The San Diego Chargers would love to remind you that they are victims of circumstance.
The Holy Roller was Raider cheating combined with the wild, unpredictable bounce of the football.
Finishing 2008 with an 8-8 record despite having one of the most talented rosters in football? Injuries combined with bad refereeing mixed in with some more injuries.
The truth is that these chronic underachievers have only themselves to blame for both recent and historic failures. They will shoot themselves in the foot when necessary; they will experience a haunting and mysterious disappearance in their usual talent when they need it the most.
Now, Shawne Merriman, the latest in San Diego's line of otherworldly talents with quixotic foibles that seem to show their ugly heads at the worst possible moment, has again made Charger fans shake their heads and curse the skies.
While this article will not attempt to incriminate or exonerate Merriman from his alleged illegal activity, the idea is to address the fact that the spotlight is, once again, on San Diego for the wrong reasons.
Should Merriman be declared not guilty of these alleged crimes, he'd probably point to himself as being a victim of circumstance as well. I mean, the man was shelved last season with an injury that wasn't his fault.
Then again, he had been injured for months prior to the season and decided to go against all medically logical advice to take care of the problem via surgery, attempting to play on a tattered knee—which proved, of course, too difficult to do eventually.
And now, there's this.
If you don't think constant run-ins with the law will take their toll on a professional sports team, ask the Cincinnati Bengals.
There should always exist a comprehensive discussion in the mind's eye when it comes to asking somebody to join your organization and reflect its values.
Everyone makes mistakes, this is true, but it seems that the Chargers have been neglecting this idea.
During the A.J. Smith reign as general manager in San Diego, several players have been involved in questionable situations.
Former SS Terrence Kiel was arrested and accused of illegally trafficking codeine. He was released from the team and unfortunately died two years ago in a car accident. It is believed he was under the influence at the time of his death.
Similarly, former LB Steve Foley had his career ended after a 2006 incident in which he was shot by an off-duty police officer in Coronado.
WR Vincent Jackson was arrested on a DUI early this year, as was DT Jamal Williams only a month later.
CB Antonio Cromartie has been named in several paternity suits across the nation and has now admitted to fathering seven children over five states.
Now, Merriman will be facing legal difficulties after he was accused of assaulting girlfriend Tila Tequila, choking her, and not allowing her to leave his residence in San Diego.
This is the same Merriman who had already been suspended by the NFL for testing positive for steroids in 2006.
Bad luck? The San Diego Sports Curse? No, these are simple and convenient explanations for a team that has to look within for the answers.
Smith constantly talks about wanting, needing a Super Bowl Championship in order to make his work reach the level of required validity in his eyes.
He's shown to be a fantastic football talent evaluator, assembling one of the best rosters in the National Football League, but he's overlooked the character side of his players time and time again.
It would appear that Smith praises stats and measurables while ignoring backgrounds and mentalities. It's taking a toll on his team.
Similarly, his players are not taking into account the enormous opportunity that they have as professionals and the enormous responsibility they have as role models.
Last year, the NFL released a series of special television shows that told the stories of some of the best teams never to win a Super Bowl.
The 1981 San Diego Chargers, those of the Epic in Miami and the freezing AFC Championship Game in Cincinnati, those victims of circumstance, were featured in the very first episode.
Will the 2009 San Diego Chargers be seen as such in the future? A fantastic team that never got over the hump, deciding to self-destruct and self-sabotage their own chances for greatness?
That's up to A.J. Smith, Norv Turner, and what might be scariest to think about...the players themselves.