SAN DIEGO: While it's difficult to find positives in a tragedy that has taken 300,000 acres, nearly 650 homes, and 13 lives to date, the devastating wildfires in Southern California are the latest calamity for which the American public has demonstrated its propensity for finding untapped strength, kindness, and sensibility in its most dire hour. The San Diego Chargers have epitomized that inclination.
Preparing to host its first Monday Night Football game since 1996, San Diego was severely impacted by the fires. And while the Dolphins-Chargers contest pales in importance when compared to the blazes, it did provide the springboard for a noble philanthropic effort.
Chargers GM A.J. Smith and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue moved the contest to Tempe, AZ, which availed Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers' home field, to be used as an evacuation center. The San Diego Fire Relief Fund was created to help generate public donations. To ensure maximum exposure for the effort, the team gave away free tickets to the game, asking fans to contribute the face value to the fund. Over $500,000 was collected on game night alone.
League rules stipulate that if a team fails to sell out home games - not exactly a rarity for the Chargers - a local TV blackout is enforced.
To avoid this, an agreement is in place whereby the city buys all unsold tickets, thus ensuring a sellout. In the case of last week's game, technically, no tickets were sold. It was still considered a Chargers home game, however, so the city was still on the hook for all the tickets. But realizing that San Diego could much more effectively use the money elsewhere, the team waived its rights.
San Diego lost the game 26-10. Nevertheless, the Chargers' quick, selfless thinking provided a fine example of putting the team first and helping the hometown in its most desperate hour. The club may have fallen to 1-6 on the season, but they earned a much more important victory, as well as our PR Play of the Week.