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SPORTS DIGEST: The Chargers are coming, but will anybody care?

LOS ANGELES — Forgive me if I don’t get real excited about the San Diego Chargers moving to town.

Now we have a 5-11 team to go with the 4-12 Rams. Can’t wait for that new stadium to get built in Inglewood so we can watch all that exciting professional football we missed out on the last 21 years.

In the end, the decision owner Dean Spanos made to move the Chargers 120 miles north was all about money. With the National Football League, the bottom line is always the bottom line.

Spanos will pay $1 a year in rent to Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke for the privilege of sharing his new stadium. He will pay his fellow owners a relocation fee of $650,000 spread out over 10 years and also pay the city of San Diego more than $12 million for voiding the team’s lease at Qualcomm Stadium three years early.

So for less than $15 million (figuring in moving and relocation costs), Spanos will have a new stadium for his mediocre team to play in. And that is why professional sports teams always try to get cities or other governmental entities to pick up the tab for new stadiums and arenas.

Fortunately, taxpayers are getting smarter and are fed up with billionaire owners taking more of their hard-earned tax dollars for new playgrounds.

The Chargers should have stayed in San Diego. Their fan base is there and their history (except for their first year) is there.

The fact that the team spent 15 years without success to get a new stadium deal done in San Diego says more about the Spanos family and how the Chargers have been operated over the years than it does about San Diego politicians.

The Spanos family has never shown a bit of loyalty to their star players. Most of their stars over the past 20 years have left when they became free agents because the Chargers didn’t want to pay them what they were worth. It’s a long list.

All-star middle linebacker Junior Seau grew up in nearby Oceanside. He didn’t want to leave San Diego.

But he did after 13 seasons. He spent another seven with Miami and New England, playing on the 2007 New England team that lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

Defensive back Rodney Harrison spent nine years with the Chargers. They let him go after the 2002 season and Harrison joined the Patriots, who won the Super Bowl his first two years there.

Running back Ladainian Tomlinson had nine great years with the Chargers, but they didn’t want him back for a 10th.

Receiver Vince Jackson, defensive lineman Shawne Merriman The list goes on and on.

The Chargers under Spanos also fired a coach, Marty Schottenheimer, after a 14-2 season. Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith did not get along well. Spanos backed the wrong one and fired Schottenheimer. It took him four more years to fire Smith.

After winning four straight AFC Western Division titles 2006-2009, the Chargers have been back to the playoffs only once, in 2013, when they beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild card round and lost the next week to the Denver Broncos.

In other words, Spanos reminds me of another former owner of a Los Angeles football team. Georgia Frontiere. She made money every year from the Rams and saw no need to pay high salaries to top players just to win.

The Chargers will play the next two seasons in the StubHub Center in Carson (Mayor Al Robles finally got himself a football team). The stadium holds 30,000, the smallest stadium by far in the NFL. The Chargers might have trouble filling it, except for the game against the Oakland Raiders next fall, which might have 25,000 Raider fans in attendance.

More than 20 years ago, the Raiders and the Rams both proved that Los Angeles sports fans will not support teams that don’t appear to be trying to win. The only way the Chargers will be successful in Los Angeles is if Spanos can prove he can build a winning team.

Owners that let their best free agents leave and fire 14-2 head coaches don’t win for very long.

NEW TEAMS, NEW COACHES: Hiring a person to coach or manage a professional sports team is a gamble. You never know what is going to happen. If you are hiring a first-time coach, it’s even a bigger risk because there is no track record.

Meet Sean McVay and Anthony Lynn, the new coaches of the Rams and Chargers, respectively. Both are first-time head coaches.

Sean McVay was introduced to the Los Angeles media as the head coach of the Rams Jan. 13 in Thousand Oaks. At 30, he is the youngest NFL head coach ever. He considers former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Redskins coach Jay Gruden as his mentors. (Photo by Jeff Lewis/Los Angeles Rams)

Sean McVay was introduced to the Los Angeles media as the head coach of the Rams Jan. 13 in Thousand Oaks. At 30, he is the youngest NFL head coach ever. He considers former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Redskins coach Jay Gruden as his mentors. (Photo by Jeff Lewis/Los Angeles Rams)

McVay is 30 years old, the youngest person ever to be named an NFL head coach. He has served as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins for the last three years and is credited with helping develop Kirk Cousins as the Redskins franchise quarterback. Let’s see what he does with Jared Goff.

“The accomplishments and success that he has rendered in less than a decade in our league are remarkable,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said Jan. 12 at the press conference introducing McVay to the Los Angeles media. “I am confident in his vision to make this team a consistent winner and to ultimately bring a Super Bowl title home to Los Angeles.”

No pressure, kid.

“I’m very excited to be here as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. It’s humbling, but I’m excited to get going,” McVay told the media. “Becoming a head coach is something that you always dream of when you get in to the coaching profession. But one of the things that you realize and understand is that these opportunities never present themselves unless you’re fortunate to be around great coaches and mentors to help guide you along the way.”

McVay consider fomrer NFL coach Jon Gruden and his brother, Jay, the Redskins’ coach as two of his mentors.

“On offense and defense, what you can expect from us is we’re going to be attacking on both sides of the football, but we’re also going to be fundamentally sound,” McVay added.

The Chargers new coach, Lynn, stumbled during his introductory remarks when he referred to the team as the San Diego Chargers. He quickly corrected himself with an “Oops!”

“I knew this was the right place for me early on in the interview when I asked one simple question — ‘What are you looking for in a head coach?’” he said. “And I feel like they described me. And I had to hold back my excitement at that time, but I knew I wanted to be a Charger at that time.”

New Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn speaks at a news conference at StubHub Center in Carson Jan. 17. Lynn started last season as running backs coach of the Buffalo Bills, but ended the season as the interim head coach. (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers)

New Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn speaks at a news conference at StubHub Center in Carson Jan. 17. Lynn started last season as running backs coach of the Buffalo Bills, but ended the season as the interim head coach. (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers)

At 48, Lynn is an old-timer compared to McVay. He has 17 years experience as an NFL assistant coach after a six-year career as a running back with the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers. He was on the Broncos teams that won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998.

Most recently he was the running backs coach for the Buffalo Bills. He got promoted to offensive coordinator two games into the 2016 season after Greg Roman was fired. Then, with the seaon running out, he was named interim head coach of the Bills after Rex Ryan was fired.

“The type of team that I envision us having, after watching our personnel and going through our tapes — these guys play hard,” he said. “We brought in the right players. We have good character guys that understand football and know how to play the game, OK? But we’re going to be tough. We’re gonna be disciplined on the football field. We’re going to play smart, situational football and we’re going to have good efficient quarterback play.”

The new coaches say the right things. Now we will see how things play out on the field.

 

A HOCKEY LEGEND: Although I like ice hockey as a sport, I don’t give it too much attention in this space. But, I couldn’t ignore a special ceremony before the Jan. 16 game between the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Willie O’Ree, the Jackie Robinson of the National Hockey League, dropped the puck in the pre-game ceremony just prior to the start of the game.

It came two days prior to the 59th anniversary of O’Ree becoming the first black to play in the NHL.

O’Ree made his NHL debut on Jan. 18, 1958, in the Boston Bruins’ 3-0 victory at Montreal. O’Ree played one more game with Boston that season, then returned to Quebec Hockey League’s Quebec Aces.

He played 43 games with the Bruins in the 1960-61 season, scoring four goals and having 10 assists in 43 games. O’Ree was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in June 1961, but never played for them.

In November of that year, O’Ree joined the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League (a minor league at that time) and played for them until the Blades disbanded when the Kings became an NHL expansion team in 1967.

As a kid, I remember O’Ree on those Blades teams, but it never dawned on me that he was the only black player on the ice.

After leaving the Blades, O’Ree went south and played for the San Diego Gulls of the WHL, scoring 38 goals in the 1868-69 season.

O’Ree played 19 years of professional hockey, despite being 95 percent blind in his right eye as a result of being hit in the eye by a deflected puck. O’Ree kept his vision problem secret, because if it had been known, it would have ended his playing career.

In 1998, O’Ree became the NHL’s director of youth development and an ambassador for NHL Diversity. He has aided in introducing hockey to more than 40,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds, and has established nearly 40 local grassroots hockey programs throughout North America.

His many honors include the Order of Canada, his native country’s second greatest honor, and the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

He is a member of the San Diego Hall of Champions and New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame and a hockey legend.

 

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