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What the Chargers' move to LA means for Raiders and 49ers

So it is real. The San Diego Chargers will be moving to Los Angeles for the 2017 NFL season and beyond. After first being reported by ESPN and the San Diego Union Tribune, the announcement became official Thursday. 

Anyone shocked? Show of hands? 

Thought so. San Diego owner Dean Spanos has been threatening to do this for so long, I think Jed York was taking accountability for his eighth-grade math test results when the first rumors surfaced about the Chargers motoring up the 405 freeway to a new home that was actually their original home. Spanos' intent is for the team to join the Rams in their new $2.6 billion stadium complex that's already under construction in Inglewood. 

This news is surely bumming out the few hundred Chargers fans who have shown up for recent home games against the Raiders. 

(Just kidding. Although the Silver and Black tribe has indeed overwhelmed Qualcomm Stadium the last few years when the two teams play.) 

Here's a more relevant angle for the Northern California pro football electorate: The Chargers' decision will have very specific fallout for both Raiders fans and 49ers fans. Let's go over those potential ramifications, one by one: 

*The Raiders' own stadium quest now comes into much clearer focus. Owner Mark Davis has been locked into a Las Vegas plan as his No. 1 focus ever since the Nevada legislature approved the rushed-through $750 million in public funding last October.

But as long as the Los Angeles option remained open, there was always speculation that Davis might shift gears. Last winter when the Raiders' proposal to share a stadium in Carson with the Chargers was voted down by NFL owners, the Chargers were given first dibs on becoming a second LA team _ but faced a Jan. 15 deadline (recently extended to Jan. 17) or else the Los Angeles option would be open to the Raiders. Now, it won't be. This means that Davis' choices are reduced to two _ Las Vegas or Oakland. 

*That is, the Raiders' choices are reduced to two unless San Diego decides to pursue the Raiders as a replacement for the Chargers. Don't count on that. After more than 56 percent of the city's voters rejected a ballot proposal to finance a new stadium last November, there will be no appetite for any other such proposal in the immediate future.

And why would Davis move from one decaying venue built in the 1960s to another decaying venue built in the 60s? 

*The NFL finance and stadium committee meetings on Wednesday in New York went about as expected. The Raiders delegation, which included Davis and team president Marc Badain, presented a progress report on their Las Vegas quest. League executive Eric Grubman gave an update on Oakland's efforts to assemble a stadium plan. Hours of discussion ensued. I assume questions were asked of both the Raiders and Grubman. No vote was taken or decisions made. That will happen on March 26 when all 32 owners meet in Arizona.

Will the Chargers' decision influence that Raiders' vote? Only if the owners believe that the Los Angeles market and Las Vegas market are not far enough apart geographically (270 miles) and thus will cannibalize each other in trying to attract football fans. 

*I should emphasize that personally, I do not subscribe to the whole omnibus Los Angeles/Southern Nevada mega-market kind of thinking. But many do. And if you buy into that theory, then the notion of dropping the Rams and Chargers and Raiders into the LA/LV soup within a four-year time frame may give pause.

That's a lot of season tickets and seat licenses to sell at once. At the very least, this week's news may induce NFL owners to wait and see how the Chargers fare as a second LA team before giving the Raiders a go-ahead for Vegas. (Of course, I have already predicted a delay in the Las Vegas decision for other reasons.) 

*The Chargers' evacuation to Los Angeles may have one other significant side effect: It may light a hotter fire under the Oakland politicos who have been so late to the party in trying to assemble a stadium package for the Raiders to consider.

After dragging feet for years, the city and Alameda County finally signed an agreement with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and the Fortress Investment Group to pursue a serious stadium proposal. But ever since, as Lott and Fortress use their brief window to assemble a package that might be amenable to both the Raiders and East Bay citizens, those politicians now seem to be sitting back and putting all the pressure on Lott to save them.

Besides, there was a school of thought that the NFL would bend over backwards to find a way for both the Chargers and Raiders to stay in their respective cities. Blow up that thought. If the East Bay leaders really want to save the Raiders, they need to be on the phone daily to ask Lott how they can help.

Now, you can make a legitimate case that it's silly for any city to cater to any pro franchise, that it's wrong to spend any public money to retain a sports team. But as my friend and colleague Nick Canepa so eloquently wrote in a touching Union-Tribune column this week, a region does lose something tangible when a pro franchise leaves. 

*Raiders' fans, by the way, might need to toss out any "CHARGERS SUCK" t-shirts they own. Spanos has hinted that he's strongly considering a "rebranding" of his team when it makes the LA move. That's what the Houston Oilers did when they moved to Nashville and became the Tennessee Titans.

It's what the original Cleveland Browns franchise did when it moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. The idea is that a new "brand" will make it easier to sell tickets and grow a fan base in the new market. I'm not sure the theory would work as well in this case. This is just a 120-mile franchise shift. I assume Spanos wants to keep as many of his San Diego Chargers ticket holders as possible. Changing the team's name would have to turn off a chunk of that group. Wouldn't it?

Besides, last year Spanos applied to trademark the "Los Angeles Chargers" name. Plus, league rules permit teams to make uniform changes just once in a five-year period. The Chargers last made such changes in 2012. The team will therefore remain the Chargers for the 2017 season at minimum. 

*Raider-fan road trips to Chargers' games just became shorter. With the Inglewood project not expected to be finished until 2019, the most likely home field for Spanos' team is the StubHub Center in Carson, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer franchise.

The stadium's capacity is just 27,000 for futbol, but it can be expanded to 33,000 or so for football. That might help create ticket demand as the Chargers attempt to build a new LA fan base for their eventual bigger home. Carson is roughly 100 miles closer to Oakland than San Diego. 

*As for the 49ers, the Chargers' decision might well open up a new quarterback possibility in Santa Clara. Philip Rivers, the Chargers' longtime starter and a five-time Pro Bowler, told friends in 2015 that if the Chargers moved north, he would not go with them. Since then, he has backtracked a bit on that pledge.

But the 49ers have to at least investigate whether Rivers would prefer a fresh start with a certain Bay Area team that may have an opening at the position, assuming Colin Kaepernick does not return. Rivers, 35, has two seasons remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2015 but also has a no-trade clause, so he'd have to approve any deal. 

*In general, the 49ers' management is probably ambivalent about the Chargers' move to LA except in one possible respect: It actually reduces the competition for future Super Bowls at Levi's Stadium.

Here's why: If the Chargers succeeded in getting a stadium built in San Diego, that would give California three state-of-the-art venues as potential Super Bowl sites _ Levi's Stadium, the Rams' new Inglewood stadium and a new San Diego stadium. Now, the only other available California site will be Inglewood.

What about a Las Vegas stadium, you ask? If the Raiders are close to finalizing that agreement, Las Vegas may be promised one Super Bowl to seal the deal. But the other Super Bowl held in similar-sized smaller market (Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville) had so many issues that the game has never returned there.

Yes, Las Vegas is built for tourism and hospitality. So is Florida. Size still matters. 

*Finally, this part is indeed personal to me: Covering away 49ers and Raiders games in San Diego was always a highlight of any football schedule. San Diego is a pretty cool place to spend a working weekend, what with the fine weather and the fish tacos and those glorious lightning-bolt helmets on the field.

The Raiders also played in a Super Bowl game there once. (Don't ask about the result.)The Chargers may have had good reasons to leave. But with every franchise shift of a team with such a heritage, I think the NFL loses even more of its soul.

It's like drinking a shot of the most bitter liqueur on the shelf. If the Los Angeles Chargers somehow leads to the Las Vegas Raiders, make that a double.

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