Editor’s note: This article from Rodrigo Sanchez arrived in my inbox last night. As a San Diego native, I know a ton of hardcore Chargers fans and a large chunk of them are actually finding new NFL teams to root for. The team’s move to Los Angeles was the ultimate betrayal to all of those diehard Bolt fans.
An ex-Charger Fan’s Perspective on Becoming a Broncos Fan
by Rod Sanchez
On January 12, 2017, Chargers football fandom as I know it changed. The seemingly never-ending Chargers vs. San Diego stadium saga came to the expected, yet still heartbreaking conclusion, and it still took a greater toll on me than I thought it would. I’ve come to accept the fact that the San Diego Chargers are no more, and based on the cowardly way in which its owner Dean Spanos disrespected and shunned an entire city, I am here, as a former San Diego Chargers fan, to humbly request acceptance into the Bronco fan family. I’m not going to lie, I grew up cheering for and relishing Chargers victories against the Broncos (my favorite: the Chargers dismantling the Jay Cutler-led Broncos on the last game of the 2008 season to claim the AFC West division crown and the #4 seed in the playoffs). However, I would like to explain the feelings that many ex-Charger fans, and now “fan free agents", are having, and the decision calculus that led me to choose the Denver Broncos as my new team.
You may be thinking right now, “Why the hell would you desert your team based on a relocation decision? They’re still the Chargers!” The answer to that question really has more to do with business management and community relations than football itself. While the Broncos are blessed with competent ownership in the Bowlen family and a talented GM in John Elway, the Chargers have operated on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Spanos family, throughout the years, has prioritized low costs and profit over a commitment to winning. Winning coaches, such as Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season, have been fired and losing coaches, most recently Mike McCoy after a 4-12 season, have been retained, with no explanation other than the team wanting to maximize the value of established coaches’ contracts as well as generally wanting “yes men” that would heed the owner’s and GMs decisions (Schottenheimer had a reported history of clashing with leadership decisions). It also became clear that Spanos was unwilling to front the big money to build a stadium in San Diego. The measure on the San Diego city ballot this past November was nothing but a front for the Chargers to show “effort” towards building a stadium in San Diego, but the fact that the measure was only up for voting in the CITY and not the COUNTY made it destined to fail. To add insult to injury, Spanos leaked the announcement through ESPN the night before and simply posted a letter on Twitter to announce the move, with no heartfelt message to the city of San Diego, only a commitment to “moving forward” and “fighting for LA.”
At this point, there are many ex-Charger fans that will be seeking a new team to cheer for. You will see that the majority of these fans are generally more informed about the league, football operations, game planning, preparation, and execution than the average fan. I would argue that many of the San Diego fans that are still willing to support the team are ignorant of the many facets of the NFL other than the games and players themselves. While I do love the Chargers players, even the so-called “Phyllis,” it is simply not enough for a well-informed fan to stick it through. As all of us have seen, players are for the most part expendable, but the culture and leadership established by the upper management of the team are what remain constant from season to season. Because of this, I would ask for an open mind when it comes to ex-Charger fans coming to seek your opinion on new teams to follow; at this point we basically want to follow a team with a superior owner than the Chargers had (which really narrows is down to, what, maybe 28 teams?).
Now that I’ve tried to explain the reasons for leaving the Chargers fandom, I’d like to explain the reasons why I want to join the Broncos fan community. As I demonstrated earlier, a winning football culture starts with upper management. The owner has to be willing to put in the money above and beyond the salary cap to demonstrate a commitment to winning. This means hiring superior coaching staff. This means engaging in superior community relations. This means not sweating the small stuff (AKA the Joey Bosa contract debacle) and ensuring all players are ready to report to training and camp on time, with state-of-the-art training facilities and game-planning techniques (by the way, Mike McCoy is notorious for ignoring analytics and trusting his ancient, conservative “gut feelings,” so beware with all the talk and excitement of bringing him back to be the OC). The Broncos have shown all of these traits in the daily operation of the team, and it is one of the reasons why I’ve become interested in the Broncos.
Another reason is that I’ve actually been living in Colorado Springs for the past four years as an Air Force member, and have been closely tracking the Broncos, not only as my ex-division rival, but as a member of the Colorado community. I have a 4 year old son and a 1 year old daughter that I would like to instill football fandom in, and feel it is not the right time to explain the intricacies of football politics, business, and relocation. Additionally, since all Broncos games are broadcast on local channels, I’ve been keeping track of the great talent that the Broncos have been able to bring in through the draft and free agency and retain through long-term contracts. I admire the manner in which John Elway makes team composition decisions and always wished the Chargers displayed that level of competence on the personnel side. This would also allow me to attend more games in person and cheer for the home team!
Finally, my last reason for for choosing the Broncos, while it is the lowest priority reason, is the most selfish. I no longer have an interest in the Chargers finding success in Los Angeles, and rooting for a team in the same division would allow me to potentially celebrate two victories in the same week (twice a year): cheering for my new team winning and cheering for my former team getting beat. From my experience tracking the Bolts from the Blue blog, I know that the Mile High Report relishes Chargers failures, and I am here to tell you that I’d like to join you in that regard. I do respect and admire Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and a few other players on that team, but that respect clearly wasn’t enough for me to stick around when it’s clear many of these players are close to retiring.
As of now, I believe I can help this community to understand the Chargers’ team composition, schemes, tendencies and player profiles on the weeks the Broncos play them. I know the Chargers are on the verge of hiring a new coach, but still plan to track their progress from afar. I understand that this is a difficult transition and it will take time for me and other ex-Charger fans to commit and support a new team, both emotionally and financially, but I just wanted to let you know that there are many of us who are feeling betrayed, disillusioned and downright ready for change, and I ask that you give us a chance to prove that we can be valuable members of the community. Thank you all and I look forward to future Mile High success.