Monday, December 22, 2008

For San Diego, It's Mission Impossible

A Graveyard of Expectations

This is a sp sp spor spor sports story. But not to worry, political junkies. It's also a story about a town in search of redeeming values. The San Diego Chargers are the epitome of the city they represent.

They tease you with their talent. But fall on their face when it counts.

Sunday's win in Tampa Bay coupled with a Denver loss to Buffalo allows the Chargers to once again reach the impossible dream. By beating the Broncos in San Diego next Sunday night on national television, the Chargers would win the American Western Conference title and make the National Football League playoffs. They would arrive there with an 8-8 record, tied for second worst in playoff history.

No one gives them much of a chance except die-hard Charger fans in a town with lofty goals, beautiful weather and a graveyard of dead expectations. San Diego the city is a perennial bridesmaid but never a bride.

It still clings to "America's Finest City" title it won nearly a half-century ago but its economy and leadership since has been nothing more than a ride on the old Ocean Beach rollercoaster.

Time Magazine once dubbed it "Bust Town, U.S.A." At one time it had a local bank go under in the largest bank failure in U.S. history. A La Jolla investor bilked millions in a Ponzi scheme unmatched until the recent Maddof scam estimated at $50 billion in New York City. Residents have seen their city and county elected officials jailed and convicted on penny ante corruption charges.

Today, unemployment in the county is 18% and San Diego's neighbor to the south, Chula Vista, has one of the highest mortgage default rates in the nation. Little wonder the populace seeks redemption in their sports teams. But only those seniors over the age of 55 can remember championship teams.

They Stunk Up The Joint

The Chargers won the old American Football League championship in the days before the merger with the NFL. They have been to the Super Bowl once since then. And, lost.
The Padres since their inception in 1969 have been to the World Series twice. And, lost. Both times. There was a time under coach Don Coryell the San Diego State Aztecs were a small college powerhouse, beating teams regularly by 40-point margins. They outdrew the Chargers in attendance. But that was 30 years ago.

San Diego had two National Basketball Association teams. The Rockets moved to Houston. The Clippers relocated to Los Angeles.

Entering the 2008 season, the Chargers were considered one of the NFL's best teams and considered by more than just San Diego scribes to reach the Super Bowl. All they were good at was losing by one to four points to six of the teams that beat them. They still stunk up the joint, as the great columnist Nick Canepa wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribune, which, by the way, is up for sale before it goes broke.

So it is with much trepidation the team is teasing its denizens with the chance of glory. Even the diehards recognize failure is in its grasp.

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