Before we say hello to summer, we bid good bye to the Chargers. The reality of January’s relocation decisions have surfaced in June, with moving trucks this week idling outside Chargers Park.
It was last call on June 15 for the Chargers to a region they’ve been in since 1961. When returning for next month’s training camp, they’ll do so in Costa Mesa.
The Chargers head north, but not before having an impact on North County over nearly six decades. Many players, coaches and executives called our slice of paradise home over the years and some never left. They were often champs in answering the call for numerous local charities in lending their support.
Philip Rivers certainly falls in that category. The quarterback living near Rancho Santa Fe has traipsed through our cities helping out where he can.
So he couldn’t help but reflect with the Chargers’ minicamp workouts ending. Die-hard Chargers fans aren’t the only ones remiss about the move.
“As it comes to an end, it’s a time to be forever thankful for our time here and getting to stay in one place for as long as I have personally,’’ Rivers said. “But in a way, it’s a tough, tough, tough day as well.’’
Rivers needed an old LaDainian Tomlinson stiff-arm to push away emotions. He didn’t really want to replay the drama of what the past two years produced.
“I’m not trying to overstate this whole thing again,’’ Rivers said. “I think we have all moved on in the sense that we are full-steam ahead. But there is no denying the fact that when you are at the last week somewhere that has been special to you, it is meaningful.’’
Antonio Gates has been here one year longer than Rivers. They’ve been the team’s heart and soul for so long that they’re the reason many disappointed Chargers fans will continue their support.
“Shoot you think to going back to where we both started,’’ Rivers said. “We started in different ways. I had to sit my first two years. And I’m sure he has some rough memories out here when he was covering kicks and doing all that stuff as an undrafted free agent. And to see where he has come.”
Gates is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So when Hunter Henry asked to take an extra practice snap on June 12, Gates laughed.
“You’re only 100,000 reps behind me,” he said.
With all those reps coming at Chargers Park.
“To me it’s different because I’ve been here my career,” Gates said. “It’s a bittersweet moment.’’
Rivers fell for our area as much as many did for him. The self-professed country boy from Alabama might have been hard-pressed to find San Diego on the map.
“I had been west of the Mississippi (River) one time, I think, before coming out here 13 years ago,” Rivers said.
So he settled in, had eight children and now is scratching his head about what to do.
Does he move closer to the Orange County training facility and the StubHub Center in Carson for game days? Or become a long-distance commuter?
“I’m still figuring that out,” he said. “I will figure it out at some point.’’
The Chargers’ compass is pointed north. But Rivers, even if he settles in Orange County, won’t shortchange North San Diego County.
“All but one of my children were born here,’’ he said. “And over time you just begin to start calling it home.”
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @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