The fickle Chargers fans

From 44K Facebook unlikes to 89K Instagram views of Melvin Gordon TD

January 8, 2019 — Mike Madriaga

On January 6, after the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-17, the former San Diego team's social media accounts jolted and "recouped some of their old fans."

In 26 hours: their Twitter account gained 800 followers; their Facebook gained 475; and their Instagram gained 3,000.

"I imagine some were recent jump-back-on-bandwagoners," said Teri from Allied Gardens. "I watched the game at McGregors with my friend Audra, a fellow die-hard fan. She posted quite a few things on Facebook and got the crowd all riled up."

Mike from Clairemont has been following and liking the Chargers since they played at the Jack Murphy Stadium 35-plus years ago; he noticed an increase in the Chargers' social media numbers "after the wins in Pittsburgh and then KC.

"I usually check the Chargers' social media so that I can see what people are saying about what is happening," he said, "especially when big plays happen."

That Sunday, the Chargers posted an Instagram video of when Melvin Gordon III ran a fourth-and-goal touchdown; the post garnered 88,980 views.

"I like to jump on the Chargers' Twitter to see what people are saying," said Teri. "I think it helps me feel connected to the team especially when I see tweets from the players."

Prior to the game on Sunday, the Ravens tweeted a video of three of their players in scary masks walking through a tunnel and captioned it: "Not clowning around."

After the Chargers won, they tweeted the same Ravens video posted earlier, but superimposed a Crying Michael Jordan face over the scary masks, and then captioned it: "this never gets old [crying emoji]."

Mike doesn't agree with the caption. "I don’t think they’re really doing anything innovative," he said. "This has been a pretty common practice by a lot of sports teams lately."

The Crying Michael Jordan is a meme in which a facial image of Jordan, six-time NBA basketball champion, is crying and then is superimposed on images of others that are experiencing adversity.

Teri's been a Chargers fan for more than 50 years and stays connected with the Chargers' social media because when she's on the road driving for Uber, she likes to see the highlights .... and "ridiculous" memes.

"Probably the funniest one," she said, "is the trashcan one."

Teri was referring to a photo of a person climbing into a large green dumpster; it's captioned: "Now where did I put that (Charger lightning bolt insignia) jersey."

"I’m sure there’s tons of people coming out of the woodwork jumping back on the bandwagon," she said.

Two years ago, when Spanos moved the team up to Los Angeles, I documented the Chargers' Facebook page garner 44,554 unlikes in 15 hours.

"I wavered for the first year," Teri said. "I wanted to hate the Chargers because I really was mad at Spanos for moving them the way they did. I love Rivers and Gates and really the whole team, so while I was a little bitter the first year that they moved. I remained a fan. Some of my friends did unlike the Chargers."

On January 7, Mike watched Chargers' Head Coach, Anthony Lynn, talk about their upcoming (AFC Divisional Round) game on January 13 against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts -- on Facebook Live.

"As long as the defense keeps doing what they do," Mike commented, "it’s a game they can win."

Another fan commented: "Lets shock the NFL!!!!"

At least the Charger Girls aren’t heading north

Breaking up is hard to do

February 15, 2017 — Walter Mencken

Alternative Facts

[The scene: the basement of Our Lady of Sorrows church, Mission Valley. A circle of chairs. A despondent array of suffering souls.]

Walter Mencken: Hello, everybody. Please sit down. Welcome to Walter Mencken’s Post-Breakup Workshop. Your relationship may have been damaged beyond repair, but that doesn’t mean you have to be! Let’s see... Joseph Fanbase, let’s start with you.

Joseph Fanbase: Just Joe. Joe Fanbase.

WM: That’s fine. Well, Joe, why don’t you tell us why you’re —

JF: That faithless bitch.

WM: Okay, what I’m hearing is a lot of —

JF: What you’re hearing is that she’s a faithless bitch. Fifty-five years I gave to her. Fifty-five years, and what do I get for my trouble? First chance she has, she turns tail and starts slutting it up with some moneybags in Los Angeles. They got a name for someone you can just buy like that.

WM: I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. A girl has to think of her future.

JF: What future? It’s not like that Kroenke jerk gonna marry her! He already has a wife, and her name is the Rams. He’s just gonna let the ex–Mrs. Fanbase into his bed when the old lady is out of town. There’s no way he’s giving her a permanent lease. I give it two years before he decides she’s more trouble than she’s worth and dumps her. That whole town is disposable; it’s always about the new new thing. And when that happens, you best believe I’m not gonna take her back, no friggin’ way. Los Angeles, of all places. Why didn’t she just make a deal with Oakland while she was at it, really stick it to me?

WM: I understand you’re hurting. But sometimes we’re able to learn best when we’re the most open and vulnerable. Maybe it would help to look back, try to spot the danger signs.

JF: Spot ’em? She held ’em high! She’s been threatening to leave for at least ten years. But you know, that’s her way. It’s part of why I love her — loved her — she always kept things unpredictable, even electric. What’s in a name, right? I always figured we’d work it out. Like when the mayor proposed his little compromise. But we all know how that went over.

WM: Sounds like there’s still a spark in your heart for the Chargers, Joe. We’ll come back to you. Let’s move on to... Miss Qualcomm.

Gloria Qualcomm: Thank you.

WM: And who is this with you?

Steven Qualcomm: Steven Qualcomm. I look after her.

WM: You’re her father?

SQ: She’s got my name, doesn’t she? I gave her my name. Let me tell you, this Charger creep couldn’t have picked a worse time to leave. I’ve got Apple suing me for a billion dollars, and on top of that, the feds are breathing down my neck about monopolization. The last thing I need is to see my name getting dragged through the mud in the press. Do you see what they’re calling my Gloria? “A dated eyesore.” “A dump.” “Sagging.” Sagging! How does concrete sag, I ask you? And you know they wouldn’t be saying those things if that fly-by-night bastard hadn’t —

GQ: Please, Daddy. Remember, it’s my broken heart. Mr. Mencken, I know that his decision was ultimately his to make. I know that. But I can’t help sometimes, you know, thinking that maybe I could have… done more. I remember when he asked me to get some work done back in the late ’90s. He wanted me to enlarge my capacity, and I made such a fuss about ticket guarantees. Of course, it wasn’t about the tickets. It was knowing that he was unhappy with me, and wishing he could be satisfied with the way I was. Anyway, he made all sorts of promises about how I’d get increased exposure and we’d host more Super Bowls, and that was nice. But he also pointed out that I was getting older and that many of the other teams were ditching their old stadiums for newer, sexier ones. You know, the kind with nicer... luxury boxes.

SQ: The cad!

WM: I see. So you consented to the… improvements?

GQ: I didn’t want to lose him! Of course, it wasn’t enough. I only ever hosted one more Super Bowl, and he never did give me that ring he promised. “Just one before I die,” I used to ask him, and he would be so sweet. “Next year, honey. Next year we’ll be healthy. Next year I’ll get you a proper coach. Next year…” sob.

WM: Oh, dear. Here, take my handkerchief; you seem to have sprung a leak. Let’s hear from someone else. My goodness — Norv Turner, is that you?

Norv Turner: I thought maybe I could offer some perspective, since the Chargers broke up with me years ago. I just think it’s a shame things ended when they did. In October of 2012, you will recall, I said that my intention was to finish the season “at precisely .500, thus stifling all the obvious, extreme emotions that a great success or great failure would engender. Because only in this state — frustrated but not enraged, and unclouded by elation — can a fan become reflective and consider whether or not it is really worthwhile to keep the Chargers in San Diego at any cost. Perhaps the time has come for an honest assessment of what you give to them, and what they give or do not give back to you in return. Ultimately, I concluded, “This season is not about football. It’s about you, the fan. Football is just the myth I’m using to help you understand yourself. Please, think about it.” Of course, she didn’t let that happen. I got the boot, she made the playoffs, and everyone wound up with four more years of crazy. And now here we are. In mythological terms, the plight of the artist is akin to that of the prophet: forever crying out in warning, like the Greek seer Cassandra; and also like her, forever ignored. Troy fell, and the Chargers wound up homeless: rejected by San Diego and unwanted in Los Angeles.

WM: That doesn’t sound like perspective. That sounds like gloating.

NT: Potato, po-tah-to.

WM: And if I recall, you weren’t always so detached and philosophical.

NT: I am large. I contain multitudes. On that occasion, I was trying to help this city understand that it didn’t want a pro football team so much as it didn’t want to lose one.

Welcome to Spanos’s nightmare: his beloved Chargers, a team without a home, wandering in the wilderness, waiting upon their ow

WM: I think I’m seeing why that particular relationship ended. You were the next suitor, Mr. McCoy. How are you holding up?

Mike McCoy Dude, I’m good. I’m here to say only good things. When the team and I first hooked up, she was coming off a bad breakup with a very intense guy — no offense, Norv — not to mention the significant personal loss of her longtime friend Junior Seau. She was frustrated and upset, and I knew from the get-go that what she needed was not a new commitment, it was a rebound. Someone younger; someone fun and upbeat who wouldn’t get caught up in the drama. That was me, and I was fine with that. We had some great times, especially at the beginning, when we won five of our last six and made the playoffs for the first time in years. Sure, it got tougher as time went by, and yeah, people got hurt along the way.

MM: But even in those dark times, she helped me to grow as a person. I found ways to deal with my anger, discovered depths I didn’t know I possessed. They say that art begins in a wound. I know that’s true in my case. Anyway, the break came, and she realized it was time for a change of scene, so she took off for L.A. It happens all the time. As for me, I didn’t mope around like you clowns; I found a sweet little filly in Denver in under two weeks.

WM: I’m glad you mentioned a wound. When people are hurt, they tend to focus on their own pain and other people’s mistakes. They forget that it takes two to tango, so to speak. It’s a little unorthodox, but I find that it can be very helpful in the healing process to force yourself to consider the other party. Often, what looks to you like selfishness turns out to be simple self-protection. So that’s why I’ve brought in Dean Spanos to — now, now, calm down. I want everyone to listen to his side of the story. Empathy is what makes us human. Dean, why don’t you tell the people how you’re feeling?

Dean Spanos: You filthy ingrates. You never loved me. You sit there and complain about what I took from you. But what about what I gave you? What about all those years of having something to believe in, to root for? Something to give you hope and meaning in the midst of your hopeless, meaningless lives? Something to give shape to your years as you slide toward the grave: the draft, the preseason, the season, the postmortem, the draft... A magnificent cycle, ever changing, ever the same. I gave you elation and agony; I let you know you were alive! Football is war without guilt, and you know that in your heart of hearts, you love war and you hate guilt. I gave all that to you, and all I asked in return was a lousy stadium, the same as every other owner. No more, no less. And what did you do? You started whining about potholes and sewer mains. You suggested I build my own stadium — as if you can ask a god to build his own temple. Yes, I said it. I was your god, and that’s why you’re so lost without me and the blessings I can bestow. And now I hear that you’re looking to fill the void by hosting a professional soccer team. Soccer! Soc — urrk!”

[Spanos’s speech is cut off because Joe Fanbase has removed his necktie and is strangling him with it. As Mencken attempts to intervene, Gloria Qualcomm rises from her chair and draws a stiletto from her purse. Coach-provocateur Turner brandishes his ebony cigarette holder in a threatening manner. Just then, a voice booms gently in the background, causing every head to turn.]

Mayor Kevin Faulconer: Stop! In the name of the City of San Diego!

JF [scornful, but releasing his chokehold]: Well, well, well — if it isn’t the Man Who Lost the Chargers.

GQ: Shouldn’t you be out seeing to our drained pensions and our crumbling infrastructure?

MKF: Go ahead, have your fun. I’ll be out of this backwater border town and into statewide office long before you sad sacks finish your little pity party. But just to show there’s no hard feelings, and as a thank-you for the cheap election campaign, I thought I’d stop by with a little good news. I’ve just received a letter from Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani, and it seems that his team’s move is proving a little more expensive than anticipated, seeing as how they have to hire movers to come down from San Francisco. That gave the city a little bit of leverage, and I think we may have reached an amicable settlement. It’s not quite bread and circuses, but it is beer and parking lots. Who wants a party?

[Everyone looks at one another, shrugs, and follows the mayor up the basement stairs.]

Chargers advertising — lies, lies, lies

Maas now tells the whoppers

October 15, 2016 — Don Bauder

Fred Maas, special advisor to Chargers chief Dean Spanos, is now the team's designated prevaricator. Maas claims in ads that the team's stadium proposal (Measure C) won't cost San Diegans a dime unless they stay in hotels. Spanos and the team's former prevaricator-in-chief, Mark Fabiani, have said this for a long time.

Do not believe it. First, corporate sports beggars always understate costs and overstate potential revenue when trying to pick taxpayers' pockets. That's why taxpayers generally pay at least 70 percent of a stadium's costs. The Chargers say the public contribution for the convadium would be $1.1 billion. Actually, it would be $2.3 billion over the life of the bonds. The cost of moving the bus depot has been understated. Somehow, a thousand parking spaces would have to be created — and paid for. The Chargers will pay no rent under this proposal. They would only pay for public safety costs during games and operations and maintenance. But get this: the Chargers' operations and maintenance costs would be reduced by revenue from non-football events. You hear the Chargers saying that the stadium will be used for rock concerts and the like. But such events could REDUCE city income.

If the increase in the hotel tax to 16.5 percent, along with the homeless problem and increasing temperatures, dent tourism revenue, as is possible, the arithmetic will be thrown out of whack. A slowing economy will do the same. Look at it this way: if the city raises the hotel tax to 16.5 percent, the increased fund flow (around $100 million a year initially) could go to infrastructure — fixing streets, planning for a water crisis, improving police and fire protection, and the like. It is likely that revenues won't pay for this project as promised. The city could default on the project's debt, tap taxpayers, or cut back critical infrastructure work.

Maas also claims that the project won't touch the general fund. More double-talk. It will if hotel revenues fall short. And measure C does not prohibit use of the general fund.

Recently, the Chargers said they will pick up more costs in an utterly meaningless (but widely-touted) "agreement" with a downtown corporate welfare group. That is just an "October surprise" to seduce voters before the November vote. There is talk that the Chargers know they will lose this November, but intend to make a deal with the mayor to try again with a plan encompassing the so-called concessions made in that "deal." Only fools will fall for that.

What's in a stadium name?

Balboa Park building billionaire gives $5000 against Spanos stadium measure

October 15, 2016 — Matt Potter

The man most responsible for the expansion of Qualcomm stadium for the Chargers in 1997, ultimately handing the team a taxpayer-funded venue and a controversial ticket guarantee — along with an out-of-town exit pass — is against the team's current bid to move downtown.

In February 1997, Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs and his Qualcomm, Inc. cut an $18 million, 20-year deal with then-mayor Susan Golding to put the company's name on what was then called Jack Murphy Stadium.

The arrangement — which also included renaming nearby Stadium Way to Qualcomm Way — ultimately ended efforts to put the Chargers deal before San Diego voters when a judge ruled that public approval was not required for the team's stadium expansion, ticket guarantee, and a team-shopping clause, financed with $78 million in taxpayer debt.

"I’m super excited about it,” said Jacobs of his company’s windfall.

Five years later, Mark Fabiani, special counsel for the Chargers, said it was time once again for the citizenry to ante up, or else.

"We’ll do everything we can to stay here while also convincing the people that the stadium issue must be tackled — and may have to be tackled sooner than expected,” he told Union-Tribune sportswriter Nick Canepa in May 2002.

The next year, in March 2003, the Chargers-owning Spanos family exercised its contractual right to shop the team to other cities.

When the city balked, the Chargers sued, and a subsequent settlement allowed the team to move at will. The rest is a tortuous history of subsidy seeking, leading finally to November's Measure C, for which the Spanos clan has put up almost $5 million to date.

In a September 2, 2016 letter, Jacobs and tourism industry allies urged San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer to stick with the advice of last year's stadium task force to build the new facility on the current Qualcomm site in Mission Valley.

But the mayor subsequently flip-flopped andendorsed the Chargers downtown venue, leading Jacobs to contribute $5000 on October 11 to a political committee calling itself "No Downtown Stadium - Jobs and Streets First! - No on C.”

The same day, the San Diego Lodging Industry Association's political action committee came up with $20,000 for the committee, according to a financial disclosure filing.

Though Qualcomm'a naming rights deal with the city expires next year, Jacobs himself is likely to keep his own name on a big chunk of Balboa Park, if his current behind-the-scenes negotiations with Faulconer for a giant road building and parking garage plan come to fruition.

On December 11, 2015, Faulconer’s infrastructure director, Katherine Johnston, wrote Jacobs, "The Mayor's Office is working to develop literature that outlines the existing public process for donor recognition within City facilities. This effort will assist in facilitating the development of new public/private partnerships and further connect private philanthropy to long-term efforts to build a stronger and more vibrant Balboa Park."

Johnston followed up with a four-page December 24 letter outlining her research into naming rights possibilities for Jacobs and his backers.

"Recognition of significant financial or civic contributions at City facilities is valuable in fostering the development of public/private partnerships critical to building a stronger and more vibrant San Diego."

Meet the Filthy Rich Spanos Clan

They want you to buy them a stadium

September 28, 2016 — Matt Potter

How rich are members of the Spanos family, the NFL owners asking San Diego city voters to hike the tax on hotel visits and hand it over to subsidize a $1.8 billion professional football and meeting venue downtown?

By absolute numbers, their wealth is staggering — and growing ever greater. According to the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, the Spanoses rank 1067th, up from 1500th last year. Among America’s super rich, they place 372nd, with a cool net worth of $2.4 billion.

But what may seem like a lot of money to average San Diegans — whose median household income is $66,192 and more-or-less holding, according to the census bureau — is not enough to keep the growing brood of ultimate heirs to the fortune of family patriarch Alex Spanos in private jets and caviar for the rest of their lives.

Thus, they have turned to the giant Wall Street investment bank of Goldman Sachs, the gold-plated institution which during the last decade alone has done 30 stadium deals with team owners of the National Football League.

A so-called limited liability company, set up in the state of Delaware by the Spanos family on July 5, is widely believed to be the vehicle of choice through which Goldman and the Chargers owners will wash untold millions of dollars of annual profits and an equal amount of paper losses for avoiding taxes, as they soak up their yearly subsidy from San Diego city taxpayers.

The operation is on the Q.T., with family spokesman and Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani declining to respond to questions about its purposes. The nondescript-sounding Sports, Entertainment, and Tourism, LLC, has the potential to expand the family fortune to dimensions unimaginable to the family’s founder, now sequestered at his estate in Stockton, suffering from terminal dementia.

In November, 2010, it was widely reported that Goldman was shopping an undisclosed percentage of team ownership to unidentified Los Angeles investors.

“In a family-owned business, it’s common as the parents get up in age to attempt to diversify and generate cash to handle estate issues, and that’s exactly what’s happening here," Fabiani told the Union-Tribune. "I think if you look around at many family-owned businesses, you’ll see the same thing.”

Insiders say a new stadium would likely boost the team’s value to outside investors by hundreds of millions of dollars. But no deal was ever announced, and, according to Fabiani, the Spanos family continues to own 96 percent, with two other individuals holding the remaining 4 percent. They have been previously identified in news accounts as retired restaurateur George Pernicano, with three percent, and ex-TV executive Bill Fox with 1 percent.

Twenty-some years ago, when Spanos, then in his late sixties, was healthy, full of energy, and at the top of his big money game, he instilled in his children the unwavering belief that they had a birthright to be super rich.

“A few hundred cars wove their way through Stockton to the spectacular new home of millionaire builder-developer Alex Spanos and his wife, Faye, for their 50th anniversary dinner-dance Saturday,” reported the August 26, 1998 Stockton Record. “The Spanoses, who like everything to work smoothly, had 35 parking valets to handle the horsepower. Then guests were transported in golf carts to their home, Villa Angelica, where 16 Walt Tolleson violinists fiddled away.”

Hollywood fixture Bob Hope, Alex’s longtime show business crony, arrived in a limo. “Bob made his way past the swimming pool filled with roses — you could almost imagine him saying, ‘I’ve heard of putting Four Roses in water, but 25,000 of ‘em?’ — to find his place at the head table.”

A former mayor of San Diego, who had become a United States senator and then governor with Alex’s financial backing, also paid tribute. “Governor Pete Wilson began his remarks with, ‘It’s nice to be in a typical Stockton home.’”

Noted the paper, “The home — with marble floors and terraces, a chapel, three guest bedrooms and a master bedroom suite with dressing rooms that are bigger than most people’s living rooms — is set in a grove of shrubs and trees, most of which were brought in full grown.

“There were 450 guests at the dinner, 450 three-tier wedding cakes (chocolate, vanilla or coffee) were served for dessert, and there was dancing under the stars to the music of Les Brown and His Band of Renown from a stage that had been covered and framed with lemon leaves.

“Then there were the favors: Faberge eggs that opened to reveal Faye and Alex dancing just as they did to the ‘Anniversary Waltz.’ Thanks for the memories.”

Homespun grandiosity was Alex’s calling card. “He was named for Alexander the Great,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in a 1985 profile. “Actually, his father planned to name him for a Greek warrior, Leonidas, but at the baptism, his godfather conferred the name Alexander, and it stuck.”

“I like to think I am the best there is at what I do, and so I have conquered the world like Alexander. But I don’t believe I am the reincarnation of Alexander the Great,” observed Alex.

A big-screen color television devotee, his favorite show was “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” London tabloid writer Robin Leach’s paean to the ubiquitous ostentation of the 1980s. “Damn, I wish I had taped that show,” said Spanos of an episode about a wealthy Asian investor’s newest nautical toy. “Can you imagine putting so much into a boat?”

Alex, who made his first fortune as a developer of apartment houses for the middle class, told reporters his craving for luxury and ever more money as an adult emerged from his childhood deprivation at the hands of his father, a Greek immigrant baker.

“From the time he was 8 years old, he was awakened at 3 a.m. and forced to prepare pastry for four hours each morning before school. If he objected, he was beaten by his father.”

Said Spanos, “We had to take off our shoes after school to save wear on the soles.” Wrote the Times, “At 13, Spanos had had enough and decided to run away one night. But before he got to the edge of town, he started to feel cold and scared. Returning home, he received one of the more memorable beatings of his childhood.”

Alex told reporters he rarely got physical with his own children, preferring to administer discipline with an iron fist clad in a velvet glove of affluence. “He was never afraid to reprimand his children, but said he administered only one whipping to his son Dean, when he was sassy to his mother,” the Times reported.

Dean, now 66, the eldest of Alex’s two boys and two girls, was called Deno by his father. “It wasn’t until his senior year of college,” according to the newspaper’s account, “that Dean Spanos went to his father and asked to work for him.”

Today, in the patriarchal fashion established by Alex, Dean is chairman and chief executive officer of A.G. Spanos Companies, which holds many of the family’s assets. Whatever business brains are left in the Spanos family, say uncharitable observers, Dean — who runs the Chargers with his own sons A.G. Spanos and John Spanos — has them.

Dean is also known to be the family’s chief political strategist, backing Texas Republican ex-governor Rick Perry’s failed presidential bids of 2012 and 2016. In December 2011, he and his siblings and their spouses threw a lavish fundraiser for Perry at Sacramento’s Park Ultra Lounge, whose website describes it as “an upscale, exclusive destination that’s as much indulgent as it is luxurious.”

Dean is a good friend and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you, come to Texas and we would love to have their athletic club there,” Perry told the Union-Tribune in August 2013 about his desire to see the Chargers moved from San Diego.

Dean, who favors Italian loafers, is also a big supporter of billionaire North County GOP congressman Darrell Issa, to whose campaigns he has given $5000 and who, in turn, has endorsed the Chargers downtown stadium subsidy plan on November’s ballot.

His hillside La Jolla mansion is equally pricey. “From nearly every room, there is a dazzling view of the coastline,” according to Ranch & Coast Magazine. “Despite its lofty location, the house, says Dean, is very down to earth. ‘What I mean by down to earth is that every room, you can get comfortable in. There’s really no formality to our home — and the views are spectacular.’”

Dean’s younger brother Michael, 55, who is president of A.G. Spanos, also has a taste for the good life. When he got married in 1989, there were 550 guests, “including Bob and Dolores Hope; three chamber orchestras and the Dynatones, and party planner Stanlee Gatti will use 15,000 pink roses in his décor,” noted the San Francisco Chronicle.

Then, in August 2004, Michael anted up $10.7 million to outbid sixteen others for Tekaya, one of Lake Tahoe’s most resplendent estates.

“While the bidding didn’t start until 2 p.m., bidders began arriving in their luxury cars before noon for a last look around the property,” reported the agent handling the sale. “The event resembled a social occasion, complete with hors d’oeuvres and live harp music.”

The mansion boasted “a dual-room fireplace and a wet bar open onto both the living room and an adjacent sitting room,” wrote the Reno-Gazette Journal. “Beyond the dining room are a family room and the kitchen, which is loaded with high-end appliances, including Gaggenau cooking hardware and a separate Sub-Zero refrigerator and vertical freezer.”

“An out-of-the-way door opens onto a curved staircase leading down to a wine-tasting room and climate-controlled wine cellar, from which a shallow staircase gives access to the home’s central computer and mechanical control rooms.”

In January 2010, Michael found himself in the middle of a not-as-pleasant housing situation when A.G. Spanos Companies agreed to spend $15 million to settle a two-year-old lawsuit brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance and four of its member organizations alleging that many of the firm’s dwelling units were not accessible to the handicapped.

“Spanos was shocked that there was a problem at all because he had hired architects and other professionals and had relied on their advice that (the buildings) were being built properly,” company attorney Michael Gurev told the Union-Tribune.

“They were also inspected by local officials and approved. Therefore, Spanos, when he learned of this issue, immediately took steps to address it.”

The making and sale of fine wine is a pursuit of Dea Spanos Berberian, Alex’s first born daughter, secretary of the A.G. Spanos board. In June 2002, Dea’s husband Ron, from a wealthy Stockton family, announced he and Alex Spanos were buying the Bell Wine Cellars, an ultra-premium Napa Valley winery run by Anthony Bell that has since made millions of dollars each year.

“Alex and I both see excellent potential in building on Anthony’s 25 years of winemaking successes, both at Beaulieu Vineyard and on his own,” said Ron Berberian. “Our goal is to make Bell Wine Cellars a world class wine production facility.”

As the business burgeoned, neighbors began to complain. Plans this year to expand the winery from making 40,000 gallons to 60,000 gallons annually, along with visitor and event expansion from 4000 to nearly 15,000 people met bitter resistance from those who asserted that Napa’s rustic atmosphere was being ruined by big city profiteers.

“Essentially from hearing crickets and maybe a little bit of the rushing wind through the tree leaves, you’re suddenly going to be subjected to hearing a mechanical noise,” said opposition consultant Eric Yee of expanded wine chilling devices to be installed by the growing winery.

Last March, the Napa county board of supervisors overturned the planning commission’s decision against the development and allowed the Spanos-led expansion to proceed.

Another region of the Berberians’ extensive financial realm is Berberian European Motors, a Mercedes and Volvo dealership in Stockton. Taking a page from the Chargers’s subsidy playbook, in 2014 the firm agreed to keep its business in Stockton and build a new facility if the city council agreed to a hefty tax rebate.

“Under the Sales Tax Agreement, the City will rebate fifty percent (50%) of the net new sales tax revenue it receives above $217,000 annually, not to exceed $1.5 Million or a twenty-year time period, whichever occurs first,” according to an October 21, 2014 city council resolution.

“Berberian European Motors, Inc., will make a significant capital investment by constructing a new car dealership within the City of Stockton and will increase its number of employees upon completion of the new facility.”

The Berberians also run Stockton’s lucrative Bank of Agriculture and Commerce. Ron’s father Art, a post-Prohibition liquor dealer who had come out of the Roaring Twenties, first invested in the bank in 1965.

“An Armenian born in Syria, he’d immigrated to the U.S. as a child with his parents,” wrote Alex Spanos of Art Berberian in his memoir, Sharing the Wealth. “Although he was ten years older than I, our ethnic backgrounds gave us a common ground.”

“He was a high-stakes gambler, a familiar face in the casinos of Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas,” Spanos continued.

“Back then, in the early to mid-fifties, he would sometimes win — or lose — upwards of $50,000 a night. Art taught me the difference between a gambler and a player. ‘A player just likes to play, he’s not there to beat the house,’ Art told me.

“’A player tries to make a big show of winning, but he usually loses because he hasn’t taken the time to learn the game. Casinos love those guys. But a gambler is there to win. A gambler knows what the odds are, he studies them, and then he bets. He’s there to beat the house.’”

Berberian’s investment in the Bank of Agriculture and Commerce has paid his heirs many dividends over the years, but not without controversy. In June 2009, the bank agreed pay a $100,000 penalty to the Federal Deposit Insurance Administration to settle charges, without admitting guilt, that it had improperly arranged with a tax software provider to solicit recipients of social security and other federal benefits for deposits.

“The FDIC discovered instances where check cashers, payday lenders, and retailers withheld all or a significant part of beneficiaries’ payments by deducting transaction fees, cashing fees, short-term loans, and repayment of loans, leaving recipients without funds for basic living expenses,” according to testimony at a July 2010 Treasury Department hearing.

“The bank was required to shut down this program.”

As for the fourth Spanos sibling: “My daughter Alexis would marry Dean’s best friend, Barry Ruhl, whom we all had met in 1962, when Dean and I, and Barry and his father, Phil, played in a foursome at Stockton Country Club,” wrote Alex Spanos in his memoir.

After his marriage to Alexis, Barry went to work for his father in law’s company and later became executive director of the Spanos California Tour, until it was shut down as a financial disaster in September 2006.

“We felt that to grow the tour and make it more lucrative for the players was going to take a lot more time and effort than our staff was going to be able to do,” Ruhl told the Stockton Record.

Alexis, who sits on the board of A.G. Spanos as “company liaison to local non-profit agencies,” does charity work to generate good will for the family. In April she was dispatched on the Spanos jet to San Diego to promote a pre-election dog adoption program sponsored by the Chargers to demonstrate that the team, long a laggard in giving to local charity, had changed its ways.

“For the Chargers to do something different like this is really neat,” Alexis is quoted on the team’s website as saying.

“It’s never been done by the Chargers before and it’s important to engage the community. To help save the lives of animals hits people in a certain way.”

New Chargers stadium guarantees higher prices

Family of four now pays almost $480 per game at the Q

August 10, 2016 — Don Bauder

Last month, a poll by the Union-Tribune and 10News delivered encouraging news: only 30 percent of respondents were in favor of a stadium subsidy; 40 percent opposed it and 30 percent weren’t sure. Although more than half of those taking the poll identified themselves as Chargers fans, two-thirds disapproved of the way the team has handled the matter.

An important question was not asked: if a new stadium were built, would Chargers fans be willing to pay a lot more for tickets than they do now?

“I do not think that exact question has arisen in the normal back-and-forth with our media partners,” says Jay H. Leve, president of SurveyUSA, which did the poll.

Whenever a new stadium is built, or an older stadium is significantly rehabbed, the ticket and concessions prices rise sharply in the first year of operation. And in the National Football League, those prices do not come down, except in rare circumstances.

Thus, if this subsidy goes through, San Diegans will have their pockets picked twice: once when hotel taxes pay for a subsidy to a billionaire, and a second time when prices to get into a game shoot upward.

Dennis Coates, professor of economics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has done numerous studies on sports economics. According to the most recent data he has, ticket and concessions prices will rise 17 to 25 percent when a new stadium opens. Do those prices ever go down?

“Ticket-price reductions are pretty unusual,” he says, although if prices remain the same and inflation rises, prices could be going down, in effect. However, inflation in recent years has been quite low.

“Economists say to be careful on what you wish for in a new stadium,” says Victor Matheson, professor of economics and accounting at the College of the Holy Cross. “A new stadium might be good for the fans, but team owners know that and capture it in the prices.”

San Diegans will be stuck with the higher costs. Price decreases occur “only occasionally, such as after a disastrous performance on the field the year before,” says Matheson, who agrees with Coates’s estimate that prices normally rise 17 to 25 percent in the first year of a new or substantially rehabbed stadium.

Philip Porter, professor of economics at the University of South Florida, says a 25 percent hike is more like it.

Roger Noll, professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University, says that the price increase in the first year of a new stadium is “highly variable.” However, “there is always an increase — normal is 10 to 20 percent, but sometimes increases are as much as 50 percent.” (Prices at the new, swelteringly hot San Francisco 49ers stadium in Santa Clara went up roughly 50 percent from those at the damnably windy former home, Candlestick Park.)

Do prices ever go down? “Never!” chuckles Noll, although some teams cut prices as the season is coming to a close. However, that happens in other sports — not the National Football League, he says.

Robert Baade, professor of economics at Lake Forest College, north of Chicago, points out that when seeking a huge handout, team owners are likely to claim there won’t be a price increase. “In the vast majority of places, despite the fact that the team argues or did argue that the ticket price would go down, on average it did not.” He can think of only two Major League Baseball instances in which ticket and concessions prices in a ballpark went down. “The hard-and-fast rule is that ticket prices will go up with a tiny, tiny number of exceptions.”

The most publicized case of a team lowering prices was the New York Yankees. It got barrels of taxpayer money to build a new ballpark. Then it launched audacious plans to segregate the rich from the middle class and the merely rich from the superrich. Choice first-row seats went for $2500 a game. That’s a game. Other highly desirable seats went for absurd prices.

In April of 2009, shortly after the season began, the team, pretending to stay humble, cut the fattest of the prices. The Great Recession, which hit Wall Street hard, was just ending, but not everybody was convinced that the economic carnage was over. The mighty Yankees struck out. More than 40 percent of the front-row seat prices were slashed by up to 50 percent. Many of those who had bought seats close to the field for $325–$1250 became eligible for additional free seats. Seats costing $1000 were cut to $650.

Television played a role in the price-cutting. Early on, it was apparent that those plutocrat-only seats close to the field were the ones not being purchased. That meant empty seats would be noticeable on TV.

The team “wildly overestimated how much they could charge,” says Coates.

With the financial crash on everyone’s mind, “It was unseemly for people to be occupying seats behind home plate for $2500,” says Baade.

The Padres opened their new, highly subsidized ballpark in 2004. Although the team said it would not raise prices, it did — substantially. Initially, attendance was worse at Petco Park than it had been at Qualcomm Stadium, where the team had a lousy record. The price increases drove out some of the most loyal fans, particularly Hispanics. People complained about the difficult downtown traffic and parking and the forced decline of tailgating. The Padres then slashed prices in the years 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Price-cutting by the Yankees and Padres were aberrations, says Coates.

Despite all the propaganda about Qualcomm Stadium being a rattletrap, foul-smelling, decrepit stadium, the average price of a Chargers ticket in 2015 (the last data available) was $84.55, only slightly below the National Football League average of $85.83, according to Team Marketing Report, which keeps price statistics. The cost for a family of four attending a game, paying for parking and buying beer, soft drinks, hot dogs, a program, and a hat, is $478.19 per game, says Team Marketing Report. The league average is almost the same — $480.89.

Given the team’s historically poor record, Chargers fans are already getting diddled. Now the team wants the public to get double-diddled.

If those prices go up — say, 20 percent — the Chargers will wring more out of its attendees than most National Football League teams. If they get their taxpayer-financed stadium, will they be obliged to put good players on the field?

The Chargers did not respond to questions.

San Diego Chargers twist language in unpredictable ways

Wordplay unlikely to entertain true Boltlievers.

June 8, 2016 — Walter Mencken

“Convadium,” crooned my partner in gadabouting Pemberton Throckmorton III, drawing out the “a” and lingering just a moment on the “m.” “Just listen to it! It’s the space of the future! What can’t you do in a convadium? It’s even better than in elementary school, when they stuck a stage at one end of the dining hall and called it an ‘auditeria.’”

He grinned and took a long sip of his Chargermain, a pale yellow concoction made, improbably enough, from St. Germain elderflower liqueur and blanco tequila. The things they sell in sports bars these days...

“People do love a portmanteau,” I replied, noticing that my other drinking companion for the evening, a Mr. Stone Savage, was tensing about the neck and shoulders. You see, Savage is a Chargers fan, God bless him, and the Stadium Saga has caused him no small amount of distress. After a while, it’s tough to love someone who keeps asking other people what they’d give her if she moved in. And then has to be paid off by a rich uncle just to stay put ($300 million from the NFL!). I sensed that Throckmorton’s glee over the situation was putting Savage in something of a state, so I sought to distract him with a bit of wordplay. (And with any luck, old Pemby would think I was placating him.)

“Why don’t we rattle off a few verbal mashups of our own? We could do a glossary of Chargerspeak, help out all those poor souls who find themselves at a loss for words in the face of Spanosian mendacity. First one to get stumped buys the next round.”

It was a long and liquid evening. Here’s what I wrote down before I ran out of bar napkins.


The Chargers hope to score a billion-dollar windfall from a ballot measure that would increase San Diego’s hotel-room tax from 10.5 percent to 16.5 percent. All they need is to hit that magic number! (In this case, 66 percent of voters.)


A bizarre fetish in which a city willingly shackles its economy and prosperity in the form of public bonds in the hopes of obtaining the sick thrill that comes from being used and abused by a private enterprise that employs violent, muscular men in tight-fitting, brightly colored uniforms.


Dance routine performed by the Charger Girls in which they spread their legs, twerk, bend at the waist, and place their hands on the ground.


A somewhat distant relative of perjury (distant because not legally actionable) referring to the Chargers’ habitual distortion, suppression, obfuscation, and occasional violation of the truth regarding their intentions and strategy during the seemingly endless Stadium Saga.


"Quarterback" mashed into the turf with “cluster—.” Group name given to the collection of old-timers, half-pints, journeymen, greenhorns, middlers, draft busts, and also-rans who served as the Chargers’ quarterback between Dan Fouts and Philip Rivers.


Refers to Philip Rivers’s tendency to get riled up on the heady moonshine of competition, then throw gruesomely ill-judged passes resulting in interceptions. In a despair-inducing irony, yeehawceptions usually happen inside the opponent’s ten-yard line and often soon after Rivers has completed two, three, or four brilliant passes (see tight end-times) to keep a drive alive.


To create a confabulation — defined as a the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive — in the manner of Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani

  1. Opinions differ about that last clause, the one having to do with intention.


A mythical element, similar to the film Avatar’s Unobtanium, that magically transforms a corporate boondoggle into a desirable civic asset. Supposedly found chiefly along the waterfront of downtown San Diego, though it usually requires an extensive search in other locations before it can be detected. Also refers to the San Diego Chargers’ preferred plan for a new stadium/convention center.


Despite the diehard Charger fan’s storied Oaklanimosity (see below), his proper adversary over the past 12 years has been the Denver Broncos. In particular: since 2004, either the Chargers or the Broncos have won the AFC West Divisional Championship every year except for 2010. In 2007, Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler caused Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to forsake his normally sportsmanlike demeanor and issue a taunting wave. In 2008, the Chargers lost a September matchup with the Broncos after Jay Cutler’s fourth-quarter fumble was ruled an incomplete pass, bringing the team’s final drive back from the dead (see also referrection). That same year, the Chargers thumped the Broncos in the season’s final game to claim the divisional title and complete the Broncos’ historic late-season collapse. And in 2012, Peyton Manning led the Broncos to an astonishing comeback victory after trailing 24-0 at halftime (see also momentumble/winterception).


The rare portmanteau that is already an extant word. Its general meaning as a verb is “to leave out of consideration.” In Chargerspeak, it refers to a top prospect’s refusal to consider playing for San Diego. Coined after Eli Manning’s threat that he would sit out the season if the Chargers drafted him in 2004.


Term describing the lack of energy and drive that plagued the Chargers during the first games of their seasons under head coach Norv Turner. Even the 13-3 2009 season started 2-3.


The practice employed by professional sports teams of threatening to leave town unless they are paid off.


Another portmanteau that is already a word. General meaning: “the activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.” In Chargerspeak, it refers to the almost limitless ability of Chargers fans to deny reality in order to maintain their positive feelings toward the team. Particular fantasies may involve the players’ loyalty to the team or the city as opposed to their contracts, the Spanos family’s loyalty to the fans or the city as opposed to their bottom line, the team’s likelihood of winning the Super Bowl in a given season, or the fan’s actual connection to the team in any sense beyond the purely financial. Fantasies are indicated through tell-tale terms such as “My man Antonio Gates,” “We won!” and “Our team.”


A rare portmanteau, in that it is made from two proper names, “Foley,” and “Leaf.” It refers to the seemingly mystical bad luck that seems to plague even the most on-paper-excellent Chargers outfit. “Foley” refers to Steve Foley, a quality linebacker who was shot in the knee outside his home by an off-duty police officer after the officer observed him driving erratically. “Leaf” refers to superstar college quarterback Ryan Leaf (see Ryanticipation). The term is used by Chargers coaches and staff to punctuate a resigned shrug whenever bad luck strikes like lightning out of the clear powder-blue sky.


Any method of suicide in which the brain is left intact so that it may be studied by medical researchers interested in the effects of regularly repeated blows to the head over the course of a career in professional football. More generally, a death that is somehow both tragic and noble.


Refers to the astonishing rhetorical power of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to convince listeners without the offering of evidence or argument. Usually, the term is applied to his statements regarding the league’s concern over and engagement with the issue of player concussions (and other injuries). It was on full display last April when he came to town and declared “The Chargers do belong in San Diego,” reigniting fervent local support for a franchise so bent on leaving town that it publicly declared its intentions to do so and sought to trademark the term “Los Angeles Chargers.” Goodell’s claim was recently ranked just behind “Let there be light” and “But this is not that day!” on an internet clickbait list of “25 powerful statements that will have you cheering in your cubicle.”


Resentment of Chargers gadfly Bruce Henderson, especially when it turns out he’s right about something. Like, say, the City getting shafted in the 1995 stadium agreement on everything from ticket guarantees to team-shopping rights.

High Boltage

The original term “high voltage” usually means electrical energy at voltages high enough to inflict harm on living organisms. The portmanteau refers to Chargers fandom at levels high enough to inflict harm on civic infrastructure, government budgets, and common sense. (See also Slackout, which refers to television blackouts of Chargers home games as a result of insufficient citywide interest to sell out stadium seating.)

Hiscoryell Fallacy

A logical fallacy that supposes that just because a thing (like, say, sustained team excellence) happened in the past, it will likely happen again. Named for Chargers coach Dan Coryell, who revolutionized the passing game in the late ’70s and early ’80s and turned the Chargers into a regular contender.


A combination hotel and bank teller, which is how the Chargers hope to treat San Diego’s hotels — through a significant hotel tax increase levied in order to finance their convadium.


The casual defeat of the Chargers’ grand plan to move to L.A. by a far more wealthy and powerful owner, the Rams’ Stan Kroenke.

Los Angelust

The desire felt by Chargers management to relocate to a larger market in the hopes that the team will perform better if they know people are watching. (Said superior performance is sometimes referred to as a Los Angerection, but reports suggest that Chargers management prefers to use this term in reference to the actual building of a stadium in Carson, California.) Or at least, that a larger population will mean more people who are willing to pay top dollar to watch their team, win or (more likely) lose. Or at the very least, that more local households will mean fatter television revenues. Closely related to Less Angeles (or Los Angeless), the general feeling of inferiority most San Diegans already feel toward their neighbor to the north, and also Los Angeloss, the existential emptiness experienced when a talented San Diegan heads north to follow the money. See also, Gregory Peck, Dennis Hopper, Tom Waits, et alia.


Still another extant-word portmanteau. In its original adjectival form, it refers to something’s ability to inspire rage. The Chargerspeak form, while closely related, is a verb that refers to Raiders coach John Madden’s shambling stroll across the playing field like some kind of smug sasquatch immediately following the Immaculate Deception (see Oaklanimosity). The lumbering coach took the improbable turn of events in stride, congratulating his passing players as if they had won fair and square, a move that inspired even more frustrated rage than Charger fans were already feeling. (Today, Maddening’s chief practitioner is thought to be the Patriots’ Bill Belichick.)


The condimention of having a mayor who lacks the spice and heat required to tell a professional sports franchise where they can stick their garbage negotiating tactics, let alone their whiny grubbing in the first place for public funds to benefit their private enterprise.


The tendency of the Chargers to take the wind out of their own sails through fumbles and interceptions, often late in the season. Possibly the most famous example comes from quarterback Philip Rivers’s three interceptions and two fumbles in the second half of the Broncos’ huge 35-24 comeback victory in October of 2012.


A Charger fan’s enduring hatred for the Oakland Raiders, stemming largely from the September 1978 game that featured the play known as either “The Holy Roller” or “The Immaculate Deception,” depending on which side you’re on. Trailing 20-14 with ten seconds on the clock, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler found himself under pressure and fumbled forward. Raiders running back Dan Banaszak joined in the fun, heaving the ball downfield toward the end zone, where Raiders tight end Dave Casper kicked and batted it over the goal line before falling on the ball. In a classic example of referrection, the referee ruled the play a touchdown, and the Raiders went on to win 21-20 after kicking the extra point. (Raiders announcer Bill King acknowledged the religious, logic-defying character of the event in his call of the play: “There’s nothing real in the world anymore…. The Chargers are standing, looking at each other. They don’t believe it. Nobody believes it. I don’t know if the Raiders believe it. A man would be a fool to try to write a drama and make you believe it.”) See also Maddening.


The deep and abiding envy felt by Chargers officials toward San Diego’s other major sports franchise, the one that went to the World Series at just the right moment to secure public funding for a lovely, state-of-the-art downtown stadium before sliding into a comfortable low-budget lousiness. Closely related to Petcoveting and frequently producing the pained facial expression known as a Gywnnce.

Playmore Mine

Political portmanteau that refers to the Claymore landmine to indicate the explosive potential of interfering with the playing of professional sports.


Refers to the Chargers’ postseason performance, “offal” being the crap-filled intestines that are cast aside when an animal is butchered.

Philip Service

The Chargers’ practice of wildly praising All-Pro quarterback Philip Rivers but never giving him a proper offensive line, running game, or receiving corps.


Experts disagree over the primary meaning here. Could refer to the crappy feeling that comes from the fact that the Chargers have not been to the Super Bowl since the stadium’s renaming in 1997. Or the crappy feeling that comes from the fact that the $80 million renovation that Qualcomm helped complete in an effort to make the stadium more attractive as a Super Bowl venue garnered exactly one of them, in 1998 (see also Qualcon). Or the crappy feeling that comes from the fact that the stadium is now regarded as a bad joke by NFL officials, who have allegedly suggested a naming-rights deal that would christen it the Kohler Toilet Bowl. Or the crappy feeling that comes from the fact that, since the year 2000, the Giants, Jets, Cowboys, Broncos, Texans, Eagles, Seahawks, Patriots, Steelers, 49ers, Colts, Bengals, Lions, Vikings, and Cardinals have all gotten new stadiums (to say nothing of the Browns, Bucs, Jaguars, Titans, Ravens, Falcons, Panthers, or Redskins, all of whom got new stadiums in the ’90s), and San Diego is stuck with this 1960s relic that is best known for hosting the Super Bowl and the World Series in the same year. Go ahead, tell yourself that midcentury retro is cool again; let us know how that works for you.


The Chargers’ successful ploy to get the City of San Diego to pony up $68 million in 1997 in an effort to renovate the stadium into a proper Super Bowl venue. The money the City borrowed won’t be paid off for another decade, whether or not a new stadium is built, and never produced anything like the additional revenue that was forecast.


Double portmanteau formed from “Raiders” and “Haterade,” which is itself formed from “hate” and the sports beverage “Gatorade.” Haterade is an energizing beverage that allows haters to function at their highest potential, much as Gatorade allows basketball-playing children to Be Like Mike. The particular variant Raiderade is an alcoholic beverage, usually consumed throughout a given game day against Oakland, which prepares a Chargers fan for an abusive, pointless, and hopefully violent confrontation with the enemy in the parking lot after the game. Traditionally drunk after raising one’s beer cozy and shouting, “Raiders suck!”


Spending mind-boggling sums of cash on the re-creation of one’s kitchen and living room in the parking lot outside the stadium on game day. Begins with shade tents, tables, coolers, and fancy portable grills, and progresses on to satellite TV, recliners, refrigerators, and margarita machines. Sometimes topped off by an RV for the sake of boozy napping before kickoff.


Excitement experienced by Charger fans after the team’s acquisition of a top prospect named Ryan. Consistently followed by Ryanguish when the Ryan in question doesn’t live up to expectations. Fans are divided about who ranks at the top of this list, quarterback Ryan Leaf or running back Ryan Matthews.

Leaf was the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in the 1998 draft and the second pick overall after Peyton Manning. Some scouts thought he had even greater potential than Manning, and he was paid the highest rookie signing bonus in NFL history. But trouble began almost immediately: weight gain, skipped meetings, frequent interceptions, frequent injuries, and generally poor performance marred his career as a Charger from the outset. Conflicts with team management, fellow players, and even the press followed soon after. By the time he was released in 2001, he had managed only four wins as the team’s starting quarterback.

Matthews’s fall was not as dramatic but was more prolonged and involved a more exquisitely dizzying roller coaster with regard to performance. The first-round pick of the 2010 draft started slowly (Ryanguish), but improved in his second season and was picked as an alternate for Ray Rice in the Pro Bowl (Ryanticipation). Then he broke both clavicles at different points in his third season and averaged a full yard less per carry than the year before (Ryanguish). And then, he had his best year ever in 2013 (Ryanticipation) before being hobbled by an ankle injury in the playoffs (Ryanguish). His career as a Charger ended after one more injury-plagued season that saw him play in just six games (Ryanguish). Add to that the fact that Matthews grew up a Chargers fan and idolized Chargers great LaDanian Tomlinson, and you have a strong contender for the Ryanticipation crown.


Austerity measures enacted by the Spanos family to ensure that the city government will bail them out with public funds. Sample reasoning: “It’s not like we’re Kroenkes. We can’t afford to move, and we can’t afford to improve our squalid conditions here. You’ll have to help us out.”


The instant increase in prosperity the Spanos family will enjoy if they bamboozle the taxpayers into funding a new stadium. Recall that the Padres franchise doubled in value the second the City of San Diego signed on the dotted line for the Petco Park.


Income the Chargers cheerfully promise will be generated for the City of San Diego as a result of hosting the Chargers/improving Qualcomm Stadium/building a new stadium which somehow always seems to result in an expense. See also: the $12 million the city paid to operate the stadium in 2014, thanks in part to mayornnaise.


Offense and outrage on the part San Diegans in light of the Chargers’ naked greed and shady dealings during the seemingly endless Stadium Saga.


The tendency of seemingly perfect physical specimens to bend and break in baffling ways once they reach the temperate climes of sunny San Diego. You’d think the cold in places like Green Bay would make these giants brittle, but it seems to be the other way ’round. Prevalent throughout the ranks, but especially in the Offenseive Line (so named for its tendency to let opposing defenses through with minimal resistance). Related to Sunble, the tendency to drop the ball when it is neither cold nor wet outside.


The practice of profiting off of a player’s popularity and performance by selling merchandise associated with him to his fans.

Tight End-Times

The terrifying and uncertain era surrounding the final years of superstar tight end Antonio Gates’s career. Everyone knows that the end is nigh, but no once can say exactly when it will come. Prophecy is rampant, and while some will lose faith and despair, True Boltievers will keep the faith.

Chargers or Comic-Con? SD can't get both (and needs neither)

Another aspect of "convadium" conundrum pointed out

March 18, 2016 — Don Bauder

Heywood Sanders, the national ranking expert on convention centers, is in San Diego this week, scouting around. Sanders wrote a seminal paper for the Brookings Institution in 2005, predicting a destructive arms race in construction and expansion of convention centers. It has come true. There is such a glut of convention center space that prices are being slashed 50 percent, centers are losing money, and sometimes giving space away — but still creating more space.

Sanders then wrote a book, Convention Center Follies, published in 2014, that gave great detail on how one city after another hasn't come close to attendance projections that politicians and consultants fed to taxpayers.

In San Diego, Sanders notices that the proposed "convadium" (combined football stadium and convention center expansion) is not an expansion of the existing center. Because the two facilities are separated by five or six blocks, "there would be two separate facilities," he says. A different convention would have to be held in each location. One convention or meeting couldn't have activities in both facilities.

The major reason hoteliers and others want an expansion of the convention center is to accommodate Comic-Con. But Comic-Con has already said it only wants a contiguous expansion. If San Diego went ahead with the subsidized convadium, Comic-Con might consider moving, because centers are being expanded in Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

"Comic-Con's issues are not just space," says Sanders. It is complaining that "hoteliers are raising rates to astronomical levels" during the Comic-Con period. The costumed attendees do not tend to be big spenders.

Sanders has an eye-opening study. If you take Comic-Con and the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon out of San Diego's numbers, there were 320,000 convention-center attendees in 1999 and only 356,000 last year. "These figures don't leap out and tell me San Diego will have a great increase in business," says Sanders.

He notes that "San Diego voters are not uniformly enthusiastic about tax increases," and possibly they may not be in favor of "marrying the Chargers" when the team so openly flirted with Los Angeles.

Increasingly, San Diegans are realizing that the region does not need a subsidized football stadium, and with the glut of convention-center space, it does not need an expansion — contiguous or non-contiguous. It needs infrastructure and upgrades of rundown neighborhoods, as well as better firefighting and police services.

Chargers’ PR is a grating insult

Team always wanted to stay. Huh?

March 2, 2016 — Don Bauder

Last month, a Union-Tribune sports columnist lamented that San Diego had been “verbally abused, manipulated, ignored, given the silent treatment, cheated on” by the Chargers football team as it plotted to escape to richer Los Angeles environs. Almost a year earlier, the newspaper’s editorial page had denounced the anti–San Diego statements of Mark Fabiani, the Chargers’ spokesman and strategist.

Two things are wrong with the U-T’s caterwauling. First, Fabiani has sometimes been right — for example, when he said that the mayoral task force’s Mission Valley stadium scheme was cockamamie. It was.

Second, the U-T apparently does not understand that the Chargers’ manipulation and dishonesty was a Machiavellian ploy to ruffle San Diegans’ feathers so the National Football League would conclude that the city really did not want the team. “Fabiani deliberately alienated San Diego,” says Steve Erie, professor of political science at the University of California San Diego. “Unfortunately, it backfired” because the team’s plans for a stadium in the Los Angeles area (Carson) were shot down by a 30-2 vote of team owners. Now the Chargers have returned, begging for a subsidized stadium.

That’s a seemingly insuperable public relations problem. “Who wants to have a long-term relationship with a partner who is rudely insulting, unfairly critical, constantly negative, and frequently flirting with other partners?” asks Bey-Ling Sha, professor of public relations and director of San Diego State’s School of Journalism & Media Studies. “No one. Or maybe people who need relationship counseling.”

Bad as it was, the abuse the Chargers heaped on San Diego as it maneuvered for Los Angeles paled by comparison with the abuse the team is spewing now. Upon the Chargers’ return, team strategists came up with a public relations plan that is intellectually insulting to San Diegans.

First, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos claims that, all along, the team preferred to stay in San Diego. Huh? The team’s courting of L.A. was a major local news item for a year. “Dean Spanos in particular has a credibility problem,” says Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. “To say that the team preferred to stay in San Diego all along is like a husband having a long-term affair, then having his mistress tell him to take a hike, then [coming] back to his wife of many years and [saying], ‘I’ve only loved you all along.’ Spanos and company are insulting San Diegans with their current rhetoric.”

Glen Broom, emeritus professor of public relations at San Diego State, addresses his critique to the Chargers: “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” Deeply committed Chargers fans may believe Spanos’s whopper, but most citizens will find it “not credible at all,” particularly when the team would have increased its value by more than $1 billion by moving. Spanos claims he has sacrificed that windfall because the family now realizes how much it loves San Diego.

Harrumphs Art Madrid, who was mayor of La Mesa for 24 years and has been a Chargers season-ticket holder for 31 seasons, “Transparency was lacking when their initial desire to move to L.A. failed, and now they are trying to embrace a jilted lover in San Diego.”

After tossing out this falsehood, Spanos committed a second staggering public-relations gaffe. In interviews, he will only talk about the future, not the past — believing, apparently, that he has shielded himself from any questions about the team’s wide-open quest to get to L.A. “That’s pretty clever,” says Broom. “He is trying to create a whole new scenario.”

“The Nazis should have used that strategy in the Nuremberg trials,” hoots Alan Miller, former U-T editorial writer, now a college-journalism instructor and commentator for the Sacramento Bee.

“I can’t imagine a worse set of public-relations blunders,” says Erie. “They burned their bridges in San Diego and then had to swim back and say they wanted to stay in San Diego from day one. Anybody believing that is a candidate for buying the Brooklyn Bridge.” Refusing to discuss past actions worsens the team’s lack of credibility, says Erie.

Says Nelson, “When Dean Spanos says he wants to talk only about the future and not the past, can you blame him? If he is held accountable for his past remarks and actions, and those of Mark Fabiani, then he is going to have to explain why he was so willing to move. He wants to control the narrative, which I understand. If the news media do their job, they won’t let him control the narrative. The media are acting on behalf of the public, and they should demand accountability.”

In my opinion, local mainstream media will not act on behalf of the public. As past experience has shown, mainstream media lead cheers for the team and proselytize for a stadium subsidy. Sports advertising is quite profitable for these media. The U-T columnist who complained that the city was being “verbally abused” and “manipulated” urged the city to forgive and forget and embrace the prodigal son returning in rags.

Still, if there is a vote, it doesn’t look now like it will go for the Chargers. “Only the super-hyper diehard fans whose lives revolve around ten games” will support the team, says Madrid.

So will “gullible people, low-information voters,” adds Erie. “Short of divine intervention, I can’t see how they can get a majority vote. They have alienated the fan base. Their poor performance on the field is reason enough; then they poured gasoline on the fire with their press relations.”

Says Nelson, “I was at the San Diego Gulls hockey game when the announcer tried to get the fans to chant ‘Save Our Bolts!’ Within seconds the fans in the arena were booing so loudly that the announcer was drowned out and they took the graphic off the scoreboard. I’ve never seen anything like this sustained hostility.”

Since 2002, the Chargers’ spokesman and strategist has been Fabiani, the “Master of Disaster” who is lauded for concocting public-relations miracles for the likes of cheating, lying bicyclist Lance Armstrong and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. I emailed Fabiani and asked if he advised Spanos to claim he always wanted to stay in San Diego and to talk only about the future, not the past. I asked whether he, Fabiani, deliberately antagonized San Diegans so the 31 team owners would conclude that the team was unwanted in its current home city.

Adhering to the Chargers’ public relations strategy, Fabiani did not answer my email.

You bought her a new stadium

It wasn’t long before her nagging resumed

January 20, 2016 — Patrick Daugherty

You love your dearest more than you’ve loved anyone or anything. You’ve been together 55 years. For you, it’s always been till-death-do-us-part.

In the beginning the relationship was passionate on both sides. She was living in the slums, working out of a seedy football stadium built in 1914. You didn’t care. She was employed by a start-up football league. She said it was a big-league league and very professional. Your friends laughed, said she was a poser. You didn’t care.

She was glamorous, eager to please, and fun to be around. At first things went beautifully, she won the startup league’s championship in 1963 and went on to play for the championship the following year and the year after that.

Those were good years, exciting years, you’d never been so happy. And then she was invited to join the Royal Court, become a full-fledged member of the richest sports league in the world.

Oh, you were so happy for her! In fact, down deep, it was hard to believe that this much goodness could come your way. You bought her a new stadium so she could prance, preen, and show her stuff to the whole wide world.

Sure, there was some self-interest in there. You wanted, no, needed, to keep her happy so she would stay. In the back of your mind there was always a nagging worry she would leave. In your heart you believed you were small time. You were afraid she did too.

Things didn’t go well in the Royal Court, it didn’t seem like she belonged. She didn’t manage a winning season for eight years in a row. She never won the championship, rarely made the playoffs. You didn’t care.

Then she began to nag, wanted you to buy her “improvements,” buy her unsold tickets. Always wanting something.

You agreed to remodel her quite respectable stadium. You spent $78 million to spruce it up, add 10,500 seats, 34 suites, four club lounges, and as bonus, threw in a new practice field.

At first she seemed satisfied, but it wasn’t long, three short years in fact, before her nagging resumed. “I want a nicer home, I want a billion-dollar stadium. What’s wrong with you? Are you a big-league city or not?”

She started flirting with other cities. “That big, muscular city of Los Angeles called me, thinks I’m cute, wants to take care of me. Look at you! You’re nothing but a sniveling little loser who can’t afford to be with someone like me!”

You wanted to keep her so much. You offered her more money, more land. And still she flirted. You thought it was just her way. She abused you, used you, but still, you didn’t care, you loved her.

And then she filed for relocation.

She hooked up with another franchise and ran off to Los Angeles. At least that was their plan. They were going to be partners, 50-50, start a new life together, build the biggest most wonderful stadium in the world. It would be their love nest and they would be rulers of the second-largest market in the land. She abandoned you without a goodbye, without the slightest expression of regret.

All the potentates in the Royal Court said they were on her side. They laughed and clapped her on the back. The national press said this match was set in stone. The Royal Court formed a committee to bless and sanctify her love nest and those wise men voted 5 to 1 in her favor.

And now the entire Royal Court gathered and somebody yelled, “Let’s have a secret ballot!” How jolly, how democratic. And they held a secret ballot and she lost 30 to 2.

Turns out the Royal Court had other ideas about who she should live with. They ran off her suitor from Northern California, and presided over a shotgun marriage, your sweetheart and a Swaggering Beast from the Midwest.

It wasn’t even a shotgun marriage, the Swaggering Beast only agreed to take her in on his terms, and he is known far and wide as a hard taskmaster. She would be a supplicant, dependent on his favor for as long as the new stadium stands. What a humiliation, to become a mere tenant in another man’s stadium!

She slunk back to San Diego, tail between her legs, and yet, even unto this moment, won’t make a commitment to you. Won’t say she loves you, instead asks for more money, more money than you can possibly afford.

Your friends ask, “How long are you going to keep groveling? She doesn’t love you, she never has. Have some dignity for fuck’s sake.”

But you don’t care about dignity. You love her.

An option: Chargers stay, Qualcomm gets facelift

Spanos family possibly can't afford Inglewood

January 15, 2016 — Don Bauder

It's time to talk sense about the Chargers. San Diego, with a massive infrastructure deficit, a need for bolstering police and fire protection, and voters wising up to the billionaire stadium scam, can't afford and may not get a taxpayer-financed stadium. Financially, the Spanos family may not be able to come up with the money for Inglewood that Rams owner Stan Kroenke might demand, even if, as rumors hint, the National Football League will be in on the Spanos/Kroenke negotiations to be sure the former can afford what the latter is asking.

Actually, San Diego is not a particularly good pro football market. Yes, it is the 17th largest metro area in the nation. But it will lose part of its football market when when a new team or teams occupy Los Angeles. San Diego is only the 28th largest media market. The weather is perfect, so there are lots of things to do rather than watching a football game in a stadium or on TV. Through the decades, the Chargers have not attracted large crowds, compared with teams in some smaller markets. San Diego does not have enough super-wealthy plutocrats to fill luxury boxes or sell personal seat licenses. San Diego's median income levels, adjusted for inflation, do not permit the team to raise ticket prices much.

Neither the Spanos family nor the National Football League wants to chew their nails to see if voters would approve a taxpayer-financed stadium.

One of the big falsehoods of this debate is that Qualcomm Stadium is dilapidated. Compared with football stadiums of the largest universities, and two Major League Baseball ballparks, Qualcomm is relatively young at age 48. Another falsehood is that the team will improve if there is a new stadium. Dallas has the fanciest stadium of all and the team is lousy. John Moores promised the Padres would have a top team if they only got a new ballpark; look what happened. Pro football's draft and salary caps inhibit any team from monopolizing the best players.

Yes, Qualcomm needs a facelift. And there is an avenue for that to get done. The Chargers' contract is up in 2020. The team should get a much more generous naming rights deal than it got (on an emergency basis) from Qualcomm. There is no reason that naming rights should go strictly to a team. They should also go to the home city. So, part of the naming rights, plus part of advertising rights and parking fees, could go toward giving Qualcomm a facelift. The strain on the city's budget could be minimal. The Chargers are making a bundle at Qualcomm now and will continue to do so.

If San Diego builds a $1.1 billion stadium, it will be compared unfavorably with Kroenke's posh $2.6 billion (the latest estimate) stadium just up the road in L.A. So, if the Chargers can't make a deal with Kroenke, even with the NFL's help, the team should go back to a bit prettier Qualcomm Stadium and forget a taxpayer-financed stadium the city (and/or county) cannot afford.

It's not over. Chargers given time to woo San Diego

League will toss in $100 million to sweeten the pot

January 12, 2016 — Don Bauder

Those wanting the San Diego Chargers ongoing drama to be ended this week will be disappointed: the National Football League is giving the team another year, at most, to get San Diegans to give the team a fat stadium subsidy

It was a surprise compromise worked out at a huddle of 32 National Football League (NFL) team owners — most of whom are billionaires — in Houston. The St. Louis Rams will move to the stadium that owner Stan Kroenke intends to build in Inglewood. The Chargers will have the option to join the Rams in L.A. as early as next season. If the Chargers, who will get a $100 million payment from the league, lose a vote, or opt not to file for one, they can join the Rams in L.A., either as tenants or as a team with a piece of the equity in the stadium.

If the Chargers turn down the opportunity within a year, the Oakland Raiders — the third team bidding for an L.A. slot -- will have an opportunity to join the Rams.

Dean Spanos, chairman of the Chargers, put out a statement: "My goal from the start of this process was to create the options necessary to safeguard the future of the Chargers franchise while respecting the will of my fellow NFL owners. Today we achieved this goal with the compromise reached by NFL ownership.

"The Chargers have been approved to relocate to Los Angeles, at the Inglewood location, at any time in the next year. In addition, the NFL has granted an additional $100 million in assistance in the event there is a potential solution that can be placed before voters in San Diego. I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers."

It is a cold statement. Sports authorities have said that the Chargers could raise their asset value by $1 billion through a move to L.A. Also, the Chargers have insisted all along that they get 25 percent of their market from the Los Angeles metro market, and would take a big financial hit if a team or teams relocate there. Such a relocation is now a sure thing.

The $100 million sweetener is not persuasive. The stadium proposed by the mayor's task force will cost more than $1 billion. Some in politics want to put a downtown combined stadium/convention center expansion back on the table. But such a facility would be several blocks from the current center — something that convention planners say attendees do not like. What's more, combined stadium/convention facilities have not worked well in other cities.

A big roadblock is the team trying to renew good terms with San Diego. To convince the league that San Diego was not giving the Chargers a sufficient subsidy, the Chargers strategy was to insult the city. Now, if it wants to try for a subsidized stadium, it has to cozy up to the city it spurned.

The Chargers' strategy has been based on a falsehood. The team claims it has tried repeatedly to get a stadium in San Diego. It fiddle-faddled around with cockamamie proposals in Chula Vista, Escondido, Oceanside, and Mission Valley, but never presented a workable solution.

From the time the city and the team signed the contract in 1995, the Chargers have preferred to get to L.A. The contract gave it a direct route out of town, by permitting the team to look around for another home at intervals. Savvy San Diegans know that the Chargers always preferred to go to L.A., but wanted to keep San Diego in its pocket. The strategy failed.

The Chargers are likely to opt for L.A. before there is ever a vote in San Diego, according to more than one person who has followed this greed-driven drama.

Rams/Chargers Inglewood stadium close to winning vote

Vote said to be 20-12 in favor of opulent Kroenke facility

January 12, 2016 — Don Bauder

According to, the bid by Rams owner Stan Kroenke for a $2.6 billion Inglewood stadium appears to be leading the Chargers/Raiders proposal for a much more modest Carson stadium. The vote has been reported as 20-12. If this is true, Kroenke needs only four more votes to get his OK to move the Rams from St. Louis and have the Chargers join him in Inglewood. (The Chargers' Dean Spanos has said he is not interested in Inglewood, but money talks.)

Reports have been leaking out of the Houston meeting all day, as reported by the Reader in the comments to blog items below. Among the news bits: the Raiders management has blasted Oakland politicians, just as Kroenke excoriated St. Louis and Fabiani belittled San Diego. Thus, the hostility level has risen. A possible proposal for Kroenke to move the Rams with no partners was dropped.

The NFL's high-powered relocation committee voted 5-1 for the Carson site, but if the latest reports are true, the so-called potent committee may have been neutered.

Siri, are the Chargers moving to L.A.?

Battle of the talking apps

December 23, 2015 — Patrick Daugherty

I clamber out of bed, make for the kitchen and coffee. While passing through the living room a thought arises, “There’s too much Apple dreck in my life.” I have a second-generation iTouch with a cracked screen. The on-off button is busted so I use it as an alarm clock. I have an iPad 2. I use its TiVo app, check the news, skim email. I have an iPad 1 but don’t know where it is. I have three old iTouches, one broken, one still working but unused, and the alarm clock. I have an iPod shuffle and an iPod circa 2007. There’s a 1998 iMac in the lockbox downstairs. Everything, save for one iTouch, still works, which causes a measure of disquiet. I buy Apple junk when I already have Apple junk that works. Working but no longer used Apple junk resides in a big plastic bag awaiting the day energy and desire join forces long enough for me to haul plastic bag to the electronic garbage dump.

Unthinkable to buy an iWatch — that would be the final straw, Apple attached to my body, populating my living space, ever expanding its territory. Now there’s an iCar thing built into new automobiles so you can interact with Apple ALL THE FUCKING TIME!

I wonder if these devices do anything that’s truly useful for me. Apple’s junk can’t cook or take out the garbage; that’s the bar. I’m not rushing off to an airport. I don’t need Uber/Lyft apps. I’m not going to meetings or collaborating with coworkers over the internet, and may I pause here and thank whoever is running this show for that? I don’t make videos or post to social media. I don’t use any device to write anything, there’s a three-year-old iMac for that. There’s another iMac, from 2006, sharing the same big farmers’ table. The iMacs sit across the room from the iTV. I have an iPhone 6, which is used as little as possible, although I do work the camera now and then.

What I need is to ask any question and have it answered intelligently.

On my iPhone I open Google, spy the little microphone, tap and ask, “Are the Chargers moving to L.A.?” Google recites, “According to USA Today the Chargers have played in San Diego since 1961 but are among three NFL teams considering a move to the Los Angeles market next year along with the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders,” and takes me to a page that has October/November media stories. Not bad, but in Journalism World those stories are out of date.

Onto Apple’s Siri. Same question. I get, “Okay, I found this on the web...” I’m shown a web page. First item is an news story dated February 20, 2015, ten months old, “Chargers, Raiders Reveal L.A. plan.” Worthless.

Cortana is Microsoft’s version of Siri. I ask the question and get taken to a list of web pages. No voice, but the response is quick and the web pages are fresh. First one is one day old from Curbed Los Angeles, “All the Reasons the Chargers, Raiders, and Rams Might NOT Move to Los Angeles.”

Assistant is an app from Speaktoit, a Palo Alto–based human-computer voice-enabling developer. I ask the moving-to-L.A. question three times and get, “Not quite sure about that.” “Let me ask around about that.” “I’m not too certain either way.” The app is a mealy-mouthed sneak.

Bing is Microsoft’s web search engine. I ask the question on the iTouch and get taken to a web page; its first article is more than a year old.

I propose one more question, ask Assistant, “Will Dean Spanos rot in hell after moving the Chargers to L.A.?”

“Off the top of my head, I’m not absolutely sure. We’ll have to revisit this topic when I know a little more.”

I can recommend one device, although it’s not one listed above. I acquired Amazon’s Echo. It’s a 9½-inch-tall black cylinder packed with a seven piece microphone array. It requires Wi-Fi and is always on.

Like the others, Echo doesn’t answer all my questions. But it is useful, and has, by far, the best sounding voice, nearly human, and the quickest response. Echo has the usual shopping and to-do lists, music, a galaxy of radio stations. I rarely use any of that, I do use, every day, its spell-checker and thesaurus. I don’t have to open anything, take anything out of my pocket, power up anything, or click on anything.

The Amazon Echo’s name is Alexa. I ask, “Alexa, are the Chargers moving to L.A.?” A woman’s voice replies, “Sorry, I didn’t understand the question I heard.”

Chargers’ coach nearly lynched

Do rowdy fans pose a danger in the final days?

December 9, 2015 — Matt Potter

With the departure of the Chargers for Los Angeles looking likelier than ever, according to many accounts, do rowdy fans pose a real danger to what could be the team’s last days in Mission Valley? Presumably decorum will prevail, but beefed-up security planning also appears in order, say some city-hall insiders, fearing potentially violent confrontations with city officials.

In October, participants in an open forum at downtown’s Spreckels Theatre held by National Football League honchos faced mob-like heckling and intense booing, much of it aimed at Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani. With mayor Kevin Faulconer still hoping to land a new taxpayer-backed stadium deal, increased police protection isn’t yet on the public agenda but can’t be ruled out. That could tack on additional taxpayer expense to the already costly Chargers relocation saga.

Besides this October’s meltdown, the historic model for bad fan behavior here dates back to October 21, 1973, when the Chargers fell to the Atlanta Falcons 41-0. “The mass above the tunnel entrance was seething — almost breaking the boundaries formed by a chain of police hand-in-hand,” wrote team psychiatrist Dr. Arnold Mandell about head coach Harland Svare’s walk of shame back to the locker room after the game. “Two of the cops had taken out their clubs and were swinging them threateningly in the air.”

Mandell was a UCSD professor and renowned expert on mind-altering substances who had been retained by Chargers then-owner Gene Klein to keep track of drug use by players. Mandell described the incident and another confrontation with the threatening crowd as he left the stadium in The Nightmare Season, his behind-the-scenes 1976 tell-all about the NFL’s underbelly.

“As I got to ground level, I faced a milling crowd of angry drunks, waiting for Harland,” Mandell recounted. Then it was the turn of Svare and wife Annette. “I had just reached my car when the mob stopped milling and turned as one toward the entrance to the underground lot. I heard Harland gun his motor a few times. I started back toward the crowd,” Mandell wrote. “Then I couldn’t see much because they were surrounded ten or twelve deep by screaming, gesticulating fans hurling insults, cans, bottles, rocks. The car couldn’t move forward. I got close enough to see some dauntless punks trying to soap the body and windows with obscenities. I had to fend constantly to keep from being knocked down and maybe trampled in the rush as the mob surged whenever Harland would gun the motor and inch the car forward.”

Added Mandell, “The hood and trunk were pocked with dents. A clumsy drunk leaped on the hood and jumped up and down grotesquely, giving them the finger before he slid off.” Finally, “sirens announced that a couple of police cars were on their way. Thank God.”

Concluded the psychiatrist after the confrontation had finally ended, “I just stood there for a while, trying to stop shaking, to get over the feeling that I had almost witnessed a lynching.”

Spanos looks to maximize the Chargers

Los Angeles means wheeling and dealing with wealthy Democrats

November 25, 2015 — Matt Potter

Word that soon-to-retire Walt Disney Company chief executive Bob Iger is in line for similar duties with the Chargers if the organization is green-lighted by the NFL to head for Los Angeles marks yet another radical step away from the team’s longstanding Republican roots.

Back in the 1960s, former Richard Nixon press honcho and Union-Tribune editor Herb Klein took star quarterback Jack Kemp under the newspaper’s right wing and ultimately coached him to a GOP seat in Congress. Then came well-heeled apartment builder Alex Spanos of Stockton, who bought control of the team from Nixon Democrat Gene Klein in 1984. Spanos bankrolled Republican mayor Pete Wilson’s climb to the U.S. Senate and later financed GOP mayor Susan Golding’s Republican National Convention in 1996.

But these days Spanos, who turned 92 in September, is said to suffer from dementia, and his son Dean has assumed control of the family sports enterprise. Though he still backs Republican causes — including the recently ended presidential campaign of Texas governor Rick Perry and the PAC of congressman Darrell Issa — the younger Spanos is looking to maximize the value of his football team. In Los Angeles, that means wheeling and dealing with wealthy Democrats, among them Iger.

Campaign filings show that the Disney chieftain has so far this year given a total of $37,700 to Democrats, including $25,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and $2700 to the Hillary for America committee. During the previous campaign fundraising cycle, he kicked in $5000 for New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker’s senate race and $50,000 to the House Senate Victory Fund, which, combined with related contributions, brought the liberal mega-donor’s total to $149,000. In January of last year Iger and his wife, Willow Bay, an ex-model and TV reporter who is now director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, hosted a 2016 reelection fundraiser for Vermont senator Patrick Leahy.

“Fundraising early for favorite candidates has become a common practice among Hollywood studio chiefs,” said the Hollywood Reporter. “They figure an early show of force will scare off challengers.”

What to do with Qualcomm Stadium post-Chargers?

Hipsters are the perfect group to repurpose the ex-Murph

November 4, 2015 — DJ Stevens

Dear Hipster:

I am not a huge football fan. I will probably watch the Thanksgiving game, but only if someone else puts it on, and then only if I’m not already sleeping off my tryptophan coma in another room. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but notice the traffic jam caused by last weekend’s Oakland game, and it got me thinking, what will we do with Qualcomm Stadium if the Chargers leave town?? Knowing how creative you hipsters are with repurposing otherwise useless junk, I leave it in your capable, DIY hands to brainstorm the ultimate answer.

— Henry, Kensington

OMG. The ultimate answer!? Such responsibility! I feel like I need to consult with my hipster peers on this one, so I’ll be accepting applications through Thanksgiving for future members of the Hipster Qualcomm Reclamation Board (or the HQRB for short, and there will be six associate members, with yours truly acting as a first-among-equals chairman and seventh vote to avoid unseemly ties). Readers are encouraged to please send a personal statement (at least one complete sentence, and not to exceed 300 words) detailing your commitment to hipster values; along with a headshot or suitable Instagram photo of your legs on a beach, a sunset, cliffside yoga session, or really anything else that gives me a sense of how genuine you are.

Applications can be emailed directly to, otherwise calligraphed on paper made from not less than 80% reclaimed cotton fiber and sent to the San Diego Reader offices by bicycle messenger.

Even without a suitable committee to help me flesh out ideas, the possibilities for an unused Qualcomm are endless, especially after the Aztecs’ contract to play there expires in 2018.

Perhaps the most obvious plan of action would be constructing a 250m, Olympic-caliber velodrome within the Colosseumesque husk of the football stadium. That way, Tuesday Night Racing at the velodrome in Morley Field — ostensibly the most hipster-friendly spectator sport in town — could transcend its 200-person viewing limit. I see no obstacles to 70,000-strong crowds other than an entrenched bias against hipster sports.

Then again, how easy would it be to fill the stadium with multi-colored plastic balls? All right, it probably wouldn’t be that easy, but still…. The Guinness record for “world’s biggest ball pit” is, as far as I know, still held by a Chinese company who built a 15,000-square-foot ball pit in an ice arena. A regulation NFL football field is roughly 57,000 square feet, so clinching the record shouldn’t be a big deal. The rest of the stadium could be converted into luxury hotels, with their attendant slides down into the ball pit, for vacationers seeking a stress-reducing frolic in the new world’s biggest ball pit at the San Diego Hipsterdome.

Craft brewing hall of fame? Urban lumberjack center? A tiny, miniaturized Portland where San Diego’s hipster community (the non-hip will also be tolerated) can gather and experience Pacific NW life without having to actually “pull a Chargers” and move away from San Diego?

I could go on, but if I tip my hand too soon, Mission Valley’s notorious anti-hipster NIMBY brigade (which I’m sure exists) will be able to muster its stalwart defenses. The complete HQRB can curry favor with certain city-hall dignitaries, but only if we’re not thwarted before we begin.

The NFL will lie to you. Anytime. Anywhere.

Dog-and-pony show reeks of NFL ego

October 28, 2015 — Patrick Daugherty

Listen up. The NFL will host, “San Diego Chargers Public Hearing on Potential Relocation” on Wednesday, October 28, from 7 to 10 p.m.”

Which is hilarious.

The event will be produced at the Spreckels Theatre (121 Broadway) and is open to the public, sort of. It will also be livestreamed at

The NFL has gotten rich, rich, rich off of gouging the public. They gouge their fans from every conceivable angle, starting with the many hundreds of millions of dollars in stadium subsidies, infrastructure improvements, on down to ticket prices, season-ticket prices, personal seat licenses, parking fees, $10 beer, and way, way, all the way down to 14 NFL franchises billing the Defense Department $5.4 million as payment for staging patriotic events honoring U.S. troops in their stadiums. Breaking new ground here. The NFL is as rapacious as, say, Goldman Sachs.

But even Goldman Sachs doesn’t extort the nation’s largest cities in public. Demanding, and getting, the dumb public to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars like it’s some kind of pro football tithe is regarded as routine. If you think these thugs will give the slightest consideration to the opinions of San Diego Chargers fans, Bernie Madoff wants to talk to you.

Wednesday’s dog-and-pony show reeks of NFL ego and manipulation. In other words, it’s business-as-usual. This very much like hiring ex-FBI director Robert Mueller and having him conduct an “independent investigation,” overseen by two NFL owners, on the NFL’s handling of woman-beater Ray Rice. Mueller produced a laughable report whitewashing the NFL and commissioner Goodell. Repeat with Deflategate.

And now we have the following: according to the NFL, “The purpose of these hearings is to provide an opportunity for fans and others in the community to ask questions and express their views directly to the NFL before any decisions are made about potential relocation of a club or clubs from a current market.”

The NFL has learned that it doesn’t have to be believable, and this Chargers relocation show surely isn’t. What it is, is insulting and self-serving, but that, it turns out, is more than enough to get by.

One wonders... Who are Chargers fans going to express their opinions to? Nobody from the House of Spanos will be there. Goodell won’t be there. No owner from the NFL’s six-member Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities will be there. No president of CBS Sports, NBC Sports, FOX Sports, or ESPN, much less DraftKings, will be there. Instead, “...members of Commissioner Goodell’s executive staff will be in attendance to listen to comments and answer questions from the audience.”

How many hirelings are on Goodell’s executive staff? What do executive staff members do when they’re not listening to Chargers fans bitch about their team’s possible relocation? After the meeting will these executive staff members race back to the NFL offices in New York, storm into Goodell’s office, pound their fists on his desk and shout, “Listen up, Buster, San Diego fans don’t want their team to move!”?

You cannot find a bottom to NFL arrogance.

The NFL says, “The hearings are open to the public and a free entry pass is required to attend. Pre-registration to request an entry pass begins tomorrow....

“Entry passes will be reserved for season ticket members of each team on a first-come, first-serve basis. Members of the community who are not season ticket members will also have the opportunity to request an entry pass on a first-come, first-serve basis....

“Those interested in pre-registering to request an entry pass should visit the appropriate web page listed below.”

Okay, I went to the page and signed up. I’m pleased to report, “Audience members who have the opportunity to provide comments will be allotted three minutes in order to enable as many people as possible to have their voice heard.”

So, if I have this right, a civilian, a normal person who watches Chargers games on TV, would have to pre-register in order to obtain the privilege of requesting an entry pass. If his privilege is granted, that is, if he is allowed to request an entry pass, and if, after requesting an entry pass he actually is awarded an entry pass, the fan will get an e-mail with a barcode. Fan must carry barcode on his person in order to enter dog-and-pony show. The NFL may “...refuse admission to, or eject, any entry pass holder who is deemed to be disorderly...”

We don’t know who deems malcontents to be disorderly, or what standards deemer employs to judge deemee’s behavior. We do know the NFL will happily lie to you. Anytime. Anywhere.

Gate(s)way to excitement!

Star tight end's first game of 2015 heralds team's return to form

October 23, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Comment by Dick Danepa, special to SD on the QT

Forget about the wins. They're going to come in a Chargers season. When you've got a quarterback like Philip Rivers, that's a simple fact: there will be wins. Just enough to make you wonder. Sometimes enough to sneak into the playoffs. Never enough to bring home the trophy, of course. But that's okay. This isn't about the wins. And it isn't about Philip Rivers.

This is about Antonio Gates. And it's about the losses. Antonio Gates sat out the first four games of the 2015 season. Suspended. For using a banned substance. During that time, the Chargers won two games. They also lost two: a 31-14 stomping from the Minnesota Vikings, and a 24-19 disappointment at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, they hurt — when you've only got 17 games, every loss looms large. But they weren't real Chargers losses. The kind that break your heart, then kick your teeth in for good measure. The Bengals game wasn't as close as it looked. As soon as Keenan fumbled that punt on Cincinnati's opening drive, you knew how things were going to end. Rivers' 4th-quarter interception was written on the wind.

But then Gates came back. And boy, did he bring the heartbreak. He lit up the Steelers for two scores, so that Le'Veon Bell had to bull his way to the end zone in the final seconds in order to beat us. And even that bit of bad juju relied on a stellar set-up run from Michael Vick. Up until then, Vick seemed to have forgotten he was a quarterback, let alone one of the most mobile in the league. Suddenly, we knew: Gates was back. And so were the losses.

We knew, but just in case we didn't, we had the following week against the Packers. Rivers threw the game of his life. Over 500 yards. And on that final drive, with under two minutes to play, who was there to make a one-handed grab and move things downfield? That's right: Antonio Gates. Thrilling. But also telling. Because we knew what was coming, even before it came: a batted pass with 15 seconds left to kill our hopes. Just like always. A classic Chargers crusher.

Welcome back, Antonio. We lose with you, but we're lost without you.

Mayor Faulconer accuses Chargers of failing to give city's stadium proposal due consideration


August 23, 2015 — Walter Mencken

"The City of San Diego has acted in good faith with the San Diego Chargers," cried Mayor Faulconer at today's press conference, his plastic bib flopping about as he flailed his arms. "We sped up the environmental impact report and the funding proposal, just to meet their arbitrary timeline. We offered tax-based incentives that would make the Koch brothers blush. We sat up and begged like good little doggies. We let USC come in and eat UCSD's funding lunch on Alzheimer's research, just to placate the pro-L.A. crowd. But despite all that, the organization continues to press forward with its Carson proposal. It's outrageous, I tell you! And I won't stand for it very much longer!" At that point, Faulconer put his oversized pacifier back into his mouth and sucked angrily, while City Attorney Jan Goldsmith uttered a stream of unintelligible quacking sounds.

Heading to Carson? Check out these hot spots

August 19, 2015 — Patrick Daugherty

Here is your invitation to join the San Diego Chargers in their new home city, 19 square miles of paradise, Carson, California! Clap your hands and give a big shout-out to 91,000 sports-loving Carsonites who would like nothing better than to make your visit unforgettable.

From Qualcomm Stadium it’s an easy-peasy 113 traffic-free miles up the I-5/405 to Carson. You already waste two hours a day driving to work and back, so don’t bitch about a leisurely motor trip up the glorious California coast a lousy eight times a year.

Put the gun down.

Okay, all right, no driving, got it. But that need not be an impediment. The new Chargers home city is only 14 miles from LAX. Ring up Carson Helicopter Charters (CHC) and reserve your executive charter chopper for the season. Know this: CHC and its affiliates “can provide discreet private charters for political figures, lawmakers, corporate executives, and celebrities with your flight details kept completely confidential without drawing the paparazzi’s attention.”

This is so important when attending a Bolts game, because celebrities, movie stars, sports stars, tycoons, TV stars, podcast stars, roller-derby stars, video-game stars, and people who eat insects always attend Chargers games. Paparazzi overload is guaranteed.

After you thrill to a Chargers game, why not stay on for a magical evening out? lists four things to do in Carson. Number one is to visit Home Depot Center. “A nice venue” writes a July 2015 reviewer. Sadly, Home Depot Center is no longer Home Depot Center, it is StubHub Center; the switch took place in June 2013. Yes, money changed hands, but in the excitement it’s no wonder our reviewer was confused.

Home Depot/StubHub not your cup of tea? Okay, here’s the number-two thing to do in Carson — Go Kart World!

Too sporty? Check number three, the International Printing Museum. “Enchanting,” writes the last reviewer (November 2013). “It is completely invisible, found by address only.”

After a long day at a museum you’ll be ready for some rowdy nightlife. No problem there — the number-four thing to do in Carson has no reviewers, so I’m assuming this listing was chosen by unanimous vote. Go ahead, Chargers fan, and get down with your bad self at the Suave Nightclub.

Over at, the Suave has been transformed, or, at least, shares the same address with SOL Venue. “Featuring live music, SOL Venue is a club and lounge that serves specialty mixed drinks. The stage has a dance area in front of it for its patrons. Touring bands and DJs often perform here.”

Don’t, by any means, overlook Blue Zoo Aquatics. “Aquarium enthusiasts from all over the country go to Blue Zoo Aquatics to furnish the homes of their fish. The store offers items such as cultured coral, colored mushrooms, sea slugs, and a variety of polyps.”

Go for the polyps, stay for the sea slugs! Count me in!

The Chargers or their paid mouthpiece or a blogger or the guy at the bar — somebody — said one-third of current Chargers season-ticket owners will drive to Carson. I have no doubt that’s true; therefore, the Box considers it a public duty to arm these loyalists with a Carson fun itinerary.

Follows is a list of hot spots known only to longtime residents, entertainment opportunities that drive-throughs and out-of-towners like you would never find.

IHOP, 21716 Avalon Boulevard, open 24 hours Friday and Saturday. Jack in the Box at 939 East Carson. McDonald’s, 21830 South Avalon Boulevard. Starbucks, 20810 South Avalon Boulevard. Subway, 880 East Carson. Chuck E Cheese’s, Denny’s, Jack in the Box 2, McDonald’s 2, Pizza Hut, Sizzler, and so much more.

If you are one of the many who have wondered all your life where California State University Dominguez Hills is, wonder no more. Carson is its home. Fun facts about CSDH include famous alumni, particularly, as noted on their web page, “Rodney Allen Rippy (BS, ’95), actor, best known as boy in Jack in the Box commercial in the ’70s.” The university shares its campus with a professional soccer team, the L.A. Galaxy, and yet, in the midst of all this action, finds room to sport a 4 percent four-year graduation rate.

Fun facts about Carson: according to, “About half of its land is taken up by factories, refineries, and other industrial structures.” “Real Estate Made Easy,” says Carson is the tenth most boring city in California. I would quibble with that, but when one looks at the top five (Lakewood, Lancaster, West Covina, Victorville, Merced), you have to admit the competition is first-rate.

P.S. Don’t forget to visit the Goodyear Blimp landing pad.

<em>U-T</em> finally concedes what everybody knows

Chargers prefer Los Angeles

August 9, 2015 — Don Bauder

The Union-Tribune this morning (August 9) conceded on its editorial page something all but the most rabid Chargers fans already know: the team wants to get to Los Angeles, and its highly publicized attempts to find a home in San Diego were never credible. There is nothing San Diego can say to the National Football League (NFL) tomorrow (August 10) to keep the team in San Diego.

Jill Lieber Steeg, a distinguished writer and wife of Jim Steeg, former National Football League and Chargers executive, states the obvious: the Chargers desperately want to move to Los Angeles. Further, she states something that was only obvious to a few people: "For the past decade or so, the Chargers have talked about nine stadium 'concepts' [in San Diego] but none of them were full-blown proposals with legitimate financing plans and completed environmental studies. The Chargers never saw any of the nine through to fruition. All were dropped, tossed to the side or outright abandoned by the team, but always blamed on other people or things."

When the Chargers tell the league they have been rebuffed in efforts to find a home in San Diego, they will be telling a fat fib.

Steeg doesn't mention it, but through those years, Chargers critic Bruce Henderson was stating that these phony stadium proposals were "intellectually insulting."

On October 4, 2002, my column in the Union-Tribune stated, "The Chargers are going down two tracks. They would like to move to the lucrative Los Angeles market if the opportunity arises, but if it doesn't, they want to get a new stadium commitment from San Diego." I have stressed that position ever since, in the U-T and the Reader.

Steeg also points out something that Henderson has been saying for some time: the Chargers tried to strike a deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group, which at the time wanted to build a stadium in downtown L.A. The deal would have been "in exchange for a portion of the team ownership. The Spanos family reportedly balked at at the ownership stake AEG demanded."

This brings up something I have been emphasizing. It is likely that the Chargers will have to sell themselves — or part of the team — to get to L.A. Steeg brings up another possibility: going deep into debt — supposedly worth it financially because the value of the team would triple. (I would argue the value would double, not triple. Also, the Spanos family is in a highly-leveraged business, real estate. It may not be able to take on that much more debt. The patriarch, in his 90s, has serious dementia. His wife may not want to sell part of the team while her husband is alive. There are a lot of children and grandchildren. Would they approve of a huge debt burden?)

Steeg ends up telling San Diego that "if you continue to stay focused on the end goal of building a new stadium, the NFL may one day give you another look." She seems to be saying that San Diego should do what St. Louis and Tampa Bay did: build the stadium without a team to play in it. I can't think of worse advice.

Jim Steeg, the husband of Jill Lieber Steeg, worked for the NFL for 35 years and the Chargers for six years. Was Jim Steeg looking over his wife's shoulder when she penned this piece? Was she doing it at the direction of the Chargers? We don't know. We do know that most of her points are sound ones.

Fat arena subsidy good news for Qualcomm chief

Sacramento billboard law "carve-outs" to keep Kings ruled legal by judge

July 27, 2015 — Matt Potter

If Kevin Faulconer's Mission Valley stadium environmental impact report case ever gets to court, the mayor may want to consider having it heard in Sacramento.

Those still following the Republican's tortured struggle with the Chargers to keep the football team in town will know that team special counsel Mark Fabiani doesn't think much of Faulconer's plan to run a $2.1 million environmental quick play.

Paid for by funds from the city’s already-stretched public kitty, the costly environmental assessment is the mayor's key pawn in a hurry-up plan to spend millions more in taxpayer money to build a new home for the NFL at the present Qualcomm site.

“The Chargers will have no part in the city’s misbegotten, doomed legal strategy,” Fabiani told the L.A. Times last week. “And if the Chargers aren’t participating, why are some politicians proposing to waste the taxpayers’ money?”

As if on cue, a 34-page letter dated July 20 arrived at city hall from Douglas Carstens of the Hermosa Beach law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens LLP.

"We write to express our concern about, and objections to, the process that appears to be taking shape for hasty approval of a football stadium and associated mixed use development in Mission Valley that would involve demolition of the historic Qualcomm Stadium (formerly San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium)," the missive begins.

"The stadium, designed by Gary Allen, is one of the last remaining mid-century multi-purpose stadiums left in the United States."

The letter goes on to call out a number of what it says are numerous legal omissions in the city's so-called notice of preparation of the environmental review, and provides a lengthy list of environmental concerns, including the site's well-known record of wet-year inundations.

"Will flood control infrastructure be required to protect the site from flooding, and if so, what are the implications for other issues areas (biological resources, visual resources, etc.)?"

Adds Carstens, "We helped oppose special exemptions for football stadium proposals in the Cities of Industry and Los Angeles (Farmers Field), and continue to be opposed to public agencies providing special treatment or unique processes for sports stadiums."

Meanwhile, as the GOP mayor of San Diego twists slowly in the legal wind, Sacramento's basketball team — a big chunk of which is owned by the children of La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs — has just beaten back a court challenge to its arena deal with the city.

As reported here last month, Sacramento and the Kings operation, of which Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs and his wealthy brothers Jeff and Hal are vice chairmen, were hit by a lawsuit asserting that a giveaway of billboard rights by the city to secretly subsidize the team was illegal.

"In total, the plaintiffs’ group estimates the city gave the Kings up to $200 million more in value than the publicized $255 million investment," reported the Sacramento Bee..

"The legal carve-out allows the Kings to offer team sponsors prime advertising space in front of hundreds of thousands of eyes daily on freeways throughout the city," according to a May 15, 2014, Bee story.

On July 24, superior court judge Timothy Frawley held that the billboard deal wasn't really a subsidy as alleged, and ruled it legal.

“To the Kings, the additional value might be used to ensure the long-term viability of the team,” said Frawley's ruling, according to the Sacramento Business Journal.

“But the City didn’t provide additional value to subsidize the team; it provided it to make the Arena deal happen.”

Fate of Chargers predicted

Worst case: they fail to relocate and have to return home

July 12, 2015 — Don Bauder

Sam Farmer, who has followed the NFL drama in Los Angeles for the LA Times, has some predictions in today's (July 12) edition. Writes Farmer, "Think of L.A. as a game of musical chairs, with three participants [St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders] and a maximum of two chairs. The worst-case scenario for the league would be to have one of those three teams lose a vote and be forced to return to a city it tried to leave."

I have been saying this about the Chargers, and now Farmer says it about the Rams and Raiders, too. The teams hoping to leave have already created enough ill will that it might be fatal for the prodigal sons to return. Farmer doesn't say this, but I suspect that sales of teams, or a large percentage of teams, might be one way to mitigate local hostility for a team failing to get to L.A. In the case of the Chargers, I suspect that a sale may also be necessary to get to L.A.

Farmer makes some predictions. There will be no major developments at the August 11 NFL meeting, he says. The NFL will have signed leases with one or two temporary stadiums by the end of the year, Farmer says. The Chargers quietly "got far down the road" in negotiating with the L.A. Coliseum last year, Farmer says.

If the Chargers return to San Diego they might play two games a year in London, Farmer writes.

He also predicts the NFL will begin counting potential L.A. season-ticket holders this fall, and possibly take refundable deposits on season tickets. He thinks the NFL will start having serious civic meetings in San Diego, St. Louis, and Oakland "in the coming months."

Meanwhile, comedian John Oliver has done a satire on billionaires getting the public to pay for stadiums.

Do secret Jacobs subsidies presage Chargers deal?

Sons of La Jolla's Qualcomm billionaire benefit from Sacramento billboard giveaways

June 23, 2015 — Matt Potter

As San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and county supervisor Ron Roberts run up the public's tab in their frantic bid to keep the Chargers in San Diego, a trial in Sacramento is revealing the kind of massive hidden costs taxpayers here may ultimately find themselves on the hook for.

The Republican mayor began his campaign of back-door public subsidies to the new stadium effort in January by announcing that his so-called Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group, populated with key Faulconer political donors, would not require any tax money, and therefore could conduct its business behind closed doors, keeping the public in the dark about its doings.

The shadowy arrangement drew the attention of, among others, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani, who questioned the role of lobbyist Jason Roe, a private political consultant to Faulconer, in the group's decisions.

"What legal and ethical issues are raised by Mr. Roe's dual role as an apparent de facto Task Force member and as a registered lobbyist for the Delaware North company, which is bidding to become the new concessionaire at Qualcomm Stadium and, potentially, at any new stadium in San Diego?" he wrote in a February 17 letter to Faulconer.

Backers argued that Roe was contributing his services to the task force free of charge, and hence was actually benefiting the public, but Fabiani had another take.

"Putting the legal and ethical issues aside for a moment, what sense does it make to have someone who is your chief advisor on political matters, and who advises a potential stadium vendor on business matters, play any sort of role with the 'independent' Task Force?"

Faulconer’s no-tax-money pledge ended in April with the announcement by the mayor and county supervisor Roberts that they would require $500,000 in public funds to hire a gaggle of lawyers and consultants to carry on their crusade.

Matt Awbrey, a Faulconer PR aide, maintained that the infusion of public funding did not represent a flip-flop by the mayor because the hired hands "do not report to the Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group. These experts will vet the financial recommendations the group makes when they are released in May."

This Tuesday, the city's legal team was reportedly in New York pitching the NFL on Faulconer's plan to run a hurry-up environmental analysis prior to calling a quickie public vote sometime in December or January, an approach earlier rejected by Fabiani.

Meantime, in Sacramento, officials are being questioned about that city's Kings basketball arena, set to cost the public at least $255 million, and maybe much more, reports the Sacramento Bee.

A group of citizens has sued the city, charging that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and staff concealed the true cost to taxpayers of the arena, including parking and the giveaway of coveted rights to build six giant digital billboards alongside local freeways.

"The plaintiffs contend the city quietly and fraudulently added those assets and others as deal sweeteners to compensate the Kings’ investor group for overpaying for the team," according to the Bee’s account.

"In total, the plaintiffs’ group estimates the city gave the Kings up to $200 million more in value than the publicized $255 million investment."

Last year, Sacramento changed its billboard ordinance to accommodate the sign portion of the giveaway.

"The legal carve-out allows the Kings to offer team sponsors prime advertising space in front of hundreds of thousands of eyes daily on freeways throughout the city," noted a May 15, 2014, story in the Bee.

"City leaders said the city is not abandoning its efforts to keep a lid on the number of billboards in the city," the report continued. "The city ordinance will continue to require other companies to take down at least one billboard for every new billboard."

With the Kings’ arena scheduled for completion in October of next year, most observers believe it's unlikely the case against Sacramento Democrat Johnson will significantly disrupt the project, key financial beneficiaries of which are the three sons of La Jolla's Qualcomm billionaire and Democratic funder Irwin Jacobs.

As reported here in May 2013, Qualcomm chairman Paul Jacobs and his wealthy brothers Jeff and Hal acquired a big chunk of the team in a group headed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vivek Ranadivé.

The new Kings owners then funded a political action committee that hired none other than Chris Lehane, the longtime business partner of the Chargers’ Fabiani, to head off a referendum drive to put the proposed basketball arena on the ballot.

Superior court judge Timothy Frawley, who is also hearing the current case against the arena subsidy, held in February 2014 that the petition had not been properly drafted and struck down the election effort.

The Faulcon can absolutely hear the Faulconer

And the center, Chris Watt, can most certainly hold

June 12, 2015 — Walter Mencken

What was expected to be a standard meeting of the San Diego City Council on Monday, June 8, took a turn for the dramatic when Mayor Faulconer made an unscheduled appearance and statement regarding his negotiations with the San Diego Chargers to build a new stadium and to keep the team in San Diego. Reportedly wild-eyed and unkempt, the normally composed Mayor waved his arms and hopped up and down as he shouted his address to the Council:

"I, Faulconer, beheld a great serpent, and its name was Spanos, and such was its length that while its head was still in San Diego, its tail stretched north to the city of Carson, where it dug into the soil and held fast to the promise of the land. And when the serpent beheld the wealth of all the cities of the earth, presented as an offering, it opened up its jaws and swallowed whole the LArgest pile, and forgot the city of its youth and the expansion of its dwelling in the bowls of the earth. And all the people tore their jerseys and covered themselves with blue bodypaint and cried out, 'Save our bolts! Preserve them in this place, lest we become a byword among the cities of the earth, a desolate place where the Rivers no longer runs, or even passes.' And lo, even as the serpent turned to slither into the fetid north, a great bird, a falcon of surpassing cunning and power, descended from the sky and snatched up the serpent and carried it aloft. The serpent writhed and twisted in the wind, and called out to the League of National Footballs for deliverance, but the falcon would not surrender. It carried the serpent to the Charger place, and ensnared it in the lines of power. Whereupon it burst into flames and was consumed, scorching all the land about the place, so that nothing good remained. I, Faulconer, have seen these things. Take heed, O Spanos!"

Amazingly, the very next day, June 9th, a bird with a snake in its talons flew into a Sorrento Valley power line and sparked a four-acre blaze.

Speaking from his ivory tower at the top of the Geisel Library at UCSD, Professor of Old-Timey Things Arthur C. Codswallup offered this perspective on the remarkable event.

"The image of a bird with a snake has been associated with prophecy ever since the ancient Greeks. In Homer's epic poem The Iliad, an eagle appears in the sky with a snake in its talons just before the Trojan army is supposed to attack the Achaeans. The prophet Polydamas interprets the sight as an evil portent, warning the Trojan champion Hector that he should call off his plan to move his troops. Hector ignores the warning, and ultimately pays for the mistake with his life. I hate football, and I don't even own a television, but I have to side with the Mayor on this one. Together with his highly significant name, the fact that the fire was caused by the bird's collision with electrical lines, lines which carry an electrical charge — as in Charger — seems too fitting to ignore."

Not everyone was convinced, however.

"Bah!" snorted former mayor Bob Filner from his filthy underground mudhole. "The party of bastards has been using religious hogwash to influence the masses since God was a nonexistent boy. This is about money, pure and simple — the stuff Jesus said to render unto Caesar. Faulconer doesn't have enough liquidity to just buy the team's loyalty outright, and so he wants the people to back his play through an election. And if you want the great unwashed on your team, you better make sure you've got Jesus on your side. Or the divine birdy or whatever."

(Faulconer has in fact stated that the City is prepared to hold a special election in December 2015 to seek voter approval for a new stadium.)

Personal seat licenses explained

CSAG report outlines benefits of costly new season-ticket feature

June 1, 2015 — Walter Mencken

From CSAG Stadium Report Appendix C: Personal Seat Licenses

Look, it's not complicated. You want to buy a season ticket. But so does some other schnook. You buy a PSL, you get the option to buy the ticket, and the other guy has to wait and see. Plus, we'll make sure that your seat gets taken care of. Things happen to seats, you know? Hinges break, birds poop on 'em,…things. This way, you don't have to worry. And you don't have to pay it all up front. You can take care of it in monthly installments. We'll even send a guy 'round to pick up the dough. Cash is good. But don't get any funny ideas about backing out, okay? It's hard to cheer for the Chargers with your jaw wired shut, or so I'm told.

Famed architect unveils design for new Chargers venue


May 31, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Dan Meis, FAIA, founder of MEIS Stadium Planning, Construction, and Renovation, Inc.:

"San Diego is not a ponderous monument to America's industrial glory days, like Cincinatti. There, I build a stadium solid enough to withstand my own renovation efforts, just 15 years after it opened. Nor is San Diego a glorious supercity like Los Angeles, where I built the Staples Center as a monument to the idea that sports are essentially show business. No, San Diego is a fragile collection of largely unrelated segments, held together by only the flimsiest threads of geographical proximity and fondness for tacos and sunshine. I needed a design that reflected that fragile, almost gossamer sense of connection. I found it in the support system for the stadium's roof canopy: a network of cables that work together almost invisibly to keep everyone in relative comfort. It's not a masterpiece or anything, but then, this is San Diego. Who would know if it was?"

Are you a Chargers fan?

Take this simple quiz to find out!

May 29, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Question one (of one): What is your reaction to this post on the Facebook group page, "You Know You're a Chargers Fan When"?

a) Beleaguered, miserable acceptance

b) Blind, bloodthirsty rage

c) Bleary resignation

d) Bizarre hopefulness

If you answered a, c, or d, congratulations! You're a true Chargers fan! If you answered b, shame on you. You're a provincial fan of the city where you live, not a bold and brave devotee of the team that has brought you so much excitement and passion over the past 54 years. It's not surprising to find such a fair-weather fan in a town known for its mild climate. But seriously, the Bolts are better off without you.

Quiz brought to you by Spanos Research Council, Inc.

Chargers camp urges promises "thorough examination" of CSAG report

"Just let us savor the moment for a bit, okay?"

May 23, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Chargers' head of business affairs A. G. Spanos:

We are grateful to San Diego's Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group for putting in the extra effort required to get us a report by our arbitrarily shortened deadline. It shows good faith. Now we want to return the favor by taking a long and careful look at their proposal for a new stadium in San Diego. It's too early to make any kind of official statement, but I will say this: my initial impressions are extremely positive. I mean, this shit is high-larious. Just one example: under "revenue streams," we read that "In San Diego, the stadium would be expected to host: …Monster Truck Jams…Rodeos…Film showings…Bar Mitzvahs.'" That last one is what makes it perfect. I can't wait to take a closer look. Bar Mitzvahs!

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