Feb. 3 2016 01:20 PM

Therapeutic advice for tormented San Diego football fans

Stan Kroenke had his way with Dean Spanos—now it's Mayor Faulconer's turn. Oh the sparks!
Photo illustration by John R. Lamb

Those things that hurt, instruct. —Benjamin Franklin

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind,” Shakespeare wrote in the romantic comedy As You Like It, “thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”

And blow it did indeed in recent days, rattling foundations, flinging debris and generally making a mess of things. Not to mention the whipping Mother Nature put to San Diego.

What’s that? You thought Spin Cycle was talking about the palm-snapping, tree-tipping, gale-force winds that recently battered our fair city? Well, that’s understandable, but no.

Harsh weather here comes and goes, but as for those San Diego Chargers—they’re back, baby, with helmet in hand! Cue the fog machine!

Yep, it would seem pathetic if not true, but the Boltin’ Bolts of L.A. Dream$ have landed back in their old haunts, at least for the 2016 season. With an unspecified deal and a one-year hall pass from Los Angeles sweepstakes winner Stan Kroenke, multibillionaire owner of the soon-to-be ex-St. Louis Rams, Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos now vows to return his focus to his first love, the team’s disheveled but familiar-like-an-old-sweater home base for more than half a century.

In a statement last week, Spanos said he had met with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and county Supervisor Ron Roberts (erroneously identified in an NFL release and some news outlets, the New York Times included, as board colleague Dave Roberts, to much displeasure). “I look forward to working closely with them and the business community to resolve our stadium dilemma,” Spanos said. “This has been our home for 55 years, and I want to keep the team here and provide the world-class stadium experience you deserve…I am committed to looking at this with a fresh perspective and a new sense of possibility.”

Faulconer and Roberts later responded to the Spanos eyelash batting with their own joint statement, cooing, “We look forward to discussing his vision for a new San Diego home for the Chargers, and will be working with him and our negotiating team on a fair and viable plan to put before voters. We have agreed to meet again in the near future.”

Spin Cycle had only one reaction to this news: These poor Chargers fans (disclosure: as a hometown boy, that ostensibly includes yours truly), hearts ripped out one day, then surgically re-implanted the next but with an expiration date of unknown duration.

Reaction on social media to the latest kink in this long-twisted civic tale spanned the emotional spectrum. Fans seemed in ecstasy, non-fans shrugged and municipal watchdogs cried, “Wolf!” As veteran campaign consultant Chris Crotty tweeted after the release swapping, “If you believe Spanos after all the crap he’s pulled, I have a bridge to sell you.”

So how should fans react to the news that’s not really news? Spin decided to find out—technically, we as San Diegans are family, so what would a family therapist have to say?

It turns out not what many are claiming can be equated with an abusive relationship. Those parallels should just stop right now. Bad, bad analogy, folks.

“The fans do have a relationship with the Chargers,” said Rachel Moore, a former San Diego Union-Tribune copy editor now working to become licensed as a marriage and family therapist at the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma in Bankers Hill. (She’s logged 2,100 hours of the 3,000 hours required for licensure.) “Whether we think that’s a valid relationship or not is up to interpretation.”

But the distinction from an abusive relationship is the power fans wield, she said. “The fans are choosing to go to the games or be fans,” Moore said, “so even though the people who own the teams might have more power in this particular situation, it’s not like the fans are at risk of serious emotional or physical harm.”

Moore attributed much of the current fan angst to something similar to grieving—“anticipatory grief,” as she put it. She noted when David Bowie died, “I’ll admit I was in mourning.” Not because he was a personal friend, but for the touchstones in her life where his gift inspired her. “We get sad not because we knew them,” she said, “but because they showed us things about ourselves.”

It’s similar for Charger fans. “And it’s hard to grieve something that hasn’t happened yet,” Moore said. “It’s almost harder when you don’t know—when someone’s dying, for example. The limbo is harder, I think, than the finality.”

And if fans feel jerked around by the experience, that’s where anxiety can blossom. Moore said she’s certain most fans would get over the team’s departure, if it came to that, but she understands the emotions. “People identify with the Chargers being in San Diego,” she said. “To some, it’s important to them, and it’s tough on their self-identity.”

Her advice to fans? “Don’t feel bad about the fact that you’re hurting,” Moore said. “If it’s making you hurt—if you’re feeling the emotion—then the emotion is valid.” She suggested that fans continue to talk amongst themselves, perhaps even in a support-group setting.

Not only will talking about it help, but being among others who feel the same could lead “people to feel a sense of empowerment. Instead of being mad at players who encourage fans to come to games, maybe take that advice and encourage your friends to come,” Moore said, adding she got involved when the San Diego Opera was threatening to close.

So buck up, Charger fans. Who knows? Yet another hearty wind could blow through town in the coming weeks, delivering even more promises. Maybe a new (old?) plan for a mega-entertainment district at the Qualcomm Stadium site in exchange for development rights of the old Sports Arena property (aka Valley View Casino Center, a lease now held by L.A. Live complex developer AEG, a mega-company that once eyed the Chargers for a downtown Los Angeles stadium.)

Either way, San Diegans need to stay engaged, Moore said: “People can make the city what they want it to be. They don’t need politicians telling them what’s important and what’s not.”


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