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Chargers miss the fans as much as we miss them

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Aug 5, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    By Curtis Egan
    <em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>

    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://i212.photobucket.com/albums/cc94/Concudan_CME/Minicamp%2008/The_group.gif"><img title="Charger fans " src="http://i212.photobucket.com/albums/cc94/Concudan_CME/Minicamp%2008/The_group.gif" alt="Charger fans at training camp" width="290" height="193" /></a></div>

    Since 1960, the Chargers have started each season off with a training camp, they have gone to rattlesnake infested deserts, been to colleges, sporting complexes and even a TravelLodge. Below you will find a timeline showing where they Chargers have gathered to begin their season, always striving for that elusive championship.

    1960 Chapman College, Orange
    1961 - 1962 University of San Diego
    1963 Rough Acres Ranch
    1964 - 1968 TraveLodge, Escondido
    1969 - 1973 UC Irvine
    1974 - 1975 US International University, San Diego
    1976 - 2002 University of California San Diego
    2003 – 2004 Home Depot Center, Carson
    2005-current Chargers Park, San Diego

    There has always been one constant; the San Diego Chargers have always welcomed their fans to visit the early practices, to enjoy the atmosphere, cheer on the players and welcome the season back in Chargers fashion.

    I fondly recall going to the beautiful campus at UCSD and watching the Chargers practice in the 90's, and then after practice walking on the field to speak with the players and coaches. Training camp was always a magical time of the year where fans could see their favorite players and team up close, and sometimes speak with them or get an autograph.

    There is no doubt that the Chargers fans have always enjoyed this time of year; many die hard fans can be seen holding an annual tailgater out front of the Chargers Park, preparing for the first open camp of the season. It is their way of heralding in the new football year and wishing luck and health for the players who drive by, honking or waving, and the occasional head coach that drives by and informs them that camp doesn't start for several hours. This year was no different. Fans gathered in front of the Chargers training facility to welcome in the new season. Fans from several fan forums, including BoltTalk, Bolt Bunker, Chargers.com, and others gathered and shared stories, reacquainted themselves with one another and welcomed in the new season.

    The only difference was that this season they would not be marching through the southern gates to the facility this year. That was due to the fact that a 20 foot sink hole had developed due to the heavy February rains. That sink hole occupied the space that the football hungry fans normally would occupy. This cause the Chargers to reluctantly close the practice to the fans, due to safety concerns.

    This is frustrating to the fans, which was to be expected. However, some of the players have also expressed the fact that they missed the fans presence, the energy they bring to the practices.

    Antonio Cromartie expressed frustration to his fans on Twitter at the camp being closed. Cromartie seems to feed of the energy of the fans, and during the hot days of summer where players push through two-a-days (practice twice a day), hours of meetings, weight room time and film sessions, they seem to truly appreciate the little ‘umph' a cheering throng of fans gives them.

    This was echoed by several other players; including star Quarterback Philip Rivers who said, that he "<em>misses the energy and noise of the crowd</em>" but admitted the quiet allows them to focus a little more on football.

    When I asked returning star Linebacker Shawne Merriman about it on Twitter, he replied, informing me "<em>Personally I like that fans at practice but now we can probably focus better as a team.</em> So players do see that there is a pro and a con to this.

    Legedu Naanee, a young receiver with the team (one that I expect to have a breakout season in 2009) told me (also via Twitter) that the fans not being at camp "<em>hasn't affected us yet, besides taking a little of the excitement out of it, but later in camp when everyone is sore and dead.</em>" (it will).

    It is good to know that the players enjoy the presence of the fans as much as the fans enjoy being there. Closing the camp was not an easy choice for the Chargers, and as an organization they have tried to ensure that the fans are recognized during this period. They have granted access to some practices to fans who write for fan forums such as BoltTalk, and BoltHype, and they have also increased the number of practices at the stadium which are open to the fans.

    Don't for a minute think that the Chargers do not recognize that the camps being closed have caused frustration. I for one think it was mutual; "<em>Training camp is a special time for our fans, and the decision to close camp this year was made very reluctantly, </em>" Jim Steeg, the Chargers' COO said in a recent interview. "<em>We share the city's goal of completing these critical repairs during the dry summer months so in the end, we had no alternative but to take this step.</em>" The choice to err on the side of caution is an understandable one, the Chargers do not want to see any of their fans injured, and there is no way for the fans to see the practice as chain link fences covered in green cloth separate the practice field from the area the fans would occupy.

    The Chargers are set to have their first practice that is open to the public tomorrow. Typically in years past they would have one ‘FAN FEST' and that would be it. The Chargers will have equivalent of three this season. Parking will be free and hotdogs will only be a buck ($1). The only difference is that there will not be autograph sessions for the practices on the events that occur on the 5th and 12th of August. However fans 14 years of age and younger will have an opportunity for autographs at the official fan fest held on August 8th.

    To some this may not seem like a lot, but consider the logistics of moving the team from Chargers Park, down to the stadium, arranging for the vendors, impacting the team's preparation time, and in general causing the days set routines to be thrown out the window. But apparently the Chargers feel strongly enough about their fans to do this not only once, but three times.

    As a Charger fan I look forward to the camp situation returning to normal next season, and I do appreciate what the Chargers have done to work around this situation and keep the fans involved this year. It is times like this that make me aware that the Chargers do appreciate their fans, their customers if you will.

    That is my opinion, what is yours?

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