The Justice Files

Last Friday, I was flipping through the channels when I accidentally stumbled upon the '92 Charger highlight film on ESPN Classic. It was fittingly entitled "The Cinderella Story." Much to my wife's chagrin, I am the proud owner of the '80, '81, '82, '89, '91, '93, '94, '95 and '96 VHS editions. So I was understandably psyched to finally see this one. It really brought back some memories.

In 1992, I was a junior at the University of Rochester, in the heart of Bills country during their AFC title reign. After the heartbreak of the '87 scab-infested "ReChargers" missing the playoffs (their hot start prompted me to write a full-page article in my high school newspaper called "Uncle Al's Band"), I began to wonder if the Bolts would ever reach the postseason again. My arrival at college coincided with the drafting of Junior Seau and the arrival of Bobby Beathard.

Unfortunately, the '91 squad went 4-12 in a season additionally marred by the confiscation of my fake ID. The lone time I tried to get into watch the game via satellite, my treasured pass to the land of liquor was confiscated by an overzealous bouncer in denim overalls who looked exactly like one of the twins from DC Cab.

But a new season brought a new and improved identification which would never fail me again. Unfortunately, the team didn't look like it would follow suit at first. I remember watching the loss to Pittsburgh and witnessing the indignity of seeing our punter, John Kidd, bloodied on a return. Enter Stan The Man.

It's fitting that Beathard poached Humphries from Washington, since Stan was eerily reminiscent of Billy Kilmer (minus the near-fatal car accident—I read a book on him in elementary school). He was built like a Coleman cooler, held just as many beers and was just as tough. I always suspected that John Freisz was missing that intangible that makes guys follow him, and Stan's first season confirmed that. The highlight film hailed the 14-13 win at Cleveland as the season's turning point, a game I was fortunate enough to witness first-hand. Of course, I had to drive three hours through a snowstorm to make the 1:00 PM kickoff. Remember, this was college, when an early kickoff is a scary thing. Once, I realized that the weather might cause me to be late, I found a nice spot behind a snow cat and started to speed up. When my friend DJ woke up in the passenger seat, he found me driving with the windows open and Cypress Hill's 1st album blaring from the speakers. Since I was swerving back and forth within the paved wake of the snow cat, he demanded I pull over and let him drive. After watching Stan win the game with a bomb to Anthony Miller, I was convinced he was the player to take us to the playoffs and beyond.

After the heartbreaking loss at Arrowhead, I became convinced that we would get a chance at Schottenheimer's Queefs once again in the playoffs. So I sent Stan a postal money order of $5 (again, this was college) and wrote a note that after we defeated Kansas City, he should slip it into Dave Kreig's hand as he left the field and tell him to "go home and get his f-n' shinebox," a lá Goodfellas.

I'll never know if Stan received the money. In retrospect, I should have written a check. But after my pilgrimages to the AFC title game and Super Bowl XXIX, he did eventually autograph and return the picture I sent him. It hangs over my computer next to my similarly signed photo of Dan Fouts, the only other player I've ever written with such a request.

The FAITHFUL READERS of JUSTICE IS COMING know that I have always referred to Charger fans as the "Legion of The Lightning Bolt." I thought that this moniker distinguished us from other hordes of fans. You can imagine my shock when I heard the "Legions of the Lightning Bolt" was mentioned in the aforementioned highlight film. Oh well, I still think it's a good name.

I'm not too worried about Merriman missing minicamp. I think it's stupid, but I respect A.J. Smith not backing down. As I've said before, I trust the guy. I do respect, however, Steve Foley calling Merriman out. I was also impressed that Drew Brees pointed out that this offseason is even more critical than last. Not only is the schedule harder, we're not sneaking up on anybody.

I have to move. It's a sunny day here on the Isle of Manhattan. My wife Sam and I have just secured our Stones tickets. Before you scoff at their age and gouging ticket prices, I implore you to check them out in San Diego or whatever stadium is nearest to you. If you think that they're all about antiquated anthems, go buy Let It Bleed and Exile On Main Street right now.


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