Column Memories linger but Judases leave our fair city

The Judases, who stomped on our hearts in January, had their final practice here Thursday in the hole in our body.
Being a practice hater, it was the last one I had a chance to miss.
They’re (mostly) gone now. Officially. The Last Minicamp came. And went. And so did they.
Mostly moving-vanned out to L.A. As though they put their house up for sale after entertaining their neighbors for so long and many of their friends who wanted them to stay don’t like who has made the first bid to move in next door.
But the souls of the San Diego Chargers remain. In memorium.
They are like our first love. Can you really totally forget your first love?
I can’t. Maybe if I tried I could forget them. But I don’t want to. I spent a whole lot of my life around this team. Moving 120 miles isn’t far enough away to erase them. For me.
My dad took me to their first game in Balboa Stadium. So I’m supposed to forget that? How?
It’s almost Biblical. Their body is gone, but their soul remains.
In 1982. Training camp opens at UCSD. After a very memorable year of covering the other deserters, the Clippers, it was my first day on the Chargers beat for the late, lamented Evening Tribune.
I didn’t know squat about the organization. I had covered Don Coryell some when I wrote for the Daily Aztec at San Diego State. But there would be times when Don was so deep in his X’s and O’s that he didn’t recognize me after I covered him every day for two years.
My second year on the beat, we’re in Seattle with the team, staying at an airport hotel with glass outdoor elevators. Game day. I get on the elevator to go down to breakfast at 8 a.m. It stops a few floors down and Don gets on. I’m facing the door. Just we two all the way down. He stares over my shoulder. The elevator hits the lobby. He turns and gets off. Didn’t even acknowledge my existence.
Game Day Don Coryell. Good man. Great coach. By then I had known him 14 years. I cracked up.
Team publicist Rick Smith, my newspaper idol growing up, had been on the Tribune sports staff covering the Chargers when I first started on the paper. But I was a copy kid then, a rank amateur, and Rick left the staff a few months later for a PR job with the Warriors that paid better than sportswriter dough.
When the first practice ended, I asked trainer Ric McDonald a question (can’t talk to trainers anymore), and he was snippy with me, obviously trying to get superior with the rookie. I told him to (something) off. We got along fine after that.
Dan Fouts was coming off the field and I introduced myself. He said: “Let’s take a ride.” I thought it was some kind of mob thing and he was Don Fouts. That it was to be a “Leave the gun, take the cannoli” kind of ride, and I was Paulie.
We climbed into Dan’s little Mercedes and drove around campus for a half hour. Chatting. He wanted to get to know me. He was a genuine pain in the ass and relished being in charge, the greatest leader I’ve known in sports.
He ran the organization. But he Nick O'Leary Womens Jersey was a struggle for sportswriters, especially after games, when it took him so long to come down from his game high, win or lose. But from that Mercedes ride on, he always was OK with me.
We were in San Francisco, that first year, a strike year, and Fouts and Joe Montana had a gun battle, becoming the first two NFL QBs to throw for more than 400 yards in a game. Chargers won. Afterward, at his locker, Dan told a reporter to “get that (bleeping) microphone out of my face.” It was his dad, long a voice of the Niners.
So I’m just supposed to forget that, supposed to forget Fouts coming up to me the next year, on the plane ride back from Miami after they got their butts kicked in the playoffs (he’d thrown five picks), and telling me he didn’t see me in the locker room (overcrowded) and asked if I needed anything?
Am I supposed to forget having lunch with Fouts years later at UCSD and discussing the John Jefferson trade? Dan loved JJ, who saved him more than once. The team got Wes Chandler to replace Jefferson. Fouts said that, after Chandler’s first practice, Charlie Joiner came up to him and asked: “What did you think?” Dan’s reply: “We got a better player.”
After Lance Alworth, probably the greatest receiver ever, Chandler is the second-best Chargers wideout. Brilliant. That strike year, 1982, he had the best half-season in history. Check it out.
Wes was remarkable. He was so athletic he could use both hands to play against himself on video games. He broke 80 the first time he played golf.
Kellen Winslow, such a great tight end, so smart, so media-savvy.
The late Chuck Muncie, so troubled, such a good guy. Was LaDainian Tomlinson a better back? I’ll never say that. Certainly not as gifted. Ed White. Great player. Better man. Big Hands. Louie. Moosie.
Moments. Memories. Tales, long and short.
I could write a thousand columns like this. I’ve only touched on the beginning of my association with the team, not even getting into Ramon Humber Kids Jersey coaches, GMs and owners, where there are more stories than a skyscraper.
But, physically, they are (mostly) gone now. And we are an emptier place.
If you don’t think so, wait until September. Souls cannot play.

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