Can the Padres save San Diego sports fandom? – The San Diego Union-Tribune
As the chef at Bub’s at the Ballpark sports bar just a few minutes’ walk from Petco Park, Todd Nash spends a good chunk of his time marinating in the blood, sweat and tears of Padres fandom. His restaurant is the site of pre-game happy hours and post-game parties (or post-mortems), and if the team is having a good night, the cheers from Petco make the Bub’s walls rattle.
So he would probably be all-in with the Padres even if he wasn’t a fan, which he is. But the native San Diegan is also a recovering Chargers fan, so while he spends his days and nights in the shadow of Petco, a piece of his heart still lives at Qualcomm Stadium.
And he is not alone out there. Even as the team has moved out and our collective sports consciousness is shifting to Padres baseball, many Chargers supporters are stuck in grieving gear.
“I have always been a Padres fan, but I don’t know if I can find another team that I will love as much as the Chargers,” Nash said, as Bub’s filled up with people heading to Saturday’s Padres FanFest gathering to kick off the season. “For people like me, it’s bred into your life. It’s what you do on Sundays. It’s your tradition. I hope rooting for the Padres will help. Time will tell on that one.”
With the Chargers officially gone from our civic lives and the Padres season starting Monday, local sports fans are stuck between a rock of resentment and a hopeful place. And as San Diego’s only pro sports team, the Padres are now the sole repository for our big sports dreams.
Here comes the rub. At the very time that San Diego needs the Padres to help us get over the Chargers, the Padres are predicted to be in no position to help anyone get anywhere. This is going to be a rebuilding year, as the team and its fans wait for the prospect-filled farm system to bear some winning fruit.
The future could be promising, but the present just promises to be a slog.
“I would not be surprised to see a 65-win team. If they win 70 or more, I’ll be like, ‘Wow, that was pretty good,’” said Scott Dunsmore, who writes the Ghost of Ray Kroc blog for the Padres Public website. “For this year, they have a starting rotation that is just a bunch of journeymen. They don’t have anybody who could really be considered brilliant. I’m OK with it, but I know what the end game is supposed to be.”
The Padres have not had a winning season since 2010, and if the Las Vegas predictions of 60-something wins comes true, that dry spell is going to continue its dusty run. For those who are in on the team-building narrative, this is not necessarily a terrible thing.
At FanFest, the Petco Park grounds were filled with people who had invested plenty in the Padres and were more than happy to invest more. In the face of great odds and greatly diminished expectations, they waved their collective optimism like a giant foam finger.
“It’s a rebuilding year. They got rid of a lot of people, but we’re still hopeful because of all the talent that’s young and fresh,” said Kristie Weaver of Oceanside, who was waiting in the long FanFest entry line with husband Mike and sons Aaron, 9, and Connor, 11.
“The Padres are a great team and all the fans are great,” she said. “It’s an entire community inside this ballpark. If the Chargers fans got that feeling at Qualcomm, maybe they can get it here.”
As the devoted members of Padres Nation have learned, you don’t have to be No. 1 to feel like a winner. From the craft beers and Mister Softee cones to wiffle ball games for the kids, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy a day at the park that have nothing to do with the score of the game.
But what if the loss was not a game, but an entire team? As he continues with the business of figuring out his post-Chargers life, super-fan Josh Casillas is pretty sure a dose of Padres fandom will not make the hurt go away. Although he intends to give it his best shot.
“I’m still in pain. We are all still upset with the Chargers’ move and we’re still very disappointed,” said Casillas, a member of the Bolt Pride fan group, where his ferocious football costume earned him the “Road Warrior” nickname.
“I go to a lot of Padres games, and baseball was my first love. Baseball is my calm place, and I love going to games when I’m stressed or having a bad day. But the Padres won’t affect how I feel in any way. Losing the Chargers and losing that whole football experience is on a whole different level.”
So what is a Chargers fan to do when drowning your sorrows in Padres’ victory champagne is not an option, even if the team were to merit a toast, which it probably won’t? From their perch on the Park at the Park lawn, longtime Chargers and Padres fans Mike and David Leland of Poway had some FanFest thoughts for people who still have a foot in the Chargers camp.
Get out now. Your greener pastures are right here.
“I am not even following the NFL anymore. It’s all about shameless greed and it’s disgusting,” said David, 19, a student at San Diego Miramar College. “I’m waiting for the Padres season to help me get over my Chargers anger. And I hope in a few years when the Padres win the World Series, we’ll forget all about the Chargers and what they did to us.”
And if that doesn’t happen, this father and son team will always have Padres baseball, with all of the trimmings.
“This is way more fun. True baseball fans are the best fans,” Mike said, reveling in the sun and his Hodad’s burger. “And if the Padres are building a team and moving in the right direction, we’ll be OK. If they do it right and invest in the future, we’ll be right here.”