Don't Blame It On Chargers Fans

There is a common misconception in the local San Diego sports media that Chargers fans are unfairly critical and dissatisfied with their team. They point to the team’s 2-1 start, one of only two September winning records in Coach Norv Turner’s tenure with the team, and then wonder aloud why fans are so unhappy.

One local radio host (of whom I’m a big fan) blames it on a lack of style. The Chargers don’t win pretty, and the belief is that Chargers’ fans are only satisfied with a pretty win. I think that is too narrow of a view.

For most Chargers fans, every season since the beginning of 2007 has felt like a big Hollywood blockbuster waiting to happen. The first draft of the script looks like a winner. The A-list stars are in place. But when the cameras start rolling, and the director yells action, the acting flops, the special effects fail, and we are left with a mess. This movie may have its moments, but the disappointments outweigh everything else.

Now imagine filming and releasing that same basic movie every year. Most of the marquee names are the same, but a few stars get added and subtracted based on their age, health, or contractual demands. The studio announces a new-and-improved script, with improved acting and a better storyline. But in an almost unbelievable turn of events, the story stays the same. Every year crowds pack the theater with high expectations, and as the lights dim and the projector flickers to life, viewers begin watching the same bad movie unfold on the screen. How quickly do you think viewers would start complaining? Maybe a little more quickly every year?

Right or wrong, that’s how many Chargers fans are feeling right now. We have a star-studded team with a high-powered offense. Yet, for the past five seasons, especially at the start of each season, the Chargers continue to shoot themselves in the foot, play half-assed, and the fans are ultimately treated to the football version of Cutthroat Island.

Or The Adventures Of Pluto Nash.

Or Battlefield Earth.

Imagine watching a new version of bad movie, like Battlefield Earth, every year. You heard it was going to be better this year, and you like John Travolta for the most part, so you are cautiously optimistic that this time the studio got it right. Then the lights dim, and the projector flickers to life, and you end up watching the same poor performance on the gridiron movie screen. There is a new actor here, and some different dialogue there, but at the end of the day nothing seems to have changed, at least not early in the film.

Chargers fans are upset with their team because, at least this early in this season, we have seen this “movie” before and it sucks. It is uninspiring, disappointing, and ultimately frustrating.

Admittedly, it is still early. The Chargers have only played three games and there is still a lot of time left for the story to take a turn for the better. But right now it doesn’t feel different to me. This story sucks.

So a lot of Chargers fans are equally unhappy with the team’s sloppy start. Does that make them bad fans? I don’t think so. This season has been too similar to previous seasons, with sloppy performances against teams that almost seem to be trying to lose. The injuries are already piling up, as they have in recent seasons. The questionable roster moves and play-calls are still there.

I wouldn’t call Chargers fans bad fans. They are just tired of watching the same bad script play out in the same fashion every season. It’s no wonder that the theater is having trouble selling out.

It seems that the only way for Chargers fans to shake off this bad-fan stigma is to either lower their expectations, or for their team to start living up to them. Do you really want the fans to be the ones who change?

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September 30, 2011

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