Updated: Oct 31
One of the Staleyisms that has caught on amongst the players and the media who frequent the Chargers headquarters is we've seen that movie.
This past Sunday against the Seahawks, the team put the metaphor on film in a 37-23 defeat. In keeping with the season's theme to this point, the Chargers enacted a horror movie.
“When you’re a competitor and you lose that way,” linebacker Drue Tranquill said, “it leaves a sick feeling in your stomach.”
We were there. We know.
Just like the dislocated kneecap of cornerback J.C. Jackson, the talent-laden Chargers—who fueled Super Bowl fantasies long ago (well, in August)—now lay twisted and prone; painfully out of place. If this were a script, then the word Glory would have a line drawn through it. Revised drafts will have replaced the word with Gory.
The way the game was unfolding would it have shocked anyone if the Mistress of the Dark, Elvira was handling sideline reporting for Fox coming out of halftime? I talked to Coach Staley at halftime and boy was he spooked. He kept talking about "execution" but I couldn't pin him down on who he had in mind.
You can't convert someone to appreciate horror movies. It's not a genre that people casually enter into. You don't put a toe in the water to check the temperature. On the one side of the dichotomy (if you'll allow the oversimplification) are the people like me who enjoy the dopamine spiking inside our pithy lizard minds, and on the other, are the people who think that we're reprehensibly fucked up.
Real world anxieties are as old as art itself; from the cave paintings all the way down to Shutter exclusives. The tiger's teeth are sharper than you need to know. This survival instinct is so old, we no longer need the personal experience of being eaten to feel the fright of it.
We can devour popcorn and Sour Patch Kids without any immediate health risks and the chemical response in our brains is identical to what it must have felt like thousands of years ago trying to hunt and kill breakfast.
Some people would call that progress.
So what does enjoying a good fright have to do with the Chargers? Are some people actually suggesting that the organization is cursed?
No. I don't believe in curses. Curses are fictional. Brandon Staley addressed them during training camp telling Daniel Popper of The Athletic:
“The history of this team when I got here, it was like someone’s going to get hurt, they’re going to blow a lead, something catastrophic is going to happen. There’s this ‘Chargering’ thing. There’s all of these external factors that I know in my life, they’re just all excuses. They’re just all excuses."
But what other conclusions can fans reach for in light of generations of bad luck? Luck, also not real—I realize. You know what I mean though.
The Seahawks loss was just the latest example of the Chargers penchant for giving their most devoted followers the horror show.
After years, for some of us decades, of witnessing the players brutalized and broken is it that much of a reach to find Chargers football and horror films analogous?
Where else do we, as a paying audience, go knowingly expecting human flesh to be ripped free of the bone; ligaments torn like paper; minds shattered?
Where else do we scream amongst strangers?
If you haven't figured it out by now, around Halloween I exist mostly on a diet of horror films and football. The marriage does not make for tasteful, or poignant memes, but hopefully it makes for a fun Halloween read.
Welcome to the strange connectivity of my warped mind. Stay as long as you like.
SoFi Stadium: POLTERGEIST, FINAL DESTINATION
Ahead 17-14, Seahawks receiver Marquise Goodwin streaked down the left sideline late in the second quarter with cornerback J.C. Jackson trailing him in man coverage. In a vacuum, Geno Smith probably wouldn't even think of trying Jackson.
As a lock-down corner, Jackson earned a huge payday from the Chargers by leading the league in interceptions over the previous four seasons. (Jackson's 25 interceptions since the start of the 2018 season are the reason he adopted the moniker Mr. Int.)
He might have been in position to catch his first interception as a Charger—if his body had not betrayed him. Smith's pass, though accurate, was not traveling at a parabola to safely drop beyond the trailing defender. Jackson turned his head, spotted the ball and was in ideal position to leap and challenge Goodwin at the apex of the catch point.
How else can you frame the season that Mister Interception was having without some reference to FINAL DESTINATION?
At the least, Jackson was positioned to break up the pass intended for the smaller receiver. In the Final Destination movies, a tile of unfastened ceiling, or a frayed electrical line would have cut Jackson down because he had cheated death—or something like that. (Full disclosure, I have not seen the Final Destination films.)
Jackson suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season. Think that he doesn't feel hexed?
The SoFi Stadium turf doesn't need those theatrics though. For whatever flair the grounds lack in theatricality, they measure up in carnage. Too many bodies are piling up to ignore it, as headlines of late will attest.
Whenever the frequency and severity of injures on artificial surfaces spikes, the media can be counted on to pay lip service to the controversial subject. Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp, of the Los Angeles Rams did not hesitate when asked last week.
“It’s not even close,” Kupp told ESPN Thursday. “Hands down, we should be playing on grass. Hands down, we should be on grass. And that’s all I’m going to say.”
Why did Kupp have to qualify his statement with a vocal truncation? What is he afraid of?
Kupp, who set SoFi Stadium ablaze last season as he rewrote receiving records in virtually every metric football has, stated that the $5 billion dollar venue “should be on grass.” Stan Kroenke's Los Angeles venue that the teams share is one of 14 NFL stadiums that uses an artificial surface.
Perhaps Kupp violated an unspoken agreement with the metaphysical. We will never know.
What we do know is that he was maimed just three days later on that same field. His cleats stuck into the SoFi turf yesterday against San Francisco which bent his left ankle in a direction medical experts agree to be harmful.
The Rams' Odell Beckham Jr.'s non-contact injury in the Super Bowl (also played at SoFi Stadium) had already led to a public backlash against artificial field turf in the NFL.
Beckham's foot stuck in the turf while he was running a route in the second quarter. He suffered another torn ACL; the same injury that forced Beckham to end his season in 2020. After the game the players went as far as circulating a petition to ban field turf.
"Every player is one play away from altering their career forever when playing on turf. I experienced the bad side of this and it could have been avoided," 49er Nick Bosa wrote on Twitter.
Like the cursed VHS cassette in THE RING, or the rage virus in 28 DAYS LATER, maybe Nick courted disaster for his brother Joey by proximity. The turf demon claimed Joey in week 3 against the Jaguars, tearing up his groin muscles.
Bosa underwent surgery to repair the horrific injury and has not returned since. The injury to Bosa's loins was also non-contact.
Speedster Jaylen Guyton, who was on the receiving end of so many of those Justin Herbert rainbows a year ago, suffered a season-ending knee injury later in that same game while attempting to track down a long ball.