I kept staring at the drawing of Papa Doug’s “vision,” wondering why it seemed so strange to me.

There are those two tiny beaches, the promenade and park named after two minority icons, the boat access channel and above all, the concept of a “sports/entertainment” district. Finally it hit me what’s wrong here.

Despite the naysayers, this really is a great sports city, with perhaps the best year ’round weather in the world. But it’s not a great spectator sports city, never has been. Sure, we have pro football and baseball, and once had an NBA team that left in short order, but the Chargers and Padres struggle to fill their stadiums unless they are on a hot streak or playing someone like the Dodgers or Packers. Boston, this ain’t! San Diegans, and the millions of visitors we get annually are mostly looking for participant sports and boy, do we get them.

What seemed so bizarre to me about the two forlorn beaches in Manchester’s dream is the idea that we need more beaches here. We have practically endless beaches, and they’re all free. In the city itself, nearby parking is free as well. Don’t like the ocean waves? Fine, there are already several bayside beach parks along San Diego Bay, and of course Mission Bay Park is loaded with beaches, picnic facilities, play areas, you name it.

San Diegans also have scores of golf courses, tennis courts, hiking trails, places to walk, jog and bicycle. We have the largest sport fishing fleet in the world. If you have a boat, you’re in nirvana. Water sports are endless; dozens of good surfing spots, dive sites, kelp beds and reefs where fish are waiting, places to swim, water ski, kayak, wind and kite surf, ride personal watercraft, even paddleboard standing up. Sailor? We have loads of marinas and launching ramps too.

Are you a runner? You can participate in dozens of 5 and 10k races and several marathons and triathlons annually. Like basketball, soccer or softball? Our hundreds of local public parks have facilities for these activities. Our annual over-the-line tournament is the largest event of its type in the world, and it draws thousands of participants, not just spectators. Heck, you can even go hang gliding if you’re crazy.

Papa Doug and his friends, who like to get thousands of people together to pay to watch sports, eat and drink beer, don’t understand all this perhaps because it doesn’t make them any money. They can’t accept the idea that San Diegans are, largely, active sports enthusiasts who would rather participate than pay to watch. That’s life in the big city, and it’s the reason professional sports have never captured the majority of us. It’s time Manchester and his cronies faced reality. What this city craves is what it already has, lots of opportunities to participate in sports, not just watch them. We only ask that these facilities be better maintained.

Bill Bradshaw lives in Mission Beach.

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