January 17, 2007: The San Diego Fan's Lament
It is only now, three days after the fact, that I can emotionally afford to acknowledge what happened this past Sunday in San Diego.
The process began when a friend attempted to comfort me by pointing out that the Chargers' championship window will be open for two to three more years. Rookie. He obviously has never rooted for a San Diego team.
For San Diego fans, there has never been, and apparently never will be, any such thing as a "championship window." That's an inherent part of being a San Diego sports fan, which is also why you will find very few fans of San Diego teams who are not somehow otherwise personally invested in the city. There's no future in it, unless you like watching other teams in the postseason, getting to the postseason every 10 to 15 years, and/or not having to deal with the stress and excitement of championship celebrations. You'll have to go back decades to find the last San Diego sports team to make the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. There is no such thing as a playoff window, let alone a championship one. The only window San Diego fans have is the one we're lining up to jump out of.
In fact, it's getting to the point where I find myself almost not caring, which is a huge deal for me (you should have seen my room as a kid -- every square inch was plastered with Padres, Chargers, Clippers, Aztecs, Soccers, Gulls, etc. stuff). It's just been too many years. There have been so many times when I needed my San Diego team to win, for various personal reasons, but they never came through for me. Through so many losing seasons and mind-frying big game losses and postseason embarrassments, I have always been there for them. In return, my devotion and loyalty have scarcely been acknowledged, let alone rewarded. So many times I have dared let myself dream that this could be the time, only to be reminded that magic does not happen for San Diego sports teams, or their fans.
As each successive disappointment has added another layer of scar tissue to my disillusioned psyche, I have been forced to protect myself with stronger and stronger applications of detachment. Now, the defenses have grown so stout that even a long-awaited championship will probably not be able to fully ameliorate the foul poison of so many bitter defeats. A championship would be nice, but it won't mean as much as it would have this year or five years ago or 20 years ago. I have lived and died by my teams for more than 30 years, from my earliest childhood, but this may have been the straw that finally broke the camel's back. I'm just tired of dying.
1981 was the season. 1984 was the season. 1994 was the season. 1998 was the season. This was the season. And now it's over. It may be too late for me to ever experience the hopeful belief that anything is possible and that dreams can come true. I now see the world permanently through the lens of my sports teams and their lack of success. I now know that San Diego teams will never win a championship (until they move to a new city, after which they will win a title in their first year in the new town). How different my life and my outlook on it might be had my Chargers not had to play the 1982 AFC Championship game in 50-below Cincinnati; if the Padres hadn't had to play two of the best teams of the 20th century in the 1984 and 1998 World Series; if Steve Young and Jerry Rice had never been born -- or had been born Chargers.
It's over, and I think most of San Diego feels it -- at least we have the kids. There are just so many times that you can get your hopes up, only to then have them dashed in devastating fashion, before you just give up. San Diego has reached that point.
Sure, we'll go on being Charlie Brown to fate's Lucy, going through the motions, morosely hopeful that this will be the time that we get to kick the ball. But with each successive yanking away of the ball, our enthusiasm and belief in the divine justice of the universe fades.
If you want to experience the heart of darkness, if you want to peer into the very pit of human despair, if you want to know what it's like to go through every season without a shred of hope, just talk to a diehard SD sports fan. You'll know us by the 800-pound chip on our shoulder that causes us to walk around stooped over and beaten down.
P.S. Yes, they should have fired Marty. He has done what he was hired to do -- right the ship and return the franchise to respectability. Now we need somebody who can do what Marty can't -- win playoff games. The talent is there and the team is ready, but if they stick with Marty, the Chargers will only be squandering the Super Bowl talent they have right now. Three years from now, LT will and Antonio Gates will be moving on in search of their rings and the franchise will begin rebuilding, again.
And the beat goes on for San Diego fans. Hope, never more.
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