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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

He and Chargers Seeing World With Rosy Glasses

October 11, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

I just got off the phone with a reader who said I never write anything good about anybody.

I swore I wrote that Anna Kournikova is good looking.

We continued to chat and it was obvious the caller had no clue what he was talking about. Before hanging up with Kevin Malone--OK, so I'm only guessing--I assured the loser I would write something good about somebody. I will have to do it today, because Steve Lavin returns to work at the end of week, and from what I understand, nobody writes anything good about him.

I've chosen the San Diego Chargers for my first "write something good about somebody" column.

So let me begin by writing, it's good the Chargers moved out of Los Angeles in 1961.

It's good they remain in San Diego.

But good God, tell me it's not true they are headed up a road that might very well bring them back to Los Angeles.

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THE CHARGERS TALKED to Rose Bowl officials a few years ago when they wanted stadium renovation in San Diego. Call it a coincidence, but the Rose Bowl has won approval to almost double its number of events, and is interested in exploring the NFL-L.A. landscape.

Keeping in mind that the Chargers would probably have to beat the Raiders back to L.A., and I don't remember the Chargers beating anyone in a long time, at the very least L.A. is going to be used to scare San Diego into thinking it could become a ghost town.

Here's the scary thing: The Chargers have leverage, because they can move after the 2003 season, which will end with the Super Bowl being played in a decrepit Qualcomm Stadium. In today's spirit of writing something good--I, of course, think the stadium is good.

The Super Bowl is good too, but obviously won't include the Chargers.

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THE CHARGERS AND the city of San Diego are at odds. The city budgeted $5 million this year to buy unsold Charger tickets to meet a 60,000-seat guarantee for each game, and that fund has been used up, with five home games left.

As good as the Chargers are, I cannot understand why no one wants to buy tickets to see them play.

The city has bought $16 million worth of tickets since agreeing to renovate Qualcomm, which was built in 1967. The city must make good on the guarantee through 2007, if the team remains in town. The local citizens, however, no longer seem interested in a team that has lost 44 of its last 65 games, and stands 0-6 this season.

It would probably help if the Ryan Leaf Fan Club had some members.

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CHARGER OWNERSHIP wants a new stadium, although it can't state that publicly yet. Owner Alex Spanos, who has to be muzzled in public to save the organization from apologizing for whatever he says, was left unguarded at the owners' meetings and caused a stir when he told an Internet reporter what he had been telling everyone else privately: "We need a new stadium; we are having our problems here."

The Chargers went into immediate damage control. They could not say Spanos had been misquoted, because he hadn't been, and because they know they will have to officially demand a stadium down the road. So they said he didn't know the guy he was talking to was a reporter. That's good--very good.

Spanos' son, Dean, best known for being banned from the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am almost a decade ago after people complained that he was cheating, runs the day-to-day operation of the team. I don't think he does a good job, but this is the man who will get the new stadium or make the move.

The Chargers cannot ask for a new stadium right now because the team stinks. I wouldn't say that, of course, but on top of the team's crummy performances, now the city is having a problem with a new baseball stadium, further irritating the locals. Construction has stopped because of lawsuits and an investigation into alleged dirty dealings with local politicians.

The Chargers, Raiders, Cardinals, the Saints--how come we get all the good teams wanting to move to L.A.?

In the past, Alex Spanos has been a strong critic of L.A. and its failure to publicly fund a stadium for a team. Make him an offer, and he'll be here before Leaf completes his next pass. OK, so there's no hurry.

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I BELIEVE OUR baseball writer, Jason Reid, has displayed the skill to write one of those "I Know What You Did Last Summer" horror flicks. Reid wrote the scariest words to ever appear in The Times this week: "President Bob Graziano and General Manager Kevin Malone are leading the search for the Dodgers' manager."

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WHAT PRICE VICTORY? In the case of Cal State Northridge basketball--$20,000, guaranteed.

The USC basketball team was going to play at Northridge, but this year's game will now be played in the Sports Arena, and while Matador Athletic Director Richard Dull concedes, "We'd have a better chance of winning" at home, money has to be a concern at Northridge.

"If we had a sellout in our gym, which seats about 1,800, we'd probably make $2,000," Dull said. "We're happy to go to the Sports Arena; we're going to come home with some money."

USC got off cheap. UCLA will pay the Matadors $25,000 this season to help pad its record.

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IF GIANT MANAGER Dusty Baker is so good, as someone suggested here, why didn't he pinch-hit for Barry Bonds in the final game?

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Romano:

"Just wondering at this Christopher Columbus time of year, did anyone notice that the baseball playoffs will feature four teams managed by the Italian team of La Russa, Piniella, Torre and Valentine? Ciao."

Actually, Piniella is Spanish. But it's too bad the Dodgers don't have an Italian manager in their employ.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address:t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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