This. And That.

September 23, 2009 — Patrick Daugherty

The Box has taken the pledge to stop writing Chargers Suck columns, and I think a fair-minded person would have to say I’ve held up my end of the deal. That’s not easy when Norv Turner is the head coach. So, I should warn you I’m making an exception this week. For the greater good.

Sunday’s play-calling was quintessential Norv and says everything you need to know about why he’s been a failure as a head coach everywhere he’s been a head coach (Washington, Oakland, and San Diego). Who else, with the ball on their opponent’s five-yard line, ten seconds left in the half, behind eight points, two downs to work with, would call for a field goal? On third down?

Norv took charge of a 14-2 Chargers team on that bleak, vile day in February 2007, when the Spanos brain trust announced the hiring of yet another incompetent head coach. Turner has managed to turn that jewel of a team into the 8-8 slug we saw last year and through two games this year.

I was thinking about Norv while watching Monday Night Football, enjoying Peyton Manning as he put together another comeback, his 37th fourth-quarter comeback. Indy ran 35 plays in that game. Miami ran 84. Indy had possession for 14:53. Miami held the ball for 45:07. And yet Indy wins off a 48-yard Manning pass to Pierre Garcon with 3:18 to go (a win later sealed by Antoine Bethea’s end-zone interception). And you knew, going into that last drive, Manning would find a way to score.

Someone said that the only man who ever held Michael Jordan under 20 points was Dean Smith, Jordan’s college coach at North Carolina who insisted on playing traditional basketball. Yes, it’s ugly, but it’s only a small exaggeration to say that Norv Turner is the only coach who could keep Peyton Manning from coming back to win a game in the fourth quarter.

In other news, Roger Clemens is on Twitter, writing the same inane bullshit as everybody else: “hey cool stuff. My friends have a place there. I need to come and golf down there!!!” But what’s interesting is he’s only got 878 followers. You could do as well if you’d open an account and accept all the spam that comes your way.

Minnesota beat Detroit 27-13 and Brett Favre started his 271st game, a new NFL record. The nation will now turn its attention to other matters. But listen up, people, the Favre question is still on the table. To wit: Is he all monstrous ego, or is he all monstrous ego who can still play? Check back after Thanksgiving for the answer.

The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) lost another tournament. This one is the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill. Anheuser-Busch will not be renewing its sponsorship, which seems particularly ominous since Anheuser-Busch owns the Kingsmill Resort and Spa. At least they used to before they were bought by not-a-household-name InBev. The PGA Tour played there for 22 years, handing it off to the LPGA seven years ago. It was a big tournament on the ladies’ tour, a $2.2 million payday, voted by the players as their favorite event in 2007 and voted fan favorite by fans in 2008. The LPGA 2009 prize money ($50 million) is $10 million less than it was in 2008. There were 34 events in 2008, 27 in 2009, and so far, only 17 events are under contract for 2010.

Commissioner Carolyn Bivenso recently resigned after 15 of the tour’s best players (Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Suzann Pettersen, Se Ri Pak, and Natalie Gulbis, among others) wrote a letter to the tour’s board of directors asking that Bivenso be gone. The LPGA is the oldest, continuously operated women’s professional sports organization in the country. Founded in 1950. They’ll make it. TV money will pay the bills, but I hate to see the tour fall so far, so fast.

Something is going on with the 49ers. Their defense reminds me of the Chicago Super Bowl 20 team: every player is after it on every play. The defense is very fast and very aggressive. Day and night difference from what has gone before. Remarkable. The Niners are 2-0 this season, have won 6 of their past 7 games, 7 of 11 since Mike Singletary took over as head coach.

Looking at the NFC West, the Niners have already beaten two division rivals — one was last year’s NFC champion, and they beat those guys at their house. Arizona won the division with a 9-7 record last year. San Francisco can win this conference.

And here’s a little something to take home with you: The Raiders have won three of their last four games.

Chargers Won’t Fulfill Desires in San Diego

September 9, 2009 — Don Bauder

Experts say the San Diego Chargers could make the Super Bowl this year. However, the team’s desire to build a new stadium in San Diego could be — well, economically inSuperable.

The team now plays at Qualcomm Stadium, which is a black hole for the City of San Diego but a super-ecstatic hole for the Chargers. It costs the City $2.8 million a year to put on Chargers games, while the team’s rent is capped at a mere $2.5 million, down from $7 million under a former, more favorable agreement. This sweetheart rent deal is one reason that the team’s debt-to-value ratio is only 14 percent, about in the middle of teams in the National Football League, according to Forbes magazine.

But as Forbes points out, the teams that have (or will soon get) new or elaborately rehabbed stadiums are the most valuable. The ten richest teams, all worth more than $1 billion, are, in order, the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, and Denver Broncos — almost all playing in palaces. (A team’s worth doesn’t necessarily correlate with on-the-field performance. Last year’s Super Bowl winner, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are valued 16th of 32 teams, and the squad that almost beat them, the Arizona Cardinals, are 23rd, just ahead of the Chargers, whose value is calculated at $917 million.)

“New stadiums generate revenue for teams that is unshared by the rest of the teams in the NFL,” says Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani. The new stadiums bring luxury and club seat sales, advertising rights, and sponsorship income that a team can keep for itself. Ergo, the Chargers want a new facility. And, insists Fabiani, “Our search remains focused in San Diego County.”

And that is the hole in the Chargers’ plans. “The Chargers are trying to pound a round object — their desire for a new stadium — into a square hole — which is economic reality,” says Mike Aguirre, former city attorney with whom Fabiani constantly tussled. (Fabiani alluded to Aguirre’s “toxic, bilious personality,” while Aguirre allegedly called team owner Alex Spanos “a welfare queen.” I can’t argue with Aguirre’s characterization: I have described pro football team owners — and bankers getting bailouts — in the same terms.)

The Chargers claim they want to build a privately financed stadium somewhere in the county, whether it be Oceanside, Escondido, East Village near Petco Park, or elsewhere. The team wants to fill the luxury and club seats and attract advertising, including naming rights, in a metro area without the necessary economic base. County incomes are low compared with the cost of living, and local companies tend to be small, capital-intensive, and cerebral. (How many biotech and telecom executives would entertain clients at a football game?)

Fabiani says that the ability to sell these upscale products “in an NFL marketplace will determine whether a new, privately financed stadium is financially feasible.” But there is a change in that marketplace: companies are slashing entertainment budgets and banning employees from taking expensive freebies, such as football tickets. Corporations may sensibly put fewer dollars into sports advertising and promotion, such as naming rights. Money is tight. Since the Chargers claim a new stadium will be privately financed, “The team will be required to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the project,” says Fabiani. “So we need to be sure that sales from the new stadium will support the significant private debt.” That’s the hole the team may tumble into.

There are other negative economic factors: any new, privately financed stadium (even if land, development rights, and infrastructure were subsidized by government) would have to be accompanied by “gargantuan real estate development with commercial and residential properties integrated with the stadium,” says former councilmember Bruce Henderson, who adds that “without extraordinary growth in population, there is no indication that such a project would be viable in the next decade.”

Think back just a few years ago. The Chargers were looking for a development partner so they could construct 6000 housing units, a hotel, offices, and other commercial buildings at the Qualcomm site, where a new stadium would be built. When no development partner surfaced, Fabiani said one reason was Aguirre’s obstinacy. But what would have happened if that project had gone ahead? Throughout the county, condos, hotels — residential and commercial real estate of all kinds — have hit the skids. That’s what would have happened to the Qualcomm project. “It is likely that the private developer would have been forced to delay some or all of the urban village project,” waiting for the economy to recover, concedes Fabiani.

“It would have been a disaster,” says Aguirre. Henderson agrees and chuckles that he and Aguirre should get a bouquet of flowers from the Chargers. (Actually, Henderson never thought that proposal was a serious one.)

A privately financed Chargers stadium is not going to make it in the county. And governments don’t have the funds to provide subsidies. That leaves locations outside of San Diego. Las Vegas, with whom the Chargers have had contact, is in worse economic shape than San Diego, at least in real estate.

The one logical candidate is the City of Industry, a snug and smug town of only 88 tightly controlled voters in southeast Los Angeles County, just north of Orange County. Developer Ed Roski, a close personal friend of Alex Spanos, says he will build a stadium that will be mainly financed privately. The accommodating town early this year passed a bond measure to provide half a billion dollars of infrastructure improvement. (The vote was 60 to 1, and civic leaders may be trying to find out who that one dissident is.)

The L.A./Orange County market is the nation’s second largest, with 13 million people. Inclusion of Riverside and San Bernardino adds another 4.1 million. San Diego is the nation’s 17th-largest market at 3 million. Unlike San Diego, the L.A. area has a broad and deep mix of businesses to spend on sports luxuries. “If the NFL cobbles together government and private subsidies for a new stadium in Southern California over the next decade or so, it will be built in L.A.,” says Henderson. On the bright side, he points out that Qualcomm Stadium is one of the best in the world for football, and the Chargers are making a bundle of money playing in it.

It’s generally believed that if Roski builds the stadium, he will want at least part ownership of a team. Fabiani says that pro sports owners through the years have sold stakes in their teams for various reasons. “So an owner would probably never rule out such a possibility — but as I’ve said, the Chargers’ search remains focused in San Diego County.”

But Henderson says the Chargers are looking at local sites only because they will have to prove to the NFL that they gave San Diego every chance. Also, if the Chargers wait until after the 2010 season to announce they are leaving, they will only be obligated to pay $25.8 million of the remaining debt from the 1998 remodel of the stadium. If they make the announcement this season, it will be more than double that.

For Chargers fans, this may be holey depressing.

Homeless SDSU Football Coach

September 9, 2009 — Patrick Daugherty

The Chargers are playing at Oakland Monday night, on the B side of ESPN’s double-header. Normally, I don’t count watching a game that includes the Raiders as more interesting than watching termites colonize the back-porch steps. It was the news that Raiders head coach Tom Cable allegedly sucker-punched his subaltern, Randy Hanson, breaking Hanson’s jaw, causing not one but two Hanson trips to hospital, and the announced-but-unseen involvement of the Napa Police Department and NFL lifestyle marshals that got my attention.

So, I’m looking for a column headline. Let’s see…“Homeless SDSU Football Assistant Finds Work as Owner’s Mascot.” Or, “Homeless SDSU Football Assistant Says, ‘Two Years in the NFL and I’m Already Head Coach.’” Or, “Homeless SDSU Football Assistant Screams, ‘I Will Kill You!’”

Every statement is media-true in that it’s been reported in the press, but there’s something missing. Cable was a homeless SDSU graduate assistant, and he was in the NFL for a paltry two years before becoming interim head coach, and he did, allegedly, promise to terminate with extreme prejudice a junior coach. All media-true except…allegedly attacking a fellow coach in a room full of witnesses…a toady doesn’t do that.

Cable has lived a coach’s life: offensive and defensive tackle on the Snohomish High School football team, four years as offensive guard for the University of Idaho, stayed on as a graduate assistant for two more years, then to San Diego State for a year as an unpaid, homeless, graduate assistant, then a year at Fullerton State as defensive line coach, a year at UNLV as offensive line coach, Cal for six years, Colorado for a couple years, last one as offensive coordinator, back to Idaho as head coach, lasted four years, then a couple years at UCLA as offensive coordinator, then up to the NFL as Atlanta’s offensive line coach, then Oakland, same position, then Raiders interim head coach, and, finally, February 4, 2009, knighted head coach.

Couple things stand out. Cable’s always had a job, ten jobs in 20 years, but continuous football employment. He’s only been head coach once, for Idaho, which doesn’t earn him props since he’d already spent six years at Idaho as a player and graduate assistant. He was fired after amassing a dismal 11-35 record. Cable got to the NFL in 2006 as a humble line coach. Now turn around, take a deep breath, and behold: Al Davis makes him a prince. At the press conference announcing Cable’s investiture, someone left a mic open and you can hear Al talking to one of his flunkies, “Who’s going to introduce Tom Cable? I don’t know that much about him. Get something, get his press packet.”

This could only happen in Raidersworld. Still, no matter how he got there, Cable is an official NFL head coach now, and that is money in the bank for the rest of his life.

And here he is, brass ring in his pocket, just scored a job as rare and hard to get as Dear Leader, allegedly sucker-punching an assistant coach in front of other coaches, then wrestling said assistant coach to the ground while screaming, “I am going to kill you. I am going to kill you.” Does not fit.

Okay, who is Randy Hanson, alleged victim? Hanson was born in Sacramento, played quarterback at San Joaquin Delta College (Stockton), Walla Walla Community College, and Pacific University (Forest Grove, Oregon). Part-time coach at Eastern Washington University, graduate assistant at the University of Washington (defensive line and special teams), back to Eastern Washington as assistant secondary coach, then Portland State as secondary and special-teams coach. Hanson made the leap to the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings as offensive assistant/assistant quarterbacks coach in 2003, moved to St. Louis Rams in 2006, and on to Oakland as assistant defensive line coach the following year. Hanson made his NFL debut three years before Cable cashed his first pro paycheck.

Hanson did not get along with the previous Oakland head coach who once suspended him for five days. On the other hand, he was lauded by Oakland’s defensive coordinator. Minnesota’s head coach praised him, and he did a good enough job at St. Louis to come to the attention of Al Davis, who personally hired him. Does not fit.

I wonder what would make it fit? Well, one rumor has it that Hanson was a snitch and that’s why Cable hated him to the point of allegedly launching a physical attack coupled with a promise of murder.

But if you believe that, then you’d have to believe Al Davis hired someone just to spy on and rat out his own coaches. Is that possible?

If We Didn't Advertise We'd Go Broke Treating the Poor

Healthcare is like burgers — sell, sell, sell.

June 24, 2009 — Thomas Larson

Many of us watched the Chargers’ season-ending run this past winter and, amid the cheers and groans, saw a 30-second TV ad starring LaDainian Tomlinson. Well-dressed and calm, he’s holding a postgame news conference.

A reporter asks, “L.T., what got you the win today?”

“There’s three things you got to have to be successful,” L.T. says. “There’s planning, teamwork, and constant communication.”

Cut to designers huddling over architectural plans.

“What’s the key to team success?”

“Well, you got to start with the right foundation. That’ll get you through the season and beyond.”

Cut to hard hats pointing at blueprints and standing before a giant pit and an earthmover hoisting a shovelful of dirt.

“So, L.T., what do you see looking forward?”

“Great things are happening.

You just got to execute the plan.”

Out pops L.T.’s million-dollar smile, and a companion glint flickers off his diamond ear stud.

Cut to a graphic artist’s computer rendering of a giant new building.

An athlete putting his name on stuff is hardly surprising. What is surprising is where the ad ends. The heraldic music rises to a crescendo to deliver the last five-second punch: “Palomar Pomerado Health. Specializing in You.”

A hospital? Not a car or jewelry or shoes or Viagra or ESPN’s SportsCenter. But a hospital. Why does a hospital have to advertise?

When I phoned Don Stanziano, public relations director for Scripps Health, and asked that question, he turned it back on me: Why wouldn’t we? As in, doesn’t everybody? As in, the only way to distinguish your product and service (as well as your brand) in the competitive health-care world is to aggressively market what you have and who you are. Who would know we exist if we didn’t advertise?

The short answer to why hospitals must market is roads. Gone are the days when a hospital served only its immediate geographical area. Now, freeway-linked, a person living in Rancho Bernardo does not feel obliged to go to Palomar hospital in Escondido but can shoot across Highway 56 to a heart program at Scripps Green on the coast. Facing knee-replacement surgery — as expensive as it is painful — the smart patient goes hunting. Some insurance providers allow her to shop for nonemergent care, and shop she will, getting second and third opinions, seeking the most competent doc and one with whom she’s most comfortable. For choosy consumers, it’s a feast of movable options.

To attract the choosy, hospitals must market. To survive in the competitive health-care field, they must fill their beds, which means selling their services, which means branding their names with catchphrases and slogans. UCSD: “The Power of Academic Medicine.” In addition, hospitals are held captive by health-care consumers’ expectations. Reacting to the publicity new hospital programs generate in the media, San Diegans want what they believe is already available elsewhere. We should have the new prostate-cancer treatment that New Yorkers have. What’s more, consumers require that their health system offer fast, accessible, topflight care, no matter the ailment, no matter the cost.

Because health care also seeks the elective-surgery crowd, it must finance fancier offerings and charge customers extra. When I was young, a hospital was a place where the sick lay bedridden amid the drab purgatory of beige walls and industrial views. These days the hospital is (sold as) a homey institution, located on a campus, sporting a park and work-out track. The contemporary medical center may include the resort’s fitness room, the spa’s Jacuzzi, and the luxury suite’s state-of-the-art TV, video conferencing, toilets for the disabled, and beds whose built-in computers monitor the patients’ vital signs.

Catering to our expectations and keeping pace with their competitors, hospitals now and those planned for the future, specialty clinics and cancer programs, weight-loss centers and robotic-surgery units are all muscling themselves into our consciousness, marketing the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson as well as patient video testimonials. If you haven’t noticed the extent to which hospitals are slipping slick radio ads into your drive time and infomercials onto your late-night TV, then you’ve been hunkered down in the backcountry far too long.

San Diego’s Big Four

Along with Palomar Pomerado Health, San Diego’s big hospital systems are Sharp HealthCare, Scripps Health, and UCSD Medical Center. But note: these systems have two or more hospitals, medical groups, and specialty clinics. Two, Sharp and Scripps, are comparable in size, budget, and market share, each having about a quarter share of the market. Together, these four serve 66 percent of San Diegans and their medical needs.

At Sharp HealthCare, there are four acute-care hospitals, three specialty hospitals (among them Mary Birch Hospital for Women, which sets the annual California record for births), two affiliated medical groups, three skilled nursing facilities, 2600 affiliated physicians, and more than 14,000 employees. Sharp is the largest private employer in the county. Most San Diegans know Sharp Chula Vista, Sharp Coronado, Sharp Memorial, and Sharp Grossmont, the largest with 481 beds. The Sharp Health Plan has 45,000 members, one of which is the City of San Diego.

Scripps Health has five acute-care hospital campuses, ten Scripps Clinic locations, and nine Scripps Coastal Medical Center locations. The Scripps Mercy trauma center, located in Hillcrest, is placed south of I-8, where almost half of the county’s trauma occurs. Scripps employs 12,000 and has 2600 affiliated physicians.

The Palomar Pomerado system comprises Pomerado Hospital with 107 beds in Poway and Palomar Medical Center with 319 beds in Escondido; there are also outpatient centers and satellite sites, like the PPH expresscare clinics operating inside Albertsons in Rancho Peñasquitos and Escondido. Palomar Pomerado employs 3700 and has 700 doctors. The service area for Palomar Pomerado is 800 square miles, much of it in the county’s sparsely populated backcountry.

Finally, UC San Diego Medical Center includes schools of medicine and pharmacy on the University of California campus as well as two hospitals, whose employees total 5200. One medical center, Thornton Hospital, is on the UCSD campus, and the other is in Hillcrest. Both are served by one faculty medical group, some 800 physicians, most of whom practice, focus on research, and teach at the medical school. There are a few primary-care and specialty clinics, like the Eating Disorders Clinic, the Shiley Eye Center, and the Moores Cancer Center.

Inpatient discharge data, compiled by the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, is used to measure market share among hospitals. As one marketer told me, “We watch it like hawks.” In 2007, Sharp applied for — and won — the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, given by the president to recognize “performance excellence” in health care, education, and business management. In the application, Sharp reported comparative market shares for San Diego health systems. As of 2005, Sharp had the largest market share at 27.27 percent, followed by Scripps at 22.18, Palomar Pomerado at 10.68, UCSD at 6.51, and all others at nearly 34, including Kaiser at 9.62 percent. Kaiser is a member-based health-care organization that has almost 3.3 million subscribers in Southern California as well as 22 hospitals, clinics, and medical offices in San Diego County.

Compared to the thousands of doctors and nurses and administrative staff, the marketing and communications staff in each health system is small, at best, a few dozen employees. Marketing, as defined by the American Marketing Association, is an activity that creates, communicates, delivers, and exchanges “offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” The four marketing departments focus their “offerings” on advertising, web design and operations, customer strategy, media relations, multicultural relations, physician liaison, and more. Not counting call-center personnel, Sharp employs 55 people, 15 of whom design and run its website as well as produce its videos, perhaps the biggest new thing in hospital marketing. Scripps marketing has 51 employees, Palomar Pomerado has 11 full- and part-time people, and UCSD has 20 employees. Their marketing budgets are also small, in the range of $1 to $2 million, much less than the usual 3 to 5 percent of profits spent on marketing at multibillion-dollar companies such as Budweiser and Home Depot.

Revenues of the four health-care systems are huge, ranging from $1 billion to over $2 billion annually. All profits from any not-for-profit hospital are reinvested. None of it goes to award shareholders, owners, and executives as it does at for-profit hospital chains. The three largest hospital systems are defined as not-for-profit corporations. Only Palomar Pomerado is a nonprofit community hospital with a publicly elected board, financed through taxes, bond issues, patient revenues, and donations. The not-for-profits are self-supporting: patient revenues, foundations, and donations from estates and annual parties or balls sustain them. They must, as one marketer told me, “attract a favorable payor mix.” Payor money comes from patients, insurance companies, and Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursement and has to compensate hospitals for those they serve who can’t pay.

Tomlinson Scores Big with Palomar Pomerado

The guy who signed up L.T. with Palomar Pomerado is Gustavo Friederichsen. He’s also the marketing guru behind the system’s “Hospital of the Future,” coming to Escondido in 2011. The 50ish Latino possesses abundant energy, talks inveterately, and is, in his words, “involved with everything.” Before he got to Palomar Pomerado in 2004 as chief marketing and communications officer, he was the marketing head at Scripps and Sharp, five years at each.

On board, Friederichsen was expected, he says, to campaign for “community health improvement, prevention, education.” To understand his client base, he began with focus groups and in-house interviews. He found three concerns: the managers were “too conservative” and the marketers “risk-averse,” the latter doing little more than profiling doctors poring over X-rays in magazine ads; too few in the community had a clear idea of what the hospitals did, where they were located, and how to pronounce the name; and the foundation wasn’t bringing in enough money.

What troubled Friederichsen was that the system had “zero brand equity. If I put us against Sharp or Scripps, we lose every time.” Focus groups said they wanted a spokesperson with whom to identify. They recommended that “I get a face, an image, a something.” He remembers one person saying, “I don’t know what you stand for.”

His solution: brand the hospital.

So, in 2007, Friederichsen sought the superstar running back of the Chargers, coming off his greatest year ever. Friederichsen persuaded the season’s most valuable player to become the hospital spokesperson for five years. “It’s not just a strict endorsement deal, where he’s just pitching. He’s doing a whole lot more.”

L.T. is paid $400,000 per year — the hospital’s marketing division pays him $200,000; human resources, $100,000; and the foundation, $100,000. In turn, L.T. raises money, hosts TV and radio spots, recruits new doctors and nurses, visits patients, and talks to kids at schools about health. Friederichsen says that the reason L.T. signed up was, “He gets it. He has a family history of illness — stroke, heart disease, diabetes. Mother, father, grandmother.” Kids love him, he’s got a famous San Diego face, and he’s amenable.

The health system’s gala fund-raiser is called Night of Nights. Friederichsen says that L.T. has to raise “half a million dollars every year, minimum; it’s in his contract, recession or no recession.” He’s especially proud that the event with L.T. last year brought in $642,000; the highest total for a previous fund-raiser had been $30,000. This, as well as all the other educational things the running back does, justifies his salary. Yes, he says, “There’s a culture here that thinks we can’t pull the LaDainian thing off.” This is the old guard, who says to every (costly) innovation, “We can’t afford it.”

In short, Friederichsen needs to justify the L.T. expense.

How? He’s selected a number of standards for measuring the campaign. One is the number of diabetes patients admitted to the emergency room. L.T. talks to the public, mostly fifth-graders at school, about diabetes; he’ll present information about lowering their risk and changing their diet. After 24 months, Friederichsen will look at whether the number of diabetes patients coming into the emergency room has dropped. If it has, he’ll use the data as proof (mostly to the board) that his marketing strategy has legs. Already, he says, he’s gotten a call from a nutritionist who is treating “her first 300-pound Latino fifth-grader.”

I asked Friederichsen how an ad campaign might reverse the eating patterns of Latino boys, who many surveys suggest are addicted to fast food and soda. He says it’s not that ambitious, although he believes prevention is the way hospitals will care for patients in the future.

Friederichsen ran the 30-second L.T. spot, called “You just got to execute the plan,” during the playoff games (one win, one loss, and out) for $20,000 (he got two free runs when one of the games went to overtime). He’s mum about the cost of his other ads, which include other 30-second TV and radio spots, Union-Tribune and Chargers Media Guide ads, signage in Qualcomm, movie theater and online videos, transit posters, and bus tails (people stuck in gridlock need to look at something). He won’t discuss costs because “I’ve got a lot less [money] to work with than Scripps and Sharp do. I wouldn’t want a competing health-care system to know what Gustavo is spending on TV, radio, and print.” It’s all negotiable and, he says, suddenly cheap in a recession. If his negotiated price is exposed, Scripps and Sharp will renegotiate theirs. Ad venues don’t like that, he says.

He is spending more than the annual $250,000 that his predecessor spent on “showcasing physicians surfing or playing golf because their campaign stressed they were ‘normal’ folks.” His budget, he says, teasing me with a near figure, is 30 to 40 percent less than what his competitors at Sharp and Scripps spend.

Sharp Hospitals and the Sharp Experience

On Sharp’s website is the real-life video clip “Emergency Heart Attack at Sharp Grossmont.” A woman is being helicoptered onto the Sharp hospital roof. Though she’s suffering grueling chest pains, once in the emergency room she’s quickly stabilized. Soon, she’s on her way to the cath lab for angioplasty, one of the most common surgical procedures in medicine today. In the short procedure, her artery, which had a blockage, is ballooned opened, and she’s out of danger.

The video resembles an episode of the television show ER, with much of the frenetic activity but minus the actors and the fiction. It’s all real, the family arriving and looking bewildered, the husband wiping back the tears, the fast unfolding of the cath procedure, the doctor and nurses and technicians speaking to the camera during the procedure. A nurse says, “I feel so grateful to do what I do every day.” A doctor testifies that “every day I know I’ve made a difference; every day you’ve touched a life.”

Later, the woman’s recovery is filmed with triumphal musical flourishes. Son kisses mother. “She was going to leave us.” He cries. The doctor smiles. Love, like a glass of wine, is raised all around. A viewer can’t help but be touched by a tragedy undone.

Part of the savvy behind these spots is six-year Sharp veteran John Cihomsky, senior vice president for public relations and communications. He’s a youthful-looking, smartly dressed executive whose rapid-fire marketer’s tongue is endemic to the biz. In 2000 and 2001, just before Cihomsky began, Sharp conducted more than 100 focus groups to assess patient preferences. Cihomsky says that though responders expected superlative care at all San Diego hospitals, they rated each hospital the same: average. “Sharp is okay. Scripps is okay. UCSD is okay. They didn’t feel any difference with health-care providers. And, they said, ‘The state of health care isn’t so great.’ People said they weren’t treated as a person, didn’t feel their pain was well-managed, didn’t feel their loved ones were kept in the loop. We learned,” Cihomsky says, “that we have a lot of room to improve.”

The upshot was to launch the Sharp Experience. “Stories of the Sharp Experience” profile “real people, real experiences.” Short clips, like “Emergency Heart Attack,” are strung together into 28-minute-long hospital infomercials, shown on late-night TV. The idea is “to capture our people in action” who are “role-modeling behavior.” Is this information- or image-based? Cihomsky sees little distinction between the two. No matter the ad, there’s always “educational information embedded in those segments.”

“The Sharp Experience” is a phrase printed on most every marketing item Sharp produces. Cihomsky says that he knows the campaign is working well when people call or email to say, “I want to tell you about my Sharp Experience.” It’s a brilliant marketing ploy. Is this too slick? Cihomsky says no. “It’s very personal. We’re not talking about what brand of soda to buy. We’re talking about relationships. A relationship with a caregiver over a long period of time.”

In attaining its top market share, Sharp, like all hospital systems, targets women more actively than it does the two other main audiences: seniors (65-plus) and Spanish speakers. Most health-care choices are made by women who consult with family and friends about their options. (One marketer told me that to be effective with men and their prostates, “You don’t talk to men; you talk to the women in their lives.” Another marketer wrote an ad claiming the sexual advantages of a healthy prostate for the wife.) The entry point to hospitals for most women, Cihomsky says, occurs just before childbirth. Prenatal care is so important for women that given a good experience, “We are very likely to hold on to that entire family as patients. If they don’t have a good experience, we won’t, and they will tell ten friends.”

For female consumers, Cihomsky fashions English- and Spanish-language programs as well as two annual health conferences focused on education, with keynote speakers and local physician presenters. To measure their interest, Sharp surveys attendees’ satisfaction: a complimentary gift often assures a response. And yet, measuring outcomes is difficult and complex for any marketer. Cihomsky says that since women face a bewildering array of “access points — getting into the system — it’s very challenging to chart a woman who registers for an event and then shows up six months later in Dr. Smith’s office.”

Scripps — A Venerable Name Playing Catch-up to Sharp

“Just think about the name ‘Scripps,’ ” says Jean Hitchcock, Scripps’ corporate vice president for marketing and communications. She’s a 28-year veteran of marketing whose bluntness is enjoyable in the sometimes hemming-and-hawing world of marketing-speak. The “Scripps” brand conjures up the trust of science and medicine, the oceanographic institute, the publishing family descended from E.W. Scripps, the Scripps Howard news syndicate, the 1924 establishment of Scripps Memorial Hospital, even the family home, Scripps Ranch, which became a bedroom community. “We have an excellent brand,” Hitchcock says. “We tested it. People say that it’s high quality, very respected, and traditional in the sense of the pillars of health care — research, education, and treatment.”

What are the marketing priorities at Scripps? Hitchcock says it’s a question of “appealing” to different audiences, whether it’s selling Scripps’ bariatric surgery programs to obese people on diet websites via “search-engine optimization” or its obstetrics care. (Hitchcock is “incredulousness” that young women will shop for a hospital “based on ambience and gifts, not if there’s a neonatal unit.”) Scripps concentrates on obstetrics because the program faces stiff competition from providers and brings lifetime loyalty from women.

She says that even in a new hospital, “where each bed costs about $3 million” to build, the hospital still loses money. It loses money even when every bed is full.

Consequently, Hitchcock’s focus is on marketing programs and services in which Scripps has “clinical experience” and which “make money.” She is quick to add that although Scripps makes “money in trauma, we don’t want people to be traumatized.” Advertising a trauma center, she notes, is not easy. Marketing is a “very delicate dance you have to do, legally and ethically.”

After working in Chicago, where she saw up to 20 hospitals advertising in the Sunday papers, she sees San Diego as “a little sleepy giant. The competition here is mild compared to other big cities.” Why so sleepy? “We’ve been the poster child for managed care,” she says. Originally, San Diego, like most health-care markets, was “underbedded and underphysicianed. If you built a bed, you filled it.” Things changed about 1989, when the HMOs arrived and hospitals needed to court them. Joe the Health-care Consumer picked not a hospital or a doctor; he picked a system. He got everything at Scripps, for example, because by then Scripps was full-service. From this one-stop-shop approach to medicine came the for-profit hospital chains that built their empires on the systemic idea: an HMO or hospital system would negotiate the best contract for each group.

A new program Scripps and other big hospitals are marketing is robotic surgery. Hitchcock says the secret to advertising this program is not to “market its technology, because technology is only as good as the people who know how to use it.” She’s speaking of the $1.4 million da Vinci robotic system, a surgical technique that uses micro incisions. Each big hospital bought a da Vinci robot “to be competitive with each other. We’re not selling the robot, but some people are.”

As for where to advertise robotic surgery, Hitchcock rules out TV and newspapers: “There’s too much overlap, and they’re too expensive. TV’s [costs are] obscene.” She says TV rates here are as high as in the Chicago and New York markets, way out of line for hospital-ad budgets. As for the Tomlinson TV spots, Hitchcock says, “Shame on them. Those were tax dollars. They didn’t ask the people they taxed if it was okay to spend $2 million on him.” Scripps, she says, has taken care of four San Diego Chargers who “offered their services for free, but we had to pass because of L.T.” Other “free” celebrities include Tony Hawk and George Winston, the piano soloist, who does an annual concert at Scripps Encinitas for the patients. Neither man is paid and neither wants his appearance advertised, though mentioning them here exposes both.

Hitchcock likes billboards and radio “because people are in their cars so much,” and she likes the web and its social networks, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace. She says Facebook has become the number one place to look for new hires, especially nurses, who are always in demand. A viral site like Facebook spreads an ad via the profession’s social network.

Should a health-care marketer build brand or business? Name recognition or clientele? Hitchcock, who teaches a class in marketing at UCSD Extension, says, “I always say that in not-for-profit health care, you better do both or else you’re wasting money.” Still, the “tightness” of her budget precludes anything but following the dictates of the “strategic plan,” something every health-care organization is tied to. For Scripps, it’s ramping up a new heart program and a new cardiac center — not a surprise — new doctors, new technology, new facilities. She’s spending the marketing dime on attracting patients to heart programs because Scripps “already serves almost half the heart patients in the county. If you already have the market and you’re doing really well and you’re recognized for your clinical strengths, of course you’re going to put your effort there.”

One of Hitchcock’s primary jobs, besides offering external programs meant to “educate consumers,” is an internal one: to make physicians happy. “It’s the physician-relation thing,” Hitchcock says, echoing Bush 41. “You’ve got to have happy docs to have happy patients.” The doctors need to know “where we’re going as an organization,” so Hitchcock spends lots of dollars on talking directly to Scripps’ physicians about how they can navigate the system and why it’s important to support the technology.

Hitchcock says her core marketing focus concentrates on the quality of the patient experience. Patients evaluate not the health-care building or technology but the person: “The nurse responded to the bell. The doctor listened to my call. The real simple things turn it. Some health-care systems have gotten away from the basics.” She says she can’t help but “get bristly when I see people promoting buildings and technology. What does the patient get out of it?”

In each of the last five years, Hitchcock says, her budget has either held steady or gone down a bit “because we’ve been at capacity.” The way she’ll “grow market share” is by acquiring more facilities and more physicians. Like the other big three, she won’t get into numbers except to say, “We’re not a drop in the bucket” of Scripps’ $2.2 billion annual revenue. Hitchcock says that recently she spoke to a colleague in Columbus, Ohio, at Ohio Health, a highly competitive organization in a highly competitive market, who said just one of her TV ad campaigns cost $1 million. “That’s more than my entire budget for advertising.”

The Academic Brand at UCSD Medical Center

If there’s a field on which the three big county health systems play, UCSD and its two medical centers have yet to join the league. While UCSD has a much smaller market share than Sharp and Scripps, it spends roughly the same amount on ads as its competitors. So says Pam Bylen, who’s headed UCSD marketing for 13 years. Bylen notes that because UCSD concentrates on research and teaching, “our marketing is not geared to what the other hospitals are doing but to our own needs.”

Bylen and her staff market UCSD’s academic credentials. “To advance research and education, to provide leading-edge patient care, we offer specialized services that aren’t offered by other hospitals.” The Moores Cancer Center is one of 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the country and the only one regionally. She concentrates on testimonials from patients “who want to share the care they’ve received.” Launching a new campaign, she will place such testimonials — “the patients are our spokespersons” — in print, on radio, and on the website.

Because health care is so competitive, UCSD has to, Bylen says, “educate consumers so that when they’re choosing, they make informed choices.” Does UCSD Medical Center have a brand? “Yes, we use a tagline that says, ‘The Power of Academic Medicine.’ ” What does this suggest to consumers? “Academic medical centers are typically on the forefront of research and clinical trials. So when a patient experiences treatment at an academic medical center, they are being treated not just by a physician but by groups of physicians and researchers who look to the best course of treatment for that patient. They’re collaborating all the time with colleagues, not only within UC San Diego but with other colleagues all over the country in other academic medical-center settings.”

Does Joe the Health-care Consumer know this? Do you have to sell him the idea?

“It’s why we advertise. There may not be an overwhelming knowledge base. We do find that people who move here from the East Coast are more aware” than San Diegans “of the benefits of going to an academic medical center.” Places like New York City or Boston or Chicago, Bylen says, “have five academic medical centers, and people are aware of the benefits.”

Bylen notes that “because we care for 38 percent of the indigent in San Diego County,” she needs to market to the insured customers, i.e., the paying customers, to get their business. “It’s critical for our financial solvency that we have the right patient mix. To maintain our buildings and facilities and to actually grow and serve the community.”

Outcomes are measured when she looks at calls made to an 800 number, inquiries that come into the website, and the number of new patients. “The volume growth of new patients” tells her when she’s being successful. She says that “patient satisfaction does not drive marketing. The strategic plan drives the marketing.” In a follow-up email, I asked for details about the “strategic plan.” “This plan is an on-going plan,” she replied, “and is proprietary information, [and] therefore is not available.”

Bylen believes that “our marketing is successful” because UCSD has “a payor mix that allows us to be solvent. When I first joined the university 13 years ago, the medical center was about to lose money. That has completely turned around. In 1996, UCSD Medical Center was $20 million in the hole. That debt is gone.”

UCSD is also going the way of the personal-testimony video clip. A new one shows a young woman who needs her gall bladder removed but doesn’t want embarrassing stomach scars. “We are one of the few hospitals,” Bylen says, “who remove gall bladders through the vagina or through the mouth.” This procedure should bring in lots of paying customers.

As Palomar Pomerado’s Gustavo Friederichsen noted, hospital marketers prefer not to disclose media purchases. Payments made to advertisers are “trade secrets,” in part, to preserve competitive advantages. Nevertheless, the Reader filed a Public Records Act request for media-purchase records from Palomar Pomerado and UCSD, institutions that receive public funds. Both complied, but Palomar Pomerado redacted what they paid for their media buys.

UCSD Medical Center’s marketing department pays Sexton Communications to produce ads for radio, TV, billboards, and print. Media-buy records show that a purchase order issued to Sexton in 2005, with “change orders” in 2006, totaled $2.4 million. One email dated December 3, 2007, says that UCSD has been “averaging about $90,000 each month with Sexton on ads.” For 2007 and 2008, the total was $1,808,557.

Among the most costly invoices were ones for the June 2008 radio campaign promoting “The Power of Academic Medicine” at $53,253 and the October 2008 print ads in the Union-Tribune, San Diego Magazine, the La Jolla Light, the North County Times, and other coastal and inland North County newspapers at $40,342. Other ads included “Salute to Nurses Week,” “UCSD Healthy Heart Expo Campaign,” and the “Lap-band Campaign,” an ad for a new weight-loss surgery in which an adjustable band around the stomach helps control appetite. I counted 16 lap-band invoices for radio ads in 2007 and 2008; the cost was as low as $2400 for November 2008 and as high as $19,337 for February 2007.

Marketing Public Health

One marketer who has thought a lot about the morality of marketing is Justin Campfield, the founder of Campfield Public Relations, a marketing and communications company in Vermont. Impressed by his recent article “The Ethics of Hospital Marketing,” of which he is a coauthor with William Nelson, I phoned Campfield and asked him why, when I asked the marketers about ethics, they seemed reluctant to comment. “In a lot of cases,” he said, hospital marketers “weren’t doctors and nurses to begin with. They’ve been a marketer their whole career and been in industries completely different from hospitals. Who knows where they came from? They’re marketers first before they’d view themselves as a health-care professional.” Marketers, Campfield said, need to be reminded of the creed of the American Marketing Association: “honesty, fairness and avoiding conflicts that promote the organization’s interest over consumer needs.” He also noted that the association issues strict ethical guidelines for ads: no “unsubstantiated, false, deceptive, or misleading” claims.

I asked Campfield whether hospital marketers, in general, put the health of the organization over the health of the community. He said they sometimes get “too zealous” with their time and money on advertising specialized care. But, for Campfield, the marketer’s job is vital to the community’s health. New hospitals, more beds, more technology, more public awareness, more control over indigent and emergency-room costs, more diversity in the payor mix — all of it, Campfield said, enhances public health. Whatever enhances public health, he noted, must be sold to the community through whatever means the public can understand. “Sometimes that means using a football player as a healthy role model.”

Listen to Thomas Larson discuss this story on KPBS's These Days with Maureen Cavanaugh and on KOGO Reader Radio.

A Static Charge

June 24, 2009 — Dorian Hargrove

Chula Vista Deputy Mayor John McCann wants the San Diego Chargers to build a new stadium in Chula Vista. During the past few years, the councilmember has gone on the offensive to get the team to commit to Chula Vista; he heads a Chargers stadium subcommittee, speaks to Chargers representatives, and has gone on record trying to convince his fellow councilmembers to huddle up and work as a team to help draw the Chargers to Chula Vista. McCann estimates the revenues created by having a professional football team in the city would be in the tens of millions.

But now that McCann, a reserve officer in the Navy, is getting deployed to Iraq for a year, his fellow city councilmembers are scaling back their efforts.

“I think that over-politicizing this issue doesn’t do a lot of good for the community,” said McCann during Tuesday’s council meeting. “I’ll respect the decision if the council doesn’t want to do it, but we need to be very careful of not allowing a good business deal to be treated in a shabby fashion. Let’s not make it a political issue; let’s look at it as a business issue.”

In recent years, representatives from the Chargers have expressed interest in building a new stadium on San Diego Bay at the site of the South Bay Power Plant, but that plant is still in use and it could be some time before the aging plant is decommissioned and before plans for a new stadium move forward.

“If that’s the proposal, it’s not in the City of Chula Vista, it’s in the Port of San Diego,” said Chargers subcommittee member and councilmember Steve Castaneda during Tuesday’s meeting. “Mr. McCann will be gone for an extended period of time...and even if the council wants to keep the lights on with this subcommittee, I’m not sure where we would go. Clearly, the ball is in the court of the San Diego Chargers. If they believe that they have a future in Chula Vista, they need to come before this body and the people of Chula Vista.

“Mr. McCann has been very enthusiastic about the possibility,” added Castaneda. “I frankly believe they should stay at Qualcomm, but that’s a business decision for them.”

After comments from the other councilmembers, it was obvious that after McCann leaves for Iraq, the sitting councilmembers will likely disband the subcommittee and wait for the Chargers to approach the City with a detailed plan.

“I think it would be a good idea to suspend the committee,” said councilmember Pamela Bensoussan. “It’s been over two years and nothing has happened. [Councilmember McCann] refers to this as a good business deal, but this good business deal has not been vetted, it has not been proposed, and it has not been defined. Let’s be realistic. We’re not going to suddenly have a project and the power plant is suddenly going to go away.”

Tweeterdee and Tweeterdum

May 20, 2009 — Patrick Daugherty

Did you see the story about college coaches using Twitter to recruit? Twitter, for those doing max time at Pelican Bay, is a social networking stop on the internet inviting passersby to post messages of 140 characters or less on one topic: What are you doing? Then, every personhood on the planet can read your what-you’re-doing tweet on their computer, cell phone, alarm clock, and refrigerator.

In fairness, I should point out that there are folk who don’t want to know that much about your life, who don’t care if you enjoyed your morning shower. Fortunately, that brutish sentiment has not deterred 5 to 10 million short-form writers (according to from signing up and running on.

But, to get back to Twitter and sports… We have millionaire college basketball and football coaches. They get to keep making millions by winning games. They win games if they recruit the best players. It is players, by the way, who win games. The NCAA has rules on how many contacts a coach can have per recruit and when. The rules are more or less enforced.

Text messaging was outlawed two years ago. There is no NCAA policy as yet on Twitter because the coaches’ tweets go out to the world and not to a specific person/recruit. One could say that the audience for a college coach’s tweets are recruits, but that would be unkind.

To recap, you have a rapacious coach who we’ll call the “Tweetee” and you have his “followers,” a painfully accurate description of this activity and those who engage in it. Some coaches compete with each other as to how many followers they have. How could they not?

Still, it’s a disturbing picture. Sixty-year-old men, millionaires all, tweeting all the day long, hoping to lure 17-year-old boys into their athletic sweatshop. Of course, the problem with tweeting is the same problem you have with blogs — everyone has access, but few people have anything to say.

Pete Carroll ( is the head football coach for USC. His bio/motto as stated on his Twitter page: “Always Compete! Win Forever!” Carroll’s got 19,575 followers. Here’s something from a May 6 tweet: “Song of the day! Miss you by the stones... Because I’m missing all the coaches who are out on the road recruiting right now.”

Regard Norv Turner (, Chargers head coach and a man who will always have a job in the NFL. Norv has 36 followers and a total of two postings. First post was on November 20, 2008: “Hey, I’m not getting fired — I guess I can buy that Wii Fit for Christmas after all.” Next, 18 hours later: “So. I accidentally used shower gel in my hair and then lathered up with shampoo this morning. Everything smells opposite.”

And then silence.

Now comes Jake Peavy (, a right-handed pitcher for the Padres. He has 102 followers. His bio/motto says, “Rocket Launcher.” Last communiqué, April 27: “Hey Tweets, what’s on your mind? I’m feeling a bit fired up today.” Previous tweet (April 7): “Ok, I’m ready for some action again today. I had a tough time yesterday. I felt good, but we have to get some runs.”

Chargers QB Philip Rivers ( has 15 followers and ten pretty good posts. April 29, referring to Darren Sproles, Chargers designated franchise player who just signed a fat one-year contract, Rivers tweeted: “There goes another 6 million...who’s next?” And March 5: “T. nO.” January 31: “The Anaheim Chargers of Los Angeles? HELL NO!”

Here are some tweets drawn from the hat: Barry Bonds, 39 followers, two tweets, his last on November 18, 2007: “Right now I just need friends.”

Dallas QB Tony Romo has 26 followers: “Hey, i’ve got nothing against Walmart. who doesn’t love Walmart?”

Then there’s a class of Tweeters who see it as just another way to sell their crap to the dumb public. Other people write their tweets.

Ellen Degeneres, 1,187,462 followers. Last two Tweets: “Send me your favorite moments from my first 996 episodes. Pick wisely... You may see it on my 1000th show this Fri!” And, “Have a hidden talent? A good one like juggling watermelons or balancing a La-Z-Boy on your head. If so, send it…”

Finally, there is tweet crime. I’m talking about evil, malicious hackers who hacked, among others, Britney Spears, Bill O’Reilly, and the unctuous CNN anchor Rick Sanchez. Rick must have felt punched in the gut by job fear as he watched his tweets take a strange, ugly turn: I AM NAKED IN MY DRESSIN ROOM HIGH ON CRCK AND PCP PLZ CALL MY AGENT — ricksanchezcnn.

“Stop fucking delte my updates you assholes this is rick!! Smokin crack biaatch — ricksanchezcnn.”

For the Team

February 4, 2009 — Jay Allen Sanford

“After the Chargers started to win some football games,” says Patrick Bernard of SD reggae act High Tide, “it was time to bring out our playoff song, ‘Chargers on a Roll.’ ” On January 3, band members Chris Murray and Forest were cruising the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium passing out free CDs with the song.

Sample lyric: “We got Chris Chambers on the left/ Vincent Jackson on the right/ Let the Rivers flow or just hit Gatesy all night.”

Around that time, local rapper Young Mass posted his own Charger-fan football song “Never a Touchdown” on MySpace:

“Say bitch!/ you might get a field goal out of this/ but never a touchdown/ never a touchdown.”

“We sent the single to Chargers defensive co-captains Shawne Merriman and Jamal Williams,” says Mass collaborator 40ozChris. “We thought it would be a great song to pump up the defense before games or at halftime, but we never heard back. We also sent it to local sports-talk radio station 1090, to the morning-show team of Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith, thinking they could use the track when they interviewed Charger players. No response there either.

“We tried cutting a radio-edit version,” says 40ozChris, “with some creative effects inserted in place of the explicit content — more interesting than bleeping-out or silencing. But, I guess with lines about girls putting their ‘backfield in motion,’ I’m thinking even the radio-edit was too sexed-up for the Chargers or the radio station. But we had to put it out there. For the team!”

Playoff Fever

January 3, 2009 — Chris Raney

On the afternoon of January 2, 2009 at Seau's in Mission Valley, it was apparent that NFL playoff fever has already taken ahold of San Diego. Hundreds of Chargers fans gathered inside and outside of Seau's at the Westfield Mission Valley Shopping Centre for a pre-playoff party and pep rally. Chargers fans waited in lengthy lines to get their hands on free Chargers swag from the local radio stations that had setup booths outside and were giving away prizes themed in yellow and blue colors, including beads, T-shirts, and beach balls. Of course, the lengthiest line was for the XTRA Sports 1360AM booth because that's where the Chargers cheerleaders were signing their latest swimsuit calendar with the proceeds going to charity.

Not the Same Ol' Song

November 25, 2008 — David Stampone

As far as tunes that name-check the team go, the new track "San Diego Chargers," by Mexican dance-pop-punk-funk duo Plastilina Mosh  won't take over first place in the hearts of Chargers faithful anytime soon — not when that deathless discofied ditty "San Diego Super Chargers" continues to hold the top spot — after 29  years.

"Super Chargers" came about through a marketing campaign initiated by Gene Klein, who owned the Chargers in the '70s. Recorded at a Los Angeles studio in 1979, the song was reportedly written in a day by David Sieff and Jerry Marcellino — the latter a recording-industry vet producer/arranger/songwriter who picked up 17 gold albums, six gold singles, and three platinum albums. (Marcellino worked with artists such as Bobby Darin and Michael Jackson from his Jackson Five days  on.)

L.A. R&B session vocalist James Gaylen was drafted to sing lead, and Marcellino put the recording out under the name "Captain Q.B. & the Big Boys." The song still rallies the crowds at the Q and is known far beyond SD; a copy of the original seven-inch single fetched $52.51 on eBay last  year.

In August, "San Diego Chargers" came out on Monterrey-based Plastilina Mosh's fourth studio album, All U Need Is Mosh. A promo sheet says the song is an "instrumental track that experiments with a drumline battery" and quotes composer Alejandro Rosso: "It's basically a testosterone song about football tackles. The arrangement is focused on the percussion. The song is a weird blend between two styles that I find original and  fresh."

A review on Mexico City website noted the song's "evident homage to the sound of Daft Punk"; James Hudson in the Tucson Weekly praised its "spine-tingling, halftime march"; reviewer Tamara Palmer on found it "[o]ne of the most charming songs on the album…a marching, drum-heavy groove. It features sounds that give the illusion of being sampled from an actual football game, but were actually created in the  studio."

Reached by email, Plastilina's Rosso explained, "I actually recorded some clashes and bought some sound library's football effects to use. I  wouldn't dare use any unauthorized NFL audio in a song — they would tackle my bank account faster than a  linebacker.

"I had the idea to do a song that involved…manly brutal clashing, etc.; I was in San Diego that day and decided the song could have football elements, and 'San Diego Chargers' sounded  nice.

"I am not a Chargers fan but think that they have a cool team, and  wouldn't like the song to be called 'Dallas Cowboys' — that would be distracting in a way because there's a lot of different things that could come to mind rather than football —  heh-heh."

San Diego Is Chargers' Problem

August 6, 2008 — Don Bauder

The Chargers say they have a problem: Qualcomm Stadium is antiquated. Sorry. The Chargers’ problem is much broader and deeper than that. The Chargers have a problem with San Diego. Period. It’s not big enough or rich enough to satisfy the financial ambitions of the ownership.

I recently had an email colloquy with Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel. His answers to my questions were revealing. He says the team is sedulously working to remain in San Diego. But I suspect he realizes that that is impossible, given the management’s monetary desires. I have thought for years that the team wanted the rich Los Angeles market. Economic and political conditions may prevent that for a while — perhaps a very long while. But unfortunately, the horrible City/Chargers contract inked in 2004 permits the team to walk off without saying a word beforehand. Therefore, the Chargers don’t have to move to L.A. and play in the Rose Bowl or Coliseum until a new stadium is finished. The Chargers can stay mum until a stadium is completed and suddenly move.

Other teams, however, want that juicy Los Angeles market. So the Chargers don’t have a sure thing. If they continue playing at Qualcomm, they will make plenty of money — just not as much as they could make in Los Angeles or a handful of other markets.

Says Fabiani, “Simply put, our stadium does not allow the Chargers to remain financially competitive with the top teams in the NFL (all of which are playing in, or about to begin playing in, new taxpayer-subsidized facilities). Qualcomm Stadium’s luxury boxes and club seats do not have the amenities for which customers in other markets are willing to pay top dollar.” He is talking about “luxury boxes, club seats, and electronic signage/sponsorship opportunities” that “create a huge and growing financial chasm between the Chargers and the top teams in the NFL.” (Because of so much revenue sharing, I don’t think there is any “huge” chasm, but that’s another subject.)

Fabiani goes on to say that luxury boxes and club seats were “both virtually sold out last season.”

That’s a mouthful. The Chargers virtually sold out the luxury boxes and club seats, but that’s not good enough. Let’s face facts: only a big, rich market could create the income stream that the Chargers’ management covets. San Diego cannot provide this. First, the business mix in San Diego does not lend itself to providing whopping revenues from super-luxury boxes. San Diego is filled with capital-intensive, cerebrally oriented companies (biotechs, telecoms) that can’t afford to entertain in luxury boxes and really aren’t suited to doing business at football games anyway. The real estate companies used to throw money around, but now they are struggling to survive. The big hotel owners still have money to burn, but there aren’t enough of them. Similarly, the average San Diegan is squeezed: the cost of living is 50 percent above the nation’s, but incomes are only 20 percent higher.

Bottom line: even if the Chargers built a new stadium, they would find that they couldn’t get that much more revenue from the corporations, superrich, and average fan. San Diegans, including most companies, live on psychic income. That won’t satisfy the Chargers. A new stadium would cost well over a billion dollars. The team could not recover those extra costs, even with a large government subsidy.

And that brings us to today’s macroeconomic situation. Governments at all levels are ailing. The City of San Diego is one of the worst off in the nation. Chula Vista, with which the team is now having discussions, is hurting. The recession will inhibit consumers for probably two more years. Building costs have soared. All around the country, housing markets are in desperate shape; teams’ hopes of financing stadiums with revenue from condos are, frankly, shot. The credit crunch is likely to last into 2010. The National Football League could have a strike or lockout in 2011; that prospect could cool off the building of new stadiums.

“Tax revenues are falling, governments are struggling,” says Dennis Coates, economist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. With real estate in the Dumpster, the always-specious argument that stadiums spur development is a tougher sell.

Rodney Fort, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, agrees with Coates: in the near future, the private sector will have to put up more of the money. “Governments are less willing to foot the bill,” he says, so the teams will have to come up with more scratch. The NFL itself might put more into new stadium deals; it has always wanted desperately to return to Los Angeles, and in that 2004 contract, San Diego promises not to sue the league, which was already talking with L.A. at the time of the negotiations.

Fabiani admits that “Today, there is no chance that the Mission Valley project could be financed.” The housing market has “declined dramatically,” while stadium construction costs have skyrocketed. In my judgment, that deal was a fairy tale back in 2002 when the Chargers proposed it.

Fabiani believes a deal can still be worked out in Chula Vista. But 60 to 70 percent of the houses for sale in Chula Vista are distress sales. Fabiani hopes there could be a “consortium of universities” on the east side that could produce “a mix of development… that would include more than housing.” Sorry. “A consortium of universities” is not going to spring out of the ground in eastern Chula Vista. It might get a branch of a community college or of San Diego State, but that would be a long time away, and modest at best. Eastern Chula Vista is one of the messiest housing markets in the county. Fabiani admits, “We are a long, long way from moving forward” in Chula Vista.

He sums up, “The credit crunch, skyrocketing raw material costs, and [the] housing-market collapse are huge issues, and that is why completing our project in San Diego County becomes more difficult by the day.”

That is another mouthful. He is telling San Diegans to be ready for a departure, although he is not that blunt about it.

A billionaire developer named Ed Roski says he will build a privately funded football stadium in the City of Industry, 25 miles east of Los Angeles. He says he can start construction in October and claims he has financing. (He is a known dreamer/huckster, so eyebrows are always cocked at his pronouncements.)

In telling me that the Chargers are not likely to keep their plans secret from San Diegans, as the contract permits, Fabiani says, “When Ed Roski announced his City of Industry stadium proposal, we proactively told the media and our fans of the long friendship between the Roski and Spanos families and about the fact that Ed Roski and Dean Spanos [have] talked about Mr. Roski’s plans for a stadium in the Los Angeles area.” But the main focus is on San Diego, Fabiani insists.

But his statement should not be comforting to Charger fans. On the other hand, NFL owners are said to be talking about cities with “stadium issues” — that is, teams that reside in cities that won’t or can’t come up with gigantic subsidies or might even think there are better uses for public funds than supporting pro teams owned by billionaires. Teams considered the best candidates for departure are the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers. In the second tier are the Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, and St. Louis Rams. (The Raiders and Rams were both domiciled in Los Angeles at one time.)

My guess is the Chargers are Roski’s lead candidate. The Chargers would have to pay a penalty of more than $50 million to leave between now and 2010, but the sum drops to $26 million in 2011 and keeps declining. In that 2004 contract, the City gave the Chargers every incentive to scram. They would like to do so. The year 2012, the year following a possible players’ strike or owners’ lockout, and possibly in a better economic/financial environment, seems logical.

Every entrepreneur wants to make more money. In the world of pro sports, there is no such thing as community loyalty, especially when such loyalty is spelled S-U-B-S-I-D-Y and the government is broke.

Before the Chargers Girls, 1961

January 16, 2008 — Robert Mizrachi

Before the Charger Girls, the team and fans had Chargettes. Here they are in 1961. According to a posting on, in 1970, "A lot of Bolts were caught up in an NFL drug scandal, and the original Charger Girls, the Chargettes, were disbanded after several of them appeared in a Playboy spread." The man in the photo is quarterback Jack Kemp, who went on to become the Republicans' 1996 vice presidential candidate.

To order this photo please contact the San Diego Historical Society at

Why the Chargers Will Beat the Pats and...

January 16, 2008 — Patrick Daugherty

…destroy their perfection, thereby establishing athletic dominion over the continent, AFC-wise, and, at the same time, crush the hopes of little boys and girls living in Eastern Europe.

The Bolts will win for the simple reason that San Diego’s first team will be on the field. The Chargers’ brain trust finally deployed their best against Indianapolis, although not until the crucial fourth quarter. Happily, that turned out to be good enough. Playmaker Legedu Naanee, running backs Darren Sproles and Michael Turner, and especially first-string quarterback Billy Volek, sailed the Chargers into victory harbor. The defending Super Bowl champions are beaten by our varsity team. On to Boston.

The last time the Chargers went to New England, in Week 2, they lost 38-14. But, they were burdened by second-string players: Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and a surprisingly spry, at the time, Antonio Gates. They lost. What else would you expect?

Another reason the Bolts will win is the Big Dig. The mammoth construction project was first talked about in the 1970s; work commenced on underground tunnels and above-ground bridges in 1991. You, reading this, have lived long enough to see the job finished. Be happy. The project was turned over to Massachusetts authorities two and a half weeks ago, although lawsuits will continue for decades. As consequence, the city is unemployed and will be drunk at kickoff time.

The Bolts will win because Peter King, sportswriter and sports-TV gossipmonger, wrote, “New England (17-0). Eight quarters shy of history, I can’t see the Patriots losing. Not to the beat-up Chargers at home, or to the red-hot Giants or Packers.”

The Bolts will win because the Gray Hoodie is too strange to go undefeated. Look at Bill Belichick’s background. He was captain of the lacrosse team at Wesleyan University back in the day. He graduated in 1975.

Which brought him into the orbit of one Kevin Lempa, a shadowy figure in Belichick’s life, who, besides being a San Diego Chargers defensive backs/defensive line coach from 1997 to 1999, was also a wide receiver coach for Wesleyan University in 1976, just one year after Belichick left.


The Chargers will win because Jay Mariotti, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote, “This is the Patriots… They are a sure thing — and you always go with a sure thing. There is just no way the Patriots will lose…the Chargers have no better chance in Gillette Stadium than Rosie O’Donnell has of winning a beauty contest in a thong.”

The Chargers will win because of Gary Callahan, sports columnist for the Boston Globe, wrote, under the head “Why bother showing up?” this about the Chargers/Indy game: “They didn’t win a championship. Not even a conference championship. They won a second-round playoff game and earned the right to travel across three time zones to play the greatest team ever on a day that is expected to be colder than naked ice fishing. If this was a title fight, someone in the Chargers’ corner would be screaming: ‘Stay down! Stay down!’”

When that many sports columnists, writing for different outlets in different cities, all say the same thing, you know to go the other way. Think, buying a house at the top of the market.

The Chargers will win because it’s time for the Patriots to lose. The Pats are no longer crushing every team they play. For bettors, this trend is more pronounced. New England is 15-8 against the spread (ATS) over their last 23 games, which means they’ve won games for themselves and then won the same games for bettors by covering the spread. This is what you would expect from a great team. However, New England is 1-6 ATS in their last seven games. At this point in the season, what counts is how a team is playing over their last two, three, four games.

Yeah, New England spreads have been high and, yeah, spreads are set to how people will bet not on matchups; even so, over the last six games, New England beat the Giants by 3 points, beat Baltimore by 3 points, and beat Philadelphia by 3 points. Another way of looking at those numbers is to consider that the Patriots have been one penalty call from losing any one of those three games.

On the other hand, San Diego is 5-0 ATS over their last five games. They’re hot. And, here’s a secret that apparently no one knows: the Chargers just beat the defending world champions, on their field, with backup players. Do you think that might mean something?

Somewhere Marty Is Laughing

September 20, 2007 — Patrick Daugherty

Happily, I got the "Norv Is a Hack" column out of the way before the NFL season started, so I can say "Norv Is a Hack" now without being accused of jumping on the bandwagon. Norv is a hack.

Perhaps something more. How did Norv Turner manage to take a 14-2 team, with 20 returning starters, and within the space of one off-season, turn that splendid crew into the thing we saw groping around Gillette Stadium on Sunday night?

Mayhap, Sunday's highlights will provide guidance. Gross stats: Patriots 38, Chargers 14. Pats gained 407 yards, Chargers 201. LaDainian Tomlinson racked 43 yards on 18 carries. On the bright side, 43 yards is in the neighborhood of twice as much as the 25 yards he gained in Week 1. Chargers 2007 scoreboard: Two games. Two weeks. Two first halves. 0 points.

You don't see how bad San Diego's play-calling was until you break the game down. Patriots received first. Brady throws seven passes in a row -- touchdown, 7 to 0. New England kicks off, touchback. San Diego takes over on their 20. Rivers throws an interception. New England goes for a field goal in the next series -- misses. Chargers receive, begin play on their 31. False start, 1st and 15 from the 26-yard line. Tomlinson runs off the right guard for two yards. Incomplete pass. Pass to Antonio Gates for 11 yards. Fourth and 2 on the 39-yard line. Norv calls for a punt.

New England goes on a 5:58 minute, ten-play drive. Touchdown, 14-0. Pats kick-off, San Diego returns to their 31-yard line. Offensive guru Norv Turner at the bat. Tomlinson off the left guard for 3 yards. Tomlinson off left guard for 8 yards. Tomlinson off the right guard for 2 yards. Delay-of-game penalty. Tomlinson up the middle for 4 yards. Tomlinson runs right and is pushed out of bounds, gains 1 yard. Pass to Jackson for 14 yards. Rivers fumbles.

Second quarter. New England makes a 5:35 minute, ten-play drive, settles for a field goal, 17-0.

Kick off. San Diego starts from their 30-yard line. Tomlinson runs left for 3 yards. Tomlinson catches a pass on the right side for 6 yards. Tomlinson goes over the left guard for no gain. It's fourth and 1, Norv calls for a punt.

Three series, eight plays to LT, one pass to Jackson, one pass to Gates. Toss in the odd fumble, sack, incomplete pass, interception, two penalties, two punts, and what do you have?

MARTYBALL! Let the good times roll!

Indeed, this is Martyball at its most pristine. Although, in fairness to Marty, I don't think, with LT on the payroll, behind 17-0, fourth and 1 on the 39, he would call for punt. For the second time in the game.

By the way, the next time San Diego has the ball, Rivers is intercepted by Adalius

Thomas, a 270-pound linebacker, who runs 65 yards for a touchdown. Those 270-pound linebackers are quicker than they look.

And so on...24-zip at the half. Should have been more. Bill Belichick is a cheat and a weasel and a better coach than we've seen in San Diego since Don Coryell.

Speaking of Belichick, it's inspiring to see how he withstood the shame and damnation heaped upon his person by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of mankind. The commissioner not only fined Belichick $500,000 for illegally videotaping an opponent's defensive signals, he fined the owner $250,000 and a number-one draft choice on condition New England makes the playoffs (they will).

Goodell's swift and decisive punishment shook Patriots owner Robert Kraft to his chakra. Kraft, no doubt reflecting on his shame, told ESPN, "What made it particularly disheartening, in our group of companies we hold people to very high standards, and this isn't what we're about. I've discussed that with coach Belichick."

It must have been an ass-chewing the likes of which Big Bill had never experienced. Belichick did seem a bit shaken when receiving the game ball from Kraft on Sunday night. Or maybe he was thinking about his new five-year contract, which will keep him in Boston until at least 2012.

In other news, Brett Favre played like he was 25 on Sunday, thumping the New York Giants 35 to 13 by way of 286 yards passing and three touchdowns. Favre hasn't looked this good in a couple years. San Diego plays Green Bay on Sunday. The Packers are undefeated. If San Diego drops this one, we can start the countdown clock on Norv. If called upon, I am prepared to recommend Dennis Green.

Housekeeping notes: We have restored the Vegas Line in response to Name Withheld's request. I invite readers to jaunt over to "Bad Sports" blog, now setting up shop on, where you will find O. J. news and betting lines. For the duration.

Chargers Preview Edition

September 6, 2007 — Patrick Daugherty

Before we get to the Chargers, I should note Division II dwelling Appalachian State and its convincing 34-32 victory over nationally ranked (number 5) Division I opponent Michigan. The game was played at Michigan. Follows is the weekend's best sports quote delivered by Appalachian State's chancellor, Kenneth Peacock.

Norv Turner

Chancellor Peacock traveled with his football team to the big game in Ann Arbor. To give you a sense of the disparity between the schools, Appalachian State University is located in Boone, North Carolina, population 13,000. Michigan State Stadium holds eight times the population of Boone.

The moment the Mount-aineers blocked Michigan's field goal, took possession with four seconds left in the contest, Appalachian students, watching the game from Boone, made their way to Kidd Brewer Stadium (sits 16,650, built 45 years ago). Students climbed the fence, tore down a goalpost, and dragged it onto Rivers Street, thence to Bodenheimer Drive, thence to Chancellor Kenneth Peacock's 9000-square-foot house. Specifically, to its front yard.

The news, as is its wont, travels faster than necessary, and before the Mountaineers left Ann Arbor a reporter told Chancellor Peacock that the Appalachian State goal post was resting on his lawn and wanted to know how he felt about that. Peacock said, "I can hardly wait to get home to see it."

* * *

San Diego Chargers press release.

February 19, 2007, marked a new beginning in Chargers football when President Dean Spanos introduced Norv Turner as the new head coach of the San Diego Chargers.

The Chargers do not pick competent head coaches. Line up a half dozen head coaching applicants, and the Chargers pick a loser time after time after time.

Here's an incredible statistic: Turner lost 58 percent of his games as head coach. The last guy, the fired guy, Marty Schottenheimer, was a great regular-season coach, won 61 percent of the games he coached, but crashed in the playoffs. When he had to win, he played not to lose and therefore lost. It's a personality thing with Marty; he couldn't shake it.

Turner, on the other had, doesn't win in the regular season and doesn't win in the postseason. Here's his coaching résumé: Seven years head coach for Washington. Finished with a record of 49-59-1. He made the playoffs in 1999, lost to Tampa Bay in the second round. Fired 13 games into the 2000 season.

His next head-coaching position arrived four years later with Al Davis and the Raiders. You have to be desperate to work for Al in good times; working for Al in his senility is like being John McCain running for president in '08 -- you'll do anything to get the big job. Turner went 5-11 in 2004, 4-12 in 2005, then was fired to make room for NFL coaching legend Art Shell.

And that's it, head coach for two clubs, combined 58-82-1 record, 24 games under .500. He racked two playoff games, one win, one loss, both in the same year. Time to look around for a beer distributorship.

The party line says Norv made his bones as an offensive coordinator. He was offensive coordinator for Dallas in the early '90s. Did good. Lasted three years. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl twice while he was there, in 1992 and '93. But that was a long time ago. George Bush was president and the American army had recently invaded Iraq.

Turner was offensive coordinator for the Chargers in 2001 (they went 5 and 11) and for Miami in 2002 and 2003 (they went 9-7 and 10-6)...did not make the playoffs in either year. And, finally, last season, he was offensive coordinator for San Francisco. The team went 7-9.

So, he's not working because of his stats. His stats suck.

The Chargers say they hired Turner because he is "...Known as an offensive mastermind, Turner was the team's offensive coordinator in 2001 and installed the same offense that the team currently runs."

San Diego is running the same offensive as it did five years ago? This is a good thing?

My guess is that Turner was hired because he was the safest choice on the table. There was a saying IT managers had back in the 1980s, when desktop computers were flooding into corporations: "Nobody ever got fired for buying an IBM computer." IBM boxes weren't the best, but they were the safest choice.

That's Norv.

Norv also solved the number-one problem on A.J. Smith's trouble list. The Chargers general manager meant to hire a head coach he could dominate. No more guff from the hired help. Norv did not hire, and therefore one assumes he does not possess the loyalty of new defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and new offensive coordinator Clarence Shelmon.

Nobody cares. The Chargers have the best talent in the NFL -- 11 Pro Bowlers and Turner has a four-year contract. No excuses this time.

Marty's Record Hardly Merits Public Lynching

January 25, 2007 — Don Bauder

The noose is tightening around Marty Schottenheimer's neck, even though the Chargers have retained his services for next season. According to some howling fans and nitpicking sportswriters, the Chargers coach chokes in playoff games. His regular season record -- 200 wins, 126 losses, 1 tie -- is one of the best in football history. But his playoff record is 5 wins and 13 losses. That's a major reason why the team owners, the Spanos family, got internal pressure to dump him.

But he has coached only 18 playoff games. Is that an adequate sample size -- enough games to merit this contumely? I interviewed eight statistical experts -- economists, financial gurus, physical scientists, mathematicians, statistical scientists. All work with numbers each day. Most have Ph.D.s. All but one are San Diegans. Only one works in sports. Since the playoffs involve tougher competition, and 18 games aren't enough to draw a conclusion, most said the numbers don't justify the opprobrium.

Mike Stolper of Stolper & Company makes a living sizing up the records of money managers. But there is a problem: "You need over 30 years for it to be statistically predictive," he says. "You never have statistical certainty because of the life span of human beings. Nobody gives you any responsibility until you are 40, and nobody trusts you after you are 60. People's life spans don't correspond to statistical purity." Thus, he says, "It is bizarre that they [fans, sportswriters, some in Chargers management] are focusing only on the [Schottenheimer] playoff record."

Stolper points to a famous mutual fund money manager who did better than the overall market for 15 years, until he took a pratfall in 2006 and significantly underperformed. Some statisticians said the odds of such a 15-year run were 1 in 2.3 million. But others pointed to statistical probability. With the thousands of portfolio managers out there, the odds that someone would make 15 in a row, perhaps mainly by luck, were probably 100 percent.

"We have modest statistical evidence that Marty's playoff performances are subpar," says Jeffrey Norman, executive vice president of Freeman Associates Investment Management. He got a bachelor's degree in math at Princeton and went on to postgraduate work in computer science and nightly plays high-stakes poker on the Internet. "We have nowhere near enough statistical evidence to infer whether this is due to Marty's coaching, his having to coach slightly weaker teams, or mere chance."

Adds Norman, "Playoff records really aren't that meaningful." If one coach has a 60 percent chance to win each playoff game and another coach has a 40 percent chance, "It would take 30 playoff games before you could tell with 90 percent confidence which coach is better."

With 18 games, "You don't have a big enough sample size to have a robust conclusion," says economist/lawyer/author Todd Buchholz, former White House and Harvard economist. The Schottenheimer condemnation makes Buchholz think of Yale economist Ray C. Fair, who believes that he can predict the winner of presidential elections by how fast the economy is growing. But Fair hasn't looked at enough years to achieve statistical reliability, says Buchholz. Ditto for the Schottenheimer posse.

Rodney Fort, professor of economics at Washington State University and author of Sports Economics (and the only non-San Diegan interviewed), believes the 18 games would have been significant if they had all come in succession and if each time Schottenheimer had had a team as good as the Chargers, who had a 14-2 regular season, the best in football, this season. In previous years, "He might have had marginal teams" compared to this season's Chargers, says Fort.

Jason Schweinsberg, a Ph.D. in statistics who is an assistant professor in the math department at the University of California, San Diego, says that people "attach too much significance to occurrences that could have easily happened by chance." For example, National Football League teams play only 16 regular season games. However, if all teams were equal and the games were decided by a coin flip, more than one team per year would have 12-4 records. "One team every three years would finish 13-3 or better just by luck," he says.

"Marty Schottenheimer's career playoff record is 5-13. However, if one flips a coin 18 times, one will get 5 or fewer heads nearly 5 percent of the time. While it is unlikely that a coach will go 5-13 just by having bad luck, it is certainly possible," says Schweinsberg, who spent three years doing postdoctorate work in math at Cornell. He notes that the Pittsburgh Steelers' coach, who just resigned, had lost all four American Football Conference championship games that he coached until last season. "That would happen by chance only about 6 percent of the time." Then the Steelers went on to win last year's Super Bowl.

Al Rappaport, emeritus professor of management from Northwestern University, now a prolific author for Harvard Business School Press and the Harvard Business Review, says he has spent his life examining statistics, but they don't explain everything. "I am a numbers guy," he says. "But to look at numbers only is probably unfair to everyone concerned. The coach calls the perfect play, but the guy drops the ball in the end zone, and the team loses the game." After the Chargers lost to New England January 14, players said the same thing.

"The playoffs filter the competition," says Rappaport. It's tougher to have a good record in playoffs.

As it turns out, the Patriots' coach, Bill Belichick, has an astonishingly good playoff record of 13 wins, 3 losses, although a less impressive 111-81 regular season record. Stuart Hurlbert, research professor of biology at San Diego State University and an expert in ecological statistics, disagrees with the others: even though there is a small sample size, the huge difference between the playoff records of Belichick and Schottenheimer is meaningful. "Statistically, that is a real difference," says Hurlbert. "I guess if people in San Diego had seen that coach's [Belichick's] amazing record, they would have been more worried. But once you get a little boosterism going, it is like a virus." Hurlbert also thinks there is a significant statistical difference between Schottenheimer's overall record and his playoff record.

Helen Regan has a Ph.D. in mathematics and is an assistant professor of biology at San Diego State. "If you look at the raw data, it looks like he doesn't do as well in the playoffs as the rest of the games," she says, noting that she is not a statistician. "But you have to do well in the regular season to make the playoffs. The Chargers should hire Belichick and no one else. But if they aren't going to get him, whom will they go for?" Again, it's probabilities. How likely are the Chargers to land Belichick or a clone?

One of the ironies of sports fanaticism is that a coach of a great team gets the boot. Coaches with mediocre records often hold their jobs because the community hasn't gone gaga and then been deflated. I remember back in the 1960s interviewing a physics professor at Purdue University. After the interview ended, we talked about football. Those were the days when college teams played only nine games. This professor said he had figured the formula for coaching longevity. "Five-ninths. If you win five and lose four every year, people get neither hyperenthusiastic nor depressed. You keep your job," he said.

Marty's Curse

January 18, 2007 — Patrick Daugherty

I've been calling for Marty Schottenheimer's dismissal since the day he was hired. I take no pleasure -- indeed, it is troubling -- to find myself in the company of corporate media at this late date.

From the January 21, 2002, "Sporting Box" column: "San Diego's captive press reports Marty Schottenheimer will be named Bolt's head coach.... I, long ago, have given up trying to understand what the Spanos family wants to do with the Chargers.... Be forewarned, Schottenheimer is boring, arrogant, hates the press, has contempt for fans, and wants to win every game by a score of 5 to 3.

From the January 4, 2005, column: "Unlike those who bow and bootlick before the Schottenheimer as soon as the Chargers started winning, I have remained steadfast. I didn't like him when he was 4 and 12 and I don't like him today, when he's 12 and 4.

"At bottom, excessive, soul-suffocating caution is what I hold against Marty. Caution is unbecoming in life, ugly in sports, and a crime in the NFL. Take Sunday's game. Sure, other playoff-bound teams were holding out their stars, the star quarterback, the star running back, not wanting to get a franchise player hurt before the playoffs begin.

"But, Marty held out an entire squad: Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, Randall Godfrey, Eric Parker, Tim Dwight, Antonio Gates, Keenan McCardell, Lorenzo Neal, and Jamal Williams. The equipment manager was on the bubble."

September 13, 2005: "We now know Martyball has not passed away, but lurks in the rancid underground corridors of Qualcomm Stadium. Remember last January when the Chargers hosted the New York Jets on the first day of Wildcard Weekend? The game went into overtime, San Diego drives to the Jets' 22-yard line. It's first and ten. The Chargers deal three running plays, the same plays that had not worked all afternoon, for no gain. Then, Schottenheimer sends in a rookie kicker who misses a 39-yard field goal. End of season.

"Martyball, the fear-ridden obsession of running the ball up the gut every time an important game is on the line, showed its rodent face again last Sunday. Or maybe not. Here's the situation: The Chargers are on the Cowboys' 7-yard line and have 47 seconds, four plays, and one timeout left to them. They need to score a touchdown to win. LaDainian Tomlinson is ignored, Brees throws four passes; the first three were incomplete, the last was intercepted.

"It sure seemed like Martyball: the stupid, repetitive selection of plays that do not work. But, and here's the rub, this series of stupid, repetitive plays were all passes, and purists will object if we call this Martyball.

"But, even purists must admit the foregoing was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole over and over and over again until failure is achieved. Isn't that what Martyball is all about?"

All right, now that I've shown you my bona fides, I trust you'll believe me when I say that Sunday's loss was not Marty's fault. Yes, he did make a bonehead call in the first quarter. It was one of those, "I can't do Martyball so I'll do the exact opposite of Martyball: I'll pass on 4th and 11." And he did waste a timeout on a moronic challenge in the fourth quarter. But, Marty didn't turn over the football four times, didn't blow a punt, didn't drop a ball, didn't miss a field goal, didn't pick up a 15-yard personal foul, didn't intercept the ball when he should have knocked it down, didn't fumble, and so on. The players lost the game.

Marty dumped Martyball this year, handed play-calling to his offensive and defensive coordinators much like an alcoholic, on his first week of sobriety, who tells his wife, "Honey, take all the vodka bottles out of the house and pour their contents down the damn sewer." Marty stayed sober, for the most part, and deserves our congratulations.

But, as is so often the case, good deeds don't count. Marty is cursed, and don't kid yourself, a 5-13 record in the playoffs is a curse.

You say there is no such a thing? Ask the city of Boston. The curse of the Bambino began after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. Karmic retribution ensued. The Red Sox didn't win a World Series for the next 84 years. Almost three generations. A story went around Beantown, goes like this: a bartender is talking to a couple of his noon regulars after another American League Championship Series defeat. The bartender, referring to the Red Sox, says, "They killed our fathers and now they're coming after us."

Despite heroic efforts at reformation, Marty is a cursed human being and should be fired, but not for cause. Karma giveth and karma taketh. Consider this: if New England wins the Super Bowl, Junior Seau will get his ring.

Will Owners Let Chargers Leave Bankrupt City?

December 14, 2006 — Don Bauder

San Diego has a bang-up football team and a banged-up balance sheet. And that presents a dilemma: will National Football League owners permit the Chargers, potential Super Bowl contestants, to leave a city the year it may be forced into bankruptcy? The team can flirt with other cities in January and elope after the 2008 season, but it probably won't woo any metro area publicly while this year's playoff turnstiles are spinning. A move could create a public relations disaster: the nation may see that pro football is not a game but an extortion racket by which money of poor taxpayers is distributed to billionaire team owners.

Art Modell, who owned two different pro football teams, once put it this way: league owners are "32 fat-cat Republicans who act like complete socialists." It is an apt description: the owners are consumed by greed, but through such arrangements as the draft, easy schedules for weaker teams, and player salary caps, they make sure that have-nots eventually become haves. Karl Marx would have loved it. Because of revenue sharing, every team will have its days in the limelight.

The trick is coming up with a good team at the time you're squeezing your home city for several hundred million dollars for a new stadium. The Chargers thought they had timed it right, but then the City was forced to reveal that it had been covering up more than a billion dollars of pension deficits. Now the city is falling apart.

The last election may have been sobering to pro sports owner/mendicants. In turning thumbs down on a plea by its pro basketball team, Seattle voted 3 to 1 for a measure that prohibits sports welfare unless taxpayers get a return on their investment. By the same margin, Sacramento voters rejected a bid for a new basketball arena that would have required a sales tax hike. Overwhelmingly, Pasadena voters said they didn't want to invite the National Football League in to help rehabilitate the Rose Bowl. Could pro football owners fear an Age of Enlightenment?

I asked five of the most prominent sports economists whether the league, concerned about deserting a bankrupt city, might turn down the Chargers' bid for relocation. I asked if the Chargers' claim that it needed a new stadium to remain competitive made any sense, particularly since they have done so well the last few seasons playing in a stadium they fallaciously consider out of date. And I asked if the Chargers might end up in the Los Angeles metro area, particularly Orange County, which I still think will be their new home.

They shot down the notion that November 7's election results portend a new realization by the public that it is getting screwed. "There is creeping enlightenment, but not a sea change," says Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College. "The level of resistance" to a Charger departure "might be higher than in the past."

That's too optimistic, say others. "There have always been a number of places that have refused to cave in, but in the end, there are always more places that will," says Ronald D. Utt of the Heritage Foundation. Yes, there were minor victories Election Day, but this year baseball's Washington Nationals "got the first 100 percent government-financed stadium."

"From time to time I think we really have become more rational, but then weird things happen," says Robert A. Baade of Lake Forest College.

And even if rationality were creeping into public discourse, there is little evidence the National Football League would be attuned to it. "The NFL is about making as much money as it can for owners," says Dennis Coates of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. "They wouldn't have a problem moving a team if it would make more money for the owners. The league doesn't have a terribly strong sense of loyalty to cities."

"Nothing will deter the NFL from putting its teams where it will make the most money," says Rodney D. Fort of Washington State University, author of the text Sports Economics.

"If the NFL thought it could move the Chargers without too much in the way of negative publicity, the NFL would allow this. It is a bottom-line business," says Baade. Because of the emotional impact of Katrina, the league might want to keep the Saints in New Orleans "for at least a period of time to give the impression that the NFL is not a heartless entity."

The Chargers claim they need a new stadium so they can field a better team. Is that poppycock? In a word, yes, say the economists, mainly because of the share-the-wealth socialism. In all sports, "half the time they get better, half the time they don't" after wangling a new facility, says Fort. It's less likely to happen in share-the-wealth football, even though some revenues, such as from luxury boxes, do not have to be shared with other owners. By and large, new stadiums make football owners richer but don't make teams better. Teams such as the Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, and Oakland Raiders have had both stellar and smelly years in old facilities, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams have had both good and bad years in new stadiums.

So are the Chargers headed out of town -- particularly to the juicy L.A. metro area? If the team goes deep into the playoffs or to the Super Bowl, "San Diego might have a change of heart," says Zimbalist. Mayor Sanders might not be able to resist entreaties from his business backers and could give away the entire Qualcomm site.

A deal outside of the city, such as in Chula Vista or National City, might work, says Fort. The Oakland A's are angling to move to Fremont and the 49ers to Santa Clara, he notes. Of course, public financing is a stumbling block in San Diego County cities. And two logical alternatives would seem to be out of the question: the nabobs who want cities to subsidize the Chargers aren't likely to put their own money in, and big owner egos would prevent the team from staying at Qualcomm, an excellent facility.

L.A.? Coates says the league may want it for extortion purposes. "It is nice to have a big-market option to use as part of a threat," he says. The league does not want to add an expansion team until 2010, says Fort. At that point, 32 owners could split the $600 million L.A. expansion fee -- "a nice bonus," he says.

Baade was hired several years ago to assess the economic impact of L.A.'s Staples Center, an indoor facility. It's slight. "L.A. understands that pro sports are not a pot of gold," says Baade. He doubts that L.A. governments would offer a subsidy, and Fort doesn't think the National Football League would put up much money, even as badly as it wants a team in the rich L.A. television market. However, late last week the National Football League said it would lend $300 million to the Jets and Giants to underwrite construction of their new, privately financed joint stadium in the Meadowlands.

Los Angeles is competing for the 2016 summer Olympics. It might construct a new facility or renovate the Coliseum and then "use it for a stadium for the NFL, without it being called a subsidy for the NFL," says Baade. However, "in the absence of a subsidy, I don't know a team that would be willing to make the move." Maybe some of the Hollywood billionaires would jump in. Orange County might put public money in; Anaheim's mayor Curt Pringle is a close friend of Chargers owner Alex Spanos. "But I find it hard to believe Orange County is in a position to give much of a subsidy." The league is reportedly willing to pay $50 million for land next to Angel Stadium, but now a developer is offering $150 million for rights to the property, and some key councilmembers say the team owners have taken too long to decide. Pringle, however, is picking holes in the developer's bid.

Playing Hard to Get, Chargers Prefer L.A.

November 2, 2006 — Don Bauder

In France, a common mini-scandal is the ménage à trois, a person with two lovers, sometimes under the same roof. The San Diego Chargers, secretly and lustfully eyeing the Los Angeles market, may outscandalize the French with a ménage à cinq, or one team pursued by four wooers.

In next week's election, citizens of Pasadena will vote whether their city should try to persuade the National Football League to put a team there and help renovate the Rose Bowl -- a job that will cost half a billion dollars. Last year, the Pasadena City Council pulled out of negotiations with the league. But sports worshippers got enough signatures to put it on this month's ballot. If it wins, the Chargers might be able to choose among four L.A.-area bedmates, because the league is also considering rehabilitating the Coliseum, putting a new stadium in Orange County, or putting a new stadium somewhere else, possibly near downtown. This is an auctioneer's dream: one product, four bidders.

Of course, the Chargers are playing hard to get, pretending they really aren't interested in L.A. Yeah, and most husbands tell their wives they would spurn advances from Paris Hilton. The Chargers can begin talking with other cities January 1 and can leave after the 2008 season. The L.A. metro area has 13 million people and is the nation's 2nd-largest television market. San Diego has 3 million and is the 26th-biggest television market. The TV-conscious National Football League will subsidize a stadium in the L.A. area but not in San Diego. 'Nuff said. The Chargers will go to L.A. if league owners agree. Recently, in the wake of talk that a new or rehabilitated stadium would cost $1 billion, some owners are said to be getting cold feet. But a billion isn't what it used to be, and the prospect of big profits will warm those toes.

San Diego business leaders want to make this a real orgy. National City and Chula Vista are trying to seduce the Chargers, and the City and County of San Diego are together scouting out another location. If you're keeping score, this would be a ménage à huit, or one person with seven potential lovers -- something that would shock even the French. The idea of squeezing an otiose football stadium into a thriving port area is ridiculous, particularly in depressed and overtaxed National City. Don't those football flacks claim (wrongly) that a stadium stimulates business, rather than eliminates it? This one would kill port jobs, and there would be nothing but a stadium that is empty all but 20 to 30 days a year to replace that economic loss. The stadium would cost $450 million and infrastructure $350 million. It isn't going to happen.

Chula Vista? What amuses me is that the Chargers would be negotiating for land there with HomeFed, the real estate company that is what's left of the savings and loan seized by the Resolution Trust Corporation in 1992. These are shrewd dudes. The company is a developer of San Elijo Hills and Otay Ranch in San Diego County. Five years ago, losses were steep and the stock sold for pennies a share. Now, profits have been rolling in for three years, and (adjusted for a 10 for 1 reverse split in 2003) the stock sells around $68. HomeFed is controlled by New York's Leucadia National, which buys assets cheap and helps them flower, à la HomeFed. In 2002, Leucadia shareholders approved a relocation to tax-sheltered Bermuda, but the company hasn't made the move. Bottom line: the Chargers won't be able to denude Leucadia/HomeFed lawyers the way they took City of San Diego lawyers' pants down. Maybe the team can once again con the city and county, but why should it bother when a juicy market beckons immediately to the north? It appears some in the establishment now know the Chargers are leaving and will use this opportunity disingenuously to blame the departure on Mike Aguirre.

There are rumors that other teams covet the L.A. market. The Minnesota Vikings might like a more hospitable climate, but in this case, an entire state would put up a ruckus. There are rumors that aging Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis needs to dump part of the team for estate tax reasons. The Raiders might return to the L.A. market and share it with the Chargers, according to longtime San Diego sports announcer Jerry Gross, who believes the Chargers are headed for Orange County. There is a rumor that Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. would return as part owner of the Los Angeles Raiders. But DeBartolo was banned from ownership of a team after he got caught bribing a former Louisiana governor with $400,000 in cash to get a casino license. He was fined and got two years' probation, incurring the league's wrath. It's okay to consort with gamblers, but it's not okay to get caught. It's a long shot that the Raiders would return to L.A., with or without DeBartolo.

The New Orleans Saints would be a logical candidate for relocation, but emotion will trump logic on this one. Post-Katrina, the city's population is down 60 percent to 187,525. The metro area is down to a little over a million from 1.3 million pre-Katrina. It has sunk to the 54th-largest TV market. That's not enough to support a team. But in a stunning example of twisted priorities, $185 million was spent to rebuild the Superdome, and most of that came from the federal government's bungling Federal Emergency Management Agency. Although it appears the Saints' owner would like to hike out of town, this team won't move soon. Of course, Louisiana is a football-crazed state, as well as thoroughly corrupt -- two more reasons it has such an affinity with the National Football League.

The league doesn't want a franchise relocation to backfire. When the Cleveland Browns left that city in 1996, some in Congress threatened to reconsider the league's antitrust exemptions. Chastened, the league put an expansion team there. The owners don't want to suffer similar embarrassment with San Diego. But a financially ailing city is different from a hurricane-blown city. The Chargers have been trying to alienate San Diego for more than four years. The strategy may well work. The odds are good that the league will approve the move.

So expect San Diego's ménage à cinq or ménage à huit to begin making the headlines nationally sometime after the Super Bowl. The news will push some other pro sports scandals out of the papers. The Sacramento Kings basketball team is owned by billionaire casino owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. They want a new arena. Voters next week would have to approve a quarter-cent sales-tax boost. The brothers want more, such as all the revenue from the 8000 parking places. And a guarantee that there would be no competing restaurant nearby. (What's that about an arena bringing economic development to the neighborhood?) What's more, the brothers are reluctant to give details of what the voters will be voting on. Mercifully, the polls show the deal losing by almost 60 percent.

The Orlando Magic basketball team would love to get out of the headlines. This team also wants a new government-subsidized arena. The Magic recently admitted that it paid $200,000 to an antitax crusader, a local talk-show gabber, to keep his mouth shut.

The New York Yankees recently pulled off a heist. They will get $400 million of government funds to build a new stadium. They will destroy two parks and hundreds of trees in the process. Neil deMause, writer for the Village Voice and keeper of the website, learned that the team billed city taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for some work. What did that work entail? Lobbying the city. So New York City was paying to have itself lobbied.

What do you call that? Ménage à un?

Air It Out

October 5, 2006 — Barbarella Fokos

'San Diego is somewhat noted for contributing greatly to offensive theory," says author and historian Todd Tobias. "In the 1960s, [Chargers coach] Sid Gillman started throwing the ball more than anybody -- most folks were running the ball back then." On Saturday, October 7, Tobias will discuss his new book Bombs Away! Air Coryell and the San Diego Chargers at D.G. Wills Books in La Jolla. The book highlights the "Air Coryell" years (1978 to 1986), during which Don Coryell was the head coach of the Chargers.

Tobias writes, "Like the Sid Gillman-led Chargers of the 1960s, Coryell and his men thumbed their noses at popular offensive theory and put the ball in the air at a rate never before seen on professional football fields." Earlier in his career, Coryell helped implement the "I" formation, which, according to Tobias, "quickly became one of football's most widely used offensive alignments."

In the "I" formation, the quarterback, running back, and fullback are positioned in a straight line, making it difficult for the opposing team's defensive players to see them, limiting the defense's ability to anticipate moves in a play. "One of the main things with football is that you're trying to give away as little information about what you're going to do prior to the play starting as possible," says Tobias.

Tobias grew up in La Mesa and became a Chargers fan as a child during the Coryell era. "I've got friends who can tell you every statistic for the past 60 years, down to how many yards were thrown by [a player] in a game in 1964," says Tobias. "Other guys who love the idea of theory can sit down in a game and -- before each play is run, based on the previous play -- they say, 'Okay, if I was the coach, this is what I would do next,' and most of the time they get it right on. I have another friend who can tell you about the evolution of the football helmet, starting in the 1880s -- all the way back to leather helmets and rubber nose guards."

Tobias refers to fans who appear only when a team is winning as "bandwagoners." "Some people would say that I'm not a great fan because I don't hold season tickets, but I prefer to watch the game at home with friends. Everybody has their own different definition of being a fan."

Tobias is equally interested in events that occurred off the field. He devotes several pages to a controversy surrounding Dr. Arnold Mandell, who was retained in 1972 as the Chargers' "psychiatrist-in-residence." Upon discovering that some players were taking stimulants prior to games, Mandell ran tests on the drugs -- many of which were obtained in Mexico -- and found "impurities." In order to monitor the quality and amount of substances being consumed, Mandell began to prescribe amphetamines to certain players.

"This is the same question, like, 'Should high school parents buy kegs for their kids' parties if they're going to collect keys at the door?'" Tobias says. "Are you going to stop it? Or allow it to happen but try to control it so it doesn't get out of hand? And can you control it? It's debatable. I don't know to what degree guys are doing stuff these days, but drugs were going on in professional football a long time after Dr. Mandell."

In 1982, defensive lineman Don Reese shared his personal battle with cocaine with Sports Illustrated. In the article, Reese mentions partying with fellow player Chuck Muncie, whom a fed-up Coryell eventually traded to the Miami Dolphins. As a result of a failed drug test, Muncie never got to play with the Dolphins.

Fifteen years ago, Muncie started the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation to mentor at-risk youth. "After all my troubles, it is one thing that keeps me on the straight and narrow," Muncie shares in Tobias's book. "I am able to help kids and people not make the same mistakes that I made."

Tobias acquired firsthand accounts from 50 people -- most of them players involved with the team during the Coryell years -- in a section called "In Their Own Words." Quarterback Dan Fouts relates, "The beauty of the pass offense is that you are geared to adjust on the fly...the receiver adjusts as he is running down the field, and I am adjusting as I am going back."

Fouts remembers Coryell's encouragement: "There were times when I would start a game off and miss maybe eight of my first ten throws. I would come over on the sidelines all pissed off...Coryell would come over and say something like, 'You okay?' and I'd say, 'Yeah, I'm okay. But, shit, I can't hit a barn.' Then he'd say, 'Well, you've got 30 more throws. Let's go.'"

According to Fouts, this kind of support was rare. "A lot of coaches would be looking over your shoulder to see if the other kid is ready to go in." -- Barbarella

Bombs Away! Air Coryell and the San Diego Chargers
Discussion and booksigning with author Todd Tobias
Saturday, October 7
7 p.m.
D.G. Wills Books
7461 Girard Avenue
La Jolla
Cost: Free
Info: 858-456-1800 or

Pro Football Too Corrupt for Sin City?

May 18, 2006 — Don Bauder

Las Vegas is trying to woo the Chargers. Sports reporters say there could be a roadblock: major professional sports leagues claim they are reluctant to see teams relocate to Sin City. The gambling industry might be a negative influence on the purity of pro sports.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Pro sports and the gambling industry have been living in sin since the leagues began. Back in the early 1950s, the Senate's Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, known as the Kefauver Committee, noted that gangster money poured into pro football, baseball, and basketball -- football in particular.

Verily, pro football was born as a vehicle for gambling, and its owners and players have long been connected with organized crime and gambling, according to the 1989 book Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football by investigative author Dan E. Moldea.

Hypocrisy reigns. The National Football League warns that "associating with gamblers or with gambling activities in a manner tending to bring discredit to the NFL" will lead to severe penalties, including a life suspension from the league.

Ho ho ho ho ho ho. "Betting has made football, and the NFL knows it," writes Moldea. "The underworld has infiltrated every level of the NFL."

You want some names? George Halas, founder of the Chicago Bears in the 1920s, received loans from an associate of Chicago's "Scarface" Al Capone family, says Moldea. Tim Mara, who paid $500 for the New York Giants in 1925, was a bookie. Charles W. Bidwill, "a bootlegger, gambler, racetrack owner, and an associate of the Capone mob," says Moldea, bought the Chicago Cardinals in 1933. The team is now in Arizona and still run by a Bidwill. Big-time gambler Art Rooney bought the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933. His son still runs the team. Horse-racing enthusiast and gambler George Preston Marshall bought a team in Boston and moved it to Washington, D.C., in the 1930s, says Moldea.

After World War II, the All-American Football Conference was formed to rival the National Football League. Many of the owners were high rollers, says Moldea. Del E. Webb was a partner in a New York team in the new league. Webb was the contractor whom mobster Bugsy Siegel handpicked to build the Flamingo, the first major hotel-casino in Vegas. Webb had a 10 percent interest in that casino and later built and owned other gambling meccas in Nevada. Ben Lindheimer, whom Moldea labels "the overlord of Chicago's racetracks," bought into a team.

The classic owner was Mickey McBride, owner of a racing newswire, whom the Kefauver Committee called "public enemy number one," in part because he was paying the Capone family $4000 a week. McBride launched the Cleveland Browns. When things got too hot, other gamblers bought the team.

Finally, Art Modell purchased the Browns. Modell was a partner in a horse-racing stable with Mushy Wexler, whom the Kefauver Committee said was one of the "leading hoodlums" in McBride's racing wire service. Modell also got married in the home of the president of Las Vegas's Caesars Palace. I was living in Cleveland at the time. The story of the wedding ran on the Cleveland Plain Dealer's society page. Cleveland was so mobbed up that nobody thought anything about it.

San Diego's reputation is hardly spotless, either, and this book points it out. Barron Hilton purchased the Chargers and moved the team to San Diego in 1961, after a lot of arm-twisting by Jack Murphy, sports editor of the San Diego Union. "A long-time gambler, Hilton was a top executive of the Hilton Hotel chain," writes Moldea. Hilton was a close associate of Sidney Korshak, described by law enforcement agencies as "the link between the legitimate business world and organized crime." Hilton also had close ties to Gilbert Lee "the Brain" Beckley, whom Moldea describes as "the Mafia's onetime top layoff bookmaker." (Bookies lay off bets with other bookies to protect themselves from big losses, rather the way insurance companies spread risk around to other companies.)

Hilton's company also controlled two major casinos in Las Vegas. While he was in the process of selling the Chargers to Eugene Klein, Hilton ran into some trouble -- later smoothed over -- when trying to put a casino in Atlantic City, because of the Korshak ties.

Klein, who also had ties to Korshak, bought control of the Chargers in 1966. Although he was a big swinger in Los Angeles, he eventually moved to Teamsters-financed La Costa in Carlsbad to run the team. In March 1970, Klein was registered in the 21-room Acapulco Towers in Mexico, not knowing he was under surveillance of the Illinois Bureau of Investigation. Registered at the same time were notorious hoodlums Meyer Lansky and Morris (Moe) Dalitz. Klein told Copley newspapers it was a coincidence and he didn't know Lansky.

Allen R. Glick of La Jolla plays a major role in Moldea's book. In the early 1970s, several Charger players became involved with Glick enterprises, even though at the time he was the second-largest casino owner in Nevada. According to the book, Glick and his partner Dennis Wittman operated several partnerships with former Chargers Lance Alworth, Steve DeLong, Sam Gruneisen, John Hadl, Ron Mix, and Walt Sweeney.

According to the book, Mix later filed a fraud and breach of contract suit against Glick and his cronies, claiming that they reneged on an agreement to pay Mix a $105,000 finder's fee for introducing Al Davis, the controversial Oakland Raiders owner, to Glick and the boys. The case was eventually dismissed. Davis and Glick were involved in a major shopping center investment at the time Glick was being probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Pete Rozelle, who was league commissioner (and later became a San Diegan), didn't like the partnership but didn't force Davis to get out of the deal, according to the book.

What about current Chargers owner Alex Spanos? He is described as "a horse-racing enthusiast."

Now Indian casinos are discussing ways that they might invest in a new Chargers stadium. They already have promotional relationships with both the Chargers and Padres.

This book has many details on questions that frequently enter into pro football discussions. For example, it delves into the suspensions of two stars, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras, for gambling. It tells about other players and their associations with professional gamblers and what the league did or didn't do. It talks about how players shave points to beat or not beat point spreads. It discusses whether Super Bowl III, in which the Jets upset the Colts, was or was not fixed. (Many say it was.)

The National Football League has always denounced Moldea's book. Critics will no doubt say that because it was published in 1989 it is no longer relevant. Oh? The book delves into the DeBartolo family of Youngstown, Ohio. Its company built shopping centers and operated racetracks; the centers were sold a decade ago. Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. was listed in the Justice Department's Organized Crime Principal Subjects List. Moldea says the senior DeBartolo had ties to such hoods as Lansky and was a big-time gambler.

After several unsuccessful attempts to purchase pro baseball teams, in 1977 he purchased 90 percent of the San Francisco 49ers and gave control to his son, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. The senior DeBartolo helped finance the gift. The younger DeBartolo then launched gambling businesses in the Bay Area. In late 1997, he was caught giving $400,000 in cash to a former Louisiana governor as grease to get a casino license. The ex-governor went to prison, and young DeBartolo got two years of probation and a hefty fine. The National Football League banned young DeBartolo for life. So his sister and her husband took over the team. The league likes to keep things in the family.

The Chargers Are Coming Home

April 27, 2006 — Patrick Daugherty

Yes, I understand that $500 million is a lot of money to steal in seven months. Or is it expropriate? Or legislate? Perambulate? Something like that. No matter, $500 million is the going rate for a new NFL stadium, and we must face up to that fact.

Mayor Jerry "We're Broke And I Don't Have The Time" Sanders admitted San Diego has so righteously fucked up its finances that the city can no longer afford the tribute that a second-tier NFL franchise commands. With that, Sanders gamely announced he would try to amend the city's agreement with the Chargers so that, between whenever the agreement is legally amended and December 31, 2006, any city in San Diego County would be permitted to enter into talks with the Chargers in hopes of relocating that treasure to their jurisdiction.

Pretty damn generous of Jerry Sanders to open the gates and let every San Diego County municipality in. Gentlemen, let the stampede begin.

As you would expect, I've called around and taken preliminary soundings. First up was Gary Brown, city manager of Imperial Beach, who told me, "No. Our city would not be one of those [cities negotiating with the Chargers]." An officious female at El Cajon's city offices ordered me to call back. Poway was not interested. Ditto San Marcos. Lemon Grove was not inclined, neither was La Mesa. Santee is out. Oceanside, Chula Vista, and National City will cough up $500 million as soon as gasoline hits 50 cents a gallon.

Just a damn minute, people! It's beginning to look like no city is interested. Where are the men of yesteryear, captains of industry, men willing to take their measure against skies of blue and fields of yellow and thundering surf of white and majestic mountain tops of purple?

Well, I know such a man. Robert Mitchell is his name. He bestrides Jacumba like a colossus.

Jacumba just about fits all the requirements needed to bid for the Chargers. There is no doubt that the village of 440 is in San Diego County. True, it's three miles from the Imperial County line, but that's still San Diego County, bucko. Ask any lawyer. Yes, Jacumba is on the border with Mexico, but not over the border in Mexico. Again, ask any lawyer. Jacumba, while not technically a city, does have a water district, and said water district does have elective officers. Mr. Robert Mitchell was once a member of that water board, vested with the responsibility of overseeing the people's business. And that's good enough when you're talking about free money and over-the-counter bribes.

I have Mitchell on the telephone. "Bob, I called to learn Jacumba's attitude toward the San Diego Chargers."

Mitchell says, "Seems to me, quite frankly, if San Diego wants to consider putting an airport out here, and they've been playing that up in such a large fashion, then it's most appropriate to put the stadium here, too."

Robert Mitchell arrived in Jacumba several decades past on a mission to buy the town. He's been making steady progress ever since. I mention the half-billion-dollar cost of a new football stadium and ask, "How are the folk of Jacumba going to finance this?"

"Like America was financed," Bob says, "with lotteries. We'll have a lottery."

Spot on, Robert. Hmm. I wonder what his civic responsibilities are nowadays. Mitchell tells me, "I'm the president emeritus or something and life standing board member of the arts council."

Perhaps, I better flesh that out. "What?"

"Jacumba Arts Council. I'm on the board of directors, past president, and founding member."

For those who came in late, Mr. Mitchell was also the founder and publisher of the late Jacumba Plain Speaker. Bob is president of Jacumba Hot Springs Spa and Cabana Club, Jacumba's sole hot spot, restaurant, bar, and hotel. Due to space considerations, I will not speak of the diamond business, commodities trading, international currencies, Mexican time shares, or any other of the several dozen perfectly legal businesses Mr. Mitchell has been associated with in the past.

Just brainstorming now, I offer, "I think an official invitation to the Chargers..."

Mitchell interrupts, "I think it's a wonderful idea. We have an Arts Council meeting coming up in a few days. I'm going to have the council send a letter to the Chargers, requesting them to come out here and begin discussions with us.

"Absolutely, we want them," Bob adds. "We have an Indian casino up the road, we've got our music festivals. We're refurbishing the town. Hell, we're the prime place. And the old Chargers training camp was just up the road. For 20 years they trained in Boulevard, had a big training camp at Rough Acres Ranch. So, it's perfectly natural they'd come home."

Jacumba, Bob Mitchell and the Arts Council are real and will host a big music and arts festival on June 10 and another one on June 21. Hie thee to for particulars.

Chargers' Influence Broadens

January 26, 2006 — Don Bauder

The public thinks of pro sports as a game -- an athletic contest. The billionaire pro sports owners consider it a game too -- a high-stakes poker game, with the mainstream media helping the team pull off its bluffs.

The game has been going on for many years, and today, the San Diego Chargers are in the national limelight, along with the Florida Marlins, Sacramento Kings, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins, and numerous other organizations seeking taxpayer-subsidized facilities.

Local media, which have an economic interest in seeing a team remain in their city, usually help to stack the deck in the team's favor. And many pro sports teams have a natural advantage at gambling tables: the owners are longtime high rollers and associates of gangsters, as the 1989 book Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football, by Dan E. Moldea, pointed out in detail.

On January 9, the Chargers announced that they will not ask voters in November for a go-ahead on a city-subsidized stadium. The team's lawyer/spokesman Mark Fabiani blamed the change in plan on city attorney Mike Aguirre. Potential development partners were turned off by Aguirre's alleged intransigence, insisted Fabiani.

The team wanted to construct 6000 condominiums along with hotel and retail buildings on 60 acres at the current 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site. The team would then build a stadium, it claimed, and a park. The 60 acres would be a gift of the city, although in reality, the gift would have been all 166 acres, not just 60, because under current development rules, the team would have had to provide a park or open space anyway, and it would be getting the rest of the stadium land too.

The Chargers' purported proposal never made sense. There is a gasoline plume on the site. Traffic in that area of Mission Valley is already bad. Condos are overbuilt citywide. The team never made an effort to submit a preliminary environmental impact report. The land is part owned by city water-and-sewer-fee payers, who by law would have to get fair market value. From 2000 to 2005, sewer rates soared more than 40 percent; from 2003 to 2007, water rates will zoom 30 percent, says lawyer Pat Shea. Mayor Jerry Sanders says more rate increases are coming. The acreage that was to be bestowed on the team could be worth half a billion dollars, says Aguirre. "It's unlikely ratepayers will want to give away that land," says councilmember Donna Frye, who voted against the recent water-rate boost.

In playing their weak hand, the Chargers sought help from local jock columnists and broadcasters. Until late last week, the team had not met with the city's negotiating committee. "The Chargers have been negotiating through the media," says Frye.

The team has received lots of dubious help. In an editorial on January 1 of this year, the Union-Tribune declared that the Chargers intended to build a stadium "at the team's expense." Really? When the city would chip in half a billion dollars' worth of land? The paper and other media did not report the critical information that Sanders in 2004 was listed among 14 prominent citizens on the "Chargers Championship Leadership Team" set up to promote the team's interest.

During his campaign, Sanders declared unequivocally, "The city cannot afford to provide any funding for the stadium project." He has backed down. He now wants "a plan that protects San Diego taxpayers and fulfills the needs of the Chargers." The mayor has met privately with the team. Some say the mayor was influenced by an unscientific opinion survey by the Union-Tribune asking any interested person to answer questions about subsidizing the Chargers. Supposedly, 84 percent want Qualcomm Stadium replaced, 69 percent want the city to donate the land to the team, and 80 percent think Aguirre has not acted responsibly on the matter. Such quizzes are not taken seriously because they can be rigged and hacked and because they are not random. Only people with an ax to grind participate. The mayor's spokesman refuses to comment. San Diego Libertarian activist Richard Rider jokes that such polls indicated that the Libertarian candidate would win the White House in 2004; the party's candidate got three-tenths of 1 percent of the vote.

Back in early 1997 when the Chargers were fleecing the city with the stadium-remodel lease, the Union-Tribune hired Marquette University's National Sports Law Institute to analyze the contract. Not surprisingly, Marquette concluded that the city was getting a good deal. The controversy over the 60,000-seat guarantee was "overblown," concluded the so-called scholars in a statement they would later regret. But the Marquette report did include one important bit of information: it raised a serious question about the so-called triggering event by which the team could demand renegotiation and ultimately terminate the lease and leave the stadium. "It is hard to understand why the Chargers should be given a break for such a triggering event," said the institute. "The city seems to be giving them an undeserved out."

But that "undeserved out," which turned out to be critical, got only slight (and distorted) mention in the Union-Tribune's report on the Marquette study.

The press is assisting team-poker players in other cities. Washington, D.C., will put up $535 million for a new ballpark for the Washington Nationals. But it wants Major League Baseball, which owns the team, to pick up cost overruns. Baseball is resisting. Steven Pearlstein, columnist for the Washington Post, explains, "Land turns out to be more expensive than expected." But that's good, because the land around the stadium will generate more tax revenue, he argues. Neil deMause of the website, points out the flaw of such alleged thinking: if land costs are higher, property tax receipts go up whether or not a stadium is built. Pearlstein also argues that since the city has spent $60 million in preparation costs, it might as well spend $600 million on the ballpark. Yikes!

As the Minnesota Twins lobbied for a huge handout last year, columnist Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune told taxpayers, "You'll pay less than you leave in the tip jar at Dunn Bros.," a string of coffee shops. But the actual cost would have been $320 per resident, economists calculated. Big tip.

When the New York Jets were trying to get a stadium last year, some people wanted a referendum on the topic. New York Post columnist Eric Fettmann said that would be a copout: "That's why we choose a mayor -- to use his or her knowledge, judgment and experience to make these tough choices." Of course, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had already made his choice: he wanted the subsidy. Mercifully, it was defeated.

Similarly, during the Twins debate in the state legislature, St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Bob Sansavere wrote, "These legislators need to suck it up, deal with the Twins' bill, and then head home. And let's not hear they're concerned about procedure." The Twins' president had been complaining that legislators were "following traditional procedure." That's a sin? "We don't need no stinkin' democracy," cracks deMause. The proposal expired recently without any action, but a new package is likely to be introduced this year.

The Chargers are hiding some cards from the fawning media. First, the team has an ace in the hole: Qualcomm Stadium, which is still a money machine. I believe the team is going down two tracks: it really wants to get into the Los Angeles market. But an abrupt move would be a public relations disaster for the National Football League, as were the departures of the old Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts. The team by repeatedly screwing the citizenry is deliberately creating ill will, so the league's front office will smile on a decampment. Fabiani would not reply to queries.

And if the Chargers don't get L.A.? San Diego will forgive their arrogance and embrace them. Whether or not the Chargers get a new stadium, they will rake in a huge pot each year. It's fun playing poker when you have nothing to lose.

The Secret Stadium E-Mails

An interoffice look at the Qualcomm hustle.

December 1, 2005 — Matt Potter

Poor, benighted Qualcomm Stadium. It's been around since 1967 and for its first three decades was one of the city's most popular landmarks. Winner of national architecture awards, the dual-use arena, owned jointly by the City and County, was hailed as a miracle of efficiency and wise public stewardship. Then came 1995, the year Mayor Susan Golding launched her effort to expand the place to keep the Chargers from leaving town. She bumped the County out of the partnership, and she proposed closing off the open east end and adding 10,500 new seats, ostensibly to provide enough capacity for the NFL to conduct semi-regular Super Bowls here.

After a heated struggle in 1997, Golding got her way, avoiding the voters -- more than 20,000 of whom had signed petitions to put $18 million of public financing on the ballot -- by selling the naming rights to the stadium. The team promised to stay in town until at least 2020 and accepted a rich, taxpayer-subsidized ticket guarantee for its trouble.

But after only a few years, the Chargers, owned by Stockton developer Alex Spanos, began grumbling again. Baseball's Padres, who had been given their own brand-new downtown ballpark, thanks to a $300 million public subsidy, moved away in 2004. It wasn't fair, the Chargers said, that they didn't have their own new Taj Mahal.

In December of 2003, Spanos, who was worth $860 million at the time according to Forbes, sued the City in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that going without a new stadium in San Diego was causing him "financial hardship." The case was ultimately dropped, and after a long series of backroom wheelings and dealings in the summer of 2004, the city council agreed to let Spanos out of his Golding-era lease.

The new deal gave the team an exit clause after the 2008 season, and Spanos agreed to end his politically disastrous ticket guarantee in exchange for a reduction in his stadium rent of about $5 million a year.

Since then, the Chargers have come up with a new plan. The team and a development partner would pay for a new stadium, infrastructure, and an urban village of homes, offices, retail shops, and a hotel, says a statement on the team's website. Additionally, the development team would provide almost 30 acres of public parks. In exchange, the City would give the team 60 acres on which it would build and then sell more than 6000 units. The City would retain ownership of the new stadium and the land on which the offices, shops, and hotel are built. Pitched by the Spanos family as a dream deal for taxpayers, critics say it would be an obscene giveaway of public assets at a time the City can least afford it.

Spanos and his backers claim it's impossible to renovate the stadium. Editorial writers for the Union-Tribune, who have taken to calling Qualcomm "leaky, creaky and crumbling," say that fixing it up isn't an option.

Some have wondered if the alleged lack of maintenance has been deliberate on the part of the City, as a way to make construction of a new stadium inevitable. Stadium manager Bill Wilson, who retired in October, says absolutely not, but doubters remain.

To shed some light on the situation, a request was made to the City under the state's Public Records Act for e-mails and other documents pertaining to stadium management.

The records provided show that maintenance problems have been rife and staffing inadequate, but they also suggest that the City has neglected basic fix-ups that would benefit fans in lower-priced seats in favor of high-end patrons and the media.

While the hoi polloi struggled with broken seats and leaky roofs, the records show, members of the media and fat cats in the luxury VIP boxes were treated to new loveseats, high-definition television sets, and a variety of other upgrades.

Besides catering to the rich, the e-mails show, members of the stadium staff are careful not to run afoul of Nick Canepa and Tim Sullivan, sportswriters at the Union-Tribune who frequently talk up the need for a new stadium. Meanwhile, accessible seating for the handicapped, which the City agreed to install only after a lawsuit that lasted almost a decade, has been late in coming.

Following is a selection of this year's e-mails written by Chargers' staff and the City employees who maintain the stadium.

On May 6, well before the football season began, the city's stadium marketing manager, Mike McSweeney, wrote Charger vice president Ken Derrett about a request to cover up the stadium's advertising signs during a special event to be held in June.

You may have heard through the grapevine that we are looking at a major private corp event here inside the stadium June 21. Qualcomm, the wireless company is celebrating their 20th Anniversary. It is also the passing of the control of the company from Irwin to his son.

Its a big production. 10,000 people, 84 pc orchestra, Natalie Cole is entertainment. Food and Bev on field.

They are asking/considering several scenearios re: the ring signage inside the stadium. I can't find any references to these in documents here at the stadium. They are:

  1. Can the signs be covered? I think they are asking that they be covered in a black out type of blanket/cover. I'm guessing this might only be permissable in a religous event. Perhaps they are just not turned on, but left uncovered.

  2. They are asking if the signs that are in place can be taken out and a special Qualcomm sign replace it. My answer would be no. Too much hassle, potential breakage of the existing signs, goes against the spirit of the contract with the current advertisers. They should be able to reach all attendees in the stadium.

Your thoughts?


Twelve days later, on MAY 18, Charger vice president Derrett addressed the situation, sending a stern "no" to Linda Champagne, whom Qualcomm had hired to run its anniversary event:

Linda, In response to your recent email regarding signage at Qualcomm Stadium, this will advise that we have entered into contractual agreements with many marketing partners that provide them with advertising presence at the stadium on a year round basis regardless of the nature of the event. Our inability to deliver their signage at the stadium clearly puts us in breach of their contract and some thing we have never had to experience. The end result could be extremely damaging to the San Diego Chargers from various points of view including legal, relationship and financial. Thus while we have a strong relationship with Qualcomm we find this request very difficult to comply with. If you would like to discuss this matter further please feel free to call me directly.

On MAY 22, Derrett returned to advertising banners, this time warning the stadium's marketing manager, Mike McSweeney, that a proposed event with a Hispanic soccer tie-in to Tecate beer was also treading on thin ice because Anheuser-Busch had signage rights in the stadium.

Mike as you can fully appreciate the Tecate event is extremely sensitive because of AB having exclusive signage in the building 365 a year. The Hispanic soccer angle is a great one but competitive beer signage is about as critical as it gets. Happy to talk to the promoter but you may wish to give her heads up. I'm around Monday am to talk further -- also spoke to Qualcomm's event organizer and explained what you and I had already talk about.

On MAY 25, Steve Wightman, the stadium's turf manager and building-maintenance supervisor, wrote McSweeney and their boss, stadium manager Bill Wilson, about plans to build a new X-ray room for the Chargers.

Just had a long conversation with the current Charger X-Ray company who will be bidding on this year's new Charger contract. Since this item (X-Ray) is on the Charger wish list which you both will be discussing with Bruce on Fri, I wanted to let you know what was talked about.

Apparently, the new x-ray technology will be eliminating the need for a darkroom and hazardous chemicals. However, the Chargers want to have an x-ray room conveniently located near the locker room area eliminating the need for the van they had last season that was parked next to Cris Leyco's office in the west tunnel. The room that has been mentioned by the Chargers to this company is the one that was used for the last Super Bowl located next to Rudy's office. That room is currently used by the stadium as storage. Whatever location is decided upon, it would require 220 electrical (a cost that would need to be calculated). Steve

On MAY 31, Charger chief operating officer Jim Steeg wrote the city's stadium manager Bill Wilson, stadium marketing manager Mike McSweeney, and then-assistant city manager Bruce Herring about what the team expected the city to do in the way of maintenance and stadium upgrades. Centerplate, referred to in the e-mail, is the company that provides concession services on game day. The e-mail's subject line read: "ACTION ITEMS FOR QUALCOMM STADIUM FOR 2005 SEASON."

Bruce, I thought I would put together the list of items we discussed last week and the appropriate timing on the follow up to ensure that we are progressing to having the items done by the initial preseason game.

  1. wireless internet in the working press area


  1. x-ray equipment in the locker room

City will authorize at cost estimated to be $10000

  1. power to Gate C ticket office sign

City will proceed, estimated cost of $1140

  1. best locking system replacement on suite doors

City will proceed, estimated cost of $3700

  1. obtaining new bicycle racks

City will purchase $4999, Chargers will investigate supplemental purchase

  1. repair turnstyles

City will investigate and also look to see where others exist

  1. new chairs in the press box

City has already ordered, estimated cost of $23000

  1. replacement of monitors in working press & announce booth ,

Chargers will explore with Sony, city will pay up to $40000

  1. JTECH security pager system

awaiting survey next week, City will fund reasonable amount

  1. reassign endzone films position

City will effectuate the demo of NW corner booth

  1. reconstruct the 50 yard line film position

Chargers will attempt to expand

  1. new bar area in loge level endzone

Chargers will investigate feasibility of moving season ticket holders, Centerplate would be pursued for the cost to build

  1. wireless scanners fore parking & ticket gates

awaiting final bid...proposed split with chargers/city

  1. Sirius radio installation in press box

apparently not feasible

  1. Marquee on Friars Road

City will pursue replacement

  1. drink rails in club lounges

Chargers and Centerplate to discuss

  1. new barstools in club lounges

Centerplate to pursue

  1. trash can in club level

City to address and fix

  1. new carpet in premium level and lounges

City to pursue the concourses, Centerplate to be asked about the lounges

  1. vinyl wall covering in up to 40 suites

City to replace at cost of up to $30000

  1. new parking lot signage and color coordination

attempt to get new parking lot vendor to provide

  1. restripe parking lot

attempt to get new parking lot vendor to provide

  1. video wall in working press area

to incorporate into plan to replace monitors

  1. suite remodels

Chargers to pursue with HOK

  1. new furniture for suites

Chargers to provide City with list of needs for barstools (50?) and sofas (20?)

  1. suite repairs

ongoing City maintenance

  1. addition of restrooms in Spanos suite

Chargers to handle

  1. cleaning, leaks, painting

ongoing City maintenance

  1. construction remodel of premier suite

City to provide up to 80 chairs ($165 each), Chargers to continue buildout, City to assist with permit issue

  1. relocation of phone room

City/Chargers to find suitable location

  1. relocation of Custom Antennae office and storage area

City/Chargers to find suitable location

  1. down converter for HD for FOX, ABC and ESPN

City to secure

  1. Command booth remodel and expansion

Chargers to remove the wall, and find replacement seats for other events

As the football season approached, the Chargers' stadium operations manager, Christian Webb, sent a list of maintenance problems to building-maintenance supervisor Steve Wightman. The subject of the JUNE 28 memo was "Suites Stuff"; Webb gave suite addresses and outlined problems with each.

Steve -- During my quick rounds I have these items to note'

P9B -- there seems to be a whole chewed (rat?) in one of the ceiling tiles by slider door. Please check

P3A & B -- door handle sticks, needs adjusting

P2A -- smells

L16B -- door threshold leaking

Also -- can we still get together and discuss steps taken for rusty ceiling tile frames. There are many on press level.

I was hoping to hear that Mac would be doing similar to Tom Ritz in the way of preventative maintenance. Tom does a great job with ice makers, HVAC and fridges.

Would love to have all door handles and hinges checked by Mac.


On JULY 12, Wightman e-mailed Sean O'Connor, the Chargers' director of marketing and events, with a recap of the team's demands for new furniture for some stadium skyboxes. Subject: "Charger Upgrades."

Sean -- Just wanted to touch base with you about our meeting yesterday with Bruce and Jim relating to the upgrades. In particular, we need to look at getting the new chairs for the Premier Suite ordered since it normally takes 4-6 weeks. I spoke with our Purchasing Dept and if we use the city's existing contracts there's no bidding. I'll get you the companies we have on contract and, hopefully, you can pick style, color, etc out from their catalogs. At $165 per for 80 chairs that is $13,200. Let's talk about some of the other items also. Thanks -- Steve

The next day, JULY 13, Wightman wrote Christian Webb, the Chargers' stadium operations manager, about the progress in obtaining the new chairs.


Spoke with Arenson Office Furniture (co we have on contract) and they do have that chair! I'm initiating the paperwork from our end and it should be submitted before the end of the day to purchasing.


Not all the e-mails had to do with stadium business. Many times, they dealt with obtaining tickets to coveted games, like this one, dated JULY 27, from Christian Webb to Mike McSweeney, the stadium marketing manager. Subject: "hate to even ask..."

So John Lucas has hit me up for tickets for Friday night. I hate to ask, but do you know if you will have any extra to offer me/him? He is looking for 6, I told him he'd be lucky with 2 or 4.

Thanks. sorry


McSweeney responded soon after.

Let me see what I can do. Happy to do it.

On JULY 28, Charger chief operating officer Jim Steeg queried stadium manager Bill Wilson and McSweeney about stadium upgrades.

Can you help me get the list of how the $500,000 you have allocated to the stadium is being spent?

That same day, Webb e-mailed O'Connor and Steeg with details on "drink rails/ new table tops" for the stadium's premium club level. The e-mail refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act and to Centerplate's manager, Scott Marshall.

Attached you should find two (2) quotes for the new drink rails and table tops for the Club Level. Quick summation: Ten (10) new drink rails to be added -- 8' $239.10 each x8 = $1,912.80 labor -- $1,450 brackets for each rail: $36 per, 4 per table = $1,440 total for drink rails: $4,802.80 Raising the current table tops to belly-bar height of thirty-seven (37) existing sit-down tables: 26.40 per new shaft to raise tables x 37 = $976.80 Labor -- $2,950.00 Total for raised belly bars: $3,926.80 ADA will not be affected by these changes as we are leaving current ADA tables the same, as well as current drink rails for them Obviously there are some other factors we must look at: City will need to remove and replace carpet swatches where seats are being removed on Club Level. If City will do the labor in installing the drink rails and new shafts -- that could save some labor costs ? Scott Marshall has been inquiring on this as well. Let me know next step CSW

Later that day, McSweeney, the stadium marketing manager, wrote Bruce Herring in the city manager's office, briefing him on the progress of the drink rails.


We finally have an idea as to what exactly the concept is. Between Centerplate, Chargers and us, there were several versions floating out there. Rails on one side only, raised tables-no chairs-no rails etc..After conferring today, it is finally

  1. Raise the 36 tables to bar height. Excepting ADA designated tables

  2. Take out all bolted chairs.

  3. Install 11 8' drink rails on both sides of concourse. Placement of bars is Centerplate and stadium responsibility. (Centerplate recommends we go with 6' vs. 8' rails as they will be easier to place. 3.Stadium repatches carpet holes.(Jehovah Witnesses will perform the work, we have carpet in stock)

We need to confirm that parts supplied from Edgemold is contained in the Commecial Sales quote. We're ready to go.


About a week later, on AUGUST 4, McSweeney, the stadium marketing manager, e-mailed the Chargers' Sean O'Connor and cc'd Christian Webb and Jim Steeg with details about who would pay for what.

Moving this off center ground.

Commercial Sales Bid: 4400

Edgemold 1678

Total: $6078

Chargers buy, Commercial does the labor. City reimburses Chargers $6078. Christian coorndinates. (Sorry Christian) Good to go?


The same day, Charger chief operating officer Jim Steeg replied, alluding to the fact that assistant city manager Bruce Herring, who has since resigned, did not want the city to write a check directly to the Chargers. Subject: "Drink Rails."

I thought bruce was trying to avoid a check to us ... Will do if that is the way to go, but want to make sure that is what bruce wanted ... Otherwise YES!

On AUGUST 16, Cecilia San Pedro, an employee of the city auditor's office, wrote Steve Wightman, the stadium building-maintenance supervisor, with a question about an order for loveseats.

Hi Steve,

Can you please let me know what these chairs are for? Thanks.

Wightman responded the same day:

Hi Cecilia,

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to...

I believe you're referring to the 113 Charger Executive Suites that each have "loveseats" or couches. The Suites each have a carpeted area with loveseats, chairs, barstools, tvs, refrigerators, ice makers, bathrooms, sinks and countertops that all have a field view separated by glass doors that go to outside seating. The stadium (city) is responsible for maintenance, repairs and refurbishment of everything inside and outside of those suites.

If it's chairs that you're referring to, then it could be the 200 chairs for the pressbox or the 80 executive chairs for the Charger Suite renovation.

Let me know if it's not any of these items.

San Pedro responded the next day, AUGUST 17:

Good Morning Steve,

I apologize for not providing any details. I have a PO for approval to purchase 20 Houston Blue Lovseats from Mor Furniture, and you were listed as the contact person. Are these for the Suites? What do we do with the old ones? Thanks.

Wightman came back about an hour later:


Yes, those are for the suites. The old ones we use for the security, ushers and parking personnel offices and sign-in areas here at the stadium. Basically, we move the old tattered, ripped and broken ones from the vip suites to the operational areas if they can be used at all.


On AUGUST 19, Charger honcho Steeg complained to stadium manager Wilson about Padres signs around the stadium. His e-mail was headlined "A real stupid question."

Why does every "how to get to your seat" sign have padres information that does not even exist anymore? It is really embarrassing and appears that no one ever walks the building...think you have liability issues as it has misinformation on the signage...would make mike aguirre cringe

On AUGUST 20, the day before the Chargers played the Saint Louis Rams in the first preseason game at Qualcomm Stadium, Steeg e-mailed Wilson, who was planning to retire in October. Subject: "Extremely disappointed."

I am coming to understand that I must lower my expectations as to what is acceptable at Qualcomm Stadium. I just walked the building and came away totally unimpressed, if not embarrassed fro everyone that will claim they work there. It seems that there is no concerted effort to strive for excellence. The building not only has things that look sloppy (which I do not understand since it has been unoccupied since January), dirty, not up to date, but projects that were green lighted in March are no where near completion. It seems that if our contractors and the Centerplate contractors were not doing things that are not their responsibilities that the building would be a total embarrassment. It seems to me that on your last days in this facility that you would want it to "shine". I can not believe that you want your last games to be remembered with this legacy.

I gave everyone one game to see what they believed to be their standards, and now understand that the pride is just not there. I am going to write you Monday on everything that is wrong. If you can not complete then we will have to hire outside firms and bill the city to complete the projects.

You took offense to the letter I wrote Bruce and now I take offense to the quality of the work done in the building. I thought you might use that letter as motivation to prove me wrong.

The last game was in January ... no longer can the excuse of not enough staff be used -- I figure that there have been over 160 working days between games, with 22 staff that is over 3500 days of work.

We are not going to accept half efforts, this is not going to be the

same old, same old!

On AUGUST 22, the day following the game, Wilson responded.

I agree with most of what you say. Think it is time for you and I to sit down with Steve Wightman and hear what we have to deal with. This will not be an "excuse session" but just the facts.

On AUGUST 24, Charger chief operating officer Steeg was back at stadium manager Wilson with more complaints. Subject: "Stadium issues from 8/21."


I have attempted to compile a list of the concerns that I saw and those that were communicated to me during and immediately following the game against the St. Louis Rams.

This is a summary of the immediate concerns that we have to prepare for the game on September 1 and is not an all encompassing list. It also does not address the long term maintenance issues that exist.

I am traveling tomorrow and Friday, but would recommend that you talk this over with your staff and then we can meet Monday morning to discuss these in detail.


Wilson e-mailed back on AUGUST 25.


On Monday I am taking an all day physical, however Tues. is completely open, I have discussed the list with Steve Wightman and we will get to all the Major operational issues that we can. Some items take time, like ordering goal post pads.

The comment about the field puzzles me. There was some thatch that came up from the 3 hour scrimmage the day before, but it played exceptionally well. We will have to resod it but probably not before the 4 High School games. (Dec. 13th.).

Send Steve Wightman an email or call him about a time to meet Tuesday. We'll be there.

On AUGUST 28, Centerplate manager Scott Marshall e-mailed Christian Webb, the Chargers' stadium operations manager, about the condition of television sets in the premium club level.

Hi Christian,

We tested all the televisions on the Club Level today, the following is a list of televisions that are not operational and need repair:

  1. Club 21 Concourse (Large TV)

  2. Club 30 Lounge (third from right around the room when facing into lounge).

  3. Club 33 Concourse

  4. Club 35 Concourse

  5. Club 36 Concourse

  6. Club 37 Concourse

We have marked the ones that need to be fixed with a white repair notice. I'm not sure who jurisdiction this falls in, so I thought I start with you!



On AUGUST 31, the day before the Chargers played the San Francisco 49ers, television sets were at the top of stadium manager Bill Wilson's list. In an e-mail to the Chargers' Jim Steeg entitled "Press TV's," Wilson worried that Union-Tribune sports writers Nick Canepa and Tim Sullivan might complain about the new press room TVs being too small for their taste.


Just a heads up. In my travels today I noticed the new flat screen 27" TV's in the press box. My guess is Canepa and Sullivan are going to sound on the size. They are used to those big babies that we are keeping in storage in case you decide to re-install them.

In general the place looks pretty good. We will be painting Guest Services next week in time for the opener. A lot of TV work needs to be done and there is only one guy (who is busy installing the new stuff on the press level).

At 11:07 p.m. on SEPTEMBER 1, after the Chargers game against the San Francisco 49ers, Charger guest services director David Anderson reported yet more television troubles to Chargers senior director of ticket sales and service Todd Poulsen. This time the problem was in the luxury suites, where the most exclusive stadium seats are located.

Todd, I was called up to 2 suites in regards to the condition of their televisions. They were both very upset with our response to their situation. In Press 61A, both of their outside televisions have been broken since last year. One of them doesn't even turn on. In Loge 39B, the one outside television has also been broken since last year. Needless to say, they are not happy. What can we do to rectify this problem? They are both expecting resolutions before the Dallas game. Thanks DA

On SEPTEMBER 2, another game-day issue arose. Chargers staffer Amy Schreiber wrote Poulsen and vice president Ken Derrett about break-ins at some skyboxes. The e-mail was headlined "Serious Issues with Suites Yesterday." Somebody, it seemed, was stealing food and beer.

There a couple of very serious issues with suite yesterday.

  1. Press 1A (Tarrah Asphalt) & L30A (Attila-tek) both had their refrigerators stocked after the St. Louis game and when they arrived yesterday everything was gone. We checked with Centerplate who inventoried their items and they did indeed have it in there so sometime between St. Louis and San Francisco someone came in and took their beer, water and soda out of the fridge. Both were very upset and at least L30A would like an explanation of what happened and wants someone held accountable.

  2. I found out this morning that someone entered Mesa Distributing Suite sometime between an hour before the game and kick-off and basically "looted" them. See email below. My staff is up there to prevent this from happening but we don't have enough people for someone to be stationed in front of one or two suites and check tickets * they are roaming.

"This is to follow up on my voicemail to both of you on the incident that occurred in Mesa's Skybox (Loge 36A) last night. When the retailer that was given access to yesterday's box arrived about half an hour prior to kick off, he found that all but one soda had been drank and that half of the hot dog bar was either on the floor of the suite or had been eaten. The retailer was forced to pay out of pocket for additional food and drink. Also, one of our draft guys went into the suite to check on it about an hour before the game and it was fine, so that gives us an idea of when this occurred. Please advise on how we can avoid this security breech from happening in the future."

Please advise!

Responding to the reports of theft, stadium manager Bill Wilson fired off an e-mail to Jim Steeg the same day.

This has been a long standing problerm over the years. Many eons ago we kelp the Sky Boxes closed until the holder showed up. If anything was then stolen it was because they left the box after the game and left the door open. To eleminate the accusation that the clean up people were the culprits we just spent a considerable sum to re-key all the locks. None of our people have a key to the luxury suites. In these two cases it looks like roaming theives who came in with tickets. There is a lot of migration after the games (I have seen it in Center Plate's suite). This is a serious security issue that must be addressed.

Steeg demanded action.

Can we put a police presence there for a few games? Have them roam and challenge? Arresting and jailing one person will end it

Wilson agreed and then went on to cast suspicion on Centerplate workers.

Police in uniform will prevent thefts. If you want to catch the bastards I recommend Elite in soft clothes, blending in with the fans. They (the thieves) are probably trying doors. Of course it could be the Center Plate people also. We have caught them in the past.

On SEPTEMBER 4, the day after the SDSU Aztec game against the UCLA Bruins, Jim Steeg was back complaining to Bill Wilson about TVs. Subject: "Well...strike 18"

One of the last points of emphasis to our TV group and Valdez in particular...the preident of SDSU and the new AD were using the Spanos box for the game vs UCLA, so the TV's need to be right for that...well what do we get? There is no direct feed from the truck so they have to watch ESPN 2 which is on a 5 second delay plus has the USC game on prior to SDSU.... What do they get ....the USC game well into the 1st quarter and then the delay on the TV. As they say you only have one time to make a first impression. Certainly impressive for donors!

I assume that the university is now as livid as we are.

To give another the sports council box got nothing at all unless you consider that FOX6 came in with the UCLA radio broadcast as the sound, seinfeld is great with the UCLA radio.

Tuesday is a big day!

The same day, Steve Wightman, the building-maintenance supervisor, told stadium manager Bill Wilson and stadium marketing manager Mike McSweeney about a rowdy fan who got out of control at the Aztec game due to lack of security.

The security guard (Paul), a City Events employee whose post is inside the East Tunnel before and during the game, does a great very conscience. During the early part of the 3rd Qtr a drunk got from the E-ADA elevators out the side door and into the East Tunnel where he was challenged by Paul. The guy decked Paul and left up the tunnel to the parking lot. Paul went down and got the groundcrew who then called security and asked them to bring PD. After a lengthy time a security guard showed up without PD and talked to Paul. The other guard then went up to the lot where the guy was and began talking to him...don't know what happened after that I think the point is, that SDSU needs to have 3 guards in this area on large-crowd games (1 guard at bottom of E-ADA elevators, 1 guard at top of E-Tunnel and 1 guard at bottom of E-Tunnel). Paul does not have a radio either which I think would help.


On SEPTEMBER 6, one of the biggest disputes of the season erupted between the city and the Chargers when the team demanded that the word "Chargers" and the team's logos be emblazoned on the stadium turf, in violation of previous custom. Building-maintenance supervisor Steve Wightman gave the news to his boss, Wilson. Subject: "Charger Logos."

Bill -- Sean has talked to Bill Gibbs and wants San Diego in W endzone and Chargers in E endzone along with a larger bolt in the center and 2 opening day logos as per NFL. He hasn't talked to me and I'm assuming he hasn't talked to you either. What do you want to do?


The same day, Wilson e-mailed Charger chief operating officer Jim Steeg:


I thoughjt we agreed at our last meeting to put a Charger Helmet in the center (will cover up the Aztec logo nicely), two opening day logos at the 20's and San Diego in both end zones. If we didn't have three tenants in the Stadium it would be no problem to put Chargers in one end zone, however it will be impossible to cover and repaint something else in the Charger end zone for Aztec (particularly the three back to back games) and for the Holiday Bowl and Pointsettia Bowl games. Additionally we don't have time to resod and repaint that Charger end zone for any of the afore mentioned events. Also it would be apprectiate if these requests would come through our supervisors and not at the level of execution.


Steeg was not deterred, so Wilson wrote him again on SEPTEMBER 7. Subject: "Field Decorations."


I implore you to reconsider your decision to paint Chargers in the East End Zone because of the negative impact it will have, not only on the playing surface but the ill-will it may create with the Aztecs and the Holiday Bowl.

There are five Aztec games (3 back to back) and two Bowl games that will be affected. There is no way for our three man crew to overlay any Aztec or Holiday Bowl decorations which they may request especially for the back to back games.

Over the years all of our Tenants have somewhat-happily coexisted with San Diego in both end zones, with the use of a little different background color to the block SAN DIEGO. I realize Dean and Sean have wanted Chargers in the end zone and we will be more than happy to resod the entire end zone or both for any and all post season games and paint CHARGERS in one or both end zones.

When Steve talks about resodding it is usually done between the numbers. We have never had to resod an entire end zone. It looks like we will be resodding at least twice this season down the middle and I have asked Steve to go a little wider after observing the extensive wear from the 4 championship High School games.

This morning Bill Gibbs told me the Aztec logo will be gone by Sunday and he would rather paint the Lightning Bolt in the Center. I'm O.K. with that, what say you? We will also paint the opening day logos on the 20's.

Let me know if you can go with the San Diego until the end of the season and I promise the end zones will look good.


Apparently, it was all too much for Steeg, who fired back at Wilson 21 minutes later:

Something has to be done to change the attitude and this is very important to us. I am so depressed about the facility and the work ethic, all I get is excuses and statements that issues "magically" occur. When we "loan" suite to sdsu the carpet gets trashed ... Somebody PLEASE show me that they care! Wouldn't it have been refreshing if sdsu offered to clean the carpet?

Let's be honest about the Aztecs -- they have no national TV games and will probably draw less than 20000 for each of the remaining games. The rent sdsu pays is ??, ours is $2.5+ million, correct? Have they contributed anything to upgrade the stadium this year? Just tell me where they have spent any money to make things better. Tell me how tenants coexist in giants stadium -- let's look at other stadium fields -- metrodome, superdome, foxboro, arizona, Pittsburgh -- all these have tenants including college teams playing with the nfl team ... Now as far as the holiday bowl, how is it solves in tampa, miami, Jacksonville, new orleans, atlanta, houston, phoenix, detroit -- all have bowl games and nfl teams, how do these handle the issue?

Bill I have always been a compromiser, but I feel that we always get pushed around to help everyone else ... Someone needs to step up and help us. I cave on this and what do we get in return? Does the holiday and poinsetta bowls recant on their advertising conflicts? Does sdsu spend money to improve the stadium? Do they even complain about things that are wrong, or do we carry that and always look like the bad guy? Give me something to respond to?

Wilson's follow-up 27 minutes later attempted to soothe Steeg by talking about support for a new stadium.


I empathize with your frustration. I share it. I know you see it as caving but somewhere down the line I see the Aztecs, The International Sports Council and the Holiday Bowl Committee and myself as allies in your quest for a new facility.

All the Stadiums you mentioned that share fields have artificial turf. When Arizona State and the Cardinals repainted their endzones every game it looked horrible (according to Steve Wightman they used a crew of twelve or fourteen).

Tell us what you want for this game and we'll do it.

On SEPTEMBER 9, Abby Silverman, a Chargers lawyer, e-mailed deputy city attorney Eugene Gordon to complain that the City had still not complied with the terms of a court settlement requiring that the stadium be retrofitted with seating for the disabled. Subject: "Wheel chair/temporary seating."

I never heard from you in response to my August 19 letter regarding the number of wheelchair spaces which have been drilled to accommodate temporary seats. I understand that little or no progress has been made since that date.

As you know this season, most games are sold out. Therefore, Mike Dougherty has no ability to provide seats for people who have purchased wheel chair spaces but do not have a wheel chair. As stated before, we cannot predict which of the wheel chair spaces will need to be converted for any given game and therefore need to have all the spaces able to accommodate one of the 40 temporary seats which should be available. Can you tell us how and when the City plans to comply with Judge Papas' May 3, 2005 order?

Thanks, Abby

Gordon responded on SEPTEMBER 13.

Abby, my apologies for the delayed response. My understanding is that the City has done the necessary work to accommodate 40 temporary seats. I am trying to verify with Mike McSweeney.

On SEPTEMBER 14, Jeff Schemmel of San Diego State weighed in with stadium manager Bill Wilson on the Chargers' demand to paint the field with their logos. Subject: "End Zones at Qualcomm Stadium."


This email is to remind you and to put SDSU on record regarding the end zones at Qualcomm for our remaining five home games.

As we have discussed, our expectation is that, at the very least, there will be no "Chargers" in either end zone for our games. To have that is inappropriate for SDSU, your other major tenant, and certainly not consistent with the intent of our agreement or the expectation of the parties. The intent of our agreement is simply to have six Saturdays each year devoted to the Aztecs. That includes field markings.

I want to remind you that I have suggested washable paint that has been used at other stadiums. paint that is a mixture of chalk and water and that can simply be removed with water and a hose. I know this worked at the old Met Stadium in Minneapolis, where the Vikings and Twins shared a field for years. And I suspect the technology is much better today than then.

We pledge to do anything and everything to make this work, and to support both you and the Chargers in every way we can that is mutually beneficial.

Jeff, I am copying you on this, and asking you to distribute to fellow Board members, as I do not have their email addresses. Jim, I am copying you so that we can continue our mutual dialogue on how we can all improve our situations.

Thanks very much. I look forward to working with you to make this work. Jeff

On SEPTEMBER 19, Wilson attempted to assuage Schemmel.

Hi Jeff,

Both end zones will say SAN DIEGO for the remainder of your games. There will be no logo in the center of the field for your San Jose State game due to the back to back situation.

Looking ahead on the calendar we will be able to paint your end zones black for the BYU game on October 1st. and for the New Mexico game.

We will also evaluate mid field for these games to see if there is enough grass to handle your logo.

One of the big problems we are experiencing is all the extra practice (this Friday it's San Jose State, the Aztecs and then the Chargers followed by the Sky Show practice on the field. George Thoma used to say "You can't grow grass on a freeway". We will have to re-sod the middle of the field twice this season and that basicly is due to all the traffic.

Hope you understand.

Thanks for your suggestion on washable paint. We have tried three different washable paints. They work really well on artificial surfaces but on a grass field that is heavily used and played on the next day they proved to be a disaster. The turf is wet and tears up quickly during the second game. We make it a practice not to water after Wednesday for a Saturday game.

We take a lot of heat on the aesthetics of the playing surface and it's not because we don't care, however I have not seen anyone slip this year. Now that we have overseeded with rye (to green up the worn middle), longer cleats will help prevent slipping but a lot of players insist on using the short moulded cleats and then compounding the problem by taping wads of tape under and around their shoes and ankles. I have seen some disasterous results with some great running back slipping and falling. The instance that immediately comes to mind is the first half of our first Super Bowl when the Redskin players, after slipping and sliding all over the field, came back with long cleats in the second half and literally blew out the Denver Broncos. The Broncos made no shoe changes and continued to slip their way to a losing Super Bowl.

On SEPTEMBER 21, Charger stadium operations manager Christian Webb wrote Charger chief operating officer Jim Steeg and Charger director of marketing and events Sean O'Connor complaining that the city had stopped paying for the Chargers' X-ray services. Subject: "x-ray headache."

Guys -- here is the latest headache with the X-Ray room...

The City is not paying for the monthly service charge for the company to come and take care of the chemicals, screens, etc...

On average, per month, the total cost will be around $100. They (the X-ray Company) will NOT come out this Friday to prep the room for this weekend if they do not have a PO to do the work.

We need to decide if this is: City deal (as SDSU and other sports will use it) or if this is on us. I just can not let this slip through and be unavailable for this weekend.

Thanks for your comments


The problem of the day on SEPTEMBER 23 was the Union-Tribune, as outlined in an e-mail from Charger vice president Ken Derrett to the city's stadium marketing manager Mike McSweeney. Subject: "UT and Parking Lot."

Mike, the last two games the Union Tribune was on site at the stadium selling papers and handing out cheer cards they were not authorized to do.

Need to get your opinion on whether they have the right to be on site vending papers if we don't approve. Or is the parking lot deemed to be a location they have rights to regardless of what is going on in the stadium.

We'll handle the cheer card issue. Appreciate your response at your earliest convenience.

Six days later, on SEPTEMBER 29, McSweeney issued his response.

I looked into the UT situation. First off, I agree with you. They should be approved as a sponsor of Charger Football. But looking into it. apparently, the stadium has issued a Sidewalk Use permit for the newspaper selling in the past. The permit allows for selling in the lot up to 1 hour prior the event after which, selling is allowed on the sidewalks outside the stadium. They had applied for and recieved from the stadium admin office a permit for the past game. I've found that this is a stadium policy, used by not only the UT but USA Today.

I think we need to look at how we apply this policy. Where it's "policy" I think we can change that practice. Upon my return to the office yesterday, I've been in contact with the City Attorney on the matter and we are exploring the obvious legal impact. From the marketing standpoint, I see it as unapproved, guerilla marketing. From the legal standpoint, we are still researching. There are some non-commercial vs. commercial issues we are running down.

When you have a chance, give me a call. Mike

Football Follies

December 1, 2005 — Josh Board

I was invited to a tailgate party a few weeks ago in the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium. Although the choice of tailgate food wouldn't have been mine -- sushi -- they had everything else covered, including flat-screen TVs showing all the Sunday games and flatbed trucks with hot tubs. But the thought of fighting traffic before a Chargers game kept me from going. Earlier in the season, I went to a few football parties at people's homes. The first was at Chris's apartment in Mission Valley. It was for the Chargers-Raiders game, and Chris and his friends were all Chargers fans. I wouldn't be so lucky at the next party.

I thought one guy was secretly rooting for the Raiders. He got excited when Raider QB Kerry Collins completed a pass. It turns out he has him on his fantasy football team, as do I. He asked how I can root against the Raiders with Collins as my fantasy quarterback. I said, "I want the Chargers to win, 50 to 40, with Collins getting me 40 points."

Chris's coffee table was filled with snacks, and I took a handful of M&Ms. Someone noticed that I had a lot of red ones in my hand and mentioned how years ago they didn't make red ones because the dye was thought to be dangerous.

On the kitchen table were bowls of chips and dips. I met Chris's girlfriend's father -- a longtime Chargers fan -- sitting there. It was interesting talking with him about the old Chargers teams.

Chris prepared taquitos and turkey hot dogs. One guy thought turkey hot dogs sounded gross. I told him that the Hot Dog on a Stick franchise revealed that they had switched all their hot dogs to turkey and nobody noticed. A guy who reminded me of Jack Black said, "The cheese on these is still made from evil cows, though!"

Chris is Greek and poured us Greek wine, which had a sweet taste. There was also a lot of beer -- this was the second party I've been to where beer was given to people as they were leaving the party.

The Chargers were winning so everyone was in good spirits. But the usual debates came up: Instant replay? Is Marty a good coach? Another thing we couldn't come to a conclusion on was why Mike Anderson has his full name on the back of his jersey.

I looked around the room to see if everyone had a good view of the TV. I noticed one lady on the couch who didn't care. She was reading a women's magazine during the game. She occasionally pointed something out to her husband from the glossy pages.

One couple told me about their honeymoon in France. They saw rapper 50 Cent on a train. The woman told me his "people" picked her up and moved her out of the way as he was walking by. Her husband went into the next car to get a look at him, but 50 Cent was surrounded by his posse. The couple should've told 50 Cent they were on their honeymoon. When singer P.J. Harvey played at the Belly Up Tavern, one couple showed up straight from their wedding -- in tuxedo and wedding dress -- and got her autograph.

When the game had ended, I went to another football party in Chula Vista. I was told that they'd still be partying after the Chargers-Raiders game and then watching a night game on ESPN. I walked in and saw all silver and black jerseys. I introduced myself to the host, who was friendly, but a guy in a Raiders jersey commented on my Chargers cap. "The Chargers suck, man!" I laughed and said, "Well, they beat the Raiders by 13 points, so I guess the Raiders suck more." One person laughed, but the rest of the Raiders fans just looked at me. After a minute of uncomfortable silence, the guy continued, "Your team couldn't even beat Dallas, man." I didn't know what was more amusing, him saying "your team," as if I was a linebacker on the Chargers, or ending another sentence with "man." "The Raiders don't have a good record," I replied, "so it's weird for you to diss other teams. I'm a Chargers fan because I was born and raised here. Are you from Oakland?" He said, "National City, man. Are you gonna start talking shit about that next?" I then laughed and said, "The only one talking shit is you! I'm responding to your statements." He got in my face and asked, "Want to take this outside?" The host jumped in and told him to chill. I could smell the beer on the guy's breath as he said, "I'll knock your ass out."

He left a few minutes later carrying a beer. The others told me not to worry about him. One guy said, "Homeboy takes the games way too seriously. It's not like he lost money on it or anything. It's all good." Another person added, "Every time he drinks, it's the same thing. No more forties for him."

We all ended up talking football and getting along, and after a few hours I left. As I walked down the sidewalk, I saw the angry Raiders fan waiting for me as he sipped his beer. I didn't want to turn around and go back to the house, and I didn't want to stop walking and have him think I was scared (even though I was). I pulled my cell phone out and looked at it while I tried to decide what to do. I thought about dialing 911. The guy surprised me when he said, "Hey, it's cool, man. I was pissed at the Raiders, not you." I told him I wasn't a hardcore Charger fan. "That's good," he said, "because they suck." I thought we were going to get back into the same argument, so I changed the subject. "Kerry Collins is my fantasy quarterback, so I actually want the Raiders to do well." He said, "What? You have fantasies about a quarterback? I bet you wish you were bent in front of him hiking the ball."I laughed and drove off, hoping bullets wouldn't come flying through my rear window.

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

Detroit. Detroit.

October 6, 2005 — Patrick Daugherty

The Box would like to offer a big, "Welcome home," to the San Diego Chargers team who won last year's AFC West Division with a record of 12 and 4 and showed up Sunday to mercilessly humiliate the New England Patriots. Fellas, we've missed you.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say San Diego was the best team in the NFL during Week 4. No other team played as well. The Bolts picked the right Sunday to get good, playing the reigning world champion on the reigning world champion's home field and winning by 24 points.

Pats head coach Bill Belichick said it best, "No doubt about it, San Diego is the better team.... They did a good job in every area. Better than we did. Pick out anything you want. They did a better job at everything."

The second half was murderous. The Chargers ripped 36 offensive plays for 243 yards; Pats managed 19 offensive plays for 61 yards. Chargers had the ball 21 minutes against 9 minutes for the Pats. Chargers scored 24 points in the second half; New England was shut out and had to walk home.

This brings the Chargers up to 2--2. Sunday's game will, as an unintended, but nevertheless unhappy consequence, inflate their point spread for the next month. This is sad. Still, it marked a welcome transformation from that blob we saw stumble around the playing field in Week 1 and Week 2. Saying that, it would be wise to keep in mind that Green Bay is 0--4, Washington is 3--0, Tampa Bay is 4--0, and -- you better sit down for this one -- the Cincinnati Bengals are 4--0.

It's clear the NFL has entered a new developmental phase. Good teams turn bad. Bad teams turn good. One wonders how to make sense of this. Well, wonder no longer, I have the answer. Want to know what's up with the Chargers? Get out your songbook, come over here and sing out:

San Diego Super Chargers,

San Diego Chargers!

San Diego Super Chargers,

San Diego Chargers!


We're coming your way,

We're gonna dazzle you with our super play.

The time has come,

You know we're shooting for number one.

With thunderbolts and lightning

We'll light up the sky,

We'll give it all we've got, and more

With the Super Charger try!

Lately, an odd, unnatural feeling has invaded the fleshy temple I call "Me." Since Sunday, my chakra has been churning up a new vision -- one of hope, optimism, badminton games in the backyard, Sunday dinner with mom, children jumping in the neighborhood swimming pool, and gasoline at 75 cents a gallon. What I'm trying to say is, I keep seeing the Chargers in Super Bowl XL.

Only last month, my chakra felt like a pair of pants three sizes too small, although that's not quite right, I'm neglecting the added dimension of self-loathing and futility. Spend a lost weekend in Needles with an old girlfriend and you'll know what I mean. Or, to put it another way: NFL Week 1, Dallas 28, San Diego 24.

We've got a plan,

We're gonna do it for our super fans.

All we seek,

Is the goal line to victory.

We'll ignite you, excite you

With high voltage play.

We won't let up a minute,

We're going all the way -- all the way!

San Diego Super Chargers,

San Diego Chargers!

San Diego Super Chargers,

San Diego Chargers!


There's our chart, matey. Hold the compass straight and true and, in due time, we will come ashore in Detroit. Detroit in February. That's a good thing.

* * *

NFL Week 4 stupid quotes:

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals head coach, was asked to describe his team's performance after beating Houston 16 to 10. Lewis said, "We knew it was going to be a tough, physical football game."

Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy. "Special-teams-wise, we did what we need to do to."

Miami head coach Nick Saban. "You are always really looking for the players to get the kind of intensity that you want back, in terms of what we need to do."

Arizona head coach and human disappointment Dennis Green. "I think we just feel better about playing a better game. That's really the key. We are glad we are playing better..."

San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan, after losing 31--14 to the pathetic Arizona Cardinals. "Our target has not changed. As far as it may sound fetched, when you look at it from a statistical measure, we are only one game out of first [place in the NFC West]."

Was That Martyball?

September 15, 2005 — Patrick Daugherty

San Francisco (underdog by 7) leads the NFC West after they prevailed over St. Louis on Sunday. New Orleans (underdog by 7) won at Super Bowl--bound Carolina. Dallas (underdog by 5) beat Super Bowl--bound San Diego at Qualcomm. Detroit beat Green Bay by two touchdowns. Kansas City stomped Super Bowl--bound New York Jets by 20 points. Miami (underdog by 5) crushed Denver by 24 points.

Scores appear to be out of joint. Favorites are dropping like flies, which is more than a hack phrase in San Francisco, whose offensive guard, Thomas Herrion, collapsed and died after a preseason game in Denver.

As to the Chargers, maybe they were caught up in the swarm or breathed the strange, noxious fumes that wafted their way into several NFL stadiums and caused good teams to play bad. The Chargers have 22 starters back from last year's 12 and 4 team. There's no way San Diego should have lost that game, even with Antonio Gates on the sidelines.

Hang on, I'd better modify that statement. This is sports, so random luck applies; therefore, the preceding paragraph will be changed to say the Chargers should beat Dallas seven out of ten times. Sunday was one of those seven times.

One game is nothing to get upset about unless your money is lost. Saying that, Sunday's contest brought back the familiar feelings of despair and hopelessness that reside in the bones of every veteran Chargers fan. I'm talking about the reappearance of Martyball.

We now know Martyball has not passed away, but lurks in the rancid underground corridors of Qualcomm Stadium. Remember last January when the Chargers hosted the New York Jets on the first day of Wildcard Weekend? The game went into overtime, San Diego drives to the Jet's 22-yard line. It's first and ten. The Chargers deal three running plays -- the same plays that had not worked all afternoon -- for no gain. Then, head coach Marty Schottenheimer sends in a rookie kicker who misses a 39-yard field goal. End of season.

Martyball, the fear-ridden obsession of running the ball up the gut every time an important game is on the line, showed its rodent face on Sunday. Or maybe not. Here's the situation: the Chargers are on the Cowboys' seven-yard line and have 47 seconds, four plays, and one timeout left to them. They need to score a touchdown to win the ballgame. LaDainian Tomlinson is ignored, Brees throws four passes...the first three were incomplete, the last was intercepted.

It sure seemed like Martyball; the stupid, repetitive selection of plays that do not work. But (and here's the rub) this series of stupid, repetitive plays were all passes, and purists will object if we call this Martyball.

But, even purists must admit the foregoing was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole over and over and over and over again until failure is achieved. Isn't that what Martyball is all about?

The Box will sponsor an election on this question and promises an honest count. Here are the competing propositions.

1. Martyball is the stupid, repetitive selection of the same running plays that have not worked all afternoon.

2. Martyball is the stupid, repetitive selection of same plays that have not worked all afternoon.

Cast your vote at: Results will appear in next week's column.

Ominously, Sunday's game saw a role reversal at the quarterback position. Until last year, Drew Brees was known as an okay backup quarterback. Quarterback ratings run from zero (the quarterback refuses to leave the huddle) to the highest possible score of 158 1/3. Brees's quarterback rating for 2002 was 76.9, in 2003 it was 67.5, and then aliens visited his bedroom and his 2004 quarterback rating came in at 104.8. That's the kind of statistical pump-up one rarely sees apart from Barry Bonds's. But, Brees played Sunday's game the way he used to play all his games; his quarterback rating for that afternoon's work was 65.1.

Conversely, regard Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe. His 2002 quarterback rating was 86.0, in 2003 it was 73.0, and in 2004 he turned in a 76.6. Steady Eddy. On Sunday, Bledsoe finished with a 143.4 quarterback rating. Birds fell from the sky.

Finally, I'll close with a sample of Week 1 Stupid NFL Quotes. The idea is for the coach or athlete to speak in sentences that convey no meaning.

Drew Bledsoe, "They call the plays, and I try to just find the guy who's open."

Bill Parcells, "We'll see where we go from here. We have a lot of work to do."

Marty Schottenheimer, "On the positive side, we're in a division [AFC West] where we're only a game out to one team."

Let me see if I get this. All NFL teams have played one game, no team is more than one game behind any other, but since all of the AFC West lost save Kansas City...

The Raiders Lift Us Up

September 8, 2005 — Barbarella Fokos

'If you know that the good guys aren't so good, you're a Raiders fan. If you know you've been jacked and are waiting for revenge, you're a Raiders fan. If you know your boss isn't any better than you are, you're a Raiders fan," write Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew in their new book, Better to Reign in Hell: Inside the Raiders Fan Empire. On Friday, September 9, Miller and Mayhew will be discussing their book at D.G. Wills Books in La Jolla. Miller, who was born in San Diego and grew up in Los Angeles, has always been a fan of the Raiders football team that began in Oakland, traveled to L.A., and returned to its home city. "During the [2003] season we immersed ourselves even more than we had been before," says Miller's wife and coauthor, Mayhew. "We had season tickets and we sat in the 'Black Hole,' the most notorious section in the Oakland Coliseum."

Mayhew, who was pregnant at the time of her research, remembers the close-knit group that shared the Black Hole. "The people who sat behind us would pat my growing belly. It was like a big family, which is kind of counter to the image of the Raiders fan."

In their book the duo writes, "Real or imagined, the Raider Nation is an affirmation of blue-collar toughness, rebellion, and solidarity during a time that valorizes the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In an era that craves order and safety, Raider Nation offers chaos and fun. In the face of the new Puritanism, 'Just say no,' and 'Watch what you say,' the Raider Nation says, 'Fuck you.'

The book continues, "As homeless Oakland resident Ben Ducksworth put it while collecting empty beer cans on East 12th Street, 'The Raiders lift us all up...I may be homeless and broke, but I'm a winner. That's because my blood runs silver and black.'"

"The Chargers are more a sort of suburban team in a lot of ways," says Miller. "I think when people think about the Raiders coming in, people feel like, 'Oh, it's a gang invasion of San Diego.'

"The most notorious example of violence was at a game in San Diego where a Raiders fan stabbed a Chargers fan. [The Raiders fan] is still in jail." Unable to reach the convicted man for comment, Miller and Mayhew interviewed one of his neighbors. "He was just this regular guy that lost it. It was a pathetic tale, really; there was no gang association with it. The fear of Raiders fans is the fear of the urban, fear of working class, fear of black and brown," says Miller, who is Caucasian.

What about the die-hard, war-painted individuals? "They are not representative fans," answers Miller. "The cameras love them because they're colorful, but we interviewed a number of people [with painted faces] who don't even have tickets; they just go to get their pictures taken in the parking lot. There's a minor industry made out of celebrity fans."

Aggressive fans, stresses Mayhew, are not limited to one team. "Whenever you wear an opposing team's colors on another turf, you are kind of holding yourself up to getting hazed," she says. "At a Chargers game last year a group of Chargers fans got arrested for beating up an opposing team's fan. It wasn't a Raiders game."

Mayhew writes one chapter about women as sports fans. "Women are a growing market and they make up a large percentage of football viewers." Mayhew attributes this growing trend to the fact that "more and more women have the same kinds of work and life pressures as men have traditionally had," and that watching sports offers the proper outlet.

"You get in the stands and you cheer your team on, you curse them out when they flub a play, you high-five the people in the stands next to you. There were a significant number of women in the Black Hole." The chapter Mayhew wrote is titled "Real Women Wear Black."

Miller and Mayhew took their newborn son to the last game of the year at the Oakland Coliseum. "It was pouring down rain in buckets and we were wearing ponchos because you can't bring an umbrella in," remembers Mayhew. "One of the guys who sits in front of us [swapped seats] so that we could sit under the overhang to protect our kid. We only see this guy at games, but he stood in the rain [for us]." -- Barbarella

Better to Reign in Hell: Inside the Raiders Fan Empire
Discussion and book signing
Friday, September 9
7 p.m.
D.G. Wills Books
7461 Girard Avenue
La Jolla
Cost: Free
Info: 858-456-1800 or

Sacked Chargers

June 2, 2005 — Jay Allen Sanford

Sacked Chargers quarterback Doug Flutie surprised some last month by turning up on the New England Patriots' team roster for a one-year "backup" gig. The audience at the Medford, Massachusetts, Music for Middlesex III concert got a surprise on May 14 when the sometime-drummer turned out to be the advertised "surprise guest" on a bill that included Jon Butcher, Ian "Bay City Rollers" Mitchell, Duke and the Drivers, and James Montgomery. Rumors swirled that Steven Tyler was to be the surprise guest after the Aerosmith singer was spotted (with Flutie) in the concert venue the afternoon of the show. Near midnight, Flutie took the stage with Montgomery's band and played drums (barefoot) on two songs, including Bo Diddley's "Road Runner."

Flutie, who lives in Natick, Massachusetts, and won a Heisman trophy while at Boston College, "took the place by storm," according to attendee Brian Gibson. "Everyone was slapping him on the back and saying, 'Welcome home'.... He's a real hero around here. We're glad the Chargers fired him."

If the Chargers Hadn't Released 42-Year-Old Quarterback Doug Flutie

March 24, 2005 — Jay Allen Sanford

If the Chargers hadn't released 42-year-old quarterback Doug Flutie on March 11, they would have had to pay him a $300,000 bonus on March 15. Flutie was in Stowe, Vermont, for a family ski trip when he received the news. "He was disappointed, but it didn't come as a complete surprise," said Flutie's agent, Kristen Kuliga. Flutie had a gig over the weekend at a local club with his group the Flutie Brothers Band. He's the drummer, and his brother Darren plays guitar. The band has played Super Bowl parties, often bringing in guests like Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan and Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarists Gary Rossington and Rickey Medlocke.

Alex the Greek

February 24, 2005 — Matt Potter

Chargers owner Alex G. Spanos, the megamillionaire who reportedly wants San Diego taxpayers to give him 60 acres of prime Mission Valley property as part of his latest stadium scheme, has turned Hollywood mogul. The Stockton developer has set up A.G.S. Communications, LLC, to bankroll a new IMAX movie that "celebrates the illustrious history of Greece and its role as the birthplace of modern civilization." Spanos, who will serve as executive producer of the film, to be titled Greece: Secrets of the Past, is putting $6 million into the deal. Oscar documentary nominee Greg MacGillivray (The Living Sea [1998]; Dolphins [2000]) is co-producing and directing. Meanwhile, city insiders speculate that the reason Spanos may be dropping his bid to have the city council put the stadium deal on the ballot in favor of mounting his own initiative drive may have something to do with the fact that a council-sponsored measure would require an environmental impact report up front, whereas an initiative would not. Critics say that an honest environmental appraisal of the Spanos plan to build hundreds of condos along with a new stadium would never pass muster.