So, I'm researching a couple of topics (immigrant camps in San Diego canyons and the November Ugly American Award). Both are complex and both are really depressing. Depressing enough that it is easy to yield to writer's block when it whispers in my ear. To keep my fingers interested in the keyboard I will give my nephew a Thanksgiving gift.
Boy, Was I Wrong!!!
At the beginning of the football season I wrote off the San Diego Chargers, saying they would get no more than six wins. They had let their star quarterback, Drew Brees, go to free agency and his replacement, Philip Rivers, was almost a rookie, and there would be no veteran backup to help train him. The coaching philosophy of Marty Schottenheimer had ossified and the front office seemed determined to squander every advantage and lucky break they had. The defense had a habit of looking fair for three quarters and folding like a tent in the fourth. Sure, there was LaDainian Tomlinson, but as Barry Sanders proved in Detroit, even a great running back can't improve a piss poor team.
I can't tell you how wrong I was. The Chargers are 8-2 and lead the AFC Western Division. Rivers' first season as a starter has made him a star. Statistically, he is just a hair behind Peyton Manning. Like Manning, when Rivers has to take control of the game (like when the Chargers had to score 42 points in the second half to defeat Cincinnati) he controls the game with robot-like efficiency.
The defense is stellar. Even with injuries, gunshot wounds, and suspensions piling up like cordwood, the defenders have managed to hold back the flood. When Shawn Merriman and Jacques Cesaire return the Charger defense will rival the Chicago Bears as the best in the league.
And then there is Tomlinson. Always an artist with his feet, he seemed at times to float above the grass with the way he could cut, this year he has become mythical. Eight touchdowns the last two games, 22 touchdowns in ten games this season (second place has 14). Individually, he has more rushing touchdowns than every other team in the league and more total touchdowns than 17 teams. He has singlehandedly outscored the entire Oakland Raiders football team.
He is setting scoring records that may never be broken. With six games remaining, he is only six scores away from the record for most touchdowns and eight touchdowns from breaking Paul Horning's single season scoring record of 176 points (Horning was the Green Bay Packers' place kicker as well as their starting halfback that season). If he continues his pace of two scores a game, Tomlinson will have 34 touchdowns and 204 points by season's end. The question is not whether Tomlinson is the greatest running back in the game today. That is a given. The only remaining question is whether he is the greatest running back to every play the game. I have been lucky enough to watch Wayne Gretzky play hockey, Michael Jordan play basketball, and Lance Armstrong race on a bicycle. Now LaDainian Tomlinson. What fun.
So, I was wrong about the Chargers. My God! was I wrong! And, I've proven that writing is easy when you are not kvetching all the time and write about something fun.
tags: san diego chargers, LaDainian Tomlinson