By Mike Olson
San Diego is a city known for a lot of cool things. After all, it is known as “America’s Finest City”. It was the birthplace of California, the beautiful beaches of Monterey and La Jolla, has the nicest weather year round, and last but certainly not least it’s a military town giving it the feel of the most patriotic place in the country. But do you know what San Diego isn’t known for? Winning championships. Not a single one in baseball or football. It’s one of only 16 cities that have never touched the prized possession at the end of the season. And with the threat of the Chargers leaving, and well a sub-par Padres team, who knows when it will happen. There is no doubt on my mind that this city is jinxed. Almost like we have nice weather and world class attractions, so therefore we can’t have any championships. The universe balancing itself out is really hurting San Diego sports fans. The only good thing that has happened in San Diego sports lately was having the San Diego Gulls come back, arguably the most successful team in the city.
So the biggest question is why hasn’t SD won anything? After all this city has been blessed with numerous hall of fame players in both sports. Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts, Junior Seau, and LaDainian Tomlinson, just to name a few, donned the “Powder Blues” as Chargers. Tony Gwynn, one of the best hitters of all times blessed us by not only playing his entire career in SD but never did get a championship ring. Even when bigger teams like the New York Yankees wanted his services he politely turned them down to stay loyal to the San Diego fans, something the Sports Gods couldn’t deem worthy of rewarding with a ring or two.
I believe what separates championship cities from SD is the fact that the owners of our teams seem to not care, although the new ownership group of the Padres are at least trying. The owners don’t seem eager to win, but rather content with watching the stands be half full of the visiting team fans. They just seem to ignore the fans and clearly don’t care for their happiness. As many of you know I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan when it comes to hockey, and in 2009 I saw first-hand how an ownership group that cares acts. The team was playing terrible in February of that year. Co-Owner Mario Lemiuex went to the GM and said something needs to change. They fired their head coach, brought up their minor league coach, turned the season around and won the Stanley Cup. When San Diego has mediocre coaches IE. Bud Black and Norv Turner we just keep giving them chance after chance instead of firing them right away.
The Chargers have only made one Super Bowl appearance in 1994 played against probably one of the best teams in NFL history, the San Francisco 49ers who won 49-26. The Chargers were terrible during the years to follow but made some smart draft choices and things were looking better. The early 2000’s the Chargers had some of the best talent in the league. But the curse continued. The team goes 14-2 in 2006, exits the playoffs in the first round and then fired Marty Schottenheimer. They follow that up by hiring Norv Turner, who took the keys to a Ferrari and turned them into a pinto. The whole city had to watch players in their prime rot away because of terrible coaching. Year in and year out the team were favorites to win the Super Bowl but never made it through the AFC Championship. And the championship window has all but closed as over the last 5 years the team has struggled to even make the playoffs.
And things haven’t been much better in baseball. The Padres have been to the World Series just twice in their 46 years of existence. And both years they were swept in the Fall Classic. 1984 by the Detroit Tigers and 1998 by the New York Yankees. John Moore, the Padres owner at the time begged for the city to build the team a new stadium because they shared Qualcomm Stadium with the Chargers and promised he would but a playoff caliber team on the field every year. The city obliged and Petco Park opened up in 2004. The stands were full of Padres fans and the team had success for three years. But once again the Sports Gods deemed the city unworthy. The typical San Diego mentality of “let’s trade the good players away because we don’t want to pay them” took over. The prime example of the Padres’ cheapness would be the 2004 MLB draft, where the Padres’ fear of having to pay a player a large contract made the front office pass up on future All-Stars Justin Verlander, Jared Weaver, and Billy Butler for future prison inmate Matt Bush, because the local kid would sign for cheap. And following more and more dealings like that and the Padres organization has floundered. So badly so, that it’s been 8 years since one of the most beautiful ball parks on the world has hosted a playoff game.
With all that being said, I will give credit to the new ownership group of the Padres, who gave fans by far the most exciting off season ever and signed “big name” players. Although it didn’t work out, it was nice to see for once like the owners cared about making the fans happy. They just had to learn the hard way that you can’t throw money at a team and expect results. The future’s looking brighter for the Padres, but will they ever win a World Series? Will the city be smart enough to build the Chargers a new stadium and keep the team here? Will I ever get to see a team in this city win a championship? I’m tired of always having to say as a fan “there is always next year.” When will it be our year?