When I watched the "Celebration Of Life" for Junior last month, I was highly interested in how the crowd would react to the return of LaDainian Tomlinson. Initially, I was anticipating Rodney Harrison (who famously thanked AJ Smith for releasing him and allowing him to win two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots) to make an awkward reintroduction to the home crowd as well. I never got the full story as to why Harrison didn't appear, actually. But what I didn't expect was how quickly I "forgave" LT. With arguably the most recognizable Charger of all time having taken his own life, I think we all needed something to hold on to. More specifically, we needed something we could identify as the soul of the San Diego Chargers right now. The current team, having slipped even beyond their first-round playoff meltdowns, is still looking for an identity. The frustration over Dean Spanos still seeming to support the status quo continues to temper any enthusiasm I feel for the moves made in this offseason. Plus, the greatest TEAM in Charger history will now be remembered more for the heartbreak and tragedy that seemed to stalk it than its accomplishments on the field. Having witnessed it first-hand, it's particularly disappointment (and weirdly appropriate for the Chargers) that the singularly greatest moment they've ever had is almost wiped out by sadness.
The death of Junior Seau didn’t come entirely as a shock. His 2010 “incident,” which ended with him driving his SUV off a cliff, began with allegations of domestic abuse brought by an unnamed 25-year old woman. It was a far cry from OJ, but it was a little seamy for a guy who been a god in San Diego. He had at one time been “happily” married and he and his wife Gina even appeared in a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated. As I recall, it was one of those “athletes and their beautiful wives” spreads that the magazine sometimes runs with the swimsuit issue. The intention is undoubtedly to detract from the cries of sexism that accompany the issue every year. However, it also seems to send the message these guys have it all. In Junior’s case, it truly was a magazine fabrication as he was divorced in 2003. When he was next featured in the magazine, along with the rest of the then-undefeated Patriots in 2007, the corresponding profile revealed that he was living by himself in an apartment in Boston while playing for the team.
The day he died, the NFL Network ran some old footage of Junior in a 1991 game against the Jets. He was miked up, and chirping the entire game. It was reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor’s “pack of wild dogs” footage, of which my buddy Mike always reminds me, was filmed during a Jets win. I was at that ’91 game, which the Bolts were blown out of, 24-3. But as the film reveals, Junior not only had his motor going the entire time, but was trying to motivate, coach and console every guy on the defense. Whenever Blair Thomas (#2 pick in the previous year’s draft) carried the ball, Jet fans would shout at him “You could have been Junior Seau!” Even though they hated every draft pick in those days, this actually qualified as their highest praise for an opposing player. Unfortunately, this was actually one of Thomas’ good days, where rushed for 75 yards that day, including a 22-yard touchdown. That’s how bad the Bolts were back then.
Every member of my generation claims to have once fallen in love with the “Air Coryell” Chargers. But by the end of the 1980s, the Bolts were outright abysmal. As a kid from Westchester County, NY who’d sworn to support them, I was starting to seriously question my decision. I finally saw the Bolts in person in 1986, the week after Gary Anderson swan dove into the end zone against Miami. They were promptly destroyed by the Giants, the far worse of the two local teams at the time, but who would go onto win their first Super Bowl that season. The following year, the Bolts won all 3 of their “replacement” games during the players’ strike and started 8-1. I wrote a full-page article about them in my high school newspaper. They lost their next six games and missed the playoffs. I not only took a lot of grief that season from the other kids at school, but privately wondered if my hubris had caused the collapse. I’d later learn all too well that I couldn’t get the Chargers to do anything. I even went as far as to call the late-night talk shows of the pre-WFAN era to vent my frustration. Not surprisingly, I was treated like a bit of an oddity. It wouldn’t be the last time.no comments
I know I start a lot of posts this way, but I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to get back here. Twitter has made it a lot easier to get "that one point" across, but makes it less likely that I'll try to build an entire installment around it. I was all set to write about the draft when Junior Seau passed away. Since then I've been working on about ten pages entitled "Bolt Of Inspiration," which deals with Junior and his impact on the Chargers and on me as a fan. I have to give all the credit (and my eternal gratitude) to Eric Stangel, who gave me motivation to write it. I'd also like to thank Jim Trotter, who not only wrote SI's cover story on Junior but remained friends with him, for taking the time to read it. One way or the other, it will appear here in the Halls Of Justice. As you know, FAITHFUL READER, I only keep the jerseys of former Bolts who don't go onto play elsewhere. I don't even consider whether it was the player's choice to leave the Chargers or not when I shut the door on them. This included Junior and LaDainian Tomlinson. Watching the "Celebration of Life" on the web brought back a lot of old feelings for those guys. LT, decked out in the powder blue sweater, had to remind the crowd that it was "Junior's day" after the monstrous reaction he received. I gotta say, I would be 100% in support of bringing him back as a 3rd down specialist. If it doesn't make sense from a football standpoint, I can live with it. But if it really is a case of AJ's pride, it would represent yet another missed opportunity. At the very least, I hope that LT doesn't play elsewhere. Maybe we can take up a collection to see if he can get the Jets tattoo lasered off.
I'm sure you're not surprised to know that this is the car I drive. Yes, I have 3 other 1994 AFC Champion bumper stickers which I have in the event that we never get any farther than that in the postseason. I posted a link to this ESPN piece on Twitter yesterday and referred to it as yet another reason that this team needs to win a Super Bowl. I'm trying to diminish the tragic nature of Junior Seau's death in any way by saying this, but it's an unfortunate fact that the most successful team in Charger history will now be remembered more for the deaths of eight players under 45 years old. Junior was by far the biggest star on that team, so his suicide has cemented the idea of the '94 team being cursed. The fact that so many of his friends and teammates were shocked will only intensify that perception. It's not as if we're talking about Ryan Leaf here. By the time you read this, the Chargers will have held their memorial for Junior. It will be interesting to hear LT address the crowd. Believe me, I know that his departure means nothing in the grand scheme of things. I just said that it would be interesting. The same goes for Rodney Harrison. Like Junior, he never chose to be a former Charger. Technically, neither did LT. However, I think he greased the skids for his departure far more than did the other two guys. By the way, you can see if you click on the full-sized photo of my car that I still have the 2008, not 2009, AFC West Champs on the JIC bumper sticker. Since the '09 group went one and done in the playoffs they don't warrant recognition on the back of my shitty car.
I got my bags and I'm headed straight into the storm. It's a Springsteen quote. You can look it up if you didn't catch it. I was about to write the post-draft installment of JIC when I started getting texts about Junior on Wednesday. Keep in mind that here in New York, I'm the first person that most people think to call when something involving the Chargers happens. It would probably be that way regardless. But friends that work on Wall Street seem to get the most up to date news via their ticker which I assume is why those were the people who got in touch with me first. It was the same way when Jerry Garcia died in 1995. Nonetheless, I wasn't entirely surprised to hear that Junior Seau had died. I've written a few times how Burt Grossman got in touch with me in 2002 and mentioned that he thought my writing was pretty funny and that Junior read JIC as well. Obviously, I didn't believe it was really Burt Grossman at first. I didn't even know that he was still friends with Junior after going from the Bolts to the Eagles. Anyway, I was given the chance to talk to Junior on his actual birthday, January 19. This was 2003, as the Traitors were in the process of beating Tennessee and going to the Super Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. I was very psyched to hear that our best player also "hated the fuckin' Raiders," as I did. Anyway, we all knew that Junior gave his all on the field and was extremely generous with his time and money off it. He had his demons, which was no secret. I don't mean to bring that up to sully his memory in any way. I just wonder if the difficulty in reconciling the on field image and off field flaws ever weighed him down. The 2010 legal imbroglio and subsequent car crash gave me the impression that he was having more than just a little trouble. When he was inducted into the Chargers Ring of Honor, people wondered if Dean Spanos would have the balls to take the mic. Appropriately, it was the same day that Norv Turner proved beyond a shadow of a doubt why he'll never coach a champion. But when Junior responded to all this by chanting "SPANOS! SPANOS!" it might have also been an idication that he was behaving more than just a little erratically. Of course, this is all in retrospect. Now that a few days have passed, I am more shocked that Junior knowingly took his own life. After his 2010 legal imbroglio and subsequent car crash the idea that he'd be gone wasn't entirely unthinkable. But the fact that things were so tough for him that he chose to go, that's whats unfathomable.
Play, play the game tonight
Can you tell me if it's wrong or right
Is it worth the time, is it worth the price
Do you see yourself in the white spotlight
Then play the game tonight
Ah, Kansas, you are so wise. If you aren't familiar with the tune, you can hear it here. I haven't spoken with you since the schedule was released and now it's draft time. I saw the "story" (based on an Acee Tweet) that the Chargers might trade up to draft Barron. Then I read Kevin Acee'scolumn which suggested that anything could happen because AJ gets so much pleasure out of proving others wrong. This plays to our worst fears that he'll do whatever he wants and not what is best for the team. I remember writing the same things about the late John Butler. But when Wiley and Boston were jettisoned before the 2004 season, they both looked like geniuses. However, the Bolts have never taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them in January and here we are. The photo to your right was taken in the Chargers locker room, by the way. I found it interesting, especially with the costly fumbles of Tolbert, Mathews and Rivers last season. I think "Protect The Dream" should be a slogan for the entire team. It's not just the ball that is in these guys' hands. It's the hopes, heartbreaks and fears of The Legion Of The Lightning Bolt as a whole.
My feelings on Vincent Jackson going to Tampa are a microcosm of how I feel about this team right now. If the latest January implosion two seasons ago anniahalated my hopes that the Chargers had learned from past mistakes, the slide of the last two seasons has buried those hopes. Norv and AJ getting a pass has blown them to bits. OK, that's a little dramatic. But if Steve Crosby was 2010's scapegoat, does that mean that Greg Manusky is this year's sacrifical lamb? My buddy Tom pointed out that the 2011 Chargers defensehad the worst (49.2%) 3rd down rating in the NFL since 1995? However, I fear that The Organization will simply see any improvement as a quick fix to simply get back to the playoffs. Yes, I know that once you're in the "tournament," anything can happen. But not with a team that doesn't play hard or tough until they've dug themselves too big a hole to crawl out of. One of the many differences between the Giants and Chargers is that the Giants never lost that one game (at Dallas) that would have made their winning the division a miracle. The Bolts didn't even show up in Detroit, but if they hadn't lost SIX FUCKING GAMES IN A ROW they wouldn't have to. If we overpaid to keep him, I think he'd be the same hot and cold player he's been since 2009. I still remember Peter King's article in Sports Illustrated before the aforementioned postseason debacle. There was a big spread of Jackson laying out for a touchdown against Cincy. I know you remember that game, FAITHFUL READER. It was the contest that fooled us into thinking that Nate Kaeding was anything but the choker he truly is. Anyway, King's piece was on how big receivers like Jackson (and Floyd) could be the difference deciding the next Super Bowl champ. If that's the case, we signed the receiver that was on the team that won it all.
A couple weeks before the Super Bowl, my dad sent me this link from the NY Times. It's about 2 guys on NPR who view the exploits of their football team (the Giants) through a pop culture prism. They seem a lot more literary than me, but I think I would like their style nonetheless. Of course, their team just won its fourth Super Bowl. Even though I have lived in New York for my entire life and remember how bad the Giants were in the late 70s and early 80s, I have to wonder what the hell these guys are so negative about now. Even though it was a lot easier to stomach Sheli's second Super Bowl win and MVP award than his first, it serves as yet another reminder of how little the Chargers have done with their "most successful" period. Dean Spanos might choose to only see the division (a weak one during most of those seasons) titles, but we all remember how those years ended. It was good to see Jay Paris' column in the North County Times, which at least acknowledged that some of us remember when we had Jughead to kick around. You can even still get a shirt with this design. I bought the sticker for my printer after the Giants shocked the Patriots in 2008. The fact that it says "Good Luck NY" on the bottom represented some sort reconciliation with my dislike of Elisha.
When you’ve lived in New York your entire life, you get asked many times “How you got into the Chargers.” It’s like asking people how they became a fan of a certain band or what got them hooked on a particular drug. Using the latter analogy, I tell people that Wes Chandler was my “gateway Bolt.” In his interview, Eric did a nice job of summing up how and why we became Charger fans. He was responsible for distributing the original issues in 1995. Yes, it was actually copied and sent in the mail. Check out this blast from the past.
When you look at those old issues, it’s amazing how much piss and vinegar I’ve got. I just wrote for hours. Not surprisingly, I was single and had taken a hiatus from drinking at the time. I discover in that old issue/post, the closest thing I’ve ever written to a Justice Is Coming mission statement:
ALL fans have a right to be heard--even fans who may not put ticket money in Alex Spanos' pocket, but who spend hundreds of dollars on merchandise, satellite bars and, of course, AOL.
You could also point to part of my letter to Chargers Football Weekly Editor Doug Seamans as part of reason this site still exists.
I figured that if you can't join 'em, beat 'em. Rather than to continue having my criticism fall on deaf ears, I have putting out an OnLine publication that will hopefully satisfy not only my need to read some quality writing on the Chargers, but CFW subscribers who share my concerns. It's not personal, Doug, only business.
At least Doug got in touch with me years later to tell me that everything I criticized his publication for was right. I don’t expect to get a similar admission from Dean Spanos. Of course, when I read myself ranting about the Bolts abandoning the run and needing a pass rush and felt like that piece wasn’t all that dated. However, the fact that I wrote “going OnLine” and referenced my AOL bill is very 1996.
I was driving home on Tuesday when I got the news. I firmly believe that January 3, 2012 is now the date that will live in infamy for me as a Charger fan. It stings worse than the previous three home playoff implosions of 1/8/05, 1/14/07 and 1/17/10. Part of growing up and becoming an adult is finding out that the owners of your favorite team actually care far more than you do about the outcome of a given game or season. You can treat your fanaticism as a hobby because it’s their livelihood. But with the Chargers, you actually care more about winning than Dean Spanos does. The players and coaches might desire to one day win a championship, but in our case I don’t think they have an idea how that’s done. I found out that both Norv and AJ were sticking around
Adam Schein, who hosts the “Blitz” show on Sirius with Rich Gannon. Schein, who also works for SNY (Mets Channel) here in NY filmed this bit for FOX:
His schtick can get a little stale, but I can’t disagree with anything he said. He said the same thing on Tuesday, while Rich Gannon defended what will forever go down in Charger history as “The Indecision.” I turned my dial to hear Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, who also gets real old real quick, with similar criticism as my own. Don Banks, Jay Paris and Jim Trotter were also right on the money. Nick Canepa no longer has any credibility with me after his column endorsing Spanos. I sent him a message on Twitter that my disappointment was probably what the fellow patients felt when they saw McMurtry with that lobotomy scar in Cuckoo's Nest.
As for me, I would assume I'm part of the 99% that NBC San Diego was referring to in this video.
Originally Posted by Tony55
I think Turner is like the Cubs, in that his teams play very well when the pressure is off.
With how things look now - Turner may be the HC here until his life ends. He could live to be 100.
Let's start sending him gift cards for cheeseburgers.
I love that Jammer said on 1090 he sees safety as inevitable but of course Norv in his infinite genius does not.
Weddles agent David Canter also ripped Norv on Twitter.
Jay Paris said it best, when your best is needed, this team comes up short constantly under Norval.
The brand is stained. Hamilton rumor, just that. 56 of 58, Norv and AJ.
Justin Halperin, whose "Shit My Dad Says" site went on to become a TV show, is also a Charger fan. I Tweeted him my belief that Dean Spanos' biggest sin is making me think that beating Oakland and keeping them out of the playoffs is a bad thing. He must have liked it, since he made it one of his "favorites." Here are some of his past musings:
Clearly the Chargers are going as a giant pile of shit for Halloween.
Being a chargers fan is like being in a bad relationship that you stay in because you keep thinking they'll change.
Brutal Chargers loss. We made the Jets offense look good. That's a tall order.
"Los Angeles is like San Diego's older, uglier sister that has herpes
It's as if they cancelled my Sundays.Last Charger related tweet for me regarding Norv and A.J. not being fired: Fuck you, Dean Spanos.
I think it's going to take a molestation scandal to get Norv Turner fired.
These are all things many of us have said independently, but we don't get rich off our wit. When Eric was on the radio, it occured to me that he's actually famous and is a Charger fan while I am famous for being a Charger fan. He also sent me the link to Rivers' "miked up" clips from Sunday. The best lines were "Will you get out of here, Tolbert?" and "Get set, Jeremy!" It's bittersweet to see Rivers telling the D he talks all day and insulting the blitz when you think about his play for much of the season. Even HACKsaw Hamilton was dead on with this column.
You know who doesn't say "get out of here Tolbert?" Norv on the 10-yard line. No wonder Tolbert claimed to be so happy that Turner got a free pass. I also saw Acee in his "Male Sack" say Mathews needs to grow up. I am assuming the injuries and fumbles are more due to immaturity/lack of focus than anything. Th guy lived in a car idolizing LT and that apparently goes for character in AJs book.
Unfortunately, Philip Rivers compounded his horrid play for much of the season with his unwavering support of Norv. Students and employees love the teachers and supervisors they are most comfortable with. This doesn't mean that these are the people that push them to achieve the best results. I am not on the team, so is it presumptous to suggest that I know what effect Norv has on the players? I think the results speak for themselves. This quote from Rivers is identical to what he said at the end of last season:
"When you force yourself to go on a big run at the end, you tend to run out of gas," Rivers said. "You don't have any margin for error to deal with a game like Detroit. Elite teams do that, because they have room to absorb a bad game. We didn't do ourselves any favors in that regard."
When scientists are looking to prove or disprove the relationship between two things, they identify the constant. Norv is the constant. They've removed two defensive coordinators and one special teams coach. AJ is blamed, by Norv of all people, for lack of depth but recieves no consequences for his mistakes. Dean allegedly thinks Norv has erred in matters of clock management, but keeps his job. This is the year he has to make it happen, we are supposed to believe. I am yet to hear it out of Dean Spanos' mouth and even if I did I wouldn't believe it.
In his interview with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Dean actually mentioned Marion Babrer staying in bounds as the biggest reason we missed the postseason. He apparently was joking, but Scott Kaplan rightly mentioned the Detroit game as the biggest reason. Talk about not taking responsibility of forcing others to.
Even Rolling Stone knows Norv sucks. Matt Tiabbi, hardly a football expert, wrote this week:
San Diego's Norv Turner, surely the most clueless and uninspiring figure ever to be given three head coaching jobs, a man who stands on the sidelines every Sunday wearing the hopelessly defeated expression of a husband being shown videos of his wife walking into a motel with her personal trainer.
Jenn, the lone female who chimes in here in the Halls of Justce these days, had this to say a while back:
I think a good, solid leader can take a team with mediocre talent a long way, but a bad coach can kill a team with talent. I feel like Mike Tomlin or Rex Ryan would have gotten more out of this team. Hell, I wouldn't mind seeing ROB Ryan in here as our head coach. I just want a change. The fact that coaches can walk in and take their talented teams to the playoffs their first season despite changing the offense or defense shows that we don't have to stick with Norv. We can cut him loose and still win that following season.
Marty took this team from the bottom to the top. He took a bunch of losers and taught them how to win. Norv stepped in and elevated Philip's game. Philip is so much better because of him. Now, we need that coach that can take what the first two did and EXPAND on it. Before we forget how to win again. Before we forget the positive things that Marty instilled in this team. We don't need Marty. That didn't work. We don't need Norv because he isn't working either. If we ever want to be lifting that trophy, we have to make the change.
I won't be spending a dime on any anti-Norv gear, since it apparently won't do anything. However, the Adios Norv Turner shirt looks like a winner.
After I joked to the moderator of the Chargers Message Board that the only bigger insult than getting an infraction after calling Dean Spanos stupid and spineless would be getting an offer to purchase Chargers Legacy wine. Sure enough, I received an email informing me that it will no longer be sold after February and that I should act now. Ironically, the "vintage" advertised is from 2008, the year of our last playoff win. Maybe they shouldn't be so quick to sell of whatever's in that bottle.
I forget which one of the xx1090 interviews it was from, but one of the reporters pointed out that if the six-game losing streak had ended the season Norv would have been fired. So why does it matter WHEN the losing streak occured? the streak, King said, now we know about Norv?
As the title of this post suggests, the outrage will be replaced by acceptane on my part. However, the anger will return once the Chargers do something else stupid. I downloaded the last game against Oakland since it was apparently so important to Dean Spanos. My thoughts? Cason still sucks and I was amused that Oakland fans were cheering when he went down. Curtis Brinkley, who looked so good in KC before Rivers fumbled the snap, should have gotten more touches this season. He would have been especially valuable in that second Denver game where Norv had no idea Mathews was out and decided to run Tolbert into the line. Antonio Garay, good but ot good enough. Why was Clarence Shelmon out on the field helping tend to an injured Raider? Marcus Gilrchrist looks even more lost than Cason. This was all from watching only the first half.
That's all for now. Sorry that I included so many links and quotes if you found it distracting. This shot of Rivers' pick in Foxboro reminds me of why Vincent Jackson hasn't gotten paid like a franchise receiver yet. I am sure another coach and GM could get him to play like a superstar, but he hasn't done it in San Diego. Lastly, I don't really care that much about Tim Teblow winning on Sunday. Pittsburgh was far more banged up than anyone predicted, but I'll give Denver credit for taking advantage and finding openings in the middle of the field. I saw a post on the U-T forums (or Chargers Message Board--I can't remember which) where someone called Polamalu a choker based on the game in Denver and last year's Super Bowl. I wish we had that kind of choker. I think it's more likely, as has been suggested, that he was forced to play out of position due to the guys that were out of the lineup. No, I didn't really watch the game. However, I don't think we should have been hosting Pittsburgh. Can you imagine our corners turned around and not looking for the ball? I can just see Steve "I Think I Deserve To Be Paid Like A Starter" Gregory now trying to deliver a hit after a big catch was made.
I didn't realize that Bloguin's weekly roundup page posted an excerpt of JIC:
Ross Warner at Justice Is Coming points out, rather than root for another miracle push for the postseason, like the one just a few years ago, Chargers fans should be rooting for a season of wholesale change.
It’s no secret that the most recent playoff loss changed something in me. Sure, I’m older and now have 2 kids. But it was also the result of the sad knowledge that the Chargers hadn’t learned their lesson. They weren’t going to even give themselves the chance to get to the Super Bowl.
Sounds like me. "Ownership" and "organization" are two nouns associated with Dean Spanos but hardly words I would use to describe him. I believe those words are called adjectives.
Talk to you soon,
My friend Mike, a Jet fan, said it best:
This would be similar to me coming to work, kicking a few people in the balls, vomiting on my boss’s desk, setting fire to the mailroom and sending all my clients Anthrax in the mail…and then having my company decide to retain me for “stability”. Beyond embarrassing, I feel for you Ross…sad day for the Bolts…
This is the SADDEST day for me as a Charger fan. I have learned that the people who actually make the decisions for the team I have followed since childhood don't give a shit about it. Special teams is the 2010 excuse, now injuries. Yet you don't blame the GM who left you with this lack of depth and impact players. I am erasing the last game since I don't ever want to see it. I listened on Sirius and saw the end on local TV. That game appears to have saved Norv and sent a loud and clear message that mediocrity is OK. We are the laughingstock of the NFL. Every fan of another team is better off than us today.
I will write about the games and maintain the site. However, there is no hope for Justice anymore.
We all deserve better than this. I stand by everything I have written in the Halls of Justice since 1995. These thoughts and feelings are my own. I will be less angry over time, but more apathetic. Once again, fuck you Dean Spanos. More than Marty Schottenheimer, Nate Kaeding and Marlon McCree you have killed my boyhood dream.
PS I just checked my account on the Chargers Message Board and received this:
You have received an infraction at The Official San Diego Chargers Forum.
Reason: Inappropriate Language
|Is Dean stupid AND spineless?|
Personal attacks against members of the Chargers organization are prohibited by the forum rules.
When you can access your account again, please read those rules and follow them when posting.
This infraction is worth 1 point(s) and may result in restricted access until it expires. Serious infractions will never expire.
All the best,
Official San Diego Chargers Forum
At least someone else said the same thing but used the type of language I can apparently only display here. As if I needed any more proof that this team could not give a shit about what we think.