It's been a long time since the Denver Broncos actually feared to go on the road to play the Chargers — whether in San Diego or Los Angeles — because the home team always struggled to put fans in the stands.
Meanwhile, Broncos Country would flood the stadium, essentially making it a home away from home in California. It only got worse for the Chargers after their move to L.A. with what few fans remained in San Diego being displaced.
Now, with the NFL contemplating the possibility of having to play without fans in the stands this fall due to coronavirus, for new Broncos' RB Melvin Gordon, it wouldn't be much of a departure from normalcy. In a sit-down with fellow Wisconsin alum Marcus Cromartie, Gordon explained why he's not too concerned about fans not being in the stands potentially, perhaps inadvertently throwing a little shade toward his former team in L.A.
"Bro, we didn't have fans anyway," Gordon told Cromartie. "We didn't have any Charger fans. I'm going to be honest with you. We didn't have any Charger fans at the game, much loyalty or love. But we didn't have many o I'm not missing anything."
It's true, though. For whatever reason, the Chargers have struggled to get butts in seats for years. There was a time during the height of the Philip Rivers, LaDanian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates triumvirate, where Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego would get rocking.
But it was fleeting and short-lived. It's actually quite weird that a bonafide NFL team with roots dating back to the AFL can't draw fans.
The Broncos signed Gordon to a two-year, $16 million deal this past March after he played his first five seasons with the Chargers. A first-round pick of the team's back in 2015, he's a two-time Pro Bowler who joins Phillip Lindsay, also a Pro Bowl RB, in the Broncos' backfield.
It's hard to say exactly what fan attendance in the NFL will look like this fall. In order to maintain competitive balance, the league might choose to play without fans because while in some states the social distancing mandates are and will be even more relaxed come fall, other states in the union might not be as open.
So, similarly to the NFL's rule to not let any coaches and players back into facilities until all clubs were allowed by their respective states, the league could choose to simply play without fans in 2020. Such a decision would cost the Broncos $162M in revenue, to say nothing of the stadium jobs from employees, groundskeepers, security, vendors and surrounding businesses.
However, we're still about four months from the regular-season opener, so there's plenty of time yet for this to break in a positive direction for the country, for coronavirus to burn out or be vanquished, and for the NFL to have a normal schedule. I'm not counting on it. But I can hope.