True to the @DarkSideGeek name, I think every blog post I’ve written so far has been tech-oriented. But I’m deviating today, because something has been bothering me lately. This blog will have to do for my soapbox, since it’s way too big for a tweet and Facebook cannot contain it. The trouble is, I’ve got a basic premise in mind but what I’m lacking is a good conclusion, an understanding of why. Perhaps my readers – both of you – can provide the answer?

Why does San Diego suck so badly as a sports town?

Every year, Men’s Health magazine anoints a city as the “best sports town in America”. They factor in recreational activities, collegiate allegiance, and pro sports fanaticism to grade out a winner. As a native San Diegan – who proudly likes to see San Diego at the top of any best-of list – I always open that issue hoping to see my home town lauded. But I know it will never happen.

This is not just my opinion, because it is often discussed on local sports radio. @Marty1090 tweets about the lack of support and laughs derisively at what the local media considers newsworthy. @HacksawHamilton debates the topic frequently on his show. But asking a sports-junkie audience why San Diego is not a sports town is not the best use of demographics. It’s like asking the Amish whether they prefer Mac or PC. I would like the people who are not supporting sports in this town to educate the rest of us.

Minor league hockey lasted only a couple of years here. San Diego tried (and failed) with 3 professional basketball teams. Ditto for soccer, where the city’s most successful franchise has actually been the now semi-defunct Sockers (MISL indoor and NASL outdoor). Why don’t the Chargers – a perennial NFL powerhouse – sell out every game like the lowly Browns & Redskins rather than relying on a ticket guarantee from the city as was done in 1997? San Diego State Aztec football draws 45,000 fans, but only if it is a Sky Show [fireworks extravaganza] night, otherwise relegated to about 18,000 (and very few students). And the Padres – in the middle of a playoff race during a tremendous over-achieving 2010 season – drew a whopping 24,000 per game during the final home-stand.

I love baseball. I love my Padres. I consider myself very fortunate to share a season ticket package (thanks Chet/Sharon!) with primo field level seats right near home plate. During one of the last games of the season, a group showed up (in the 4th inning) and sat right behind me. It was clear that they did not pay for the tickets, because they joked about complaining to their benefactor about such lousy seats. One of them made the comment that it was the first game that they’ve been to this season. Really? The first game?! Despite being in 1st place most of the year, and now with the Division title in the balance?!? OK, so I thought, they aren’t sports fans.

Until one of them started to regale with his recent road trip through Texas to watch a string of college football games.

Hmmm. So he is a sports fan, just maybe not a baseball fan. When Adrian Gonzalez made a rare error, their exchange sealed it… “Well, they didn’t get him for his glove” “But isn’t he a Gold Glover?” If they were true Padres fans, nay,  baseball fans, they would know all about the defensive standout and 2-time award winner. So that pretty much confirms it, not baseball fans.

Boy was I wrong. They knew CC Sabathia’s recent pitch-by-pitch record in pursuit of the elusive 20th win. They knew all about Lidge, Wilson, Broxton, and other superstar relievers. The studliness of Roy Halladay. The Rookie-of-the-Year debate between Posey and Heyward. They knew the precise date when Jamie Carroll – Jamie Carroll!! – last hit a grand slam. And yet this was their first Padre game of the year, watching a baseball team that they apparently cared very little for.

Who were these guys?? Do you recognize them as one of your friends? If so, get them to respond here. These are the people that we need to ask: why do San Diegans care so little for their teams?

Is it because most people in San Diego are not from San Diego? I am one of the few natives I am aware of. Most of my childhood friends, and indeed, former coworkers, are off living somewhere else. San Diego has become a city of itinerants. Does everyone else in SD profess their allegiance to their original hometown/childhood teams instead? It certainly would explain why there are often more fans of the visiting team in attendance than for the Padres (and sometimes even Chargers!).

Is it because baseball is a national pastime that is dying? Maybe. Football is king these days. But even football doesn’t sell out here, so while popularity may address the Padre anathema, it does not explain the malaise endured by every other sport. When Mexico comes up to the ‘Q’ for a FIFA “friendly”, the place is packed. But the NASL Sockers were never so fortunate.

Is it because low-scoring baseball games – something the 2010 Pads were famous for – are boring? Maybe. I think the all-offense Fouts-era Chargers were a bigger draw than today’s team, and the high-scoring indoor Sockers totally out-drew their outdoor version. There’s something to be said about the excitement of a good scoring offense. Chicks dig the long ball, after all. But still, we’re talking playoff push here! Even if you can’t appreciate the game-within-a-game of a tense 1-0 defensive struggle, surely you can get on the bandwagon just because they are winners?! C’mon, represent!

Is it because the “expectations” for the Padres were so low entering into the season that they could not generate enough interest? Well, explain that to the Chargers – they’ve been blacked out in both 2010 home games despite being picked by many as pre-season Super Bowl favorites.

Is it because of the economy, as Hacksaw maintains? This hasn’t seemed to have been as big a problem in other cities, or in other sports.

Is it because San Diego is such an ‘outdoorsy’ sunshine place that there are so many other things to do instead of spectator sports? Well, Denver has good weather (and winter sports when the weather turns ugly). And yet the Broncos, Rockies, Avalanche, Nuggets, and innumerable Coloradoan college football games are regular sellouts.

This is not just “a Padres thing”. Ask the Gulls, the Conquistadors, the Rockets, the Jaws. Ask the Aztecs, whose 30,000 students and 200,000+ alum couldn’t even begin to comprehend the 100,000 fans that regularly attend Michigan football games. What holds the attention of nearly 3 million San Diego County residents? I don’t really know. I’m at a loss. And despite all the talk-radio rehash, I have yet to hear a good answer. All we can do is muster a minimal baseline attendance (24k for baseball, 45k for football) that could eventually result in the departure of our NFL team, and possibly even the demise of MLB as a favored pastime. San Diego sports fans will surely be upset if either happen, but I guess it doesn’t really matter – apparently, we’re in the minority.

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