San Diego Chargers
Number of blackouts in 2012: Four
Ownership wants a new stadium, taxpayers don't want to pay for it. Ordinarily, this quarrel is restricted to the front office, news pages and the halls of government, but last year the Chargers responded to taxpayer complaints with something they haven't seen since 2003 -- a losing season.
The Chargers franchise that sold out 48 straight games through 2010 and made the playoffs in five out of six years between 2004 and 2009 now blacks out home games annually. The Spanos family of owners, meanwhile, have noted that the Chargers have played Qualcomm Stadium under each of its various names since 1967. The stadium got its last facelift in 1997 just in time to host the Super Bowl in 1998 and hosted yet another Super Bowl in 2003, but the NFL has stated bluntly that San Diego will need a new stadium if it wants to host another Super Bowl any time soon.Those pulling for the Chargers to stay have suggested redeveloping the Qualcomm Stadium site at no cost to taxpayers, but the Spanos clan is fielding better offers. Chula Vista and Escondido have made pitches, but the Chargers have been linked to at least two Los Angeles stadium proposals and spent a season there in 1960 before moving to San Diego a year later. In the meantime, the Spanos family has treated its home town less than warmly, shunning the reduced-capacity blackout policy. The Spanos' trump card is that its current stadium deal gives them the option to leave on a yearly basis, which forced the NFL to issue an announcement this year that the Chargers would, in fact, play in San Diego in 2013. San Diego taxpayers, refusing to be batted around by NFL owners, responded by electing former U.S. Rep. Bob Filner as the city's mayor after he vowed not to publicly subsidize a new Chargers stadium. He's referred to ownership's demands as "extortion" and vowed to be "the toughest negotiator the Chargers have ever faced." The team hasn't done a whole lot to combat Filner's "extortion" claims. Just before their last blacked-out game, it tried to sell tickets on Groupon (GRPN) for a whopping $8 less than their $72 face value. Now that this cycle of mutual hostility has a losing team at the center of it, expect Chargers-related discussion to get a whole lot uglier this season if the on-field misery continues.