Life of a Chargers fan

This San Diego Chargers season has been such a steady barrage of crap on my senses, that it's difficult to pick a single topic to write about. Often times, I find myself pointing out the same things over and over. But then something happens or I read something that makes it impossible not to plant myself in front of my keyboard.

It's 2:00 PM, Sunday afternoon and it's snowing like crazy here on the Isle of Manhattan. In less than two hours, I'll be making my weekly trek across town to watch the game at my buddy Mike's apartment. He has NFL "Sunday Ticket," but the Bolts have been so bad this year that I'm relegated to his television in the back room. There I find myself sucking down a Miller High Life tallboy or a Wild Turkey and Diet Pepsi and surrounded by his two cats, Dr. Jeffrey Wigan (from "The Insider") and Dizzy (from "Starship Troopers"). They stick around until I get upset, at which point they join the rest of my friends in the living room. I feel like Michael at the end of Godfather II, when he's moping in kitchen during his father's birthday party. Such is the life of a Chargers fan in December of 2003.

I wouldn't mind it all so much if I could see an end to the misery in sight. Here's what gets me. This morning Chris Mortensen ran down his top five "coaches on the hot seat" and Marty Schottenheimer was nowhere to be found. At least he made the "on the bubble" category. My wife, who was angrily trudging out the door to a wedding shower, shouted, "What do you expect? It's the Chargers. I'm not surprised." She's right. Of course, San Diego is the antithesis of New York in terms of being a pressure cooker to perform in. But I can't blame the local fans for this. They want Marty out. You read all the same articles and message boards that I do. It's The Organization. The Spanoses are spending more time worrying about the situation than what's happening (or not happening) on the field. Jim Fassel will be run out of town for much lesser sins. Dan Reeves was shown the door in Atlanta. Why should Schottenheimer be spared such a fate?

Even with Michael Vick's injury, Reeves took the blame for not being able to motivate his team. That's the bottom line. Look at the Jets. Herm Edwards has those guys playing hard every week. We've already heard from LaDanian Tomlinson that there are some Chargers who clearly gave up on this season some time ago. I don't know of anybody who was excited when Schottenheimer was hired, but no one could have expected things to be this bad. Since the "Air Coryell" period, the Chargers have built one winning team. The 1992-1996 Bolts were constructed by Bobby Beathard and I'm sure the Spanoses figured that John Butler would have the same affect. Our late general manager was largely the Schottenheimer hiring. With the influx of effective elderly coaches, maybe Marv Levy would have been a better choice. I don't know of anyone felt that the team's success during the first seven games was due to his coaching. After all, the Chargers were 5-2 the year before under Mike Riley.

Arthur Blank is trying to create a Mark Cubanesque, 21st century ownership in Atlanta. He lowered ticket prices even as expectations for the team were raised. He issued a written apology to the fans this year after the team faltered sans Vick. With the exception of A.J. Smith's stock "we'll evaluate everybody's performance at season's end" comments, I've heard nothing from the The Organization about Schottenheimer's ineffectiveness since he came to San Diego. It's not just the Bolts losing record over the last two seasons that he should be blamed for. It's the WAY they've lost. They've been undisciplined, lifeless, stupid and fundamentally horrible. If it wasn't for LaDanian Tomlinson, they might not have beaten either Cleveland OR Detroit.

The reality is that the Chargers may not have a chance at success until the Spanoses sell the team. Dean Spanos is no Dan Rooney. Grandpa Al doesn't leave his son with such an NFL pedigree that he can run this organization effective. Alex Spanos wants to bring Super Bowl to the city of San Diego. Unfortunately, those games won't actually feature the Chargers playing in them. When Spanos looks at the Maras and Modells that comprise his peers, he should recognize that these men built winning teams, not stadiums.

Sammy Davis, Quentin Jammer, Antonio Gates and even Zeke Moreno have shown growth over the last few games. Nonetheless, we know that the Chargers are lacking in talent. But look around the NFL. Free agency and the salary cap have made it so that the difference between the first and last place is not all that great. Depth is virtually impossible to have. Of course, the quality of the play is not all that great, either. On the field, the position that will have the greatest impact on where this team goes in the future is quarterback. The other "NFL Countdown" segment that mentioned the Chargers asked the question of whether he could be the quarterback of the future. Michael Irvin said that if you can't hit the slant pass in the NFL, you can't be the QB. Tom Jackson was mystified that any player with Tomlinson behind him couldn't succeed.

Drew Brees will start these last three games as basically an audition for a job that he thought he had wrapped up at the beginning of the year. It's not Brees' fault that the Chargers fell behind in almost every game he started, but to say that he wilted under the pressure would be a vast understatement. He claims that he's ready to simplify the game for himself. I assume that means he won't be overthrowing his receivers constantly. Whether the Bolts actually have the opportunity the pick a quarterback in April is unknown. You could certainly argue that they should pick one regardless of these last three games. But if Brees can use Tomlinson and Boston AT THE SAME TIME, it will fill me with some confidence. Would this confidence be based on realism? I don't know, but I need something to believe in at this point. It's getting pretty lonely in that back room and cats don't seem to like the smell of whiskey.


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