Around the time the Chargers were using threats to sell tickets to their Monday Night Football game against the Indianapolis Colts, I got into a Twitter debate about San Diego’s sports fans. This is not a rare occurrence. What is rare is that I walked away from the debate feeling like I had solved a riddle. Allow me to explain.
For years, many have tried to find reasons for the poor attendance at Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park. There were the easy answers, such as the fans hating the coach, or the team not having star players on the roster, but those are easily dismissed. Plenty of fan bases sell out game after game for a bad team with a worse coach, such as Romeo Crennel’s Kansas City Chiefs, or the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies.
How about the theory that there is so much to do in San Diego that not as many people will choose to go to games? Well, the sunny beaches probably don’t have much to do with the Padres having 30,000 empty seats on a Wednesday night, and they didn’t have much to do with the Chargers’ inability to sell out the game against the Colts. Also, the other side of that theory is that fans flock to games in areas where there isn’t much else to do. But that doesn’t explain why the Kansas City Royals and Buffalo Bills rank among the worst in their respective leagues in percentage of tickets sold to their games.
I know why the fans aren’t filling up the stadiums in San Diego, and I can thank a random tweet for giving me the best term to describe it. San Diego sports fans need emotional anchors. An emotional anchor is a memory, not just of a night but the experiences of an entire season or longer, that continually brings them back to their favorite teams. Something that won’t let them move on.