Things just keep getting worse for the
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. On Sunday, the Chargers fell to 0-4 after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Despite yet another heartbreaking loss, the fans at the StubHub Center didn't seem that upset. Instead, they were downright enthusiastic! Why this enthusiasm for another tough defeat?
Because for the third home game in a row, Chargers fans were outnumbered by fans for the visiting team. Eagles fans were louder not just when the teams took the field, but throughout the game the Eagles pumped up the crowd to get loud during the Chargers' drives, ending any supposed home-field advantage.
If that wasn't enough, the Chargers also covered up seats before the game (though the team denied this was due to lack of fans), at a stadium which holds only a little over 27,000 fans, by far the smallest in the NFL.
How did the Chargers become the laughingstock of the NFL?
Last season, the St. Louis Rams moved to Los Angeles. This may have made sense for the Rams, who had previously been in Los Angeles from 1946 to 1994. But the Chargers' move to Los Angeles this season, where the team played for one year in 1960 before leaving for San Diego, left many fans scratching their heads.
The reason for this move wasn't historical or that fans in San Diego didn't show up to support their team. Rather, Chargers owner Dean Spanos wanted a new stadium to be built for the team — with $1.5 billion in taxpayer money.
When the voters of San Diego rejected the deal at the ballot box, Spanos decided to move the team to Los Angeles. He even rejected an offer from San Diego for a $1 ground-lease for 99 years on the stadium site – with the stipulation that the stadium be built with private money.
At the time of the move, it might have seemed Spanos was getting the better end of the deal because the Chargers will eventually move into a new stadium shared with the Rams. But right now, the initial return on investment doesn't look promising.
The Rams, at 3-1, have fared better than the Chargers on the field. But even with the team's historical ties to Los Angeles and those classic blue-and-white helmets, they haven't done all that well at the ticket window. Even though they play in the 93,000-capacity Los Angeles Coliseum and are leading their division, the Rams are on course to have the single largest drop in year-to-year attendance of any NFL team since 1993.
For decades, the threat of moving an NFL team to Los Angeles was used to scare cities into building shiny new stadiums at taxpayers' expense. Now that the NFL has finally made good on the threat, it turns out the fans aren't all that enthused.
This experience should be illuminating not only to cities with NFL teams — especially St. Louis, which stole the Rams from Los Angeles in the first place and is now saddled with more than $140 million in debt and maintenance costs — but cities with sports franchises in general. Owners threatening to leave is a tool to extract subsidies. Actually moving can be a costly proposition.
With the poor returns so far in Los Angeles, owners of all franchises should think twice about moving a team from a market where they already have a strong base of support and realize that the turf isn't always greener in your new taxpayer-funded stadium.
Eric Peterson (@IllinoisEric89) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity.
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