Ol’ Chuck Is Pretty Cool About Dates. He Always Wears That Striped Shirt Of His

That's actually Peppermint Patty's description of Charlie Brown as she invites Marcie and Franklin to join her as she crashes his Thanksgiving dinner.  Honestly, I couldn't think of a good title for this installment that included the name "Chuck" in the title.  So much has happened in the two months since we last spoke.  This time, however, I've got a good reason.  I have been feverishly trying to finish the second half of my book, Drunk On Sunday.  It's not exactly Justice Is Coming: The Book, but has some football stories in there.  Let's just say its a fictional memoir with the Charger fanaticism being a metaphor for a lifetime of doing things the only way I know how.

But attempting to finish my first manuscript doesn't mean that I don't have time for the Bolts.  As I've said so often, I would have ditched them long ago if I had the power to.  But despite all the heartbreak, we're stuck this team.  I am, however, taking a "leave of absence" from Bleacher Report.  Editors I worked with there were very supportive, but I won't miss the assanine comments.  When all the articles you are asked to write are lists, you have to prioritize.  I get more than a little sick of reading "how could you ignore this" or "why didn't you mention that."  I think many of those fans confuse including embedded Tweets and videos for having the answer to this most maddening of teams.  I have never claimed to be an expert on tech talk about the action on the field.  I've only ever presented myself as a fan who has some ability to observe, recall and share. 

Anyway, I was really saddened to hear about Chuck Muncie's heart attack yesterday.  I first saw it on the Chargers' "Google Group."  I hoped it wasn't true since I didn't see the news posted anywhere else at 7AM when I turned my computer on.  Beyond the deaths of so many players from our most successful squad to date, it really seems like more tragedy follows this team than many others.  Muncie's battles with narcotics are well documented.  As a kid, I never really questioned what the tape on the bridge of his nose was for.  Breathe Right strips were years away and it looked more like electrical tape than anything else.

I was more than a little upset to see the Saints post the news on their site long before the Chargers did on theirs.  The Bolts have never been particularly good at embracing their alumni.  Jim Steeg did a nice job of keeping that up, but it's been a problem dating back to the Gene Klein years.  Incidentally, you should definitely pick up a copy of his book if you've never read it.  It's got some great stories about the era that hooked so many of us on this godforsaken team.

After the Chargers posted a statement about Muncie's passing on their website, the news came out that Melvin Ingram had torn his ACL and was out for the year.  Sadly, Ingram wasn't even good enough last sesaon for me to get that broken up about it.  Obviously, he looked great over the summer.  But his late hit in New Orleans seemed to derail him for the rest of the season.  It's not quite as bad as JR Smith's inability to make shots after he got suspended (dubiously) and then boasted that he could have helped sweep Boston (stupid because he didn't back it up).  Dwight Freeney is now apparently in the mix.  Obviously, Tom Telesco is quite familiar with him from his previous post in Indy.  The signing today of Keiser from Carolina is supposed to have no bearing on a possible Freeney deal.  But Freeney is far from a panacea at this point.  Had he been healthy in the Super Bowl, the Colts might have kept Drew Brees from getting a ring.  I guess I'm just worried about another Bob Sanders situation.  However, as I am about to post this, I see that the Chargers have signed Thomas Keiser.  Who?  Exactly.  It now seems to be well known that AJ left this team in salary cap hell.  Was this all due to his last-ditch attempt to make a "splash" in free agency?  Are Meachem, Johnson, Gaither, McClain and Royal still holding us back that much?  Did everyone know the long-term effects last year when AJ let Vincent Jackson go and signed all these guys with the money?  I saw on today's SI that Jackson is the 15th highest paid-player in terms of endorsements, however it says it is still "unclear" whether we made the right decision in letting him go.  I was surprised they didn't rip the Chargers for that move even though it still may have been the right decision.

Of course, there aren't a ton of options at this point.  I'm still worried about our offensive line.  Bryant McKinnie clearly played us.  Max Starks had his first date with the Bolts this week.  Now Winston Justice is flirting with the Chargers.  I don't know if left tackle is as pivotal as The Blind Side made it out to be.  The story apparently isn't even that accurate a portrayal of Michael Oher himself.  But I do worry about our ability to block not only for Rivers but for whoever Mike McCoy decides to trust at running back.  It's well documented that I think Rivers deserves a lot of the blame for his last two seasons.  His decision making, carelessness with the ball, and shoddy footwork are just a few of his crimes.  But King Dunlap frightens me.  I don't care if he's at a new position, I also will never trust Clary.  I can't bear to look at that Stay Puft Marshmallow head of his.

But Kaeding and Cason won't be able to hurt us anymore.  Shaun Phillips departure may seem like a bigger deal with Ingram's injury, but he wasn't worth the money or the headache.  Of course, I didn't expect Tom Telesco to draft Manti Te'o to bolster the linebacking corps.  I must admit I was pretty angry when we traded up to draft him.  But I also admit that my feelings were completely based on my limited perception of him.  That perception is the same as most other people's–catfish and Alabama. 

It took me a little while to get over the Te’o pick.  It just seemed like we were taking on unnecessary baggage.  But when I went back to look at a bunch of mock drafts after the fact, I saw that Fluker, Te’o and Allen did indeed show up in many prognosticators’ first round predictions.  As of today, Fluker has not yet signed.  However, I’m not worried about him holding out for too long.  I don’t think he has that much leverage.  Then again, Michael Crabtree went from pariah in San Francisco to a guy targeted on seemingly every play on the Niners’ final drive of the Super Bowl.

It’s crazy how little is expected from this team by most of the “talking heads.”  As the Chargers slid farther and farther away from the playoffs, I always felt like the only acceptable outcome each year would be for them to atone for the sins of all the failed teams that came before.  Was I blind as the team, GM and coach became less effective annually?  I certainly won’t be able to immediately alter expectations to my 1997-2003 level where I was pleasantly surprised when they won.  Coaching and management regimes don’t get nearly as much time to turn things around.  The fans I know certainly won’t be ok with missing the playoffs again.  Jim Trotter made a reference in SI that the media in San Diego was very forgiving.  I’m sure that was blatant swipe at his former colleagues, but it’s also pretty accurate.  But if you’re reading this, then I’m sure that you’re far from accepting of more failure from the Bolts.  If you’re apathetic at this point it’s only because the Chargers have made you that way.

But with the lowered expectations from the outside comes the possibility that any improvement will be met with excitement.  Adam Schein, who works on the SNY network and just moved from SiriusXM’s NFL Blitz to Chris Russo’s Mad Dog Radio.  He’s been on the few non-San Diego journalists to take a stand against Norv and AJ.  He seems to be upbeat over the change.  My position with the team is that I won’t be satisfied with another season of missing the playoffs.  However, if it seems like we are getting closer to a Lombardi then I guess I will be ok.  There is no guarantee that a team on the rise will have an unlimited window for success.  That’s what made the “one and dones” of 2004, 2006 and 2009 so galling.

So I'm calling out to the Legion Of The Lightning Bolt to start weighing in on the coming season.  There had better be a Chuck Muncie day this year.  I'm still planning on hitting the November game in Washington if anyone is interested.  I'm planning on having my wife drop me off and  go to the game while her and my daughter have a nice afternoon far away from the Chargers.  Unrelated, I saw that Antonio Gates was upset that he was only #73 on the NFL Network's Top 100.  I was surprised that there were any Bolts on there.  Besides his touchdown in meaningless wins against the Jets and Raiders, it's hard to remember him doing much last year.  I guess that's what age and foot injuries will do.  However, I see that Gates and Weddle are in all the teams' marketing ads.  Rivers doesn't deserve to be there at this point, but I wonder if it irks him.  It will be really interesting to see what McCoy does with Rivers.  With Tebow and Manning, he obviously worked around the QB's skill set.  But Rivers needs fixing in a big way.  Anyway, that's all for now.  I promise not to take so long to post again.  It feels good to be back.



About Ross Warner

ROSS WARNER is a forty-five year old freelancer whose credits include Sports Illustrated OnLine and Blitz as well as numerous articles on his favorite band, the Grateful Dead. Blah, Blah, Blah. Yeah, I was on WNEW FM the morning after the Chargers made the Super Bowl. Having returned from Pittsburgh only hours before, there I was at half-court at Madison Square Garden in my #12 jersey and wiping my sweat with a "Terrible Towel." When asked about the future for the newly-crowned AFC Champs, I simply uttered "justice is coming." Like so many others, I first took notice of the Chargers during the "Air Coryell" period of the late 1970s. But as Dan Fouts gave way to Ed Luther, Mark Hermann, Babe Laufenberg, Jim McMahon, David Archer, Mark Vlasic, Billy Joe Tolliver and John Freisz my fanaticism turned to obsession. When Stan Humphries resurrected the franchise in 1992, I began calling the Chargers organization to share my plan to get the team into the Super Bowl. This began the stormy rapport with the Chargers' Public Relations staff which reached a boiling point at a 1996 "team spirit" luncheon when I demanded that guard Eric Moten explain his propensity for holding penalties. It was then I realized I needed my own forum. Founded in 1995, Justice Is Coming is precisely that. To decide whether this site is for you, ask yourself these questions: Do you think of Johnny Unitas as an ex-Charger? Are your three children named JJ, Kellen and Wes, with one of them being a girl? Do you think that Rolf Benirschke got a raw deal on the daytime "Wheel of Fortune?" Can you remember where you were on December 3, 1984 when Bobby Duckworth fumbled the ball attempting to spike it on "Monday Night Football?" Does Al Davis, a dark alley and a lead pipe mean anything to you? If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, then you, too, believe that Justice Is Coming. This is a weekly look at the San Diego Chargers through the eyes of someone who spends most of his time thinking about the Bolts so you don't have to. But being a Chargers fan is not an obligation, although it sometimes feels like it. So I offer you this "alternative perspective." All the football, film and music collides in the centrifuge that is my brain and this newsletter is the result.