SAN DIEGO — In the previous 21 Super Bowls, no team has appeared in a game played in its home stadium. Two teams, the Rams in the Rose Bowl for Super Bowl XIV and the 49ers at Stanford for Super Bowl XIX, have played in their home areas, but not on their home field.
The Chargers, coming off a 4-12 season, would not figure to be the first team to play a Super Bowl game on its home field.
National handicapper Danny Sheridan says the odds of the Chargers reaching Super Bowl XXII at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium are 2,500-1. Sheridan figures the Chargers' chances of winning at 5,000-1.
"No offense, but the closest they'll get to the Super Bowl is when they watch it at Jack Murphy Stadium," Sheridan said.
To place Sheridan's odds in perspective, he lists the Dallas Cowboys at 50,000-1 to win the Super Bowl. And the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are tidy 1,000,000-1 long shots to win.
Las Vegas sports books, though moderate compared with a handicapper like Sheridan, have the Chargers listed as 25-1 to reach the Super Bowl. Sheridan, because he is not in the bookmaking end of the business, establishes what he considers "realistic" odds rather than betting odds.
Regardless, the Chargers are long shots at any odds. And it's not exactly news to the players. While they say it's nice for San Diego to be showcased in the 1988 Super Bowl, they don't relish the idea of being spectators in their stadium.
"It means a lot to San Diego," said Charger running back Lionel James, "but it would mean even more if we were in it. That would be a dream."
"To go to the Super Bowl in your own stadium would be the ultimate," said Charger tackle James FitzPatrick, "but it's a long way away."
FitzPatrick didn't mean that January is a long way away. In fact, it's much too close for the Chargers. They will undoubtedly be looking at a bigger roman numeral than XXII before they will be party to a Super Bowl in any town.
But, if the Chargers should accomplish such a miracle this year, they would have an advantage that no other team has ever enjoyed.
"It would be a big, big advantage," James said. "It's in your own backyard. That's the ultimate. It takes a lot of pressure off you."
If the Chargers don't shock the football world, will their players want to attend the Super Bowl or will they want to just get out of town on Jan. 31, 1988?
"Most athletes are competitors," James said. "They like to see the best in the game. I wouldn't have any bitterness about not being in it."
FitzPatrick looked at it differently: "If we lost all our games or played bad we might want to hide."
Charger safety Gill Byrd says the only Super Bowl he has ever wanted to attend is the one he plays in.
Coach Al Saunders echoes a similar sentiment.
"I've never been to a Super Bowl because I have that same feeling," Saunders said. "However, it being here in San Diego would make me even more ravenous to get there."