Super (sad) Chargers: Team struggling mightily to draw home fans in Los Angeles

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
The <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/lac" data-ylk="slk:Los Angeles Chargers">Los Angeles Chargers</a> are struggling to make the small StubHub Center, their temporary home, into a home-field advantage. (AP)
The Los Angeles Chargers are struggling to make the small StubHub Center, their temporary home, into a home-field advantage. (AP)

The Los Angeles Chargers have a problem. Yes, pass rusher Joey Bosa is hurt and the team is 0-1 after their Week 1 loss to Kansas City. But that’s not the problem we’re talking about here.

Where are Chargers fans?

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If you were on Twitter in recent days and follow The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman or know someone who does, you probably saw this post:

This is a screen shot from Sunday’s Los Angeles Chargers-Kansas City Chiefs game. This game was in Los Angeles. It was the regular-season opener, against a longtime division rival.

And all you can see in the picture is Chiefs’ red, nary a powder blue t-shirt to be seen anywhere. Well, maybe if you squint really hard you can convince yourself there’s one above the official’s head in the top left corner of this photo.

Yes, in the pic above it’s the fourth quarter and the Chargers are down by 17 points, but there’s still a fair amount of time left for a comeback; crazier things have happened (*cough*Super Bowl LI*cough*).

But this is a video taken from the press box in the first quarter. There are some fans clad in Chargers colors in the stands under the press box, but it’s clear just how large of a presence Chiefs fans were:

And at least a handful of fans wore red out of spite: ESPN Chargers writer Eric Williams found this group, who said they are San Diegans and “former” Chargers fans who wore red in protest.

Small stadium, small following

The StubHub Center, where the Chargers are playing until Stan Kroenke’s multi-billion dollar football Taj Mahal in Inglewood that they’ll share with the Rams opens, has not provided the erstwhile San Diego Super Chargers a home-field advantage.

The StubHub Center was built for soccer. Its capacity is only 27,000, or roughly half the capacity of the second-smallest stadium in the NFL: Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, home of the Raiders. And while pretty much all of the seats are filled — a look at the nine regular-season games played there all show attendance over 25,000 — there’s far more visiting fans filling them than you see at other NFL stadiums.

This isn’t new, either. Last year, in the Chargers’ third game in Los Angeles after abruptly leaving San Diego, there were so many Philadelphia Eagles fans on hand that Eagles’ tackle Jason Peters said it felt like a home game for his team.

“It’s almost like the Chargers got 16 away games,” Peters said.

One fan, who goes by @jmt619 on Twitter, has taken to paying for a plane to circle over the stadium (with a little help from crowdfunding) for home games and call out owner Dean Spanos with different messages.

Last Sunday the banner read, “Chargers: Only team with 16 away games. Thanks Dean.” One banner last season read, “Want to see a sell out Dean? Look in the mirror!”

Against Kansas City, there were so many Chiefs fans on hand that there were strong chants for playmaker Tyreek Hill, and when the Chargers were on offense, there were “DE-FENSE!” chants.

Plenty of good seats available

The Chargers were in San Diego for 55 years, and there’s no telling whether fans would return if Spanos decided to move the team back to its rightful home. The Chargers often saw a fair number of visiting fans in the stands at Qualcomm, as the Dolphins do — let’s face it, if you’re a diehard fan looking to go to a road game to support your team, wouldn’t you want to go to Miami or San Diego? But there were always scores of Chargers faithful too.

Since voters have decided not to have their tax dollars go toward a new stadium that wouldn’t be a boon to the city’s coffers (stadium deals are notoriously bad for the cities that host them), Spanos would have to privately finance one, which is why he pulled up stakes in the first place.

So what’s the answer? The Rams aren’t selling out the L.A. Coliseum, but that’s a cavernous space with a capacity over 90,000. They did get over 66,000 for their final home game last season and over 74,000 for their wild card playoff game, so the city will show support.

The Chargers are back home again on September 30 against the San Francisco 49ers, and there’s still plenty of good seats available.

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