What do North County sports fans have to look forward to in 2016 without the San Diego Chargers?
As expected, the Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams all filed for relocation on Jan. 4.
There’s no way to know who will be green lighted by the NFL for a move to Los Angeles (or when), nor am I particularly interested in playing the speculation game. Maybe the prospect of leaving San Diego was softened somewhat by this year’s gut-wrenching season, the worst I’ve certainly seen in my 13 years as a San Diego resident.
I get that football is the most popular spectator event in the United States, and there is no real substitute for a home team to root for. Still, dejected fans should take some comfort in knowing that, irrespective of which team(s) wins the golden ticket to L.A., 2016 is lining up to be a great year for sports action and special athletic events.
First off, the North County Battalion, an expansion minor league soccer team, will start its inaugural season this spring.
A team kick-off event is scheduled for later this month, and a North County home soccer field will be announced soon. In international soccer play, the 2016 Centennial Copa America (June 3 through June 26) will be hosted across 10 U.S. cities, bringing the best national soccer teams in the Americas stateside.
With Pasadena, Glendale and Santa Clara all hosting tournament matches, North County fans will be within a day’s drive of some incredible match-ups.
Baseball is just around the corner; the Padres’ spring training schedule begins in less than 60 days. Peoria, Ariz., is only a five-hour drive from North County — why not take a road trip and support the home team? I’ve taken two spring training road trips, and I highly recommend the experience.
Later in the regular season, PETCO Park will be hosting the MLB All-Star Game (July 10-12). The 2017 World Baseball Classic has also scheduled a qualifying round in Mexicali this spring, bringing players representing Mexico, Nicaragua, Germany and the Czech Republic out for a four-day tournament (March 17 to March 20) that’s only three hours away from San Diego.
Oh, and don’t forget the Summer Olympics in Rio.
Rather than lament the Chargers and look at 2016 as a half-empty glass, I’ll take this year as half-full.
Sure, you may need to take an interest in a different sport, or take a long drive to check out some of the events I mentioned, but why not have an adventure and do something different?
Find interested friends and fellow fans and organize a trip. Better yet, join a booster club, like the American Outlaws — San Diego or the San Diego Dragoons, and cheer on your team with new friends. Rekindle your excitement for competitive sports play.
The Chargers may leave San Diego this year, but our passion as sports fans remains.
Vince Vasquez is a think tank analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.