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Tom Krasovic: Ron Fowler, in contrast to Spanoses, built trust with local sports fans

By Tom Krasovic, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Baseball

Ron Fowler came off as a San Diego sports fan.

Dean Spanos came off as aloof and entitled.

It mattered.

If the top Chargers executive since 1994 and face of team ownership since the 2000s had connected with San Diego sports fans as the top Padres exec and part-owner did in his eight-year run that downshifted last week, then assume this: The Chargers would've boosted their political capital in San Diego, improving their odds of landing a massive subsidy toward a new NFL stadium here. (Yes, the odds would've remained steep.)

Fans and sports pundits often say it's all about winning when it comes to winning folks over.

In San Diego, the win-loss ledger wasn't as important in shaping local perceptions as were the personas of the major sport team's top leaders:

 

Fowler, outgoing, candid and wearing his fandom on his sleeve, was a longtime San Diegan who built a beer-and-beverage firm locally and won four league titles with the indoor Sockers in his four-year run as team owner. Spanos was perceived as relatively cold, for many years before he and his three siblings moved the Chargers north.

Spanos, the scion of a construction mogul from Stockton, didn't become popular in San Diego even as the Chargers delivered their best decade of NFL performance following Dean's smart hire of talent man John Butler in 2001.

In fact, Dean and his father, Alex Spanos, who bought control of the team in 1984 and two years later fired local icon Don Coryell and replaced him with a yes man, were unpopular well before the franchise's 56-year tie with San Diego was severed.

At a time when the NFL was enjoying hyper growth in San Diego and other markets, the Chargers won 60% of their games in the 10 years starting in 2004 and collected five AFC West titles.

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