The Chargers are playoff-bound and what’s the harm in tagging along?
If it was only that easy, this tug-a-war with emotions on whether to cheer for the NFL outfit that once called “San Diego” home.
It’s not simple for some people, and they’ll pass on the Chargers and that’s fine. Trying to tell consumers where and when to spend their money was always miscast in my eyes.
But if you want to hip-hip-hooray for the Chargers, even with them hanging their shingle in Los Angeles, go for it.
If you aspire to be a hate-hate-hater of everything associated with Dean Spanos after the team’s owner ripped away a franchise that dominated the San Diego sports scene here for nearly six decades, have at it.
But it’s the players on the field that I gravitate toward. To me, they are the real Chargers, not the guys in the luxury suites sipping on top-shelf social sparkers and munching on catered meals.
Give me the sweaty men with dirt under their knuckles, guys with knees that buckle seemingly every day except Sunday for three hours, players that stiff-arm pain and long-term health ramifications so we can enjoy a game.
So if the Chargers (11-4) have performed well enough to be invited to the postseason, good for them.
Good for the Spanos family, too? I don’t know many people that go there and I’m one of them. What the Spanos clan and the NFL did to the dedicated Chargers boosters in San Diego was and is a crime.
But what’s nearly a bigger travesty is making the playoffs one time in eight years. What a blemish to have such a lousy track record with Philip Rivers at quarterback.
Rivers, who drives through Rancho Santa Fe every morning headed for work, will retire someday. Although the way the 37-year-old is producing, he isn’t ready for his gold watch yet.
But he will be fitted for a gold Hall of Fame jacket on the horizon, and that the Chargers’ brass let the sun set on way too many seasons without giving him a chance for a Super Bowl ring is embarrassing.
Some ex-Chargers fans get red in the face that their old team is succeeding. But instead of getting miffed, I get a kick out some good guys getting their due.
Rivers is the most accessible superstar in the NFL and he’s as solid as his Southern accent is thick. He didn’t move the Chargers.
Antonio Gates is another future Hall of Famer and one could sense his pain after his fumble killed the Chargers’ final shot of beating the Ravens last week. He didn’t move the Chargers.
That goes for countless anonymous employees, the nuts and bolts, if you will, of any organization.
Whenever you see coach Anthony Lynn entering or leaving the field, Bill Stetson is on his hip. Stetson, the team’s director of security lives in Escondido.
Whenever a ducat is delivered to a fan, it probably first crossed the desk of Michael Dougherty. Dougherty, the team’s director of ticket operations lives in Carlsbad.
The NFL gave its blessings to heist the Chargers out of San Diego. But taking the “San Diego” out of the Chargers hasn’t proven as easy, which is why there’s a drinking contest on game days whenever the announcer stumbles in claiming they hail from San Diego.
It’s done so often, those participating seldom go thirsty.
While for many it’s tough toasting the Chargers, we raise a glass. Not to the powerful men arriving at the misguided decision to leave San Diego, but to the men who toil in the trenches, that have their shoulders separated to casually be popped back in and to those who’ll walk with a limp for rest of their life.
The Chargers, who finish the regular season on Sunday at Denver, will either be the AFC’s No. 5 seed, or the No. 1 seed, with a win and a Kansas City Chiefs loss or tie to the Raiders.
So if you’re among those cheering for the Chargers, then you’re pulling for the Raiders, too.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports