Don’t let pro sports happen to you

At wedding receptions, the plan is usually to seat guests who know each other at the same tables. My sister did this at her wedding, but instead of numbered tables, she gave each table a name based on the common element shared by each of the guests at the table. There were school-themed names, work-themed names, and names based on other bits and pieces from her life. There was a table called “Rooney,” named after her dog. I was placed at a table with my siblings and a few other family members. The name of that table was “Chargers,” the football team in the city we all came from. It was the perfect name.

I have six brothers and sisters, and as a group, we’ve never been especially close. We all love each other, but we don’t talk very often. It’s not that we want it that way, it’s just sort of how things worked out. With seven kids, there’s a pretty significant age difference; by the time the youngest of us arrived, the oldest had already moved out. Being spread across the country now, from Portland to Houston to Myrtle Beach, doesn’t help the situation. My parents were divorced when I was very young, so we don’t even have a common upbringing that we can all relate to. It’s just hard to come up with stuff to talk about when we don’t share much more than a last name, and two of us don’t even share that.

One thing we did share was a love of San Diego sports. We could always fall back on the Padres and Chargers, usually discussing how bad they were. That is the power of sports, what they can do at their best even when the teams are the worst. And make no mistake, the Chargers were at their worst more often than not, making the playoffs in only 17 of their 56 seasons in America’s Finest City. The Padres certainly haven’t been any better, but it didn’t matter. Even shared misery can bring a city together. Sports can create friends out of people who would otherwise never associate; like my family, they give people something to have in common with each other. They don’t just sell the product on the field; they sell civic pride.

And it’s all fake.

We all know this. At least, we should. Professional sports franchises don’t care about their cities beyond how they can use them to make a buck. Which, by the way, is fine. They’re businesses like any other, and making money is what business is for. If the Chargers can’t dupe the taxpayers of San Diego into financing a billion-dollar playhouse, then they have every right to pack up and move. The problem isn’t that they shouldn’t be able to leave if they want to; the problem is the false advertising. No, they don’t really fight for you.

As an adult, that’s obvious. But professional sports aren’t just for adults. They’re everything that the tobacco industry is accused of; gotta get ’em while they’re young. And boy, did they have me. Growing up, the Chargers were always part of my own personal identity. I was born in San Diego, but I moved to Virginia when I was only eight. Being a Chargers fan on the East Coast was how I carved my own little niche. When everyone else wore burgundy, I wore blue. They had Art Monk, I had Dan Fouts. It helped me to feel unique, which is an important thing for a child. It helped me to feel connected to my hometown. It was one little bit of consistency in a life that was spent moving every two or three years.

I shouldn’t care about this team, and maybe I don’t. When Dean Spanos hired former Los Angeles deputy mayor Mark Fabiani as his counsel back in 2002, everybody knew that the eventual endgame would be the Chargers leaving town. It started the erosion of my fandom, and I haven’t been an avid follower of the team for years. It’s not the team I care about losing as much as it is the connections– to my family, to my city, and to my past. Now I’m just a bitter old man writing a letter to nobody in particular as if expressing all of this matters one bit. It doesn’t, just like it didn’t matter when countless other fans wrote similar pieces when their cities lost a team. I am a cliche, and I feel stupid for ever caring at all.

Back when the CBS Sports Network was known as CSTV, they had an ad campaign that showed a father and son playing catch in their backyard. The kid showed some talent in his arm, and the father walked up to him and said (paraphrasing), “son, you’ve got a gift. So we’re going to sign with a great agent and get you the biggest contract we can!” The tagline at the end was, “Don’t let pro sports happen to you.”

How right they were.

Fundraising Update

We’re only one week into our fundraiser, and holy guacamole you guys have responded. As of this afternoon, we’re at $2,255 raised for cancer research and patient care! That’s pretty incredible, and almost halfway to our goal– all for a race that isn’t even until February. As I refreshed the donation site over the weekend, I could see the total amount growing in large chunks. There have clearly been some VERY generous donations so far. To all who have given: thank you. It’s still very, very early as far as fundraising for this race goes, but as of right now we are the #2 fundraiser for the entire event!

The early momentum is awesome, but we haven’t reached our goal yet! If you haven’t donated already, what’s the holdup? Donate, then tell all the Navy fans you know about this sweet blog so they’ll donate too. Click on the picture to sponsor my run!



It’s been a busy week for me, so the ECU recap is running late. Don’t worry, it’ll happen. In the meantime, I’m going to do some shameless begging for this year’s Birddog fundraiser, the National Marathon To Finish Breast Cancer.

The usual formula for starting a fundraising campaign like this is to relate some kind of personal story about the cause. But do I really need to here? There isn’t a single person reading this that hasn’t been affected in some way by some form of cancer. You have all seen what patients and their families go through as they struggle with the physical pain and  hardships, both emotional and financial, that come with fighting the disease. You already know the feeling of hopelessness while you wish that there was anything you could do to help.

But there is something you can do. It’s said that football games are won in practice the week before. The same is true about the fight against cancer. The advances in treatment and patient care that we see today are the result of years of research. That research was made possible by the generous donations of people like you. The amount of progress we have seen in cancer treatment, even over just the last decade, is nothing short of amazing. Imagine what we might see in the next decade with the research that we can start today. Don’t wait until you or a loved one needs it. Donate now. Put in the practice before the game.

You can do so knowing that your donation will go a long way. Every single dime that you give goes to charity. 70% of your donation will fund breast cancer research at the Mayo Clinic. The remaining 30% goes toward patient care through The Donna Foundation. You will be caring for people who need it now, and laying the foundation for the care of those who will need it in the future.

That is why I am asking for your sponsorship. It’s been more than 4 years since we did the March of Dimes fundraiser. We raised almost $1000 back then, so my goal to raise $5000 is admittedly a bit ambitious. We have a lot more people reading the blog now than we did back then, though, so I’m hoping that reaching more people means raising more money. Besides, the race isn’t until February. That’s plenty of time to donate now, forget that you donated, then donate again two months from now. Donating is easy; just click on the picture to get started. Even if you can’t donate, you can still help. Post the link to Facebook. Tweet it. Spread the word.

Some of you have sent me notes saying that you like the game breakdowns so much that you’d pay for them. Instead of wasting your money on me, why not put that money to good use? As fun as it is to call for the backup quarterback and make fun of Air Force, let’s add one more play to this blog’s playbook: giving! Thanks for reading, and thanks for your help.


I am now officially the third-best writer on my own blog, as Christian Swezey has joined the Birddog crew.

You already know him so we’ll skip the “former Washington Post Navy beat writer” this and “award-winning lacrosse writer” that and get to the important stuff. There are a few things you need to know about Christian.

One, he knows Navy inside and out; not just from his time covering the Mids for the Post, but from a lifetime of watching Navy sports. If he didn’t already write for a living, he probably would’ve started a Navy blog long before Adam & I did. The Navy Football History Knowledge Power Rankings look like this:

1. Jack Clary
2. Christian Swezey

Two, he has an even bigger library of Navy football and lacrosse games than I do. It ranks somewhere between “Library of Congress” and “Jedi Archives” in terms of scale. That probably contributes to the first point.

Three, you have to be REALLY careful what you say to him, because if you give him even the slightest opening he’ll make this blog all about cricket and Manchester United faster than you can say “Old Trafford.” Seriously, the first time he says, “I don’t care if Australia’s wicket-keeper is an all-rounder. He can’t hit a grubber, and England’s bowler has the best googly I’ve ever seen! I’ll bet you 20 quid they win The Ashes!,” don’t say you weren’t warned.

Four, he is the nicest person you would ever hope to meet. He has already been indirectly contributing to this blog for a long time through the advice and insight that he’s given me. I consider it a privilege to collaborate with Christian and Adam and am very, very excited about what we can do with this formerly-mediocre-but-now-kinda-good blog.

So with that, please join me in welcoming our newest gnu to this internet watering hole.


You would be surprised how time-consuming a blog can be. I haven’t been able to devote as much time to it as I used to. After basically taking last season off, I felt like I had to make a decision. I should either shut down for good, or acknowledge my time constraints and find someone else willing to paddle this electronic canoe. I chose the latter, and would like to introduce Adam Nettina as a contributor to The Birddog.

Not that Adam needs any introduction to most internet-conscious Navy fans. You’ve seen his work on and have heard him on the In The Bleachers podcast. This might be the only Navy sports blog I know of, but it isn’t the first; that honor belongs to Adam’s first project, Pitch Right. He recently graduated from Utah State, where he wrote several excellent pieces for the USU Statesman. (Seriously, they’re good). You already know him and trust him, and now you have one more place to read his work. This is probably something that should’ve happened a long time ago if for no other reason than to give you hyenas a new target to distract you from me.

So everyone say hi to Adam, and make sure to follow him on Twitter.


I have a lot of readers in Annapolis and in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach areas. If you guys are reading this, I assume you decided not to get out of dodge ahead of the storm. My parents live in Virginia Beach, and I offered to drive up to help them hunker down and for the inevitable cleanup. My father said no. I’m pretty sure he’s going to climb the flagpole on the end of his dock and ride this one out Lieutenant Dan-style. For the rest of you, don’t forget to fill your bathtub and stay away from windows.

Stay safe. By the time you get power back, I might even have the Delaware preview posted.