“South L.A.’s Team”: Chargers’ move to Hollywood isn’t successful so far

“South L.A.’s Team” is having a hard time drawing fans to their temporary home, the StubHub Center in Carson, CA.

Game against Eagles last Sunday was shoved onto little-watched outlet in Los Angeles.

The Chargers’ move to Los Angeles from San Diego couldn’t have been more disastrous.

Game three into this experiment, and the Chargers are only drawing around 25,000 fans per game in the 30,000-seat StubHub Center, a soccer stadium in south suburban Carson, Calif., thirteen miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Carson borders L.A.’s oddly-shaped Harbor Gateway neighborhood and is adjacent to suburban Compton and West Rancho Dominguez.

If you’re not familiar with Carson, the exterior fire house in the 1970s’ NBC drama Emergency! was actually Station 127 of the Los Angeles County Fire Department in the city, renamed the Robert A. Cinader Memorial Fire Station in honor of the show’s co-creator.

I guess you can call the Chargers “South L.A.’s Team”. Or not, given much of the crowd who comes to these games are fans of the opposing team.

Previously, Los Angeles was without an NFL team for 22 years after both the Rams and Raiders left in December 1994. Then in 2016, the Rams returned to L.A. after two decades and change in St. Louis, playing in a domed stadium built for them. Owner Stan Kroenke exercised a clause in their contract to leave the place, which is about as unimaginable as you think.

Meanwhile, the Chargers had stadium issues at their home, known as San Diego and later Jack Murphy Stadium before the name changed. After voters rejected a tax increase to build a new facility, the Chargers “bolted” back to Los Angeles, scheduled to share a stadium with the Rams in Inglewood, Calif. in 2020. The last time the Chargers played in Los Angeles as a home team was in 1960 as an American Football League team before moving to San Diego in 1961 and to Jack Murphy in 1967.

Until the new facility is built, the Rams are back playing at the L.A. Coliseum – their home from 1951 to 1979 when they moved to Anaheim Stadium. Like the Chargers, the Rams are having their own attendance issues.

Meanwhile, the Chargers have to settle for StubHub, a place more known for the LA Galaxy soccer team and boxing (which is in another part of the venue.) While a move to Pasadena’s Rose Bowl would have been a more logical choice, the venue reportedly flat out rejected the idea.

On Sunday, the Chargers played a “home” game against the Philadelphia Eagles, where fans of the green and white completely took over the place. Sirius/XM host and podcaster Ross Tucker noted it was an “epic fail”, as the team even ran out of press box food during the game. While in L.A., Tucker asked people who were playing the Chargers on Sunday – and no one knew.

And you think it’s bad now – wait until the Raiders come to town.

Not helping matters is what channel the game was televised on. Fox had rights to both Rams and Chargers game (Chargers are an AFC team, whose rights lie with CBS) and rather than have the end of the Rams game interfering with the start of the Chargers game on the company’s KTTV, Fox shoved the game to its owned sister station, KCOP-TV – once known as a UPN affiliate and was home to many Star Trek shows.

According to a tweet from KNBC sports anchor Fred Roggin, the ratings for the Chargers game tied for fifth among most-watched NFL telecasts in the Los Angeles market. Not helping is KCOP’s overall standing, with the My Network TV affiliate (remember them?) – usually finishing behind Univision’s KMEX and Telemundo’s KVEA, two Spanish-language stations in the ratings. Seriously.

Fox still uses the “My” branding in L.A., as it was abandoned in Chicago after sister station WPWR-TV became a CW affiliate. WPWR has aired Chicago Bears games in the past, before the NFL Network struck a deal with CBS and NBC to simulcast their games. KCOP also plans to air another Chargers “home” game later this season. CBS-owned KCAL, a sister station to KCBS, is airing this coming Sunday’s Chargers game against the New York Giants at 10 a.m. Pacific Time because the Rams play the Seahawks at 1 p.m. on CBS (and not Fox.) Of note, the ratings for the Rams have also been unspectacular.

There seems to be some kind of attendance curse when any team plays on the “south side of town” (ask any White Sox fan.) While the Cubs-White Sox crosstown rivalry is real and genuine, the new “Rams-Chargers” rivalry feels phony and staged. Even the “fights” at training camp between the two teams had a whiff of deception around it. “Pay your rent” chants? Give me a break. Even the Angels-Dodgers matchups this year – which featured fights in the stands and even a near-bench clearing brawl was for real – or what passes for real in Southern California.

The Chargers are finding this out hard and fast and with the team off to an 0-4 start, it is going to be much tougher to the Chargers to build a fan base in a city where football is historically an afterthought.

(Updated 2017-10-06 at 3:50 p.m. to add Chargers-Giants information.)

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