D.A.: The NFL's Chargers Experiment Is Going Down In Flames

The NFL looks foolish right about now – and it serves them right, D.A. says

Damon Amendolara
October 19, 2018 - 3:08 pm

USA Today Images

To choose the most embarrassing element of the Chargers' foray into Los Angeles is impossible at this point. Is it the devastating apathy in the market? Is it the ferocious animosity created in their old home? Is it the lurking horror of moving into a 70,000 seat stadium? Is it the hordes of opposing fans that take over their home games? Any of these would make for a terrifying Halloween script with Roger Goodell as Freddy Krueger haunting football fans' nightmares. 

Now we have word that Jaguars owner Shad Kahn has pulled out of his pursuit to purchase Wembley Stadium, and one can't help but wonder if the league has the Chargers in the queue to London. The Bolts have already agreed to sacrifice a home game this season to play in England; this week, they'll "host" the Titans there. It's obvious the long-term solution to the Chargers in L.A. is questionable at best, and maneuvering them to London might be the only way to salvage the disaster. 

Kahn's ownership of the Jaguars has always felt half-hearted, like a guy who bought an aging house, keeps saying nice things about it, but secretly wants to raze the place and build a condo. The Jags have seemingly had one foot in London since Kahn took over, especially since he owns Fulham in the English Premier League. But this week he pulled out of the sweepstakes to have his own stadium there, stating he faced too much opposition in finalizing the deal. Jacksonville crisis averted? 

Perhaps the two situations are separate, but it's at least interesting to note the league had internal conversations about the viability of the L.A. Chargers the same week Kahn pulled the rip cord on the Wembley deal. Is it possible he was told by his fellow owners that instead of upsetting yet another jolted fan base, the league would prefer to move the Chargers there? The NFL has dealt with the black eye of damaged psyches in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland in rapid succession. This would keep the Jags in Jacksonville, and not incite a fan base. Los Angeles would barely notice if the Chargers left. 

Don't believe the report that the Chargers are locked into L.A. for at least 20 years. That "firm" lease is anything but. No, the league doesn't want to admit yet the Chargers are a mistake. But that lease is binding only between the Bolts and Stan Kroenke. The Rams owners bought the land, is paying for construction, and took out his own loan. If the NFL told Kroenke to let the Chargers out of the lease, and promised a better financial deal with a relocation to London, he would absolutely budge. Kroenke is directly tied to the Chargers being financially successful. All 32 owners share in certain league revenues. This is not wrangling a municipality to lose its identity. It would merely be asking Kroenke to wave goodbye to the competition in his market. 

Either way, the league has egg on its face. Three years ago, I wrote about how something smelled fishy in the race to L.A. The NFL's most powerful owners were banging the drum for multiple teams in the City of Angels, even though there was scant evidence the market would support even one. Sure, the media, population base, and corporate money was there. But Angelenos were quite fine thank you with zero teams – and zero local TV blackouts – for 20 years. Would the city embrace two new teams?  

The clear answer now is no. The Rams had a 50-year history in Los Angeles, so nostalgia was an easy win in moving back. The organization was also the first team in, and financially aggressive in building a winner. The Chargers operate on a shoestring budget, and feel like the little brother tripping over his oversized shoes while big bro marches ahead. The NFL figured fans in San Diego would make the 90-minute drive up the coast, but instead it's been the opposite. Such fury and resentment burn there that fans are openly rooting against their old franchise. They are laughing at the team's third-world status. They are high-fiving after Charger losses. 

How long can this go on? The Chargers can't fill up a 30,000 seat soccer stadium. When they do, it's overrun by opposing fans. What will happen in two years when they move into a stadium twice the size, with more expensive ticket prices? What type of punchline will the Chargers be when 35,000 Raider fans show up at the new stadium in 2020, and half the stadium is still empty? 

It was a land grab built on blinding greed, and now it's crashing down on the NFL. The league was so powerful it figured it would shove two teams into L.A. and the fans would come flocking. The arrogant owners arranged the chess board to move franchises where they wanted them, generation of loyalties be damned. So this serves them right. They made fools of fans in San Diego, and now they're being made fools by their new bride. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.