Cal Ford has been a Chargers fan since the sixties but Sunday night he was a kid again. His smile was ear-to-ear as he broke in his new LaDainian Tomlinson jersey. He had considered bringing out the Fouts jersey or the Muncie one but preferred the present.
"It has been a long time coming," an exasperated Ford said. "We have had to endure a lot of pain over the past few years. I have heard it all from friends. They called us ‘Cincinnati-west' and continue to remind us of Cryin' Ryan. That is why I have been saving LaDainian's jersey. I didn't want to wear it until we could honor him properly. I think this is the time."
The Chargers have had a cumulative record of 43-85 from 1996 through 2003. That equates to a .336 winning percentage over an eight year span.
Forgive the fans for celebrating long into the night. The Chargers, with two weeks to go in the regular season, have won the AFC West crown. They are 11-3 and another victory would give them their first 12-win victory since 1979. A sweep over Indy and K.C. would give them their first 13-win season in team history.
The Chargers will be the first to tell you that it can't stop now. They have carried momentum over the past eight weeks and are looking to keep extending the streak. The teams that are hot heading into the postseason generally stay hot.
Sunday night, however, was one of celebration. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer says the celebration can last until midnight before the team must prepare for next week's game. Rest assured, the fans will carry the excitement into next weekend's game and they will be loud when the team returns home to face Kansas City in the season finale.
While AFC West tokens were being sold outside Murphy Canyon and fans were cheering on their hometown team, the contagious feeling was making its way to the players.
"It has been a long road for San Diego fans and us," quarterback Drew Brees said.
That road has finally narrowed into a season to be proud of. A season that many thought was not possible.
"Ten wins," George Marino of Santee said. "That was my prediction."
He is proud that he guessed ten wins – but even his bold stroke was wrong. The Chargers have won eleven and there is two games remaining. Although he was closest amongst the buddies who accompanied him to Chargers Park, they still jibe and joke with him.
When your team has won 11 games and already own the division you can joke all week long and into the playoffs.
"It has been a rough couple of years for them and I am sure this is what they have been waiting for," Brees added. "I have had a lot of people tell me this off-season that the San Diego fans are craving for a winning season, so that is what we have been trying to give them this year. We will continue to try to give them that. I think the excitement will be high because we are in the playoffs."
How's over 1,000 fans present just to see you get into your car and drive away for excitement?
Chargers Park packed with fans
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