The Chargers’ bumpy sleigh ride comes to an end on Sunday.
Or does it?
Just maybe the Mission Valley Miracle has another act and if so, we wouldn’t be surprised.
Not after a year in which the rebuilding Chargers beat the Colts, Cowboys, Chiefs and Broncos.
And, sigh, lost to the Texans, Titans, Raiders and Redskins.
But all that is like the wrapping paper filling your trash bin. Each of those games was a gift, and boy, wouldn’t the Chargers like to return some of them.
Still, that’s the past and we’re talking about the present — and the future.
The Chargers make the AFC playoffs with a win or tie on Sunday against the visiting Chiefs. The locals also need the Dolphins and Ravens to lose, which only complicates the Chargers’ fate.
What we know is not only Game No. 16 important for this year, but next year as well.
A win builds the foundation, possibly, for a successful 2014. It might serve as an incentive for luke-warm Chargers fans to distance themselves from the Smith-Turner era and embrace the Telesco-McCoy vision.
And, just maybe, serve as a catalyst for a new stadium.
Let’s say all falls the Chargers’ way and they snap their three-year rut of missing the playoffs. They get in, get hot, and get through a round or two.
Just like that, Chargers fervor goes from tepid to torrid. In a snap, the population of Charger Nation swells. In a heartbeat, lounging in lightning bolts becomes chic.
A deep playoff run would lead into February’s San Diego mayoral election where David Alvarez or Kevin Faulconer will get elected and then get busy: trying to broker a deal for their re-charged constituency to construct a win-win proposal for a downtown stadium.
OK, there are a lot of “ifs” there. So much has to happen just right, that we admit this could be a stretch of Sansabelt proportions.
Then again, has anything this year gone as folks expected? In a season that was baffling, rewarding and heartbreaking all at once, might the best and final chapter still need to be written?
A win on Sunday could be more than your usual house-variety victory. It might mean the playoffs. It might mean the absent of blackout threats next season. It might mean fresh Chargers digs.
“This is what it’s all about,” rookie head coach Mike McCoy said. “This is what we’re in business for. You just have to play it and see what happens.”
McCoy speaks to prevailing against Kansas City. He no more will speculate about Sunday’s ramifications than you would dig into Grandma’s indestructible fruitcake.
But if the Chargers take a small, winning bite this weekend, maybe the big picture comes a little more into focus.
Win or lose, it’s been a steady maiden voyage for McCoy as the Chargers eclipsed last year’s win total.
But one more victory — and stumbles by the Dolphins and Ravens — could possibly mean so much more than compiling a winning season.
“The only one we can control is the one here against the Chiefs,’’ quarterback Philip Rivers said, and we’re banking on him surviving a Christmas morning which includes seven children. “Whatever those teams do, we want to be 9-7. If that’s our last game, that’s our last game.
“We can say we won four of the last five, four in a row, and finished the way teams with character finish. If we get a bonus game the next weekend, we’ll be fired up for that.”
It so, it might produce a spark which burns long after this season is extinguished.
Jay Paris can be heard talking Chargers football on 1090 AM on Monday and Friday mornings. He’s also the Wednesday morning co-host of “Hacksaw and Company.” He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @jparis_sports.
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