Jeff Pearlman

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How LaDainian Tomlinson explains Donald Trump

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So as I noted in two earlier posts, yesterday I took my son to watch the Chargers’ first Los Angeles-based home game.

It was an expensive-yet-fun evening, mainly because the magic of a kid beholding something big and colorful and loud and thrilling never grows old. Emmett is an NFL fan, so this experience (his first live game) was admittedly cool.

Early in our time at the stadium, however, I was distracted by an action that still sticks with me. In the leadup to the game, former Charger LaDainian Tomlinson (who was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame) was standing on the grass while being interviewed by one of the franchise’s in-game entertainment peeps. He was asked about the thrill over the Chargers moving from San Diego to Los Angeles, and responded thusly …

At that moment, I could only think of one thing: Donald Trump and loyalty.

LaDainian Tomlinson was a San Diego Charger for nine seasons. He professed—repeatedly and enthusiastically—his love for the city. Hell, he moved full-time to the city. He became a San Diego icon, no different than Tony Gwynn and Dan Fouts and Trevor Hoffman. When one thought of San Diego and sports, he thought of L.T. The fans embraced him. No, loved him. He was theirs, and they were his.

Poof.

When Dean Spanos, the Chargers owner, decided to move to Los Angeles, he tore the heart from the city. This is not New York or Chicago or LA—huge places with 1,000 entertainment options. This is San Diego. Small. Comfortable. Interesting, but not exactly electric. It was a crushing blow, pulled off solely out of the greedy interests of an uber-wealthy ogre (Net worth: $100 million) who desired a better stadium in order to turn millions and millions into billions and billions. There was no civic responsibility. No interest in the good of the many.

Greed won.

Ugly fucking greed.

Which brings me back to L.T. and D.T.

If anyone should be speaking up for San Diego (and out against Spanos), it’s Tomlinson. But … no. There he was last night, happy … smiling … waving … explaining how excited everyone was over the relocation. Is it the truth? Of course not. Tomlinson is surely no more happy about the bolt to Los Angeles than he would be over the removal of two molars. But this is (sadly) what happens when the rich and powerful take hold of our scruples. They twist them, nudge then, rearrange them, fry them, warp them. What we once stood for evaporates into dust.

Look, for example, at Ted Cruz—whose wife’s physical appearance was mocked by Donald Trump; whose father was accused of being a JFK assassin by Donald Trump. As soon as the election ended and Trump was sworn in it was, “Hey, Mr. President! Whatever you need!” Look, for example, at Mike Pence—conservative Christian, Mr. Morality, Mr. Integrity. As soon as the opportunity to become vice president arose it was, “Yes, sir! Whatever you say, Mr. Trump!” The examples are endless—men and women who trade in their integrity for both access to importance and financial gain.

I don’t think LaDainian Tomlinson is a bad guy.

I don’t think LaDainian Tomlinson believes he’s doing wrong.

I just think it’s bullshit.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life