When the Chargers left San Diego for greener dollars north of the 91, a lot of us hoped that would be the end to a decade-long Shakespearean tragedy.
We were wrong.
Mean-spirited debate about whether local sports media should even talk about the Chargers anymore has filled some of the void of fighting over actual Chargers football.
The debate is still raging, although it appears the media has made its choice. After grappling with months of disbelief and uncertainty about their business models going forward, most in local media have decided to still treat the Chargers as the local favorite worth following, though with a bit of distance.
“You try to explain it to people,” said Darren Smith, co-host of the midday show on the Mighty 1090. “We look at the data, the digital downloads, the streams, and of course ratings, and to this day anything Chargers dwarfs everything else we talk about.”
Social media may make you think that the Chargers are a hated entity in San Diego. But people in this town still love – or at least love to hate – the Chargers. Either way, people are consuming Chargers stories.
On Twitter, an exasperated Jay Posner, editor of the sports page at the San Diego Union-Tribune, posted his basic philosophy: Stop reading what you don’t want to read.
“We will have [fewer] Chargers stories than in past. But we will have them and the reason we will have them is because people read them. Maybe you don’t. But other people do. If you don’t want to read, don’t,” he wrote.
That’s guiding many radio shows too.
“This is a business at the end of the day. We need those numbers to survive, so we’re going to cover what the audience is clearly showing us they want,” Smith said. “I was as surprised as anyone! When the Chargers left, I thought this would be a great opportunity for other sports to move in and take the forefront, but it hasn’t happened. Hasn’t even come close.”
It seems that perhaps instead of tweeting at or calling your local station to force change, you might want to tweet at your fellow fans who still wave the Spanos flag.
I asked Smith about the recent trend of Twitter users making public their intentions to quit listening to sports stations if the Chargers talk continues.
“It hurts. It really does. It hurts to see that, and have fans mention you their public declarations that they’re no longer going to listen,” Smith said.
The response from a lot of talk jocks on social media has been to encourage those wanting to quit listening to actually quit.
“I know why you’re upset and mad, but don’t rub my nose in it. That’s frustrating. I didn’t make the decision for the team to leave,” Smith said.
Another talk jock who seems to really enjoy interacting with fans on social media, whether it’s positive or negative, is Rich Ohrnberger, one half of “The Mark & Rich Show” on XTRASports 1360. “People on Twitter make these huge public posts about how they aren’t gonna listen anymore and then a week later – they do it again. It’s like, OK I get that you’re upset but what are you trying to gain with all this?”
Ohrnberger has been on 1360 for about a year. Before that, he was an offensive lineman in the NFL for more than five seasons – last playing for the San Diego Chargers in 2014.
“As a player and now as a radio personality the fans can turn on you in a heartbeat, and then turn right back. I’m used to it, so I don’t think about it much.” Ohrnberger said.
“It’s a fluid situation right now, how much we talk or don’t talk about the Chargers. One guarantee is that they’ll be a vocal faction who wants to hear it, and a vocal faction who doesn’t. We are actually trying to reach the people in the middle.” Orhnberger said.
It seems like the one thing every member of the media can agree on is that no one will be happy, no matter what you do.
Michael Glickenhaus, president and market manager for BCA Radio, which houses the Mighty 1090, agreed.
“People are very upset and angry, but then there are people who will be diehard Chargers fans for life. We still see a vast majority of people at our events wearing Chargers gear. We’ll keep monitoring it like we’ve been doing. We definitely cover less Chargers than before and have started to cover all Southern California teams,” he said.
Indeed, talk of the Rams, Lakers and Clippers has begun to creep into local broadcasts more and more.
“We don’t tell our on-air talent what to talk about,” Glickenhaus said. “We have regular staff meetings to present listener feedback, ratings and data info, and then have a meeting of the minds to determine what the listeners what. We don’t in anyway dictate topics to the shows.”
As radio and print media continue to switch up content and game plans at a breakneck pace in an effort to keep up with on-demand platforms that offer niche content, they feel a desperate need to gravitate toward what the masses ask for.
“We go in looking for relevant topics, that’s what dictates what we talk about,” Smith said.
“I look at it like we’re having a party” Ohrnberger said, “and we want everyone to come to the party and have fun.”
“You have a choice,” Glickenhaus said, “and we realize that. But we also need to have the biggest audience we can.”