Some of my best childhood memories go back to Balboa Stadium, where I used to watch John Hadl and Lance Alworth. Over the years, Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow, Junior Seau, Philip Rivers…these have been some of my gridiron heroes.
Yes, the San Diego Chargers have been maddening to follow. They epitomize the statement—“So close…yet so far.” I was in the stands when Johnny Unitas ran on to the field as the Chargers looked to an old warhorse for help. He didn’t. I was there when the team was so pitiful that a plane circled the stadium trailing a streamer calling for Harland Svare, the head coach, to be sacked. I have followed every trade and every draft, and often asked…”What if? What if Peyton Manning, rather than Ryan Leaf, went to the Chargers?”
Still, I followed. Something got into my blood–the roar of the crowd, the smells of a stadium, the sight of those powder blue jerseys. Before heading off to college, dad, mom, and I would follow every game. Even when I moved to The Netherlands, I would dial in the Armed Forces Radio Network at 10:00pm on a Sunday note in hopes they would broadcast a Charger game. And when they did, I would listen to the game under the covers—until 1:30am–to keep from waking up my wife. I would then try to grab some sleep, while rehearsing various plays and asking myself…”Why did I do this?” There was always the hope of another game, like the epic battle against Miami. And yes, I was there for that one.
Even to this day, I have kept up with every Nick Canepa column. I have followed Peter King and every MMQ, often looking in vain for any mention of the Chargers. They have generally been overshadowed, like a forgotten book in a library stack. I have kept some perspective. I have never painted a game day face or ranted on some Tweet, but I have kept a couple of jerseys in my closet (given to me by sympathetic friends).
So it is fair to say that one thing I have never been is a fair weather fan. Since 1961, I have been there when the sun has come out (which sometimes has been as rare as an Oregon sun). I have been there through the overcast skies and occasional dark storms. Through thick and thin, through all of the mocking and abuse my congregants have leveled at me over the years, I have been there. I could have bolted to the neighboring Seahawks (or the Amsterdam Admirals—not!!). I could have become like so many fair weather fans who feast on the team du jour. I could have.
I did take the advice of someone who once said of the Chargers—“Date em, but don’t marry them.” And that has been good advice, especially since today they announced their move to L.A. In this greed-oriented age, economics finally won out. So yes, like many others, I feel jilted. It’s the price of living in a culture that is more impressed with money than loyalty.
And I get it—it is only sports. Somewhere Solomon is shaking his head and asking, “Didn’t you read my book, Ecclesiastes?” “Are you really writing a book right now on wisdom literature?” “Is it really true you have done significant research on Hebrew words like hebel, that reminds us that the things of this world are transitory?” “Have you forgotten that teams and owners and broadcasters, X’s and O’s, and sports radio (sorry Dan Patrick) are as temporal as steam, as a mist? (or as Peter Leithart puts it, cloud castles on a windy day)? So can we get back to pastoral theology and the church—or at least something substantive?” Maybe next week.
For today, I will take some time to mourn my loss. But no need for cards. The good thing is that any disappointment I am feeling really is of the transient type. I still have the Padres.