The Morning Report
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Saturday, Nov. 11, 2006 | I don’t remember Marcus Allen being booed when he returned to San Diego to play the Chargers, and the Lincoln High alumnus committed the ultimate San Diego sports sin of beating the Chargers while dressed in a Raiders’ silver-and-black uniform.
I don’t remember John Lynch being booed when he returned to San Diego to play the Chargers, and that included last year when the Torrey Pines High alum forced a fumble that led to Drew Brees’ shoulder injury. Lynch not only ended Brees’ afternoon, he ultimately ended his days playing for the Chargers.
And I don’t remember David Wells being booed when the Point Loma High alum returned to San Diego with the New York Yankees and the Yankees swept the Padres in the 1998 World Series.
So I have to wonder why Kellen Winslow II casually shrugged off the boos he heard last week at Qualcomm Stadium when the Scripps Ranch High alum returned home with the Cleveland Browns in a game the Chargers won 32-25.
“I expected it,” Winslow said after the game. “I love San Diego, and I love the fans and they’re supposed to do that. They tried to get me out of my game, but they’re great fans and I love the atmosphere. That comes with the territory, but you have to have thick skin.”
Not in San Diego, Kellen. This isn’t Philadelphia, Boston or New York. San Diego sports fans don’t boo unless they feel they have a good reason.
Winslow was one of the first players on the field, a couple of hours before the game, dressed in full uniform. Clearly, he was looking forward to playing on the same field where his father, Kellen Winslow Sr., played out his Hall-of-Fame career with the Chargers and redefined the tight end position.
But during the game, whenever Winslow’s name was mentioned, it was with a collective stadium voice that the fans offered a guttural b-o-o-o!
It was more than just a smattering of fans. They didn’t get tired of it either. Each time Winslow caught a pass – he finished with 11 for 78 yards – it was with that same deep, disapproving boo.
You’d have to be Eli Manning, the New York Giants quarterback who shunned the Chargers in the draft in 2004, or baseball’s Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants to have heard louder boos for an opponent in San Diego.
Maybe, Kellen, the Terrell Owens/Chad Johnson act you’re trying to perfect in Cleveland doesn’t play in San Diego.
After the game, Winslow was laughing in the locker room with teammates. That wouldn’t play in the Chargers’ locker room after a loss. Winslow would have to answer to LaDainian Tomlinson, among others.
Kassim Osgood, the Chargers wide receiver who would have made the Pro Bowl last year on special teams if it wasn’t for a late-season injury, once told me he likes to get loud and excited before games. But since his locker is near Tomlinson’s at Qualcomm, and Tomlinson prefers it quiet before games, he says he goes to another corner.
Imagine LT listening to a player laughing and carrying on after a loss.
Before Winslow arrived in San Diego, he said in interviews he was the best tight end in the NFL. That obviously didn’t play well with San Diego fans that have seen the torch passed from Kellen Winslow Sr. to Antonio Gates, the two-time Pro Bowler now in his fourth season in the Chargers.
When Gates’ star was rising and he had his first matchups with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez, Gates always spoke of Gonzalez with respect and said he had a long way to go before he could match Gonzales’ NFL career.
But after the Chargers game, Winslow tried to dismiss his pre-game braggadocio.
“Gates is a great player and I was just trying to have fun with it,” Winslow said. “I was not trying to be serious and say that I was the better tight end. I was just trying to have fun with it and get people to watch.”
That may work with ESPN, which loves to promote showboating athletes, including commercials of Chad Johnson – whom the Chargers face Sunday in Cincinnati – planning end zone antics.
And it might work with Sports Illustrated, which once wrote a story about Randy Moss that tried to make the case he’s a nice guy when he’s fishing in his quiet Florida neighborhood or wrote that Jerry Jones is a savvy businessman because signing Terrell Owens brings his team attention.
But it doesn’t work in San Diego. The fans, who no doubt remembered Winslow’s “soldier” tirade in his college days as a Miami athlete at a time when real soldiers were dying in Iraq, voiced their disapproval like 2006 mid-term election.
Winslow doesn’t get it. He’s fortunate to be playing football at all. He missed all of 2005 after a serious motorcycle accident and most of 2004 with a football injury.
He’s already had a falling out with his best friend from his high school days playing basketball at Scripps Ranch, which says something about how money and the NFL affected him.
Chargers fans were telling Winslow he needs to play football the way we like it San Diego.