[The scene: the basement of Our Lady of Sorrows church, Mission Valley. A circle of chairs. A despondent array of suffering souls.]
Walter Mencken: Hello, everybody. Please sit down. Welcome to Walter Mencken’s Post-Breakup Workshop. Your relationship may have been damaged beyond repair, but that doesn’t mean you have to be! Let’s see... Joseph Fanbase, let’s start with you.
Joseph Fanbase: Just Joe. Joe Fanbase.
WM: That’s fine. Well, Joe, why don’t you tell us why you’re —
JF: That faithless bitch.
WM: Okay, what I’m hearing is a lot of —
JF: What you’re hearing is that she’s a faithless bitch. Fifty-five years I gave to her. Fifty-five years, and what do I get for my trouble? First chance she has, she turns tail and starts slutting it up with some moneybags in Los Angeles. They got a name for someone you can just buy like that.
WM: I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. A girl has to think of her future.
JF: What future? It’s not like that Kroenke jerk gonna marry her! He already has a wife, and her name is the Rams. He’s just gonna let the ex–Mrs. Fanbase into his bed when the old lady is out of town. There’s no way he’s giving her a permanent lease. I give it two years before he decides she’s more trouble than she’s worth and dumps her. That whole town is disposable; it’s always about the new new thing. And when that happens, you best believe I’m not gonna take her back, no friggin’ way. Los Angeles, of all places. Why didn’t she just make a deal with Oakland while she was at it, really stick it to me?
WM: I understand you’re hurting. But sometimes we’re able to learn best when we’re the most open and vulnerable. Maybe it would help to look back, try to spot the danger signs.
JF: Spot ’em? She held ’em high! She’s been threatening to leave for at least ten years. But you know, that’s her way. It’s part of why I love her — loved her — she always kept things unpredictable, even electric. What’s in a name, right? I always figured we’d work it out. Like when the mayor proposed his little compromise. But we all know how that went over.
WM: Sounds like there’s still a spark in your heart for the Chargers, Joe. We’ll come back to you. Let’s move on to... Miss Qualcomm.
Gloria Qualcomm: Thank you.
WM: And who is this with you?
Steven Qualcomm: Steven Qualcomm. I look after her.
WM: You’re her father?
SQ: She’s got my name, doesn’t she? I gave her my name. Let me tell you, this Charger creep couldn’t have picked a worse time to leave. I’ve got Apple suing me for a billion dollars, and on top of that, the feds are breathing down my neck about monopolization. The last thing I need is to see my name getting dragged through the mud in the press. Do you see what they’re calling my Gloria? “A dated eyesore.” “A dump.” “Sagging.” Sagging! How does concrete sag, I ask you? And you know they wouldn’t be saying those things if that fly-by-night bastard hadn’t —
GQ: Please, Daddy. Remember, it’s my broken heart. Mr. Mencken, I know that his decision was ultimately his to make. I know that. But I can’t help sometimes, you know, thinking that maybe I could have… done more. I remember when he asked me to get some work done back in the late ’90s. He wanted me to enlarge my capacity, and I made such a fuss about ticket guarantees. Of course, it wasn’t about the tickets. It was knowing that he was unhappy with me, and wishing he could be satisfied with the way I was. Anyway, he made all sorts of promises about how I’d get increased exposure and we’d host more Super Bowls, and that was nice. But he also pointed out that I was getting older and that many of the other teams were ditching their old stadiums for newer, sexier ones. You know, the kind with nicer... luxury boxes.
SQ: The cad!
WM: I see. So you consented to the… improvements?
GQ: I didn’t want to lose him! Of course, it wasn’t enough. I only ever hosted one more Super Bowl, and he never did give me that ring he promised. “Just one before I die,” I used to ask him, and he would be so sweet. “Next year, honey. Next year we’ll be healthy. Next year I’ll get you a proper coach. Next year…” sob.
WM: Oh, dear. Here, take my handkerchief; you seem to have sprung a leak. Let’s hear from someone else. My goodness — Norv Turner, is that you?
Norv Turner: I thought maybe I could offer some perspective, since the Chargers broke up with me years ago. I just think it’s a shame things ended when they did. In October of 2012, you will recall, I said that my intention was to finish the season “at precisely .500, thus stifling all the obvious, extreme emotions that a great success or great failure would engender. Because only in this state — frustrated but not enraged, and unclouded by elation — can a fan become reflective and consider whether or not it is really worthwhile to keep the Chargers in San Diego at any cost. Perhaps the time has come for an honest assessment of what you give to them, and what they give or do not give back to you in return. Ultimately, I concluded, “This season is not about football. It’s about you, the fan. Football is just the myth I’m using to help you understand yourself. Please, think about it.” Of course, she didn’t let that happen. I got the boot, she made the playoffs, and everyone wound up with four more years of crazy. And now here we are. In mythological terms, the plight of the artist is akin to that of the prophet: forever crying out in warning, like the Greek seer Cassandra; and also like her, forever ignored. Troy fell, and the Chargers wound up homeless: rejected by San Diego and unwanted in Los Angeles.
WM: That doesn’t sound like perspective. That sounds like gloating.
NT: Potato, po-tah-to.
WM: And if I recall, you weren’t always so detached and philosophical.
NT: I am large. I contain multitudes. On that occasion, I was trying to help this city understand that it didn’t want a pro football team so much as it didn’t want to lose one.
Welcome to Spanos’s nightmare: his beloved Chargers, a team without a home, wandering in the wilderness, waiting upon their ow
WM: I think I’m seeing why that particular relationship ended. You were the next suitor, Mr. McCoy. How are you holding up?
Mike McCoy Dude, I’m good. I’m here to say only good things. When the team and I first hooked up, she was coming off a bad breakup with a very intense guy — no offense, Norv — not to mention the significant personal loss of her longtime friend Junior Seau. She was frustrated and upset, and I knew from the get-go that what she needed was not a new commitment, it was a rebound. Someone younger; someone fun and upbeat who wouldn’t get caught up in the drama. That was me, and I was fine with that. We had some great times, especially at the beginning, when we won five of our last six and made the playoffs for the first time in years. Sure, it got tougher as time went by, and yeah, people got hurt along the way.
MM: But even in those dark times, she helped me to grow as a person. I found ways to deal with my anger, discovered depths I didn’t know I possessed. They say that art begins in a wound. I know that’s true in my case. Anyway, the break came, and she realized it was time for a change of scene, so she took off for L.A. It happens all the time. As for me, I didn’t mope around like you clowns; I found a sweet little filly in Denver in under two weeks.
WM: I’m glad you mentioned a wound. When people are hurt, they tend to focus on their own pain and other people’s mistakes. They forget that it takes two to tango, so to speak. It’s a little unorthodox, but I find that it can be very helpful in the healing process to force yourself to consider the other party. Often, what looks to you like selfishness turns out to be simple self-protection. So that’s why I’ve brought in Dean Spanos to — now, now, calm down. I want everyone to listen to his side of the story. Empathy is what makes us human. Dean, why don’t you tell the people how you’re feeling?
Dean Spanos: You filthy ingrates. You never loved me. You sit there and complain about what I took from you. But what about what I gave you? What about all those years of having something to believe in, to root for? Something to give you hope and meaning in the midst of your hopeless, meaningless lives? Something to give shape to your years as you slide toward the grave: the draft, the preseason, the season, the postmortem, the draft... A magnificent cycle, ever changing, ever the same. I gave you elation and agony; I let you know you were alive! Football is war without guilt, and you know that in your heart of hearts, you love war and you hate guilt. I gave all that to you, and all I asked in return was a lousy stadium, the same as every other owner. No more, no less. And what did you do? You started whining about potholes and sewer mains. You suggested I build my own stadium — as if you can ask a god to build his own temple. Yes, I said it. I was your god, and that’s why you’re so lost without me and the blessings I can bestow. And now I hear that you’re looking to fill the void by hosting a professional soccer team. Soccer! Soc — urrk!”
[Spanos’s speech is cut off because Joe Fanbase has removed his necktie and is strangling him with it. As Mencken attempts to intervene, Gloria Qualcomm rises from her chair and draws a stiletto from her purse. Coach-provocateur Turner brandishes his ebony cigarette holder in a threatening manner. Just then, a voice booms gently in the background, causing every head to turn.]
Mayor Kevin Faulconer: Stop! In the name of the City of San Diego!
JF [scornful, but releasing his chokehold]: Well, well, well — if it isn’t the Man Who Lost the Chargers.
GQ: Shouldn’t you be out seeing to our drained pensions and our crumbling infrastructure?
MKF: Go ahead, have your fun. I’ll be out of this backwater border town and into statewide office long before you sad sacks finish your little pity party. But just to show there’s no hard feelings, and as a thank-you for the cheap election campaign, I thought I’d stop by with a little good news. I’ve just received a letter from Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani, and it seems that his team’s move is proving a little more expensive than anticipated, seeing as how they have to hire movers to come down from San Francisco. That gave the city a little bit of leverage, and I think we may have reached an amicable settlement. It’s not quite bread and circuses, but it is beer and parking lots. Who wants a party?
[Everyone looks at one another, shrugs, and follows the mayor up the basement stairs.]