Here we are, boys and girls, engrossed in a clash of titans, a battle of wills, a predicament rife with horrible consequences and Shakespearean twists for the great leaders of our fair city, the Des Moines of the West. At the forefront of the drama is the Spanos family, Alex and lil' Dean, Stockton's version of Dynasty. The son of a baker, Alex created an empire building cheap apartments.
Alex is no dummy. Alex has done the math. And keeping his football team in San Diego is bad business. Put it on the open market, see what ya' can get-that's the American way. Heck, he'd move it to Fresno if he could make a few more bucks, and people from Stockton think people from Fresno smell funny.
In a business sense, Spanos has a lot in common with Gene Klein, the former owner of the team, who made millions by adding more salt to popcorn in his movie theaters to boost drink sales. Like Spanos, Klein had a questionable grasp of socio-economic trends. When star running back Chuck Muncie was busted yet again for Hoovering massive amounts of cocaine, Klein expressed shock.
"I can't believe it," he told a reporter. "Chuck was always wide awake, alert and ready to go."
In similar fashion, the Chargers seem shocked that the city of San Diego isn't jumping up and squealing with delight at their new stadium plan.
You can tell they don't get it. The strategy was all in place. Once again they'd negotiate the deal during the height of Super Bowl fever, which turned former Mayor Susan Golding into such a panting slut just a few years ago. Then they'd wheel out a "public-private partnership," developed after many, many serious calculations, high level meetings and deep, deep introspection, allowing the hacks at City Hall to proclaim that it would only cost $200 million to make Spanos happy this time.
But this time people aren't drinking the same Kool-Aid. Nobody is thrilled with the fairyland vision of a utopian urban village, where bunnies and small furry animals mingle with gentle steroid-addled giants in serenity and peace.
Somehow-and damn if this doesn't seem to happen, well, quite a lot-these projects tend to go a wee bit over budget. And then that park gets turned into an auto parts store. And the "projected revenue" appears based on the idea that the clouds will piss gold sometime next Thursday.
Some cynical types have even pointed out that if redevelopment on the site could actually generate $200 million, then maybe the city should redevelop that swell parcel in the flood plain and spend the $200 mil on something cooler than a stadium.
Two hundred million can buy a lot of cool. Forget a stadium, how about the biggest water park in the world, complete with huge slides and fountains where nude supermodels can bathe?
This park would attract a helluva a lot more "tourist dollars" than 10 football games a season. San Diego would be the oasis of the Southwest. Charge for beer and the place would solve the city's debt problems.
But the San Diego City Council and its vaunted Chargers task force don't seem hotwired for that type of innovative thinking.
Pitted against the mighty Spanos clan, they are sweating, facing an epic decision that can only lead to tragedy for themselves and their days of free cocktail weenies at Rotary Club picnics.
If they lose the Chargers to Los Angeles, which seems a foregone conclusion, their corporate masters will look for some new City Hall flunky to fill their council seat, maybe that new cutie publicist on the third floor. But if they come across as soft on the Chargers, they'll be mocked as toady bureaucrats.
The savvy political move would be to play it tough. Tell the Chargers we have a contract and if you want to move you're going to have to prove your "financial hardship" to a judge. Make them wheel out detailed charts and graphs exploring the Spanos family's finances. Ask them to explain why the city should pay for their crummy marketing efforts.
If you're a councilmember, this works as a no-lose situation. They'd be defending the sanctity of the law against contract-breaking scum. Maybe the Chargers would cave and negotiate in good faith. The council would come across as savvy heroes.
At worst, the case would drag on for years, keeping the team in town long after the current council has moved on to battle for proper product labeling in the state Assembly.
Instead the councilmembers are doomed to wrestle with their inner angst, challenging Chargers attorneys to mud wrestle one minute, and voting for the Spanos Memorial Parking Garage the next. They will negotiate and whine, look perplexed and serious and furrow their brows when the TV cameras are pointed in their direction.
And it won't make any difference. As soon as the city recognizes the Chargers' right to "renegotiate" the contract, the council is doomed. Either they will end up pitching a ridiculous deal to city voters, or the team will simply move to Los Angeles or some other desperate hellhole metropolis.The only one who can't lose, one way or another, is the crafty lil' baker's son from Stockton, who is already making plans for that new gold-plated Rolls with the cool shiny thing on the hood.