On Wednesday night, news broke that the San Diego Chargers have finally done what they’ve long threatened to. The franchise has notified NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of its intent to move to Los Angeles, and will make a public announcement soon. Should everything go according to plan — and given that the move was OK’d by NFL owners last month, the odds of this are good — the Chargers’ decampment will take place in time for the start of the 2017 season.
There are a few ways of looking at this. Maybe you’re a Chargers fan living in L.A., in which case: congrats! Maybe you’re a Chargers fan living in San Diego, and you’re heartbroken. Sorry. Or maybe you’re just a bystander to all of this with a passing awareness of how things have gone for the Rams, who packed up in St. Louis at the end of last season and just closed out their first year back in Los Angeles, in which case the only really logical response is: What the fuck are the Chargers thinking?
Sure, you can look at the mess of the Rams’ last year and point to some caveats. The franchise was gone for 21 years, and many of its original fans defected to other allegiances or stayed loyal to the Raiders, who had also dangled the prospect of a return recently. The Rams spent this season playing in the nearly century-old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a facility so outdated that its concession stands ran out of water during the season’s first home game. The new stadium in Inglewood, one that we’ve been told is State Of The Art™ and sure to attract fans with its $2.66 billion bounty of flourishes, doesn’t open till 2019. And the 2016 Rams were thoroughly unexciting en route to their 4–12 finish. With head coach Jeff Fisher’s 7–9 reign of terror broken up at last, a new stadium on the way, and time for Angelenos to adjust to having an NFL option in their own backyard, things will indubitably get better.
But how do you look at Los Angeles’s response to the Rams and see an opening for a second NFL team?
Here’s one way: Instead of thinking about football as a sport, or as a game you love, or as a calling so profound that you dress your newborn in a miniature Philip Rivers jersey and paint a little lightning bolt on her cheek, think about it as a great way to turn a whole bunch of zeroes into a lot goddamn more. If — when — the Chargers move, they’ll face a $650 million relocation fee, half of which they’ll be able to take on as debt. They’ll join the Rams in Inglewood once the new facility opens; in the meantime they’ll play at “TBD.” If you’ve decided, in a fit of masochism, to try to watch the L.A. Chargers or L.A. Freeways or whatever the hell they’ll be called in person and are wondering how to do that, the answer is that there are no answers right now. Because this move wasn’t for you, a fan. It wasn’t for the players, or for the sport, or for competitiveness, or for the sake of either Los Angeles or San Diego. It’s for money, because that’s how these things work now: a bunch of billionaires shuffling chips around a table while the rest of us stand by the side and hope our lawmakers haven’t given them anything that belongs to us.
Will the Chargers play somewhere newer and nicer a couple of years from now? Sure. But don’t mistake that eventuality for being anything but what it is: greed.