John T. Griffith 5:14 p.m., May 22
ESPN.com investigation links San Diego Charger "chill pills" with blackouts, loss of enthusiasm
All those empty seats at Qualcomm - EXPLAINED!
On October 18, San Diego Chargers Director of Public Relations Bill Johnston posted a feisty letter to the so-called fans of the team that pays his salary. In the letter, he reminded those "fans" that their beloved Chargers often begin the season in lackluster fashion, but just as often, finish strong and make the postseason. In light of this, he advised fans that it was "time to take a chill pill."
That curiously anachronistic phrase caught the attention of Matthew "Math" Emfatameem, ESPN.com's chief investigative reporter on the (sadly) hot topic of drug use in sports. "Usually, when a PR flack tries to sound cool, he pulls a phrase he's read on a hip-hop message board," explained Emfatameem. "Often, it's only a year or two out of date. But 'chill pill' hasn't been used among cool people for something like 20 years. It made me wonder if there was more to the story than just a cranky old white guy. And it turned out I was right."
Emfatameem's story, available at ESPN.com, uncovers a huge market for "blues" and "golds," mood-altering pills that are produced in Mexico and shipped to San Diego in specially marked bags of Tropical Skittles candies. "The golds are basically uppers," said Emfatameem. "Something to help fire up a fan of a mediocre football franchise that seems eager to leave town to the point where he is willing to paint himself blue and yellow, pay hundreds of dollars to buy a ticket and stage a tailgate party in the parking lot beforehand, and scream his support through countless TV timeouts and numerous on-field flubs. The blues, of course, are anti-depressants, designed to help that same fan cope with the shame of having wasted so much effort in a losing cause. I'm pretty sure those are the 'chill pills' that Johnston was talking about."
Besides the illegality of these pills, said Emfatameem, "there are also safety concerns. They aren't exactly produced under strict government oversight. In some cases, we've heard about disappointed die-hards taking so many blues that they can't bring themselves to care any more. They become despondent; they stop buying tickets. In some cases, blackouts ensue."
Reached for comment, Johnston replied, "GO CHARGERS!"