Chargers must win us back before winning any election

September 3, 2016 GMT

The Chargers aren’t going anywhere.


The thinking person – including many in and around the NFL – has surmised almost beyond a reasonable doubt that the league doesn’t want the Chargers in Los Angeles. And we know without qualification the NFL is desirous of remaining in San Diego. We can even allow ourselves to believe that the Chargers are wholly back on board with America’s Finest City as their only option.

Already, some civic leaders are brainstorming what the next step is after the presumptive defeat of the Chargers stadium initiative in November.

So we’re out from under the cloud of relocation for the foreseeable future.

The immediate challenge for the Chargers is making us care.

The team we have adored in spite of its perennial flaws, the franchise we have loved despite it not loving us back, has wrung almost every drop of affection from the good folks of San Diego.

It’s gotten that bad.

And we figured a year ago was the worst of times.

We thought we might be watching the last of San Diego Chargers football in 2015.

The threat of the team moving hung stinking in our air like Los Angeles smog. It was difficult to find anyone who’d lived in our fine town for an extended period who didn’t dread the possibility of losing our favored team.

Then it got worse.

In part, that is because it got real. Actually watching the team’s owner trying to move, having him talk so glowingly of a toxic waste dump and belittle his adopted hometown, was more sickening and heart-wrenching than we imagined.

And 4-12 didn’t help. Trying to leave while losing 10 of their final 12 games was actually about as worst-case as it could get. If there were a door on the I-5, maybe somewhere just past Camp Pendleton, plenty of people wouldn’t have minded if it hit the Chargers’ moving van on its rear bumper.

Now, another autumn of uncertainty looms. Los Angeles’ specter is much, much dimmer. This season, it is a looming election that will share virtually every thought about this team.

And the actual team? We think it is better. How could it not be? Its record last year tied for the fourth-worst in the franchise’s 57-year history. The Chargers have been bad more than they have been good, but just seven times before had a Chargers team had as bad a record as the ’15 version did.

It will be easier for Philip Rivers to lead the Chargers to 10 wins than for Dean Spanos to win us back.

Thankfully, the latter would greatly benefit from the former.

It is difficult to find someone who isn’t burned out on the Bolts, fed up with the stadium saga and all its incumbent bickering and double-speak. Certainly, the faithful remain. But it is alarmingly easy to find those who don’t care whether the Chargers stay or go.

Worse than hate is indifference.

The Chargers can only hope people remain angry at them, because that is fixable.

Winning is an opiate. It will bring people to the stadium ready to cheer for the Chargers and to the polling places ready to vote “yes” on the Chargers stadium initiative.

The Chargers can do that if the offensive line doesn’t need constant introductions and Melvin Gordon finds the end zone far more times than his zero so far and the defense actually gets in the way of someone and maybe takes the ball away from time to time.

The team has done its best to stoke the fury.

Seriously, the Chargers’ approval rating is so bad that scores of people who await a paycheck to be able to afford the kids’ back-to-school clothes have sided with Joey Bosa – a 21-year-old who declined to report to training camp because he doesn’t want to wait 2½ months for the final $6 million or so of his $17 million signing bonus. That’s not empathy. That’s pure abhorrence.

Basically, the Chargers can do no right in the eyes of so many who used to think they could do no wrong.

The only thing that will wash away the bitter taste of rejection is winning. The Chargers know this. They’ve acknowledged it. A stadium isn’t getting built without several hundred million dollars and incalculable passion of people dressed in blue and gold.

A playoff push this season may not be enough to salvage this November’s try for public money. But it will be a good restart for whatever future San Diego and its team have together.

Not just good. Necessary. To make us care again.