By Dave Thomas
If you have ever spent any significant amount of time in San Diego, you know that the weather alone can keep someone here for years to come. Another factor that the locals will tell you is that as a military town, San Diego is home to transplants from all over the country, especially other cities and states where professional sports are well represented.
So imagine if you’re the San Diego Chargers and you are taking the field for your eight homes games (not counting possible playoff dates) each season. Do you really have a home field advantage with all those transplants calling America’s Finest City home?
As the Chargers have discovered over their time in San Diego, having a true advantage playing in Mission Valley is not always a guaranteed thing. In fact, you should not be surprised to see fans of that day’s opponent well represented, too.
AFC West Rivals Get Nearly Equal Support In San Diego
While the first two home games of 2012 saw relatively light turnouts for both the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons, you can bet there will be a sizable contingent of Denver fans in attendance two weeks for next Monday night (Oct. 15) when Peyton Manning and Co. come to town.
The next home date will also likely get a decent amount of opposition fans when the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs play the Bolts on a special Thursday night contest (Nov. 1).
As for when the arch-rival Oakland Raiders close out regular season play in San Diego on Dec. 30, you can bet there will be a ton of Silver and Black in the crowd. As local sources are quick to note, when the Raiders come calling there is oftentimes more action in the stands than on the field.
So, what can the Chargers possibly do in order to have a true home field advantage, something teams like the Chiefs, Bills, Packers and Steelers among others around the league enjoy?
While winning certainly brings out the fans, this past Sunday’s announced attendance of 61,297 for the Falcons game (27-3 loss) seemed to be a stretch, especially given the various sections of the stadium where empty seats were aplenty.
As most Charger fans in Southern California know, the game with the Falcons was blacked out by the league late last week after some 9,200 general tickets still remained available for the game 72 hours before kickoff. This despite the fact the Bolts had a 2-0 record, were coming off of a 38-10 thrashing of the Titans, and were about to host one of the preseason favorites to go far in the NFC this year.
Are More Blackouts Coming?
In looking at the remainder of the 2012 schedule, minus the already noted AFC West rivals, the Chargers have home dates with Baltimore, Cincinnati and Carolina.
While the Thanksgiving weekend contest with the Ravens figures to draw well, the contests with the Bengals and Panthers could certainly fall victim to blackouts. During the 2011 season, San Diego had home dates with Miami and Arizona blacked out locally on television.
As Chargers management continues to call for a new stadium in San Diego, talk of the team possibly one day moving back to its original AFL home of Los Angeles does not go away.
While San Diego’s current stadium has certainly rocked at times over the years as fans have cheered on their beloved Bolts, it has also seemed like a neutral site for a number of games, not just when AFC West rivals are in town.
For Chargers fans, hopefully the return of Manning (this time in a Broncos uniform) will bring out the passionate blue and gold supporters, backers who may be as important as ever this season in helping the Bolts to an AFC West crown.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.