Oh NFL ... what have you done?
As a transplant from the U.K. I'm always going to prefer European sports, but I'll admit I've really been taken in by the best of what American sports have to offer.
They have their upsides and downsides and ways they can improve, but as a fan I try to focus on enjoying it rather than being cynical at a time when it's so easy to be about professional sports.
But it is impossible to not be cynical about the San Diego Chargers upping sticks and relocating to Los Angeles.
Nothing about sports in America, not the lack of promotion/relegation or the ridiculous amounts of commercial breaks, is more infuriating than seeing the owner of a sports team chasing money and moving somewhere else.
We're talking about a team that has been in San Diego since 1961 and has built up a legion of loyal, long-suffering fans who have stuck with the team despite them winning zip.
It matters not that attendance was poor this past season, it doesn't make a difference to those who have been attending and sinking thousands of dollars every year to line the pockets of owner Dean Spanos and the executives of the money-mad NFL.
What do they do now? I guess they could make the 2-hour journey to Los Angeles every other Sunday, but I expect many of them won't. Almost six decades of tradition, up in smoke in a matter of minutes this morning.
Minnesota knows this pain
This column from L.A. Times writer Bill Plaschke is worth a read, as he describes the move coming after San Diego refused to bankroll the Spanos family (net worth $2.4 billion) for a new $1.2 billion stadium to keep them in the city, towards which the NFL had even pledged an unprecedented $300 million.
"What was the NFL thinking? What are the Chargers thinking? I know what Spanos is thinking, that he is leaving behind those unwashed heathens who didn’t want their tax dollars to pay for a football stadium and sliding into Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood palace to ride piggyback on the Rams," Plaschke writes.
Minnesota knows this pain. It waved goodbye to the North Stars to Dallas (where its name doesn't really make sense) and the Lakers to L.A. (ditto on the name) and probably only retained the Vikings because state taxpayers stumped up half of the bill for the $1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium.
It's become an unfortunately common feature of U.S. sports, and we need to get to a point where sports team owners don't hold the fortunes of a city in the palm of their hand – which is waiting to be greased.
Back in my homeland, the country is smaller, population denser, and moving clubs to "bigger" markets doesn't happen very often because nowhere is really that far away.
But on one notorious occasion 13 years ago, London-based soccer club Wimbledon was relocated 80 miles away to the commuter town of Milton Keynes, where they were renamed the M.K. Dons.
The outrage it stirred has lasted longer than a decade, with the M.K. Dons – dubbed "Franchise F.C." by opposing fans – still today one of the most reviled teams not just in Britain – but in the world.
In chasing the money, Spanos is insuring the Chargers provoke similar revulsion among American sports fans.
Oh, and the new logo sucks.