My Monday began at 3:30 am in Atlanta when the Super Shuttle picked me up from my sister’s friend, Becki’s place in Buckhead to take me to the airport. Atlanta has to be the only airport that is busy at 4 am. I was in long lines first to check in with Southwest, which made sense since they had experienced some technical issues all day Sunday. I was nervous this might affect me getting to San Diego in time for the game, but luckily everything was under control by Monday. Aside from long lines, I made it to San Diego on time and took a bus to the hostel I was staying at in the Gaslamp District. The hostel is called Lucky D’s and it’s a little dirty, but for the price and location, it was just fine. I was able to check in early and even caught the complimentary breakfast.
For the game, I took the Green Line and purchased a round trip ticket for $6 cash. They have people checking for tickets when you arrive at the stadium stop (and when you leave), so make sure you buy the pass to avoid any issues. The train was packed (mainly Steelers fans) for a long ride up to Qualcomm. It beats paying for parking and I talked to some nice fans most of the way. I’ve never seen this stadium or even remember seeing it on television and was unimpressed as I walked up. It reminded me of Paul Brown in Cincinnati as it’s just a concrete structure (also similar to the Coliseum). They’ve tried to jazz it up with banners along the outer rim, but that doesn’t hide the fact it’s old and not much to look at. I did a loop around the tailgate lots and there wasn’t much of a tailgate going on. Tents were sparse and what I did see a lot of were cops. There were cop cars and cops everywhere; do these fans get that feisty? I was under the impression that San Diego was chill. I also passed by an organized tailgate party, but aside from a few live broadcasts from local media, it was pretty lame. I know it was early on a Monday and fairly hot by local standards, but there was a real lack of effort going on here.
I entered the stadium and walked over to the team shop to meet my stadium witness for this game Jamaal. We decided we would meet back in the same location after he was done with his post-game duties and I was on my merry way. The stadium is old and has very narrow walkways to the inner concourse that is dark and cramped. I went down to the field to watch warm-ups and was further surprised by how retro this place was when I looked at their video boards… not even HD! No wonder this team is considering leaving the city. How can San Diego have such a beautiful baseball field downtown and have this concrete block up north of the city? No offense to the area it’s in, I’m sure it’s lovely judging by the giant houses on the hills surrounding, but it’s out of the way for sure.Watching the teams warm up, I was alarmed by a number of Terrible Towels I was seeing. I thought Vikings fans traveled well, but the Steelers put them to shame. It was looking like Steel City West up in here.
Standing in the walkway that split the lower level seats, I was able to stay put up until the national anthem. There wasn’t a breeze down by the field and I was sweating up a storm as I moved back up to the inner concourse. I watched the kickoff and opening drive from the section opening before deciding to walk around the outer concourse and head up to my seat. While I was making the loop behind the end zone seating I got an eyelash in my eye and headed into the bathroom to fish it out. There was a worker in there that didn’t speak English and wanted to help. I didn’t know what she was saying but smiled and nodded trying to be polite. She washed her hands in the sink and grabbed my face and blew right into my eye. I was shocked and decided I needed to learn Spanish like immediately to avoid any possible future encounters like this one. This was all on me. Again being polite, I thanked her and ran from the bathroom. Eyelash free remarkably!
I took an escalator up to my seat which was in the Family Section of “the view.” There’s no drinking or foul language in these seats and I figured I’d fit in just fine. I stopped at a concession stand for a soft pretzel and noticed their prices were a bit more than most of the other stadiums. There also wasn’t much in terms of selection or presentation. There were food trucks in the outer concourse if fans were looking for more than the basics, so I’ll give the stadium that. Pretzel in hand I ventured to my seat and found that I liked field a lot more from up high. There was a nice breeze and I had a good view of most of the field. It wasn’t as steep as other stadiums, so the immediate end zone was a bit obstructed even when standing. Looking around me, I was surrounded by Steelers fans. There was a fellow Browns fan a few rows down from me, but other than that I was in “terrible” company.
It was a very split crowd, though I’ll give the advantage to the Steelers fans with those towels and rambunctious energy. When both teams were on offense the stadium was loud and when either team scored, the place erupted. I noticed the Monday Night Football cameras were honed in on the sections behind the Steelers bench which gave the illusion it was mostly black and gold. The television timeouts for this game seemed crazy long and the lulls killed the stadium vibe a few times. With the worst video boards of all time, there wasn’t much coming from the Chargers in terms of entertainment or crowd engagement. They seemed to rely heavily on their “hottest cheerleaders in the NFL” during breaks and though they weren’t all the hottest, they were good at dancing, so aside from some Steelers fans that booed them, they got the job done. What I did absolutely love and have been still singing to myself days later is the San Diego Super Chargers scoring song. It’s disco and catchy as French. They should play it for everything- touchdowns, first downs, sacks, heck 3-yard gains- it’s that delightful. I embedded the song below and am trying to figure out how I can further incorporate it into my everyday life. Like if this was my theme music and the Broncos’ announcer was my narrator, my life would be complete.
What I’ll remember most from this game was the ending (obviously). The Chargers kicked a field goal to go ahead late in the fourth and just needed a defensive stop. Well, that didn’t happen and the Steelers marched down the field, setting up on the goal line for the final play of the game. I was on my feet most of the drive, along with the Steelers fans around me (they were all cool people). Like I said our view was a little obstructed and we were on our toes peering down to catch the last play. I couldn’t tell if the ball had broken the goal plane or not, but Pittsburgh fans were going nuts cheering and waving their towels.
They ended up reviewing it and the way the head official walked back out onto the field all slow and dramatic, I thought for sure it was going to be overturned. I said aloud, “I DO NOT want to be here if that call gets overturned.” “Me either,” replied the Steelers fan next to me. The anticipation following the review was almost as exciting as the original play- the whole stadium was quietly waiting with bated breath. After the official finally announced that the play stood as called, it was another round of celebrating for the black and gold. What an insane ending to a great game. That’s what’s nice about going to games the Browns aren’t playing in, I really don’t care who wins, I just enjoy the game. Though I was obviously pulling for the Chargers in this one, I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over this loss.
The walk down the ramps was lively as I heard the chant, “Here we go Steelers, here we go,” say a million times. Chargers fans were quietly scooting through, trying to avoid the jeers and celebrations. I went to meet Jamaal but had to wait about 45 minutes for him to finish his work and meet up. It was all good as I charged my phone and people watched. I thought for sure there wouldn’t be a line for the trolley that long following the game, but boy was I wrong. Walking out from the stadium I saw that the line was down the ramps and into the parking lot. Dang. It wasn’t as bad as it looked and I was on a train within a half hour and back in San Diego proper just after 10:30 pm.
All in all, I wasn’t impressed with Qualcomm Stadium and wouldn’t blame the Chargers for bolting to another city offering up a new stadium. The latest rumor of sharing a stadium with the Raiders would eliminate two out of date facilities and take the rivalry to a whole new level. I’ll admit I’m very intrigued by this and look forward to seeing what actually happens during the offseason.
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Special thank you to Jamaal for his time and assistance during my visit!