SAN DIEGO — History is a fickle beast.
Almost always open to conjecture, it rarely passes up the chance to avoid controversy--especially where legends are concerned. History can be kind--or incredibly, indelibly mean. It can give credit to true believers, and deservers. Or break the reputation of those who merit a far better kiss of fate.
San Diego is no different from any city as far as lore is concerned. Who gets credit for the legends of "America's Finest City"? Is it a pioneer, a clear thinker, a creative soul, a hard worker with a heart in the right place? Or is it someone who happened along at just the right time to inherit a priceless bit of folklore that he or she can cling to forevermore?
How often have you wondered who decided this or that about San Diego? Or any place you've lived? Is credit in the right hands, right name, right place? Does it matter? Did it ever?
How has who decided the important decisions about your town changed or affected your life, your daily motion? What about the not-so-important decisions, the obvious you never knew existed?
Examining "who decided" is like taking a look at how fate and time shape a city, at how who gets the credit may not always be the truest telling of what really happened.
Or why . . .
But this story has as much to do with the wrong story leaking out as the right one ever being known. At least that's what Mr. Hilton says.
Legend has it that Hilton, the hotel magnate and original owner of the Chargers when the franchise was in Los Angeles as a member of the old American Football League--the team moved to San Diego in 1961--wanted the name partly to promote his jazzy new credit card, Carte Blanche.
Get it--they wouldn't be the lightning-fast, mercenary-quick Chargers that defenses have come to know and fear. They would be the let's-run-up-as-big-a-debt-as-fast-as-we-can kind of chargers that most of us--the fans--happen to be anyway.
They would symbolize not gladiators on bold horses but red-ink-stained American spenders.
Considering the tight-fistedness of Eugene V. Klein, who bought the team from Hilton and owned it until last spring, the name isn't appropriate anyway.
Regardless, legend has it all wrong, Hilton said.
"I always liked going to USC games and hearing the sound of a bugle, and the crowd yelling, 'Charge!' " he gushed, with boyish enthusiasm. "I wanted a horse named Charger with lightning bolts on the side of the helmets.
"That business about the credit card is just nonsense, but that's what everybody seems to think. I hope your story puts to rest once and for all the myth of that silly tale.
"Who decided to name the Chargers Chargers? Me, that's who. And, I might add, for all the right reasons."