Padres Offer Hope For A Championship Tho History Shows Otherwise
As an avid sports fan – heck, I began my career as a sports reporter on daily newspapers – I am always interested in what the local teams are up to and, of course, to become a fan of them.
That, tho, is easier said than done here in San Diego where I now live. To be a fan, one must have or develop some connection to a team. It could be a particular player, a memorable moment in its history or a winning tradition.
But for all its pluses as a city, San Diego does not really have much going for it in the way of sports.
For starters, it only has one top-level professional team, the Padres. It has no major college team that is followed by a passionate fan base, the essence of collegiate athletics.
The NFL’s Chargers defected to Los Angeles and why would anyone root for a team that has abandoned its city? (Tho Raider fans in the Bay Area still root for their team, no matter where it is located.)
In other words, there’s nothing to “hang our hat on” when it comes to sports teams in San Diego.
Rooting for a local sports team is part of the thrill of living in a place if you ask me. I am a Southerner and a proud alumni of the University of Alabama, which just won the school’s 17th National Championship in football.
I moved here from Los Angeles where there are two of everything. It has a pair of pro sports franchises in every league and major college programs. The Dodgers, USC and UCLA all have rich winning traditions.
Here in San Diego, I can’t even keep the colleges straight. There’s UCSD, USD and San Diego State. Which one is which? It’s all so confusing.
I would like to become a Padres fan. After all it has a fantastic stadium, Petco Park, that is just a five-minute walk from me in the Gaslamp Quarter and for those who live elsewhere a trolley line stops next to the stadium (take THAT Dodgers fans!).
The team has a dynamic and excitable player, Fernando Tatis, Jr., who in just one year has become the face of the franchise. Alas, he just signed a 14-year, $340 million contract and if being a sportswriter has taught me anything, it’s not to expect the same level of play out of an athlete after he gets a fat, multi-year contract. This is something Boston Red Sox and later Dodger fans discovered with Manny Ramirez.
Let’s hope we don’t wind up saying “that’s just Fernando being Fernando.” (Note: a few days after this column was posted, Tatis went on the DL with a shoulder injury. He’s due to return but is likely to be on and off it throughout the season because it eventually will need surgery.)
San Diego has almost no history of winning anything in any sport. Its lone championship came in 1963 when the Chargers won the old AFL title. There were only eight teams in the league at the time.
They Padres have been to the World Series but once (lost) and traded away one of the best players in franchise history just as he was rising to stardom (Ozzie Smith) for a malcontent (Garry Templeton).
Perhaps Tatis will play like he did last year when nobody could see him in person. Perhaps he will propel the Padres to a World Series title and bring the rare kind of citywide celebration that last occurred with a Steve Garvey playoff home run way back in 1984.
The franchise’s history indicates otherwise, however.
The San Diego sports history is so vacant of championships that in a recent excellent series in the Union-Tribune on the history of its major stadium (Qualcomm, “the Murph” and a few other names, which is being town down as I write this post), half of the memories of Chargers games were of losses. It includes the NFL-famous “Holy Roller” game against the Raiders.
More happy moments were created in that stadium by the San Diego Chicken than by any of the sports teams.
Title Town it ain’t.
So it’s safe to say that San Diego is due to have a winning sports team. Perhaps I have arrived in town just in time.