Feb. 3 2016 12:07 AM

San Diego won’t vote for a stadium deal with corporate welfare

The Chargers are lame ducks.
Photo illustration by Carolyn Ramos

Disregard the rose-colored cheerleading from local media. Having a lame duck team play in Qualcomm Stadium this year with a looming departure to Los Angeles is the bad scenario we’re facing.

San Diego is a perfect storm of equally parsed ideological diversity when it comes to feelings about building the Chargers a new stadium. This town doesn’t know how to spell consensus.

A public vote on funding new stadium construction would likely take place in the Nov. 8 general election (halfway through the next NFL season). But even if the Chargers are undefeated at the time, any stadium initiative that includes a hint of corporate welfare is not going to be approved by more than 50 percent of the electorate. A recent San Diego Union-Tribune poll showed 60 percent would reject the city’s most recent subsidy plan.

The one-third of San Diegans who bleed powder blue cancel out the one-third who will never-ever-ever approve one red cent for a wealthy private business owner.

That puts the ball in the hands of the middle third. And who are these people? They’re folks who like football well enough but don’t enjoy being insulted by a silver-spooned dullard of an owner. Dean Spanos’ infrequent and disingenuous public pronouncements are reminiscent of Colin Firth’s portrayal of a stammering monarch in The King’s Speech. Uninspiring.

The Chargers’ billionaire owner wants to be a multi-billionaire. He courted a trophy stadium in Los Angeles and flaunted it—like an absurdist episode of Cheaters. We prepared for the inevitable and held a wake at Qualcomm Stadium. But instead of closure, The Clash’s lyrics continues to loop on our collective playlist: “It’s always tease tease tease / You’re happy when I’m on my knees…This indecision’s buggin’ me / If you don’t want me set me free.” Yes, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” ought to replace “San Diego Super Chargers” as 2016’s official team anthem.

It’s understandable some fans are passionate about keeping an NFL team in town. It’s a unifying addiction. The Super Bowl—essentially an American holiday—is a four-hour bump. Our society binges on it. Professional football is crack, and Deano is our El Chapo.

But remember the thirds theory. Here’s how the thinking in the anything-for-a-stadium third (33 percent of voters) breaks down:

• Absolutely! Empty the city coffers for a palace for Mr. Spanos. Mission Valley, downtown…tear down the Central Library to make room if we have to.

• Of course. Spending tax dollars on a stadium is good for the city’s morale. What homeless?

• Yes, I love the Chargers and even though Spanos has treated us fans poorly, we love the players, not the owner. Plus, I’ve got a Bolt tattoo.

Here are the thoughts of the malleable middle third (34 percent):

• I like the Chargers but have negative feeling about Spanos. But golly, now the sportswriters say he’s not so bad after all, and moving was the idea of that well-dressed, grey-haired spokesman guy.

• I’d like to keep the Chargers but have concerns for all aspects of life in San Diego, not just football. I drive a Prius, conserve water and vote in all elections.

• Why should I support a team that never wins?

I’m a great fan, but I’m not going to shell out for a loser. Hey, what’s that about the Raiders moving here?

And the no-way-no-how third (33 percent):

• Sure, I watch football. But Spanos reminds me of Dad, who left Mom for a young real estate agent in L.A….Mom and I did just fine without him!

•I’ll never vote for one cent of public money for a billionaire’s playroom. There’s plenty to do in San Diego on Sundays. See you on Cowles Mountain!

• Hell no. Never. I don’t care about sports. Let’s build a publicly funded opera house on the bay, or get a professional chess team.

It all comes down to the malleable middle. To turn them El Deano would have to eat crow, cough up more of his own dough and get the NFL to do the same.

Can we all agree on that?


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