The Chargers are leaving. Save for a last minute miracle or some sort of NFL intervention, San Diego’s football team will bolt for the beautiful post-apocalyptic wasteland of Carson, California. This means that San Diego will only have one major league sports team, the Padres. And while other cities also have just one major league team, San Diego will be the only one to offer just major league baseball. I’m not sure about this, but I think the last baseball-only city was Baltimore after the Colts and the Bullets left, and before the Browns came to town and changed their name to the Ravens. Before that I really don’t know — maybe pre-AFL Cincinnati?
So what does it mean that San Diego will be the nation’s sole baseball-only city? It’s probable that the Padres will absorb some of the money that San Diegans won’t spend on the Chargers. While I think that most San Diegans will maintain their Chargers fandom, it’s not likely that San Diegans will buy as much Chargers gear as they used to. Nor will San Diegans buy as many season tickets to Chargers games. And the corporate executives who used to entertain clients in a luxury NFL box will be seeking a new venue. So that Chargers money has to go somewhere, and it’s likely that much of it will still be devoted to sports.
The Padres are the obvious substitute. The Gulls have returned to San Diego, but as a minor league team, so they are unlikely to be a big source of competition for the Padres. Still, they will likely reap some of the benefit, if on a smaller scale. I suspect Aztec basketball will get a pretty big boost as well – not only because they’re good, but because college basketball season coincides with football season. Even the San Diego Sockers, who were a pretty big part of my youth, may benefit; people may be more interested in indoor soccer if there’s no football team to watch. Overall, however, the major financial beneficiary of the Chargers departure should be the Padres. And a richer Padres team is likely a better Padres team.
But however good the Chargers leaving could be for the Padres and the other teams in San Diego, it will also be a dark time for sports culture as a whole in America’s finest city. San Diego sports media will struggle without consistent Chargers access. I believe that the radio stations will still feature Chargers news and opinions, but will the coverage be as complete if the team has training camp north of San Onofre? Without stadium talk, the Mighty 1090 will have about 20 minutes of programming a day (except for Jim Rome). And minor league hockey isn’t going to fill that gap. I’ve never heard the Loose Cannons or Scott and BR talk hockey in any insightful way. If the sport ever comes up, it’s in a discussion about how they don’t follow it. I’m sure they will dip their toes into Gulls news, but I’m equally sure they will embarrass themselves before too long. Honestly, the only sports talk personality in San Diego that has ever really given hockey any real consideration is Hacksaw. He wants to talk puck; the ladies’ line is also open. The Loose Cannons have a decent handle on the NBA but that’s about it, 1090 struggles with basketball outside of SDSU.
Also, consider the grief your non-local friends give you for being a SD sports fan. Now multiply it by twenty. If your Niners-fan coworker isn’t already insufferable enough, think about how hard it will be to listen to them yammer on and on about how San Diego couldn’t even build a stadium, while Levi’s is the greatest stadium since the Romans fed Christians to lions in the coliseum. And think about the San Diego Super Chargers song — think about how it’s going to disappear. That’s rough. I’m sure Maroon Five will be tasked to create an equally catchy song for the LA Chargers. It’ll end up an international hit.
Truth is we really don’t know what’s going to happen. Perhaps San Diegans completely abandon the Chargers upon their departure, and maybe none of that leftover cash moves to the Padres or any other sports teams. Maybe the Chargers leaving barely moves the needle and locals remain fully committed to the Bolts. Maybe, the loss of one sports team also dooms interest in the other sports teams in San Diego. I think it will be fun to watch.
Follow Nicholas Burmeister on Twitter: @padreshaiku