I am a San Diegan born and raised. Not one of those transplant San Diegans who moved to the city because of the military, a job opportunity, the magnificent weather or simply because San Diego is truly “America’s Finest City.”
Since I was born and raised here, it is only right to support my hometown teams. The Padres have been my favorite Major League Baseball team as far back as I can remember, the San Diego State Aztecs, which I am an alum of, is my favorite collegiate team in all college sports, and when the San Diego Gulls were in town, I remember I would occasionally go to their games and cheer on the only team in San Diego to actually hoist a championship trophy.
But when it comes to the National Football League, it is all about the Purple and Gold. That’s right, I am a Minnesota Vikings fan!
Wait. What? Did I just say the Minnesota Vikings? Yes, I did.
But what happened to the San Diego Chargers? I will get to that here in a minute.
Growing up I barely remember rooting for the Chargers. That magical year of 1994 is a figment of my imagination. I think I was like 8 or 9 when the Charger fans enjoyed the Bobby Ross era. Yes, I did root for that 1994 Chargers team, and it was fun rooting them on. The image of Dennis Gibson lunging to block a 4th down pass from Neil O’ Donnell of the Pittsburgh Steelers to send the Chargers into Super Bowl XXIX is a memory I’ll never forget.
Then in my teenage years something weird happened. I started paying attention more to football. Baseball is and will always be my favorite sport, but my dream job as a teenager was playing wide receiver in the NFL. Little did I know at the time, I wasn’t any good at football or any sport for that matter.
As I started paying more attention to the NFL, the Chargers were in a rebuilding year. They had just drafted LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. Mike Riley was just ending his tenure as the Chargers head coach. While both Tomlinson and Brees would eventually go on to be NFL stars, it took both players a while to get used to the professional game. During this time the Chargers stunk up the joint.
From what I remember the Chargers were blacked out on television a lot of times. So I started losing interest in the team. I was about 15 years-old at that time. When I was starting to become a football/Chargers fan was when I had the plug pulled on me. The Chargers as they do now, couldn’t sell out Qualcomm stadium and I was forced to watch other teams play on television because of the blackout. All the blackouts made me disconnected with my hometown team. After all, how can I root for a team I can’t connect with because I can’t watch them?
Every time the Chargers were blacked out it seemed to me that for whatever reason, the networks would show the Minnesota Vikings games in its place. So I started to connect with the Vikings. I watched the dazzling catches Cris Carter would make, and I would try to model my game like him. Cris Carter is my Tony Gwynn of the NFL. As I continued to follow Carter I grew with liking and cheering for the Vikings more and more. I was actually connected with that team.
With technology these days I can actually watch the Vikings play from the other side of the country to the comfort of my home. Whether it’s from the DirecTV Sunday Ticket, which I can’t afford but have a relative who lets me watch games at his house, or watching the Vikings on one of those Websites.One way or another, I find a way to watch my Vikings.
So the moral of the story is this: If the San Diego Padres do not hurry up and reach a television deal with Time Warner and the other cable/satellite providers involved, they may be losing a whole generation of fans. Sure, this day in age there are plenty of ways to stay connected with the hometown baseball team. But when you don’t show the team play there is a disconnection there.
If the Padres don’t want to lose fans to the Nationals, Dodgers, Angels, Rangers, Cubs or any of the 30 Major League teams they would be wise to get their television deal in order.
I am one of the lucky 42 percent (or whatever that number is) in the County who can watch all the Padres games, but the other 58 percent is of concern. No big name free-agent or change in dimension at Petco Park will mean much if the Padres have no fans.