- - Thursday, January 12, 2017


There’s a statue of a sportswriter in San Diego.

How about that?

Actually, it’s a sportswriter and his dog.

Imagine that? A sportswriter so beloved and admired by a community that they erected a statue for him — and his pet Labrador retriever.

I’m not sure there is another statue of a sportswriter anywhere in America. But there is one outside what is now known as Qualcomm Stadium.

It’s there because the man credited for being the most responsible for the stadium and the football team that played there was a San Diego sportswriter — the late Jack Murphy.

This was a time when newspapermen like sports columnists were influential figures in their community, and when a typewriter could change a city.

No more.

The San Diego Chargers — the American Football League franchise that San Diego Union sports columnist Jack Murphy helped convince to leave Los Angeles and move to his town — are leaving town.

The team has informed the NFL that it plans to move back to Los Angeles — the city they left 56 years ago — to join the relocated Rams, who moved last year from St. Louis to Los Angeles — a city that had no NFL franchise for more than two decades.

Now Los Angeles will have two NFL teams, both of which had played in the city before.

And all San Diego will have is an empty stadium on Sundays and the statue of Murphy and his dog Abe.

Murphy led the charge, so to speak, to bring professional football to San Diego, where he was a columnist for the San Diego Union. Then he led the effort for a new stadium for the football team he helped bring to the city — so much so that the stadium would eventually be named for Murphy (though they would later sell the naming rights and just refer to the field as Jack Murphy Field).

Imagine that — a sports stadium named after a sportswriter. It almost seems like a mythical time.

There are no Jack Murphy’s anymore.

The days of the influential local sports media figure are gone. There’s nobody in San Diego — or many American cities, for that matter — to rally the community behind what it would take to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

It’s not just the costs — it’s the bad taste that is in the mouths of the average fan these days for not just owners, but players, politicians and pretty much every one of note or in authority that can help shape and define a community.

City Hall scandals in San Diego, along with the greedy owners, the Spanos family, turned off people and made it more difficult than it typically is to gain support for ballot question that would have raised the hotel occupancy tax to help pay for a $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center.

The goodwill that a Jack Murphy can muster almost seems like a myth, sort of like the story fathers may tell their sons and daughters about the sportswriter who had made San Diego a major league city. Murphy, who was also influential in bringing the San Diego Padres expansion franchise to the city, died of lung cancer in 1980 at the age of 57.

Jack Murphy was a force for positive good,” said then San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy at the unveiling of Murphy’s statue during the week the city hosted the Super Bowl in 2003. “More than being an editor and a columnist, Jack had a vision for San Diego and the courage to pursue that vision.

“He encouraged rather than discouraged. We could use him in San Diego now. It is appropriate that we are honoring him this week. Without him, there would be no Super Bowl XXXVII here this week.”

Raiders owner Al Davis was part of the ceremony.

“This is truly an emotional and inspirational experience,” said Davis, who worked for the Chargers in the franchise’s early days. “When we first met, I was a source of information for him. He was a source of inspiration for me. After the Chargers third game in Los Angeles, as attendance started to fall, he’d drag me into a corner of the locker room after every game and say, ‘What about San Diego?’”

What about San Diego?

They have a statue of a sportswriter from a bygone era in front of a stadium that used to be named for him that had been the home for the city’s NFL team that appears to be leaving town.

It’s not the column Murphy would have written.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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