I have been so consumed lately by remembrance of the events of 9/11 that I almost didn't notice it was football season. And if you don't detect a note of sarcasm in that opening sentence, it's certainly not because I didn't spread it on thickly enough. It's football season-thank Christ! I look forward to football season like a priest looks forward to a slumber party. The past seven months have meant interminable suffering from which only the sound of snot-blowing ear-hole shots can rescue me. But, writing a column for CityBeat, on the one hand, and being passionate about football, on the other, presents something of a conflict.
Here is an example of my typical conversation over the past two weeks:
Some Guy In A Bar: Hey, Tony, why don't you write a piece about the Chargers?
Me: Because I don't write a sports column. I write an opinion column.
SGIAB: Well, can't you have an opinion about the Chargers?
M: Good question.
All right, I will express an opinion about the Chargers. In my opinion, the Chargers are a superbly talented young football team, and, in my opinion, two games do not a season make. The fact that their offensive line can pass block is encouraging. More encouraging still is the fact that their quarterback went 25 of 35 without an interception in his second professional start. But no matter his success against the abysmal Tennessee Titans pass defense, he's still a third-year rookie. The proof is in succeeding against good defenses in their own homes-like the Baltimore Ravens, for instance, 11 days hence.
In my opinion, the self-professed preseason experts were right to declare the Chargers' defensive front seven of the best in football. In my opinion, the defensive backfield, which has gotten a bad rap in the past few years, is not to blame for the fact that the system in which it plays calls upon its cover men to give a deep drop. One can't get a chuck from 10 yards off the line. Wade Phillips, one of the great defensive minds in the game, knows this fact, and that, in my opinion, is why he stands behind his cornerbacks and safeties, despite the opinion of the ordinary fan.
In my opinion, Shawne Merriman is a frightening specimen. Nobody who stands 6-4 and weighs 272 pounds should be fast enough to run down Vince Young from behind. In my opinion, Antonio Gates is the best tight end in football. In everyone's opinion, LaDainian Tomlinson is the best running back in the game. In my opinion, although it's too soon to start talking about January, a team outscoring its first two opponents by 60 points is a good start.
All of this is true in my opinion. I think I'm right, but whether I am or not, I wouldn't expect the caliber of a sports team nor its prospects for several more good seasons to have any bearing upon public policy. Apparently, I would be wrong.
I recall hearing in May of this year Mayor Jerry Sanders saying that he wants city government to focus on fixing the city's finances and to forget trying to work out a stadium deal with the Chargers. At his urging, the City Council voted at that time to allow the team to begin negotiating with other cities in the county that might offer them a stadium without the rotten bowels on top of which sit the Qualloseum. His Honor was rather clear, I thought, that the Chargers issue was a non-starter as far as he was concerned.
So I was somewhat surprised to learn last week that the mayor has linked up with the county Board of Supervisors (those visionaries) to support the creation of a joint powers authority that would solve the problem of the Chargers' possible departure to more welcoming environs following the 2008 season. I'm guessing that Jerry and the supes like winning football teams as much as I do-that or some pollster told the lot of them that a majority of voters do. Either way, it seems that keeping the Chargers in San Diego has inched up Jerry's priority meter a tad.
Boy, do I wish Jerry had taken me up on any of my past invitations to meet for happy hour. I would have told him that, in my opinion, the Spanos Cartel has already offered the city the best deal available. The Chargers have said, essentially, that if the city will give them the land under and around the current stadium, they will build a new, state-of-the-art facility at their expense and they will commit to staying in San Diego practically forever.
Now, I don't like giving public things to rich people for free. I never have. Personally, I wouldn't give Alex Spanos a used sock if his toes were cold. But let's face it-he's got this city by the short and curlies. We want a football team here, and even if we didn't, Qualcomm Stadium is a rotting carcass that, absent a professional football team, would serve virtually no purpose taking up such vast acreage in the heart of Mission Valley. If the Chargers left, the city would have to find some developer at whom to throw sweetheart deals in order to improve the current site. That's how it works. Old, blighted properties get given away to rich people who build sparkling castles and make tons of profits. Think "John Moores."
So, Jerry, let's stop messing around. Don't let National City or Chula Vista or, God forbid, the Port Commission get rich off of our shortsightedness. Let's just accept that, in this case, my opinion is the right one. I would be thrilled to discuss it all over a beer if you could pull yourself away for an afternoon. If you like, I'll ask Shawne Merriman to come along. He's a lot more persuasive than I am. Ask Vince Young.
The Jerrymeter: Today is Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006-Day 42 of Jerry Sanders being too good to come meet me for a beer at Nunu's.
Tony Phillips blogs at www.fifthavenuegazette.com. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and editor@SDcitybeat.com.