The California wildfires have forced half a million people to flee their homes, so football is certainly low on the totem poll of concerns in the situation. Still, the San Diego Chargers have had to deal with the effects of the fire on their families, the use of their stadium as an emergency housing facility, and travel to Arizona so that they could practice for their “home” game against the Houston Texans in breathable air. Now, it looks like they’ll have to play their “home” game in Texas.
The Chargers expect to hear today from Mayor Jerry Sanders whether they can play their scheduled game against the Houston Texans in Qualcomm Stadium, and they are narrowing down contingencies for playing elsewhere. â€œThe Chargers are working closely with Mayor Sanders and the fire and police departments to determine how best to deal with Sunday’s scheduled NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium,â€ the team said in a statement. â€œProtecting the public safety is the mayor’s top goal, and the Chargers will continue to cooperate with the mayor to achieve this goal.â€
Among the issues with playing the game at Qualcomm Stadium are air quality, the availability of police and other support personnel and the fact that several thousand evacuees are currently housed at the stadium.
The Chargers and the NFL are also considering whether playing the game in San Diego is in the best interest of the community. It appears likely the Chargers will end up playing in Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, if they can’t play at home, sources said last night. The Cowboys have a bye Sunday. Dallas makes sense because the game would likely draw more fans than would a game in Arizona, which would ease the financial losses the Chargers will incur. Also, the Chargers would count on the fact LaDainian Tomlinson is from Waco and went to school at nearby TCU, as well as Dallas fans’ acrimony for Houston, to ensure the crowd is not pro-Texans.
The Chargers do have an insurance policy that covers lost gate receipts, but the deductible is extremely high. The team can generally expect a home game to bring a gate of more than $7 million.
Team President Dean Spanos has met several times over the past two days with league Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well as other league and network executives. All are in Philadelphia for league meetings.
The commissioner said yesterday the Chargers and the league are also considering playing in Los Angeles, Phoenix or Houston.
The chief issues working against the game being in Los Angeles are the unpredictability of the Southern California fires and the logistics of staging a game in a non-NFL stadium. An NFL game requires high-definition replay equipment for game officials. The same would presumably be an issue at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium. The Chargers played at ASU in 2003 when the wildfires in San Diego forced them to move a Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins, but Sun Devil Stadium was then the home of the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium is not available Sunday because it is the site of a motorcycle convention.
The game could be played at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. That would likely guarantee a big gate, but the Chargers are concerned about the competitive disadvantage in making the Texans the home team and â€œwould like to avoidâ€ playing there.
A wag at Football Outsiders wonders, “Is there any way we can get the NY Giants an extra home game out of this situation?”
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