San Diego: America's Finest Sports Town

Sticking up for the place that just lost its NFL team

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson defends San Diego as a sports town in this commentary

Since the Chargers ownership group decided to go completely brain dead and leave for Los Angeles plenty of people have piled on San Diego saying it’s not a good sports town. They point to the attendance at Qualcomm Stadium and laugh, saying we didn’t support the team enough and that means we aren’t a good sports city.

I have finally had enough of hearing that bull puckey.

People in cities that have multiple professional sports franchises have become extremely short-sighted. They think of “sports towns” as places where fans go bonkers for the professional sports franchises … and that’s it.

But a sports town is defined by so much more than just the performance of its five major sports franchises (yes, MLS is the 5th now and I will accept no arguments about that!).

Let’s start with football because that seems to be the root of all this “San Diego is not a good sports town” nonsense.

We developed one of the greatest linebackers of all time in Junior Seau. San Diego’s Lincoln High School just became one of a handful of schools to claim a pair of Pro Football Hall of Famers (Marcus Allen and Terrell Davis). No fewer than four Heisman Trophy-winning running backs were built in San Diego (Allen, Ricky Williams, Rashaan Salaam and Reggie Bush) and San Diego natives are all over the rosters of major college football programs across the country.

How about that other football? Both the San Diego Surf and the Rancho Santa Fe Attack youth soccer academies are ranked in the Top-10 in the nation by Youth Soccer Rankings. Plus San Diego has developed National Team members like Shannon MacMillan and Rachel Buehler (both World Cup champions) on the women’s side and Steve Cherundolo, Paul Arriola, Joe Corona, Sal Zizzo and Frankie Hejduk, to name a few, on the men’s side.

Don’t get me started on baseball. According to records from Baseball Reference, in all 183 Major League baseball players have been drafted out of San Diego schools (either high school or college). Keep in mind that’s just in the Draft era that started in 1965 so it doesn’t include guys like Ted Williams (the greatest hitter, at least left-handed, who ever lived).

It also does not include players who went to high school in San Diego but were drafted from other colleges like reigning National League Manager of the year Dave Roberts who went to Vista high but was selected out of UCLA or Carlos Quentin who attended University High School (now Cathedral Catholic) but was a first-rounder out of Stanford.

Add it all up and it means San Diego has produced more Major League baseball talent than 25 states in the Union.

One of basketball’s greatest centers, Bill Walton, is a Helix High School alum and Basketball Hall of Famer. His son Luke (Uni High School) is the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Then you have all the Olympians that call San Diego home, and not just at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. San Diego has Olympic medal-winning natives from the track (Gail Devers, Monique Henderson, Meb Keflezighi), diving (Greg Louganis), sailing (Caleb Paine), rowing (Kerry Simmonds), cycling (Sara Hammer) snowboarding (Shaun White), and that is just scratching the surface.

I mentioned the Pro Football, Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame are well-represented by San Diegans. But America’s Finest City can claim spots in the World Golf Hall of Fame (Billy Casper, Phil Mickelson), The Surfers Hall of Fame (Rob Machado, Taylor Knox), the College Football Hall of Fame (Don Coryell, Marshall Faulk among many others), the Skateboarding Hall of Fame (the legendary Tony Hawk), the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame (Broc Glover), the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame (Scott Tinley), the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (Corky McMillin), the National Sailing Hall of Fame (Dennis Conner), the Boxing Hall of Fame (Archie Moore), and as soon as he’s eligible Jimmie Johnson will be inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Good luck finding a sports town that can claim that level of diversity when it comes to world-class athletes.

Plus we have the best ballpark in all of Major League Baseball, and the Padres are building something special in the next few years.

The bottom line here is San Diego is an ACTIVE sports town. When our major professional teams stink (which they have for years thanks mostly to bad ownership) we take matters in to our own hands and experience the games ourselves, and that makes us one of the greatest sports towns on the face of the earth.

So … sure we may have lost our NFL team but that’s because the owners had no clue what kind of sports town they were really dealing with. As far as I’m concerned San Diego is a TOP NOTCH sports town.

Now it you’ll excuse me, I have to go outside and play.

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