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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

San Diego Chargers: For Better or For Worse

By: Zach Friend

I know there are better ways to spend a Sunday. I've seen others do it -- productive things like fixing the leaky faucet or spending time with your family. But ever since I moved away from San Diego, I spend my Sundays scouring television guides, Internet stations and my friends' satellite dishes to watch my beloved team. Every year, I show my loyalty and build hope for a year better than the last only to have the season end in anguish and despair. Anyone who is a Chargers fan is well aware of this phenomenon, and not just because you are most likely a Padres fan as well.

But you don't have to be a Chargers fan to understand this cycle of loyalty, anticipation and the anguish of dashed hopes. In fact, 31 teams and cities fail to win the Super Bowl every year and the Sunday ritual of dodging chores is played out across the country. Many cities don't have winning seasons (or winning decades for that matter) and I know how fortunate I have been to even see my team in the playoffs. After all, it seems if you aren't from New York or Boston the last decade that championships weren't really for you.

But why do we allow ourselves to go through this despair year after year? Teams have the ability to place cities on their backs during times of anguish (as has been seen in New Orleans after Katrina and San Diego after the fires) and build uncommon bonds between people. They allow for a common language between a father and son or even the stranger at the supermarket. If nothing else, they bring a commonality beyond locale and connect us with a loyalty not really seen in other aspects of our community.

Clearly this loyalty isn't reciprocated by some owners and business managers who are responsible for astronomical ticket prices, demands for new stadiums and players that are treated like disposable dishes (can anyone say LaDainian Tomlinson?). To the business world it doesn't matter if you are one of the best running backs in history -- a few injuries or no MVP-like season and you're gone.

Some owners expect our blind loyalty winning season or not but rarely give us much love in return. But we trudge on -- with open arms. What is interesting is that for many of us, our loyalty to teams does not translate into loyalty in other elements of our life. For instance, what happened when you went to a restaurant that you loved for the first five trips and then had two bad experiences? Do you go back? Do we give political figures or co-workers the same leniency? Most likely not.

I suppose this is what makes sports different. Teams, like my San Diego Super Chargers, are something you grow up with and stick with -- for better or for worse. Many will never understand why we develop these trusting and eternally hopeful bonds with teams. It is like Charlie Brown continually thinking that Lucy won't pull the football out from underneath him. Or it is like a relationship where everything seems to be going so well only to find out on week 18 that it's immediately over.

But we keep coming back for more. We irrationally cultivate our trust year after year and feel optimism undeterred by the defeats of the past. Maybe we want to have something in our lives that is innocent and hopeful or maybe we just want to justify to our significant others that we are doing something valuable on Sundays. Either way, I think this off-season I'll leave my Bolt banner up -- after all, I can sense that September portends something good.