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San Diego is not a sports city; it’s a city with sports in it.
If you are a San Diegan, you know this. If you’re a diehard sports fan, you know this. You’ve sat in the stadium next to the thousands of Raiders fans or Dodgers fans, or Chiefs, Cubs, Broncos, Cardinals, Packers fans. It’s not fun to sit there and be berated by fans from actual sports cities, who either flew into town for the game, or moved to San Diego for the weather but kept their loyalty. An incredibly small percentage of Chargers fans would ever drive to a road game, and almost none would fly across country for one.
As a sports city, we’re less fair-weather fans and more casual realists.
Fans don’t believe in reality. Fans live in the realm of “what if?” They live in a world where anything can happen, and every year could be our year despite every statistic proving it won’t be.
It’s not a bad way to live. It’s fun! It lets you escape whatever might be real in your life, and instead spend your time screaming at a TV, buying apparel and eating chips. And drinking beer.
Realists, on the other hand, see the hard numbers.
Neither is right or wrong. When it comes to choosing how your entire city spends its money, and develops its future, however, being a fan is the worst thing you can be.
When you look at Measure C, you’ll find a lot of projections and “what ifs,” but you can’t and won’t find any hard economic data that proves it’s a real win for the city. Even the actual cost of this project is unknown, and by all projections (even the Chargers’ version) there are funds that are unaccounted for that will be paid somehow by someone. Oh. Cool!
In fact, when you start to read into the measure, a lot of things become very apparent, and very scary. Things that are so in-your-face, even the diehardest of fans can’t explain their logic.
As a lifelong fan looking at these claims, I have a really hard time seeing anything but hopeful best-case scenarios being used as actual data:
A new downtown stadium will generate a lot of new revenue.
How? I mean, there will be more people staying in the hotels, I imagine. So, current employees might get more shifts, and they may hire more employees. Maybe! There could be new hotels built! Then you get more construction work, more employees and more jobs. That might happen. We don’t know, obviously. No one does.
Revitalizing East Village will generate a lot of new revenue.
How? I imagine you’d want to open up new restaurants and bars in the area. Of course, downtown and East Village are littered with bars and restaurants already, but these would be more … new? Realistically we’re only talking about increased foot traffic 10 weeks a year, so you have the problem of keeping people in the area outside of the Chargers home games, but it can’t be that hard, right? I don’t know. No one does.
You could be thinking to yourself: “All this worked for Petco.” And you would be right. But going down that rabbit hole creates much larger questions. Didn’t Petco already revitalize the East Village? Before Petco, that area was literally dumped-on land and buildings that were falling apart. How much is left to revitalize? What parts of land, and homes and businesses are we displacing for this “revitalization”? Then we have to look at a number: 81. That’s’ how many home games the Padres play in a year. That’s a lot more than 10 Chargers home games.
The convadium will attract bigger conventions and more people.
Sure! Why not? I mean, you remember all those cool boat shows you used to go to on the field of a football stadium, right? Using my fan logic, this argument makes sense, because convadium is a word that makes no sense, and a lot of rich guys in suits keep saying it while smiling.
Having a new NFL stadium is a great investment.
Then why aren’t the NFL and the Chargers’ owners, the Spanos family, making the full investment? I know they’re investing a few hundred million dollars, which is peanuts compared with what they’re asking for and especially compared with how much they stand to profit. So, why not go all in?
It’s about civic pride.
Is that what the Spanos family had when it decided to move to L.A. but was blocked by NFL owners? That doesn’t sound like San Diego pride to me. If it was actually about being a prideful San Diegan, then you’d build a new stadium wherever the city told you to – not where you wanted it.
And, if you want to feel true civic pride, wouldn’t you want usable roads? Funded schools? A fully staffed 911 call center? I know the emergency dispatcher probably never scored a touchdown in the NFL, but he or she may just save your life one day.
Being a fan, you can explain away all these negatives with “The Chargers belong in San Diego!” And I get that. I really do. But when the owner of the team doesn’t feel that way, you have to ask yourself what it is you’re supporting. A logo? Players who may or may not know you’re alive? A rich tradition of Chargers football? If that’s the case, just count our playoff wins.
As a supporter of Measure C, you are putting your fandom ahead of reality, and that’s an extremely scary place to be. You’re toying with real money and real revenue to build a stadium for someone who has zero pride in San Diego.
Ignore the on-the-field play! Ignore the fact that Dean Spanos already packed his bags and tried to leave! Ignore the economic study that says this won’t be good for the city! Because it certainly exists. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Be a fan … follow the yellow and powder blue brick road.
I am a San Diego sports fan and have been all my life. I spent decades cheering and crying with my teams’ victories and defeats. I’ve spent thousands of dollars to watch it happen. Now, I look at all the pitches the Spanoses and the city officials who support Measure C continually make. They sound appealing. They sound fun. They sound fanatical. But as a 36-year-old realist with credit debt and car payments, I see what this really is: rich guys using other people to make them money.
Dallas McLaughlin is the co-host of The Kept Faith podcast and an award-winning writer and comedian based in San Diego. McLaughlin’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.