The L.A. Chargers are more like the Washington Generals, a perpetual road team with no zealous fan base to ever welcome them home. And it will remain that way, indefinitely.
During a Tuesday media briefing, and in response to a specific question based on recent reports/rumors/speculation of a possible re-relocation of the team, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said there are no discussions regarding a possible return of the Chargers to San Diego. If there aren’t, maybe there should be.
The league and the Chargers hope to tread water (or sink slowly) for the next three seasons, hopeful that the opening of a new stadium in Inglewood that will be shared with the Rams will serve to invigorate the fan base. But that may be wishful thinking; chances are the current dynamic at the StubHub Center — where all tickets are sold but too many of them end up in the hands of the visiting team — will happen once the Chargers are playing in a larger stadium. Quite possibly, there will be more Chargers fans, more fans of the visiting team, and the same vibe in the new, bigger stadium as there is in current, smaller one.
We all should have seen this coming. After 20 years with no team in Los Angeles, NFL fans there developed a wide array of interests and tastes and rooting interests. It’s the second largest market in the country; there’s a good chance that most if not all NFL teams have a fan base in L.A. that would mobilize to fill up a large chunk of the StubHub Center. Some teams (like the Raiders) have enough to fill up a large chunk of a large stadium.
For the Rams, who had been in Los Angeles for decades, a fan base remained. For the Chargers, who last were in L.A. in 1960, that simply wasn’t the case — as the total Chargers fan attendance at a 27,000-seat stadium has shown.
The only way for the Chargers to change that will be to do what they haven’t been able to do since the Super Bowl era began: Win a Super Bowl. Or two. On-field success will be the way to get local fans interested in the team and/or to build the kind of national fan base that will prompt fans to travel to L.A. to watch them play in person.
At 0-4 and with an aging franchise quarterback, that won’t be happening any time soon. By the time it ever does, it could be too late.