound issues, and other creature comforts that the Chargers are addressing. As for the scoreboard, that is also being taken into consideration.” Concluded the city’s McSweeney, “There are discussions with Qualcomm Corporation in regards to permits, and who is going to come in to perform the work.”

Far above the raging hoi polloi...

Last call for city box's $25 food and open bar at Chargers games?

December 1, 2014 — Matt Potter

Life in the city’s Qualcomm stadium box is not as civil as it used to be, judging by recent remarks recorded in the minutes of the stadium's advisory board.

During the group's September meeting, chairman Rudy Castruita, retired superintendent of the San Diego County Office of Education, suggested that his fellow members "attend a Chargers game and sign up for a seat in the City Box to experience what that is like."

"There is also a buffet at a cost of $25 per person. Board Members would also have the opportunity to see how the Stadium operates."

That drew a response from boardmember Jesse Durfee, former chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

During his attendance, Durfee said, he saw people in the box who "could barely walk due to their alcohol consumption, an issue that should be addressed (alcohol is provided with the Buffet)."

In reply, according to the minutes, stadium general manager Mike McSweeney "recommended a review of the alcohol policy for the City Box. A recommendation would be to possibly remove the alcohol from the buffet package” and require that it be purchased separately, “with a drink limit."

Another advisory boardmember, John Thomson, inquired about the possibility of cutting off drinkers who have had too much, the policy elsewhere in the stadium.

"Mike replied that there is usually one attendant in the City Box that handles buffet payments and wristbands. The attendant should notify Security when they observe disorderly behavior.

“Durfee suggested when tickets are sent out a code of conduct should accompany it.”

"Rudy stated that behaviors in the City Box have progressively gotten worse and requested Mike to address these issues with the City Council and include the suggestions from the Board Members."

In days of yore, the city council's luxury box at Qualcomm was a place of genteel legislative commerce, a posh retreat for councilmembers and their political backers to enjoy free football games and bargain food and booze far above the raging hoi polloi in the stands below.

A typical example came back in December 1996, on the eve of the controversial $80 million expansion of the now venerable stadium.

As wrecking and construction crews massed in the parking lot, boisterous city-council members, along with city manager Jack McGrory and city attorney Casey Gwinn, as well as Union-Tribune editor-in-chief Herb Klein, gathered for the Holiday Bowl.

As reported here at the time, "The presence of a reporter and photographer outside the city box so unnerved two members of the Holiday Bowl staff that they alerted security and threatened arrests.

“Cooler heads on the bowl committee intervened, and the guards warned the photographer not to 'touch that big cake or those champagne bottles.'

"Bowl officials said cake and champagne for the council came courtesy of the taxpayer-subsidized bowl committee."

The free and easy living continued until 2008, when the state's Fair Political Practices Commission ruled that the freebies were not an official part of doing city business and must be declared as taxable gifts or income on legally required state financial disclosures. No longer could the officials party in style without public notice or paying the taxman.

Seeing the light, then-mayor Jerry Sanders started handing out his tickets to the Armed Services YMCA and the Navy hospital, according to a January 2009 Union-Tribune editorial, which called for selling both the Qualcomm box and the city box at downtown's Petco Park.

Earlier this year, current mayor Kevin Faulconer announced he was negotiating to sell rights to the Qualcomm box to the Chargers, the primary stadium tenant.

"Negotiations with the Chargers aren’t expected to get serious until after their season ends early next year, because it would be chaotic to make an in-season policy change," according to a U-T San Diego report this October, which recounted that "all four council members who’ve used the perk this year are Democrats."

Many of the freebies have gone to the military, members of planning groups, and charities, but there have been a few exceptions.

As reported here in June 2013, District 8 councilman David Alvarez gave ten free tickets in the city's Petco Park box valued at $87.69 each to the Fullerton-based law firm of Jones & Mayer.

Firm owner Richard Jones gave a total of $1000 to Alvarez's 2010 city-council campaign, according to city financial disclosures. Neither man returned calls seeking comment.

God denies robbing Rivers' rib

Deity: "I love the guy, but that's not how I work any more."

November 21, 2014 — Walter Mencken

MARVELING AT THE WONDERS OF GOD'S CREATION, CHARGERS STADIUM — Ever since San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates let slip to reporters that Jesus-loving quarterback Philip Rivers has been playing through the pain of a "severe rib injury" this season, true powder-blue believers have been raising their eyes to heaven and asking, Why?

"I know the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," said season ticket-holder Mike Biergutt, "but after a while, whiplash starts to set in, you know? That awful opening loss, followed by those amazing five wins, followed by three straight losses, including that heartbreaker with Kansas City and that shellacking from the Dolphins. At this point, beating Oakland 13-6 is like eating a dry cracker in a hot desert, you know?"

But at this week's Wednesday night Bible Study, Mild McFearsome, lead pastor at The Rocket Church in Santee, offered a possible answer to the suffering throng, pulled right from the pages of Genesis: "But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man."

"Brothers and sisters," explained McFearsome in a videoclip that has already picked up 1.2 million views on YouTube, "please consider. This season, fully half of this year's Chargers Girls are first-year. Brand new. The old order has passed away, with its stale routines and unprofitable commandments to 'Get up or go home!' The old Charger Girls understood the letter of the cheers, but not the spirit. But these new Charger Girls shall make a formation that is pleasing to the Lord, and when they bend their waists in homage, their cries shall be heard. But whence came these new women? And why is our quarterback afflicted? We know that Philip Rivers is a righteous man, bolt upright before the Lord, standing strong in the pocket though the o-line collapses around him. Is it not possible that the Lord took one of Rivers' ribs, and fashioned these most pleasing creatures from it, as once he fashioned Eve?"

As of this writing, Rivers' representatives had yet to respond, but God himself was quick to deny any involvement. "As a rule, I stay out of professional sports," He said in a prepared statement. "I never know what to do with all the competing prayers. So I would never monkey with a quarterback's mechanics, especially not a good guy like Phil. Tom Brady, I might be tempted. Guy walks around like he made himself that handsome. All that said, you might wanna think about going with New England come December 14."

Middle-finger bird deemed free

Digit-wielding Chiefs fan at Chargers game punched security guard

September 9, 2014 — Don Bauder

A San Diego Chargers security guard can't be held liable for restraining an opposing team's fan who flipped the middle digit at Chargers fans, a federal judge has ruled, according to Courthouse News Service.

In 2011, Jason Ensign, a Kansas City Chiefs fan who admits to have been imbibing alcohol at the game, was acquitted of battery charges resulting from a scuffle with security guards after he flipped off Chargers fans. Ensign was exercising free speech and had a right to defend himself, the court agreed back then.

The security guard sued Ensign for an injury he suffered in the struggle. Ensign countersued against the guard and his employer. But according to Courthouse News, U.S. District judge Cynthia Rashan ruled that Ensign can't pursue damage claims against the guard. Although the guard applied force, he didn't do so to interfere with Ensign's free speech rights, said the judge.

Hundreds of millions for football, zilch for opera

April 23, 2014 — Don Bauder

"It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Excited TV announcers belt out that colloquialism at sports events that could be won by either side, even if one team seems to be comfortably ahead.

Those sportscasters would be embarrassed to know the axiom’s derivation. It comes from the end of Richard Wagner’s four-opera, 16-hour Der Ring des Nibelungen. The last of the four operas, Götterdämmerung, ends as the usually corpulent soprano Brünnhilde, warbling at high pitch, mounts her steed and plunges into the funeral pyre, when Valhalla crumbles and the gods are destroyed.

How many jockstraps know that their favorite aphorism was first uttered in 1976 by a college sports information director who apparently knew opera?

Hey, sports and serious music don’t mix. Everyone knows that. Billionaire owners of pro sports teams get massive taxpayer subsidies to build stadiums and arenas; arts groups get crumbs, if that.

Consider San Diego. On March 19, San Diego Opera suddenly announced it wanted to go out of business at the end of this season. The matter is still up in the air. Mayor Kevin Faulconer stated, “Spending taxpayer funds to save the opera won’t be an option because they will be spent on my priorities, which are street repairs and neighborhood services.” Faulconer said he would help the philanthropic community raise the funds.

The part about street repairs and neighborhoods is bunk. Within a few weeks, Faulconer’s aides were sitting down with the San Diego Chargers to talk turkey — that is, a massively taxpayer-subsidized stadium for the team, which would be a real turkey. U-T San Diego said taxpayers would chip in $400 million to $600 million of the roughly $900 million to $1 billion or more total cost. That would be on a par with the percentage taxpayers shell out in other stadium deals, quoth the U-T.

More bunk. The definitive work on this topic came from Harvard’s Judith Grant Long, who two years ago found that taxpayers on average pick up 78 percent of stadium payments. The costs of land, infrastructure, operations, capital improvements, municipal services, and lost property taxes add 25 percent to the taxpayer bill. Those initial lowball forecasts are phony enticements to voters.

Not long after Faulconer nixed an opera bailout, San Diego put in its bid for the 2024 Olympics. The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics cost $40 billion. The 2012 London Summer Olympics came in at $15 billion.

“The Olympic games are awash in fiscal myths,” said the British newspaper the Guardian late last year. “Games boosters always roll out tantalizing promises. One common claim is that the Olympics are a windfall for the host city.” However, “Academic economists simply haven’t found a positive relationship between hosting the Games and economic growth.” Economist Jeffrey Owen says, “It is unlikely that anyone ever will.” Said the Guardian, “Underestimating Olympic costs has almost become an Olympic sport in itself.”

The Economist says hotel bookings actually dropped during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Nevertheless, hosting the games is “wildly popular with the voters who foot the bill.” San Diegans will be told that the Olympics — like the Chargers stadium — won’t cost much. Don’t believe a word of either claim.

No one should be surprised that a report released early this month by the American Association of University Professors showed that from 2004 to 2011, inflation-adjusted spending for athletics at big and medium-sized universities, and small colleges and community colleges, went up 24.8 percent, while spending on instruction and academic support was about flat and public services and research declined.

The purpose of higher education is education? What are you? Some kinda weirdo?

While professional- and amateur-sports spending soars, classical music — opera, symphonic, and chamber — is dying of old age. Less than 3 percent of recording album sales are classical. According to Slate, the percentage of adults going to a classical concert (even once a year) dropped from 13 in 1982 to 8.8 in 2012. Classical music radio stations are drying up.

Seattle Symphony reports that 32 percent of its regular-season audience has postgraduate degrees. When it does Wagner’s Ring Cycle it’s 39 percent. Brünnhilde may be plump, but she brings out the well-educated folks.

In 1937, the median age at Los Angeles orchestra concerts was 28, says Slate. It’s probably over 50 now. Music education has been in decline for years. That’s one of the major reasons San Diego Opera attendance has fallen so sharply.

So, it’s clear why a politician like Mayor Faulconer will toss gobs of public money at sports teams owned by billionaires and offer nothing to an opera company on the brink. (The opera is slated to get $389,357 from the city’s Special Promotional Programs this year. The symphony will get $411,870 and the Old Globe $421,074.)

Politicians know that sports are where the votes are. Personally, I don’t like government subsidies for professional sports or the arts. There is no question that classical music appeals to an elderly, elite audience that should pay its own way. Even Europeans, longtime arts subsidizers, are rethinking the practice, given the weak economy.

But the wealthy and elite really aren’t supporting classical music — or any charities — the way they should. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Californians with compensation of $50,000 to $99,999 give 6.2 percent of their incomes to charity. The favored few who make $200,000 and above give 4 percent. In particular, the affluent who huddle in one neighborhood are penny-pinchers in charitable giving. In city after city, it’s the low-income residents who lift giving levels, according to the Chronicle.

The same pattern holds true with corporations. In 2012, according to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, Fortune 500 (the largest) companies gave 0.09 percent of their revenue to charities. Smaller companies gave 0.14 percent.

And according to Giving USA, only 5 percent of 2012’s total charitable giving went to culture, the arts, and humanities. Taxpayers should not have to support the wealthy — except in the case of billionaire sports-team owners, according to the politicians who pander to pedestrian tastes.

Might Chargers eye property occupied by opera studio?

Commercial Street area could be developed near stadium site

April 14, 2014 — Don Bauder

San Diego Opera — in an internal struggle over dissolving — owns a set-making studio at 3064 Commercial Street. This studio has built more than 50 new productions for San Diego Opera through the years and has produced sets for other opera and theater-arts organizations.

"My estimate is that it is worth five million bucks," says H. Eugene Myers, an attorney and real estate buyer who owns property in the area. "In the next couple of years the opera could possibly pick up a pretty sizeable chunk of change."

Myers owns property on Commercial Street from 28th to 32nd streets. On Saturday, April 12, he met with other real estate owners in that same area of Commercial Street. Myers had invited the other owners to come. Initially, he was concerned that the city would seize Commercial Street property from 28th to 32nd by eminent domain, knocking down the values.

At the meeting, he was told seizure was not likely, and he feels that Civic San Diego probably does not have the funds to go the eminent-domain route because of potential lawsuits and the like. However, he feels the parcels in that area could be converted to high-density residential and mixed uses — thus raising property values "at the stroke of a pen."

He invited Karen Cohn, chairwoman of the opera, to the meeting, but nobody from the organization showed up. Myers notes that when John Moores got a $300 million subsidy to build Petco Park, he was permitted to buy surrounding property at an extremely low price. (Some have estimated he raked in $700 million to $1 billion just in reselling that property to developers.) Myers says his own Commercial Street property enjoyed an increase of 50 to 60 percent because of Petco and the surrounding development, even though it was a long way away.

Myers believes the Spanos group does not want to develop the area around Qualcomm Stadium because of the plume under it and other reasons. Spanos might prefer to have a combined stadium and convention center but could settle for something else. Possibly, he would get property not too distant from Commercial Street and might try to put senior and affordable housing in the Commercial Street area as part of the stadiium package. Myers raised this possibility at the Saturday meeting, pointing out that since the trolley "would be the purveyor of people to the stadium," the idea is not out of the question. "There could be a bump in the value" of that Commercial Street property.

I reminded him that Mark Fabiani, PR representative for the Chargers, has suddenly shown up as PR for the opera on a pro bono basis. Could the opera's property on Commercial Street be a reason Fabiani is giving free time to the opera?

"It seems like a long shot," says Myers, who admits he was puzzled when Fabiani showed up at the opera. "There is a possibillity you could connect the two [the studio and Fabiani]."

San Diego considered floating stadium 50 years ago

But Mission Bay structure was too expensive

March 2, 2014 — Don Bauder

"The Strike Zone," a feature of Sports Illustrated, pointed out on February 28 that half a century ago, San Diego considered a floating sports stadium.

It would float on Mission Bay, attached to Fiesta Island. It was proposed by Barron Hilton, original owner of the Chargers. It would seat 53,000. There would be a 13,000-seat main grand stand behind home plate.

Then, two separate 20,000-seat grandstands would float to attach to the landlocked 13,000-seat portion. The floating stands could be moved to straddle a football field just down the way.

However, the price tag escalated to $41 million, double the original estimate of $20 million. Thus, the landlubber stadium now known as Qualcomm was built for a mere $27 million.

San Diego Chargers place Philip Rivers on indefinite hiatus following political endorsement

December 19, 2013 — Walter Mencken

Former United States Senator Rick Santorum's 2012 presidential campaign ended a long time ago. But because the Internet is forever, the effects of that campaign are still being felt today — and in a very big way. Today the San Diego Chargers placed their long-time quarterback Philip Rivers on indefinite hiatus, because of a statement he made endorsing Rick Santorum for President. The statement, which is still up on Santorum's website, reads, "I am supporting Rick Santorum for President because of his stance on issues that attack vital Christian values our country was founded upon: no abortion, upholding traditional marriage, defending religious freedom, no euthanasia." Santorum famously opposes gay, "non-traditional" marriage.

In their statement, the Chargers front office stated, "We are extremely disappointed to have read Philip Rivers' comments on RickSantorum.com, which are based on his own personal beliefs and not reflected in the offensive strategy of the San Diego Chargers. His personal views in no way reflect those of the National Football League, which works hard to champion the rights of the LGBT community. Remember that one time the League had the Thursday Night Football announcers wear purple on Spirit Day? Plus, 'no abortion'? That's just crazy talk."

Responding to the news, GLAAD activist Mike McManus said, "We are extremely pleased with the Chargers' decision. But I have to be honest with you: we weren't even gunning for this Rivers guy. One of our interns was collecting media responses to Phil Robertson," the Duck Dynasty reality show star who was just suspended by A+E for anti-homosexual comments he made to GQ magazine. Catching Phil Rivers in our Google net was just dumb luck."

L.A. NFL stadium rivals sink big cash into Brown bid

U-T San Diego ramps up push for new Chargers venue

December 9, 2013 — Matt Potter

The professional football season is nearing a wrap and the campaign for San Diego mayor is ramping up, time yet again for another push by La Jolla real estate maven, Republican money-man, and U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester for a new taxpayer-subsidized Chargers stadium.

And, judging by recent reports from Los Angeles, along with a campaign financing disclosure filed over the weekend by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, a familiar cast of L.A. area superrich will likely surface once more as Manchester's bogeymen, threatening to steal the team for La La Land.

U-T kicked off its latest scrimmage on the final day of November, with an editorial entitled "A new stadium for San Diego: It is time."

U-T San Diego ownership believes it is time, for the benefit of residents countywide, that a new multipurpose stadium be built in a private-public partnership.

The U-T Editorial Board in coming weeks will publish commentaries making the case for a new stadium. We will examine potential sites and the combination of facilities that should be built in conjunction with the stadium.

We will also explain in broad terms how a stadium might be financed without breaking the backs of taxpayers.

Whomever [the] mayor is can expect us to challenge him from Day One to work with the City Council, the business community, the Spanoses and the NFL, community groups and other stakeholders to get it done.

The new Manchester campaign comes on the heels of tales from Los Angeles about new Democratic mayor Eric Garcetti diving into the thick of that city's longstanding NFL intrigue, as reported by the L.A. Weekly.

Garcetti met in L.A. with Philip Anschutz, the head of AEG, who is still trying to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles.

Anschutz' firm, AEG, first announced plans to build a downtown football stadium nearly three years ago, to great fanfare.

But after winning approval from City Hall for Farmers Field, along with an expedited environmental process from the state Legislature, the deal stalled.

Garcetti took the helm in July, and according to the L.A. Weekly, an aide said then that getting a football team was "not a priority."

But Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire, has continued to work on the deal in his own quiet way.

In early September, Anschutz reached out to the mayor's office to update Garcetti on the situation.

The two talked over the phone on Sept. 11, and arranged an in-person meeting during Anschutz’s next visit to L.A. On Oct. 8, Anschutz brought to City Hall Dan Beckerman, the new CEO of AEG, and Ted Fikre, an AEG vice president.

Garcetti brought Glyn Milburn, a former NFL kick returner who now works in the mayor's Office of Economic Development. The next day, Milburn wrote an email to Fikre, thanking him for the meeting and saying "it is our hope that we can accomplish the goal of bringing football back to Los Angeles."

Whether or not anything emerges from Garcetti's putative bromance with Republican Anschutz, on November 23 the Anschutz Corporation made a $50,000 contribution to the reelection campaign of Democratic governor Brown.

Three days later, Majestic Realty Company, run by billionaire Ed Roski, who has long aspired to build an NFL stadium in the City of Industry, kicked in $54,400 for Brown.

Even more than a mayor, a governor can do big favors for any NFL hopeful who catches his fancy; two years ago, Brown signed a bill to "streamline" state-mandated environmental review of the Anschutz project. Brown's predecessor, GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, earlier did the same for Roski.

In the subsidy and infrastructure battle to come, Brown could play a key role in handing out plenty of public money and regulatory approvals to advance the cause of his Los Angeles patrons.

Brown is likely to do no overt favors for longtime GOP kingpin Manchester, and, for that matter, San Diego, generally, other than to perhaps raise the perceived threat level of moving the Chargers from San Diego.

Skeptics argue that may be just what Manchester and the wealthy NFL owners need in a coming high pressure attempt to scare voters into approving a costly new stadium project here.

The governor's latest political foray into the city by the border, an endorsement of newly hatched Democrat Nathan Fletcher for mayor, ended with a third-place finish by Fletcher.

That effort was largely a production of La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs, who had given heavily to the successful 2012 campaign for Brown's Proposition 30 tax hike measure.

Whether any of the recent public jousting is real, or the stadium game has already been fixed by the NFL behind closed doors, remains to be seen.

Chargers Coach McCoy: "The City of San Diego doesn't much care for losers, but what they really hate are winners."

"If we won, we'd have to leave town."

November 14, 2013 — Walter Mencken

"You ever hear of the San Diego Gulls?" asks Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy as he cracks open a frosty can of Amstel Light. "Hockey team. They were around for eight seasons in the '90s and early aughts. Played in the Sports Arena. They won the West Coast Hockey League championship five of those eight seasons. But they folded in 2006, because they couldn't make a buck."

"Or consider the San Diego Sockers," he continues. "They've won four straight Professional Arena Soccer League titles. They lost all of one game last year. You ever been to a San Diego Sockers game? Do you even know where they play? Did you even know they existed?"

"Now consider the Padres," he offers, warming to the subject. "They got the city to commit to a new stadium, which broke ground in 2000. They've won a couple of division titles since then, but never a pennant. And more often than not, you can find them in fourth or fifth place by seaon's end. And then there's us. We've got Philip Rivers, God's own quarterback — Tim Tebow with talent, I like to call him — and we can't get it done. Often as not, we can't draw enough fans to fill the stadium and avoid a TV blackout. But it doesn't seem to matter: the city is still bending over backwards to find ways to build us a stadium."

"Here's my point," he says, coming to his point. "San Diego is comfortable with mediocrity. It values it, holds it up high, throws money at it in order to make it stick around. People who hit it big — think Adam Lambert, or Gregory Peck — they catch the first train north. Because they know that here, they'll just be ignored."

"The San Diego Gulls — hilarious," says McCoy at the end of the conversation, more to himself than anyone else.

Win a Corona Tailgate Party!

Corona and San Diego tailgating: a combination as perfect as Corona and lime

October 4, 2013 — Walter Mencken

To celebrate Corona's new status as the official beer of the San Diego Chargers, Corona is offering to throw a blowout tailgate party for you and twenty of your friends before December 8th's game against the New York Giants. Bottomless chips and salsa, a taco bar, 50-inch HD viewing screen with NFL Ticket, luxury seating, and of course, plenty of delicious, refreshing Corona Beer — all in the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium!

To enter, just select your favorite from the sample ads herein and email your choice for the winning slogan to chargerscontest@corona.com. See you there! Go Chargers!

Chargers and Weiners

August 28, 2013 — Matt Potter

There’s good news for Chargers master of disaster Mark Fabiani, and though it doesn’t come from San Diego, it does bear a distinctly familiar back story. Fabiani’s old friend and favored candidate for mayor of New York is reported by the New York Times to have taken the lead. “Bill de Blasio, the most liberal of the leading candidates, has vaulted into first place among likely voters,” the Times said last week. De Blasio’s success is said to owe to a cause well known to San Diegans. Ex-Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner — who along with San Diego departing mayor Bob Filner has become a national poster boy for bad acting — was leading the pack until it emerged that he hadn’t exactly lost the habit of sending sexually explicit photos to various women. A poll taken last week showed de Blasio first with 30 percent. Fifty-one percent of respondents pegged Weiner as the candidate they would “definitely not vote for under any circumstances.”

Fabiani has been a long-time de Blasio backer. He had given the Democratic former Brooklyn city councilman and New York Public Advocate $3000 in mayoral campaign money through this summer. Coronado’s Maureen Steiner, long a donor to Democratic campaigns, gave Christine Quinn, the first female and openly gay speaker of the New York city council, a total of $1250. La Jolla lesbian and biotech PR maven Susan Atkins, who sold her firm to Porter Novelli in 2005 and has served as a San Diego city library commissioner, gave Quinn $2524. Another San Diego gay leader, Robert Gleason — the Evans Hotel executive, a big financial backer of Democratic city councilman Todd Gloria who will wield major transition clout at city hall now that Filner has failed — gave $1000 to Quinn last year. Only one county resident appears to have offered Weiner financial succor. Rancho Santa Fe’s Stanley Cohen came up with $100 for the notorious tweeter on July 29.

You will get hoodwinked on stadium costs

December 5, 2012 — Don Bauder

On August 17 of last year, San Diego Chargers flack Mark Fabiani told a KPBS audience that local taxpayers would have to pick up most of the tab for a new stadium so the team could stay competitive. “The average [public] subsidy in the [National Football League] is about 65 percent of the cost of a stadium,” quoth the silver-tongued spokesman. “If we spend 100 percent private funding for a stadium, we’d be in a worse financial position than we are now, vis-à-vis our competitors.”

Wrong again, Mark. A new book by Harvard urban planning professor Judith Grant Long, Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities, shows that for the 121 venues in use during 2010, the public picked up 78 percent of the tab, not 65 percent. This means that if a new Chargers stadium costs $1 billion, which is likely, local taxpayers would plunk in almost $800 million — an outrageous sum.

In total, American taxpayers spent $10 billion more on those 121 facilities than they were told they would shell out by the media and the sports industry. Professor Long figures that hidden costs of land, infrastructure, and lost property taxes add 25 percent to the taxpayer bill. She subtracted money that comes back to cities and states from rent payments and other deal-related revenue.

Writes Long, “Given that popular reports set expectations of more or less equal partnerships between host cities and teams, those estimates of public costs indicate that the public/private partnerships underlying these deals are highly uneven.” In nonacademic prose, she would say that what is presented to the public is malarkey, and the people are likely to get screwed while billionaire team owners rake in the bucks.

She concludes that the public should not pay any part of the building costs. “Land and infrastructure you help with,” she told Bloomberg news. “The building? Let them go it alone.” She says that the realistic cost of sports facilities receives little attention from researchers “because most economic analyses demonstrate that sports facilities produce very few or no net new economic benefits relative to construction costs alone, and, so, in this sense, more accurate cost estimates would only serve to reinforce a case already made.” Objective economists have already shown that sports facilities don’t jack up the economy, as promoters claim.

Warning to San Diego: small metro areas fare worse than larger ones because they have to put up more bucks to keep a team from moving to a juicier market, according to Long.

Sports economists I talk with say Long’s figures are definitely in the…er, uh…ballpark. “You can take Judith Long’s figures to the bank,” says Rodney Fort, professor of sport management at the University of Michigan. “She has done the most extensive and most important work on figuring the totality of subsidies [in pro sports].”

I, for one, have always believed that a big part of the sports scam is that the team counts naming and advertising-signage rights as parts of its contribution, thereby skimping on its own capital. Why doesn’t the city get, or at least split, the income from naming rights? Long does figure that in certain cases, granting naming rights to the team is essentially a public expense, and Fort agrees.

Why is the public misinformed? “The press doesn’t think to ask [about hidden costs],” says Fort. People focus on bonds needed to pay for a project and neglect to ask the right cost questions.

Roger Noll, professor of economics emeritus at Stanford, says infrastructure costs, which could come to 10 to 15 percent of the expense of a project, might be downplayed by the promoters, “although if you ask them [for the numbers], they will tell you.”

Dennis Coates, professor of economics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who blesses Long’s figures, says that forgiveness of property taxes is increasingly a part of subsidized deals. “Some will say that [tax forgiveness] is not really a cost, but of course it is a cost,” he says. He also feels mainstream media are often responsible for the public’s ignorance of a project’s cost. “Local newspapers and TV and radio broadcasters get an enormous amount of revenue” from sports coverage. Reporters realize that.

Long points out in the book that three facilities — Miller Park in Milwaukee, Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis — actually racked up more in subsidies than they cost to build.

Miller is classic. Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, promised he would build a ballpark with his own money if local officials would only move a highway at a cost of $6 million. Later, he went to then-governor Tommy Thompson for help. In a slick move, Thompson got the state legislature to hike sales taxes in the counties around Milwaukee. Selig would still have to put in money, but he wiggled out of that, too. Ultimately, he got the stadium for nothing. Awed team owners made him commissioner of Major League Baseball. (Thompson, who was defeated for the Senate last month, was known as the politician who conquered social welfare — but hardly corporate welfare.)

The Wall Street Journal called Cincinnati’s football stadium and ballpark “one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government.” Costs for the stadium escalated, taxes jumped, and the stadium fund went deeply into the red. According to Cincinnati magazine, the Bengals owner’s “litigious bullying” has prohibited compromises from lifting Hamilton County out of desperate straits caused by the one-sided deal. (The arrangement with the Cincinnati Reds for the baseball park wasn’t quite as financially disastrous.)

When Baltimore wouldn’t give its Colts a new stadium in 1984, they moved in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, which gave them one. Several years later, the Colts wanted another one, or they would move. Indianapolis caved. Hotel, rental car, and restaurant taxes went up. City fathers appeased taxpayers, saying Indianapolis would get a Super Bowl in 2012. It got one — and lost money on it. ■

Contact Don Bauder at 619-546-8529

A Love / Hate Letter to the Chargers

November 17, 2012 — jquinsey

Dear Alex (Spanos),

After almost 34 years together I’m starting to think this relationship isn’t working. I’ve given you my unconditional support, my precious time, and my hard-earned money and in return you’ve given me nothing but unrealized expectations (2006), sheer heartache (2009), and colossal disappointment (most recently last Monday night). In the beginning our relationship was such a rush. It was all fireworks and passion. Granted we never reached climax, but it was exciting all the same. Then the passion kind of fizzled out for awhile. But it was okay because as everyone knows that’s a natural occurrence in the course of most relationships. You were down in the dumps for about a decade there but I supported you anyway, always believing you’d find a way to recapture past glory. In 1994 you really surprised me. At a time when I didn’t expect much from you, we went farther than we ever had before. Even though we came up just short of ringing the bell, it was a truly memorable time in our relationship. Unfortunately it was just a blip on the radar as you promptly went back into the tank for another decade. But it was okay because that small taste of glory carried us through the tough times. In 2004 we turned the corner (or at least I thought we did). The year ended on a low note but our future never looked brighter. At that time I was more certain than ever that we were meant to be together. Then, inexplicably, you turned into a miserable tease. It was almost as though you enjoyed getting me all hot and bothered only to slam the door in my face. Driving back from your house, emotionally crushed and physically unfulfilled, it was all I could do to not drive my car off the road (no disrespect to Junior Seau). I can’t tell you how many times I cried myself to sleep at night thinking about what could have been. Recently you keep threatening to leave and go be with someone else. Maybe it’s time you made due on this threat. Perhaps we should start seeing other people so we know what else is out there. I think it’s time to face the fact that this relationship is dysfunctional and it’s no longer good for either one of us. I never thought it was possible to love and hate someone at the very same time but that’s exactly how I feel about you. This relationship may be beyond salvation but we have been together for 34 years and I hate to just throw it all away without making one last ditch effort. If you really love me it’s time to make some wholesale changes in your life. First off you need a serious attitude adjustment (fire A.J. Smith). Secondly you need to stop acting so damn stupid all the time (fire Norv). And lastly (gulp), I never thought I’d say this but it might be time to try a new look (explore alternatives to Rivers). Until you’re ready to make these changes please don’t attempt to call or contact me. I’m not in a good place right now and I need some time alone.


John Q. (Life-long Chargers fan)

Let them eat Chargers tickets

November 7, 2012 — Matt Potter

It’s Chargers football season, time once again for San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders to quietly give close friends and political allies free tickets to premier seats at Qualcomm Stadium. For the October 15 game with Denver, the Republican mayor coughed up eight tickets said to be worth $98 each for use by the San Diego Sports Commission. The purpose of the gift, made possible by city taxpayers, was “promotion of local & regional business, econ. development, and tourism, including conventions and conferences,” said Sanders’s office.

The sports commission is a nonprofit booster group whose board comprises some of the city’s best-connected locals, including car dealer Steve Cushman, beer salesman Kurt Martin, San Diego Magazine publisher Jim Fitzpatrick, Donovan’s Steakhouse owner Dan Shea, La Jolla financier Ted Roth, beer distributor Steve Sourapas, basketball legend Bill Walton, and Padres co-owner and beer magnate Ron Fowler. Reached earlier this week by phone, sports commission sales chief Steve Schell explained that tickets from the mayor’s office are regularly used to entertain potential sponsors of future sports-themed events here — including football, basketball and golf tournaments — that contribute to local economic activity.... The controversial Walmart retail chain has done some charitable giving on behalf of Republican city councilwoman Lorie Zapf. On August 22, the corporation gave $1000 to Leez PJ’s 4 Kids in San Marcos to provide “clothing for foster children,” according to a behesting disclosure posted online by the city clerk. The same day, Walmart kicked in $6775 for a City-owned “portable swimming pool” in Linda Vista. The Republican city councilwoman has long been a sure council vote for Walmart and has often been featured in the firm’s promotional material. “As elected officials, we should do our part to promote business growth — not deter it,” she was quoted as saying in a Walmart news release in January of last year regarding the company’s ultimately victorious battle with labor unions over repeal of a law that would have limited the firm’s expansion in the city. “I look forward to helping these efforts get underway by voting to repeal the big box ordinance.”

Conventions, Football Don’t Mix

September 14, 2011 — Don Bauder

Southern California has balmy weather and, seemingly, balmy leadership. For one thing, both Los Angeles and San Diego want to expand convention centers in the teeth of a grossly overbuilt market and slumping convention attendance. Both are considering use of a football stadium as convention space, when evidence shows that has limited appeal to convention planners and attendees.

Los Angeles is close to approving the construction of a $1.2 billion retractable-roof stadium that will be used as a convention site in conjunction with the existing center. The San Diego Chargers want a fat subsidy to build a similar stadium that would serve as a convention site. The stadium would be several blocks away from the existing convention center; repeatedly, studies have shown that attendees don’t want to shuffle or even shuttle between distant sites. San Diego downtown leadership prefers to expand the current center — but wants a stadium to be built as well.

Both Los Angeles and San Diego are in desperate financial shape. Promoters claim that the L.A. stadium and center will be paid for with private funds. That remains to be seen. There are no such promises in San Diego. A retractable-roof stadium would require a public subsidy of $700 million to $800 million or more. The convention center expansion will cost $500 million or more.

In Los Angeles, the company financing the project, Anschutz Entertainment Group, is using dubious assumptions. The state Legislative Analyst’s Office notes that the company assumes the stadium would regularly host National Football League playoff games, the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, Pac-12 championship, National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournaments, and the like. The City of Los Angeles and the Legislative Analyst’s Office say such expectations are far too optimistic. Also, Anschutz is assuming that a reconfigured convention center will be extremely successful in attracting new events. But the City doubts that will happen because of intense competition.

Would an expanded convention center pay off for either Los Angeles or San Diego? Charles Chieppo, Harvard researcher writing for Governing.com, a publication for leaders of state and local government, cites figures from the publication Tradeshow Week. In the past 20 years, the national supply of convention exhibit space zoomed by more than 70 percent. But from 2000 to 2010, attendance at conventions and trade and consumer shows decreased from 126 million to 86 million. Ergo: huge supply, dwindling demand. In 2010, Tradeshow Week went out of business. ’Nuf said.

As a result of the overbuilding and attendance decline, “People are offering incentives right and left, as is San Diego,” says Heywood Sanders, professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the national authority on convention centers. “It’s really tough with the overbuilding plus the recession and companies cutting back on travel.” Convention centers have no option except to slash prices.

Las Vegas is generally considered the first or second most successful convention destination. “There are lots of new casinos, a regularly expanding center, and — ahem — other visitor amenities,” says Sanders. In 2007, the center had 1.55 million attendees. By last year, that had dropped 25 percent.

Visitors to the convention center in Washington, D.C., accounted for 376,000 room nights in 2008 — the deepest part of the Great Recession. By last year, when the economy was growing, albeit slowly, convention-related room nights were down by more than 100,000.

What about Los Angeles? Its convention center “has been losing business — indeed, hemorrhaging,” says Sanders. In 1998, total room nights resulting from attendance at the convention center were 353,325. By 2002, the number was down to 205,824, and by last year, all the way down to 137,187. These are data compiled by LA Inc., a nonprofit whose mission is to promote Los Angeles tourism, and PKF Consulting, a firm that works for the hospitality industry.

“We are at a competitive disadvantage,” the president of LA Inc. recently told the Los Angeles Times. “We drastically need more hotel rooms downtown.” He said that Anaheim, San Diego, and San Francisco have three to six times as many hotel rooms immediately around their convention centers.

Last year, a two-hotel hybrid was completed in the L.A. convention district. It has 879 JW Marriott and 123 Ritz-Carlton rooms, plus condos. But that’s still not enough. “The argument for years was that ‘we need a hotel.’ It would be the magic missing ingredient that would propel convention business in Los Angeles,” says Sanders. “It’s not at all clear that it has. There is some suspicion that [Anschutz Entertainment Group’s] whole effort to get the stadium built and the convention center expanded is to pump business into that hotel and entertainment complex [L.A. Live, partly financed by Anschutz].”

Sanders notes that centers in Las Vegas, Orlando, Atlanta, and Chicago experienced business declines after completing expansions.

The San Diego Convention Center claims that its activities accounted for 709,298 hotel room nights and $1.27 billion in economic impact last year, but Sanders has always cocked an eyebrow at San Diego’s numbers, believing the center overstates out-of-town visitors by including too many locals from such events as Comic-Con.

With the industry overbuilt and business declining, does San Diego need an expanded convention center? “An expansion is justified locally by the argument that it will inevitably bring more events and more attendees, but it is a gamble — a bet on what will happen in a very indefinite future,” says Sanders. “Other cities are building [convention centers] and expanding. Is San Diego going to be the place that will succeed? That is an open question. The consultants who say it will have told other cities they will succeed, and repeatedly they have not.”

The San Diego power structure, including Mayor Jerry Sanders, does not want the proposed Chargers stadium to serve as a convention center expansion. The consulting firm pushing for expansion of the current center says that a noncontiguous building, unless it is directly across the street, results in two completely different venues. No major corporations or trade and consumer shows would book both venues at the same time. Even San Francisco’s Moscone Center and Moscone West, which are right across the street from each other, confuse some attendees.

And certainly a football field does not make a good convention center addition, says Heywood Sanders. Indianapolis, Atlanta, and St. Louis are the cities trying to use football fields as convention center space, and none has worked well. “The flat floor space is about 150,000 to 180,000 square feet. That’s not very much space,” he says. A company displaying tractors or construction equipment, for example, does not want to be surrounded by a bunch of empty seats.

The stadium touted by the Chargers would be several blocks away from the convention center; thus, it would have two strikes against it immediately.

A football stadium will work for some conventions: “Social, religious, and fraternal groups like to have an open arena for large assemblies — say, 10,000 or 15,000 Baptists. But they do not necessarily constitute the most desirable convention business,” says Sanders. That is to say, they may not utilize the “ahem” amenities.

Do the Chargers Love L.A.?

August 24, 2011 — Matt Potter

How much do the Chargers love Los Angeles? First came word via L.A.’s Street-Hassle blog that the team’s PR honcho and all-around fix-it guru-in-chief Mark Fabiani gave $1000 to L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel. Now an examination of the 2009 federal 990 IRS return for the nonprofit San Diego Chargers Charities, filed last November, reveals that the charity gave $25,504 to UCLA in “Individual Scholarship” funds but only $19,250 to the University of San Diego. No other San Diego County universities were listed as recipients. Other institutions of higher learning listed as getting money from the charity were Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Claremont McKenna College, Georgetown University, UC Berkeley, and UC Irvine, all $7000 each. Harvard received $1600. The grand total was $81,354.

According to a statement on the group’s Form 990, the purpose of Chargers Charities is to “support, encourage, and create projects or events that will improve the quality of life for the community of San Diego.” Among local beneficiaries of the charity were the Make-A-Wish Foundation ($34,000); Community Quarterback grants to youth football ($17,500); elementary and secondary school grants ($169,000); and high school Coach of the Week grants ($21,000). All of the non-college recipients, with the exception of a Temecula school, were in the county.

The disclosure lists four fundraising events that the nonprofit says raised a total of $78,992, including the “Champions Honor Dinner” and a “Jr. Charger Girls” event, but total direct expenses were $57,832, leaving a net income of just $21,160. In general, compared to the year prior, 2009 was tough for the nonprofit. In 2008, Chargers Charities booked $627,414 in contributions and grants. In 2009, it only got $142,913. In 2008, the nonprofit handed out $500,804 in “grants and similar amounts paid.” In 2009, it was down to $327,854. Even with that lower number, the charity’s revenue less expenses was a negative $175,823. Its net assets dropped from $278,125 to $102,302.

In an emailed statement, Chargers spokesman Bill Johnston said, “The Chargers Community Foundation has been and continues to be one of San Diego’s leaders in the support [of] youth sports and education in our community. There has been no change in the Foundation’s commitment.” He added that “the Foundation and the [Spanos] family have provided more than $11 [million] since 1995 to support a wide range of services and resources for programs directly affecting youth and families in the county.”

“The team’s contributions to the Foundation may vary from year to year, depending on the amount raised by the Foundation as well as the Foundation’s commitments. The Foundation also delayed the announcement of grants to Chargers Champions schools in 2009, the Foundation’s 10th anniversary, by approximately six months to correspond with our season. This change has caused those grants to actually be issued in ’10 and beyond. In addition, the Foundation’s efforts have been affected by the economy, just as other non-profits in our community have been affected.”

Hometown Bias

May 11, 2011 — Don Bauder

"Root, root, root for the home team.” It’s a tuneful ditty to sing during the seventh inning stretch, but it won’t help Padres fans. They should really sing, “Pray, pray, pray for the umpires to act as they normally do” — that is, biased toward the host team.

That is one of many conclusions of a delightful new book, Scorecasting, by Tobias Moskowitz, a professor of finance at the University of Chicago, and Jon Wertheim, a writer for Sports Illustrated. They apply exhaustive statistical analysis to sports of all kinds and reach some iconoclastic conclusions that blindly devoted fans may not like but would be well advised to study.

There are lessons for both the Padres and the Chargers. In fact, the book, in describing fatuous decision-making in the pro football draft, cites both very smart and very dumb moves by the Chargers.

First, the home team. Yes, statistics definitively prove that the home team in major sports wins more often than the visiting team. The difference is greatest in soccer. In America’s Major League Soccer, the home team triumphs 69.1 percent of the time. The home team wins more than 60 percent of the time in Europe and South America, where soccer is more a religion than a sport.

Home teams have the least significant advantage in Major League Baseball. Between 1903 and 2009, home teams have won 54.1 percent of the games. The authors refute the reasons most often given: (1) Crowd support. Nope. “Fans’ influence on the players is pretty small,” say the writers. (2) Travel rigors doom visitors. Not statistically valid. (3) Home teams benefit from easier schedules. It’s true that big college football teams jack up their won-loss records by scheduling sissy schools at home, but that’s not a big enough factor to explain the overall phenomenon. (4) Baseball teams tailor their rosters to fit the idiosyncrasies of their ballparks. Listen up, Padres: that’s no ticket to inordinate home success. I’ll consider that below.

“ ‘Officials’ bias’ is the most significant contributor to home field advantage,” say the authors, and they make a superb statistical case for it — pointing out, for example, that soccer outcomes are the most dependent on referees’ calls. Looking at reams of game data, Moskowitz and Wertheim show that in baseball, home teams strike out less and walk a lot more per plate appearance than do the visitors. Further, when the game is close, home teams have an even larger advantage in umpires’ ball and strike calls. Similarly, home teams are more likely to be successful when stealing a base or turning a double play.

Now for the clincher. Between 2002 and 2008, up to 11 teams had a system called QuesTec that measured where the ball went over the plate. Ergo, the umpires had machines looking over their shoulders. The authors studied 5.5 million pitches in those years. The result: “Called strikes and balls went the home teams’ way, but only in stadiums without QuesTec — that is, ballparks where umpires were not being monitored,” write the authors. As H.L. Mencken wryly observed, “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”

The authors say that umpires “call balls and strikes correctly 85.6 percent of the time. But the errors they do make don’t seem to be random. They favor the home team.” (Incidentally, in pro football, the introduction of instant replay in 1999 resulted in fewer calls in favor of the home team.)

Then came a point in the book when I slammed it down and screamed “Horse manure!” The authors insist that most if not all officials are “uncorrupted and incorruptible, consciously doing their best to ensure fairness.” After I recovered from my outburst, the authors hedged their bets. “In a variety of ways — some subtle, some not — officials must take in cues that the league has an economic incentive for home teams to do well.” Right on! Sports are part of the entertainment business. And game-fixing is another variable.

Now let’s go back to the Padres. Petco Park is designed to be a pitchers’ park. The team hopes to win by stacking up on good pitchers and fleet, sure-handed fielders. In other words, defense wins. The book cites multiple statistics showing that defensive-minded and offensive-minded teams win about equally in all sports. In baseball, the authors show that teams molded to their ballparks’ peculiarities don’t necessarily have an advantage. Pitchers’ parks aren’t a panacea, and teams that beef up on sluggers to take advantage of a hitters’ park don’t clean up, either.

Geoff Young, a statistics expert who follows the Padres, said in the Hardball Times last year, “Petco Park remains the most difficult environment in [Major League Baseball] in which to score runs, and by a wide margin.” But, using complicated formulas, Young said that the Padres were winning only 1.5 games per 162-game season more than they would be expected to win, “and it’s quite possible that luck is the overriding factor.”

Young figured that from 2004, when Petco opened, through 2010, the Padres won 52.9 percent of their home games, while Major League Baseball home teams were winning 54.6 percent of theirs. “The question of whether the Padres are using Petco Park to their greatest advantage remains open,” said Young. This year’s experience would hardly seem to make the case — at least thus far in the season. They are now 7 wins, 14 losses at home.

Even though it’s not certain that there will be a pro season in 2011–2012, the National Football League went through with its ritual draft of college players last month. As always, controversy raged. Scorecasting points out how team managements, clinging to hoary theories, continue to make big draft blunders. A classic example is the 2004 draft in which the Chargers snookered the New York Giants, who desperately wanted Eli Manning, brother of the league’s best quarterback. Other top quarterbacks available were Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Chargers took Manning first. He didn’t want to play in San Diego. The Giants could have traded for a lower pick and taken Roethlisberger, but they were so hot for Manning that they drafted Rivers and then gave him and three draft picks to the Chargers for that first pick. The Chargers got Rivers; Pittsburgh got Roethlisberger with the 11th pick. The Giants “effectively considered Eli Manning to be worth more than Ben Roethlisberger plus four additional players,” write Moskowitz and Wertheim sardonically. And the first pick in the draft typically is paid about 80 percent more than the 11th pick. National Football League general managers grossly overvalue the high draft picks.

But the Chargers can be taken too. Almost all San Diegans are aware of the 1998 draft in which the Chargers traded away three top picks plus active players to move up to second place in the draft and land Ryan Leaf, who has since landed in a heap of trouble and never amounted to anything in the sport. By trading up to get a supposedly top player, then paying him a monstrous salary, a team often pays “the price of a Porsche for a clunker,” write the authors. By taking top picks, “you will never get a great player at a cheap price.” But just try to tell that to the National Football League.