LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
The owner of the San Diego Chargers has confirmed after much speculation that he's moving his team to LA. Chargers fans did not take it well. At least one fan lobbed eggs at the team's headquarters. Others burned memorabilia.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I just took my Charger gear off and put it in the pile with the rest of them like the garbage that the Chargers are.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I've spent a lot of money. I'm a season ticket holder. And it just makes me sad that I can't be anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: My mom and my uncle, they're probably turning over in their grave right now 'cause they're the reason that I'm a Charger fan right now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're going to talk about the agony of abandonment on this week's Sunday sport chat, our weekly conversation about sports and culture on and off the field. Joining us today is Juliet Litman. She's managing editor of the sports website The Ringer. Thanks so much for being with us.
JULIET LITMAN: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's talk about the Chargers particularly. What do they mean to their fans? We just heard there one man talking about a family legacy, real grief.
LITMAN: Well, I think NFL teams in general inspire so much connection between the fans and the players and the organization. And I think that the most sort of dramatic examples of fan abandonment, as you put it, really come from NFL teams. And that, of course, includes the Chargers. I think it's also a little bit trickier here opposed to a move like the Rams last year where they're not really moving that far.
So it's almost like adding insult to injury where the Chargers are so important to their fans and the sense of, like, what the city is. You know, they're a city with two teams, or they were - the Padres and the Chargers - and now they've lost the Chargers. But it's not like they've moved across the country. They've just moved 90 minutes away, essentially.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do fans continue to follow a team like the Chargers when it's skipped town, or is it like a spurned lover type of thing? You know, I never want to hear their name again. They've left me.
LITMAN: Sure. I think it's definitely more of the latter, of the spurned lover. A lot of - if you read the literature of teams moving, a lot of times it's compared to a divorce. And the feelings are really quite intense. And I think the divorce metaphor actually works well here because if you care about football, it's not like you can just kind of block out the team if you want to remain invested in the NFL. You know, there's a limited number of teams, and they'll be coming across your news transom. But a lot of the fans that stay invested in the sport move on from the team.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: To keep on with this metaphor, belabor it, if you will...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Do they fall in love again? Do they - you know, do they find another team to root for?
LITMAN: I don't know in the case of the Chargers. It seems unlikely there'll be another team in San Diego any time soon. So I think that you direct your passions towards a different sport or a different team. I remember when the Nets moved to Brooklyn from New Jersey there was a conversation of do Nets fans go with them, or is that a time where when your team is leaving you can just jump on a different ship? And I think that often jumping on a different ship is more satisfying. I think with the Chargers, they'll keep some of their fans. But I think that it will be a lot of resentment towards Dean Spanos, the owner.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So team leaves, bereft fans on the one side, and then the Chargers are moving to LA. Let's use them as an example. That's a town with a lot of sports teams. Is there room in the heart of, you know, Los Angelenos for a new team? I mean, will the Chargers find a new fan base?
LITMAN: I think it's going to be tough. I live in Los Angeles, and we're just coming off of the first Rams season in over 20 years. And, you know, they were playing at the Coliseum. They don't have their stadium yet. But they were not filling the stadium yet, and that has been a big narrative around them. The Lakers and the Dodgers are so popular here.
And even the Clippers, who have been here a long time, also having moved from San Diego, have yet to find that same dedicated fan base despite the fact they've actually been much better than the Lakers for the last few years and they have two legitimate stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. So if that's any indication of a San Diego team moving up the coast, it doesn't bode well for the Chargers, particularly since the Rams are still trying to find - like, re-find their footing as a Los Angeles team.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Juliet Litman of The Ringer. Really enjoyed having you on. Thanks.
LITMAN: Thanks so much.
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