You know, I'm probably one of the main reasons that the economy of the United States of America is in the crapper—Instead of being productive while I sit here at work and making money that can be taxed like crazy for Uncle Sam, I'm sitting here going over some of the many interesting and informative periodicals that are available to NFL nuts like me, magazines and blogs that deal with my one true passion: The National Football League. (Insert NFL Films music or the theme from Monday Night Football here.)
Yep, it's true. And what's ALSO true is that, like you, I'm a big fan of one of the 32 franchises in the NFL, a season-ticket holder and resident wise-cracking 'know-it-all,' when it comes to "that team."
(Gasp) That's right, I'm a fan of the San Diego Chargers.
OK, OK, put down the eggs and the rotten fruit, this won't be a long speech. See? Already, all the haters are grabbing for their torches and pitchforks, and, for the most part, if you knew me, i'd probably deserve to be tarred and feathered more than a few times, when it comes to my passion.
Then, after reading yet another blurb about the 2008 NFL season on-line, it finally hits me...
EVERYBODY seems to HATE the San Diego Chargers.
I mean, it's EVERYWHERE! Teams, fans, scribes, you name it. So, I've made a decision—Instead of writing about the upcoming Chargers/Steelers game on Sunday (already did THAT), I'd chronicle the life of a Charger fan, as he muddles through the muck and mire of the 'web, NFL-style...
First off, we have to go back to when the team was 4-8, seemingly the last time the Chargers were well-liked by the NFL Brethren at large. Probably because, at THAT time, they weren't a threat to anyone, except maybe their own fans, who thought the "tar-and-feather" idea might be a proper treatment for Norv Turner and his players at the time.
At 4-8, the Chargers were gearing up for an appearance on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football in a home game against the Oakland RaiDUHs (notice the 'DUH' is accentuated, for obvious reasons), the poster children for poor drafts, questionable personnel and coaching moves, and the team that has, without question, the stupidest fans in the NFL.
Oh, not to mention the fact that I think the RaiDUHs came into the game with a record of 0-12, or something pretty close. (Sorry, as a rule, I don't usually look at the RaiDUHs very close, frankly because I don't feel they've even been a member of the NFL for some five years, now. What, they were 3-9 coming in? Thanks for helping, that's SO much better.)
Anyway, In come the RaiDUHs to Qualcomm, and, and expected, the game's a sham. 34-7 Bolts, with the 'Duhs only score coming on a kickoff return. Maybe the Arena League has it right -- Have two divisions in your league. Maybe the RaiDUHs can start the "NFL-2" division -- the 'Duhs, 14 other arena teams, and USC.
So, after a 34-7 loss, the 'Duh fans do what they do best; they go back to their tailgates, and partake in what I call their "four major food groups:" Beer, cigarettes, pizza, and Jack Daniels.
In-between shots of Jack, they're muttering to themselves about the Chargers, "the team that they can NEVER beat." (By the way, there's a list that's growing exponentially.)
So, RaiDUH fans get the "hate" ball rolling, they're pissed at the San Diego Chargers. Then again, they're also pissed at late welfare checks, tattoo parlors that aren't open 24/7, and Wal-Marts that don't carry Star Wars helmets any longer. But I digress.
Next up, Kansas City, in Arrowhead. Now, by this time, the Chiefs' faithful aren't in a hating mood, since they're battling the 'Duhs for "Draft Board Supremacy," each of these two teams fighting it out for better position in the 2009 college player selection process.
But, with players like Tyler Thigpen giving fantasy folks nightmares, they look like they haven't given up the ship, as of yet. They're still out there fighting, it'll be a tough game for the Chargers.
Right off the bat, it's vintage Chiefs at home, and more so, VINTAGE San Diego Chargers. It's 21-3 Chiefs in the third quarter, and the Chargers are doing their best sleepwalking impersonation once again, in the '08 season.
Then, suddenly, IT happened.
It's like someone on the Chargers' bench yelled out, "Hey, guys! I can't get any good tee times at the golf courses, and Honolulu's booked up through February!"
The Chargers suddenly come alive, scoring one TD in the third quarter, and TWO more TDs in the fourth, including one with just over a minute left, after recovering an on-sides kick.
In typical fashion, the Bolts let the chiefs drive down for a potential game-winning 50-yard FG, that's wide left. Game over, they're now 6-8 and still mathematically alive in the AFCW, even though it looks to most like 'fuzzy math.' The Broncos are gonna win the division, ask anyone.
Now is when the REAL hatin' starts. Cue the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Two weeks ago, Tampa Bay looked to be a shoo-in for the postseason at 9-3, but now they've lost two straight, have fallen to 9-5, and need this win to get back in the playoff talk.
Oh, I'm so sorry, that's incorrect. The Bucs show up for the game thinking that they're gonna ROLL the Chargers, because of all the negative press the team's been getting. SURPRISE! Still no tee times or Hawaii reservations available for San Diego, it appears—41-27, Bolts, and it wasn't that close. (Ed. note: You're right, it WASN'T that close. The final score was actually 41-24, Bolts.)
Buccaneer fans are now looking at the CHARGERS as the team that knocked them from the NFC playoffs. They HATE San Diego for this miscarriage of justice...There's Hater No. 2, Tampa Bay.
Sorry, Bucs fans. you ain't seen NUTHIN', yet.
After the Bolts surprise the Bucs, the Chargers get an even BIGGER surprise—The Broncos end up losing at home in Invesco to the feeble Bills. That means that the last game of the regular season is now for all the AFCW marbles—San Diego v. Denver.
Let the hating begin.
Oh, and it's not only Denver that's hatin'. Suddenly, it's coming from all angles. More on that in a moment.
So, the Broncos head out to Qualcomm, to play for the AFCW division title. Well, actually, that statement is in question. The Broncos DID come to San Diego, but by then, they knew they were cooked.
Scribes all over Colorado kept asking the Broncos "were they gonna choke, are you going to be the first team to lose a three-game division lead with three games to play, and miss the playoffs?" You know, loaded questions like THAT.
I think we all knew the answer to that question, even before the game started.
The Broncos proceeded to lay the biggest dinosaur egg we've seen since "Jurassic Park" right at the 50-yard line, and lost to the now three-time AFCW champion Chargers, 52-21.
The collapse of the Broncos now complete, the rocky mountain scribes descended on the Bronco players like vultures, making a bad scene even worse. The Chargers had just made all of their lives unbearable.
Add the Broncos to the list, Hater No. 3.
But suddenly, the list started growing much more rapidly. Hater No. 4 showed their face...
The New England Patriots.
That's right, the same New England Patriots that Wayne Huizenga of Blockbuster Video fame had to SUE Bill Belichick and the Patriots, because Huizenga was concerned that all those bootleg tapes that Belichick and the Pats were making over the years might create an even bigger empire of video rentals than Huizenga's, should those tapes become available.
Immediately, a deal was brokered by the NFL, and the tapes were destroyed, saving the Blockbuster empire from financial ruin.
(So says the biased, twisted Charger honk. It's what I believe. Sue me, Bill. Grin.)
Yes, the Pats amped up the level of hatred for the Chargers ten-fold.
"What were the Chargers, at 8-8, doing in the PLAYOFFS," asked the players, the head coach, and the suddenly sober Robert Kraft. "The playoff format MUST be fixed immediately! The Chargers don't deserve to be in the NFL playoffs!"
AHHH, sit down, hater No. 4. If you don't like it, BEAT the Chargers next time. You lost in San Diego, you didn't win your division, quit yer cryin', video-gater. Man, the tears in New England really get you, right here...(I won't show you where i'm pointing.)
But by now, the damage by the Pats had been done. Scribes all over the USA were now beginning to hate San Diego, as well, each of them holding on to their twisted thinking that an 8-8 team doesn't belong.
The inimitable Peter King comes to mind, he of Sports Illustrated, among other periodicals, and creator of his famed "Fine Fifteen" list.
He makes out his most recent list, and in it, he cements himself as Hater No. 5.
He's got the Patriots AHEAD of the Chargers, on his list. Now, I know that Pete's got a thing for Tom Brady and all, but come ON, you latte' lover! They're not even in the PLAYOFFS, and you've got NEW ENGLAND ahead of the CHARGERS? Total hater.
From where I'm sitting, the only way that the Chargers can crack Pete's top five in his fine 15 list is if the team wins the Super Bowl. He'd HAD to elevate them to No. 4, THEN, wouldn't you THINK? You're a hater, Pete. Get over yourself.
Ooooh, did I mention the COLTS, AKA "Hater No. 6?"
Now, THESE guys have a valid argument, IMHO. You go 12-4 on the season, and not only do you NOT get a first-round bye, you have to go on the ROAD for your first game, in round one. (Hey, next time, sweep the Titans. That'd fix it.)
Now, if you go back to LAST year, these are the same Chargers that eliminated Indianapolis from the 2007 post-season, so this trip to San Diego looks ominous, at best.
But, thanks to the national media, this game looks like a stepping stone for the Colts, and their newly-crowned MVP, Peyton Manning. EVERYONE like the Colts in this one, because all you hear from the media masses is the fact that San Diego hadn't beaten a playoff team all season, surely the Chargers won't ruin the party by upsetting the Colts, and eliminating one of Peter King's top two NFL teams.
How's that Latte' taste NOW, Pete?
The Colts tried everything they could, including a play that you only see on Madden '09, the Colts scoring on a 72-yard TD by Reggie Wayne when Manning talked the officials into spotting the ball rather quickly.
Close, but no cigar, Colts' fans. Manning has a chance to ice the Chargers for good, needing to convert on third-and-two from his own nine-yard-line.
Another run by Addai, who gained the first eight yards of this 'drive?' Nope. The Manning ego kicks in, he tries to throw for it, gets sacked, they punt, Chargers tie the game, Colts call heads, game over.
Hey, That's what Jamal Williams told me, right after the coin toss. YOU tell him you don't believe him, and watch what happens.
Well, by NOW, hater No. 6 is in full regalia. "12-4, no bye, no home playoff game, and that overtime rule, you GOTTA fix that, it isn't fair."
Boy, the Chargers are making HISTORY, this season. They're single-handedly tearing apart the NFL.
They get Shanahan fired by taking Denver out on the last day of the regular season.
They cause Bill Simmons and all other Pats' fans undue stress by reminding them that they went 11-5 and were out of the playoffs, while the 8-8 Chargers were in.
They force the NFL to look at not only re-tooling the way the playoffs in the NFL are structured, but ALSO how the current overtime system might need re-vamping as well, so this travesty of NFL justice is never repeated.
They've become public enemy No. 1 to the RaiDUHS, the Chiefs, the Bucs, the Broncos, the Patriots, the Colts, Peter King, Roger Goodell, every travel agent that lost money booking Bostonians and Indy fans on playoffs charters, and probably three or four world leaders that like everyone but San Diego.
Funny thing is, I like the Steelers and their fans. I think they know the game, and they know their history.
Sunday night, we'll find out if they studied the '94 playoffs.
Don't be a hater, Pittsburgh. I'm running out of numbers.