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Roundtable: A sports week to remember for San Diego

 October 21, 2022 at 12:30 PM PDT

S1: Padre Fever is hitting San Diego while a new soccer team is starting to make waves. I'm Matt Hoffman and this is KPBS roundtable. It's been a week to remember for San Diego sports fans. First , on a rainy night last Saturday , the San Diego Padres knocked off the Los Angeles Dodgers and there was another big come from behind win , this time on Wednesday in the National League Championship series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Padres now find themselves knocking on the door of a World Series. And if that weren't enough , the San Diego Way Football Club , they've made it to the semifinals in their league. The top tier of American women's soccer. And they're doing it all in just their first season , all while breaking attendance records along the way. And the plight and the playoff madness continues this weekend , starting with the Padres. They're playing Game three of their best of seven series against the Phillies. That series is all tied up at one game apiece. But a big part of this story is seeing a long suffering sports city being galvanized by the Padres. Whether it's through a Rally Goose or by the Padres rallying cry that we'll just refer to here as LFG , S.D.. Joining us this week are Scott Lewis. He's the editor in chief at Voice of San Diego. Jay Posner , he's the sports editor with the San Diego Union-Tribune. And Jay Perez is back with us. He's a columnist with Coast News up in North County and a contributor for USA Today. I want to thank you all so much for being here. All right , gentlemen. The first time in more than 20 years that the Padres have been this far in the playoffs. I want some quick first impressions. We have to , Jay , So I'm going to be doing last names.

S2: And the Padres not even really being competitive for a long time. And it's been very exciting. You know then obviously the Chargers moving. So this has been very exciting for fans here. You know , I think the city has always gotten behind sports teams in general , but especially when we get to the postseason. I don't know if you want to call it a bandwagon effect or or what it might be , but people get very excited , very happy to be part of it. And that's definitely the case now. And I think given especially what happened with the Chargers a few years ago , this has been a a welcome relief and a welcome cleanse of sorts for for people. And will , we'll see if the Padres can keep it going.

S1:

S3: And I think that when you have a stadium full of people , that's one thing. But when you have a stadium full of people who are all totally engaged with the storyline and with what's happening , it is just a it's an unreal experience. And I I'll never forget it. I think that this city , you know , starting with the construction of the stadium , has been waiting for all the parts to come together. And over the last six years in particular , the Padres have put piece by piece together , they changed the that color scheme as we , you know , bring back the brown. They they changed the stadium. They really did the scoreboard. They did so many things to make the stadium a much more hospitable and cool place. They and then they finally did the one thing we all said they needed to do since they rebuilt or since they built the stadium , and that is invest significantly in players. And so to see all of that come together as an enterprise seeks true excellence like that was just remarkable. And I think everybody is really excited to see it work. And that shared story that we all have when we watch a sporting event really came through and the community out of it was was just something to witness.

S1:

S4: They're down four runs. And it was almost a here we go again with the San Diego team vying for a championship. I know Jay Posner knows the old joke about the good Lord once asked San Diego , what do you want , 72 degrees at the beach everyday or championship pro sports teams ? Well , it's 72 today. And heck , we might have a championship sports team. So I just think the combination of them really beating the Dodgers was unbelievable. And you hate to say that was their World Series , but it felt like it. And the outpouring of emotion to to slay the dragon when when Puff went poof , that was a big night in San Diego history. And can they keep it going ? We'll see. But it won't be from a lack of support. And , you know , few things galvanize a community like sports , but even fewer things galvanize a community like a winning sports team. And that's what San Diego has right now.

S1: So you guys all mentioned that you guys have been to these games. Let's talk about the fans there. Some people are really just losing their minds right now. Here's a little taste of what it sounded. From a fan perspective when they tied up Game two this week with the Phillies.

S2: I've been at all four games last weekend against the Dodgers and the two games this week against the Phillies. I felt like Friday night against the Dodgers was was amazing. And then it's just gotten bigger Saturday night like what Scott talked about just remarkable and the way the people came together and especially when it was when it started raining. And , you know , we've all been to events here where it starts to rain and San Diego and immediately look for cover. You know , nobody moved that night and the rain fell harder And the Padres put the Blink 182 song on the P.A. system and people sang along with all the small things. And it was it was just it was one of those moments , like Scott said , I won't forget it either. And I didn't think it could be topped , and I'm not sure it has been yet. Wednesday afternoon was close with There wasn't much to cheer about on Tuesday , although the crowd really did get into it in the ninth inning when the Padres had a little bit of a rally. But I think one of the things that struck me about the the games , this these on this I called it a homestand because they played four games in a row. But the people got there early and the people were in their seats when the game started. And if you've been to regular season games at Petco , you can never judge what the crowd's going to look like in the first or second inning. You need to wait till the third or fourth. People get there late. They're getting food , they're getting beer. These games , people are in their seats when the game starts and it's loud from the beginning. And and it's really it's really great to see how people have gotten behind the team. And I think there's no doubt the team has appreciated it and , you know sort of played up to that. They they did lose one of the games at home , but it wasn't for a lack of the crowd supporting the team. And , you know , we haven't heard any booing or any of that sort of that sort of thing. So it's been a it's been a remarkable scene out there. And , you know , we might have more games in our future here.

S1: Yeah , it's been interesting to hear a lot from the players saying how that crowd noise really amps them up and makes them just want to play even harder. And JJ Perez , that as you mentioned a little bit of this earlier , but for some , the defining moment so far of this postseason has been the Padres beating the Dodgers. What makes that series clinching win so special for San Diego since.

S4: I mean , L.A. and San Diego have been going at it economically after the war and before the war , and just how has California developed ? So there's always been that rivalry , but there's so many fingerprints from the Dodgers with the Padres. I mean , I'm showing my age a little bit here , but I went to the very first Dodger Padre game , April 15th , 1969. Final score , 14 to nothing Dodgers. And so ever since then , they've kind of been , you know , climbing uphill , if you will. But you got to remember that when the Padres started , Buzzy Bavasi , the great Dodger general manager , was the Padres general manager. Johnny Padres pitched that first game against the Dodgers. He pitched the Brooklyn Dodgers should their only World Series win in 1955. So there's all this little mixture of you , if you will. And remember , the Dodgers are almost with 511 wins , almost 100 games , over 500 against the Padres. That's a big margin. So any time that the Dodgers , the Padres fans can chip away at that , I mean , even Steve Garvey , for gosh sakes , he's a great Dodger , but he's got his number retired. Well.

S3: And let's let's not forget the current owner , the chair of the Padres now , Peter Siler. He's what , the nephew of the famous O'Malley leader of the of the Dodgers. I mean , he clearly wanted to show that he could build something and himself down here and invested to prove it.

S2: And I think there's just think there's just a general feeling about L.A. among San Diego fans. And it feels like the Dodgers sort of personify that. And they they bring out the the rivalry between it's sort of a one way rivalry really between the cities. I don't think L.A. really hates San Diego , but San Diego really doesn't like L.A. And so this is just part of this is part of that. And to be able to beat the Dodgers is is bigger than beating , you know , the Mets , let's say.

S4: And then when you add that the you know , the Clippers ended up in L.A. and of course , the Chargers ended up in L.A. and and there's there's that they're pushing it. And when they come down and the Dodger fans usually come down and really show up , too. So to beat the Dodgers was big. And , you know , Peter Seidler Padres fans won the the owner lottery when Peter Seidler took over. They didn't win it when Dean Spanos in the Spanos family was here. Peter Seidler , he wants to bring a championship to San Diego and he's proven it time and again.

S1: You're listening to KPBS roundtable. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. And our guests this week are Scott Lewis from Voice of San Diego , Jay Parris from the Coast News and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Jay Posner. Jay Parris , going to you. You know , every game night , it seems like bars across the county , they're just packed with fans. I mean , they're doing chants. People are seeing Padre flags outside their homes and cars.

S4: You know , sport has the power to change. You know , you can go into a bar or tavern or or watering hole during a Padre game and you'll have three guys sitting there and one could have a let's go Biden head on. One could have a let's go Brandon hat on Another guy have got let's go Padre head on , you know , and all three of them can sit there and watch the game and and pull for each other. It's you know , I don't know if we've reached the. Show me your lightning bolt stage where when people rallied around San Diego when the Chargers were making their Super Bowl run. But there's just something about wanting to be with a winner. You know , everybody likes to , you know , stay loose and run with the winner. That's that's the slogan. And and it's a great boom economically for the hospitality business , that's for sure. They've they took it on the chin during COVID. So it's great they're getting some business back. But , you know , if you want to get a good bar stool at your local watering hole for a Padre game , you better get there early because it's going to be packed.

S1:

S3: If you think about the best conversations you have with anybody , it's because you've had a shared experience with them. So let's say it's a book club or it's a volleyball game that you all have , and then you go back to the bar and you talk about what happened. Oh , can you believe he dove for that ? Or the dog came and pooped on the field or whatever ? You know , there's this this like shared experience. And when you have a shared experience , you have something to talk about. And shared experience is everything for a community. And I think , like Jay said , like there's very few things where we share a story now in such a clear way , a story of villains , of characters , of , you know , the same story arc of a climax and a resolution. And when you experience when a lot of people experience that same story , they're able to have amazing conversations about it. I mean , I was at that game Saturday , and I'm hugging people I've never met. I don't even know their names. I'm I'm high five and my voice is still kind of raw from that night. And I think everybody is is experiencing when you experience the same thing with a community , that's where community thrives. And so so , you know , I think it's a lesson for us all. Like what other institutions , what other things can create an enterprise dedicated to excellence like this has been the last six years , can do the investment that that's required and then share the story as well as this has been shared across the community with all the different media so that there's more things that we can share together and rally behind. But there is something so special about sport and how well they contain that story and resolve that story and tell that story. And that's what we're experiencing right now. And it's only getting more intense.

S1: And Scott mentioned this earlier. You know , for many years , the Padres were known as being a small market team , not willing to spend the big bucks like the Dodgers or even the New York Yankees. But that's been changing in recent years , right , Jay Posner , I mean , despite every national commentator still saying we're a small market team.

S2: We are a small market team , but that doesn't mean that the Padres can't spend money. I think what they've shown owners around baseball and maybe some of them aren't happy about it with their fan bases is that even if you are in a small market , that doesn't mean you can't spend money. These owners get a lot of money from , you know , national contracts and that sort of thing. And if you and if you invest in your team , the Padres have shown they drew almost 3 million people this year , which is , you know , 37,000 people a game , I believe. And it's it was the second largest attendance ever at Petco Park. The only year that was larger was the year it opened. And obviously there was a curiosity factor involved there. So these owners that came in , led by Peter Seidler , Ron Fowler was the point man for a while , but Peter's been the big money behind it. And like Jay Perez said , it's a situation where he's decided he wants to bring a championship to San Diego. And I think , you know , I think part of it is the Chargers leaving the Padres are the only professional sports team , major professional sports team left in San Diego. There's a big opportunity to take advantage of that. And I think the Padres were trying to do it when it when it happened. But they they spent money back in the 15 , 16 time , but they didn't spend it very wisely. So then they tore it down and decided they were going to be in it for the long run. And they and they preached patience. And and I think most people bought into it. 2020 was an exciting run for a short season , but the fans couldn't be there. And I was out at some of the playoff games that year even. The AOC. I was at the Petco for the American League Championship Series , and it was just this odd scene where team the team celebrating on the field and there's just no noise and it's just different. And it's been so much better to have the fans. This is the first time that postseason baseball has been at Petco Park in front of fans since 2006. That's a long time. It's almost a generation of people that have never been able to experience that. And this it's because , you know , mostly because these owners , led by Peter , made a big investment credit to them. I don't know if it's sustainable , but , you know , if they put a good product on the field and they keep performing like this , it just it just might be. Although the prices have gone up quite a bit on tickets in the last couple of years.

S1: Jay Perez , go ahead.

S4: That's for sure. They have gone up. Yeah. The days of the $5 park at the pass are long gone. Yeah , but I also think it's kind of a false narrative to say San Diego's a small market. Maybe it is in some media rankings , but with streaming and all the different platforms in the way the way consumers get the product , get baseball , I mean , it's a big world out there. And and it's kind of , I think , Mr. Siler , to look look toward the future. He said , you know , a media market may not be L.A. or New York , but we can get the word out. We can make enough money. We're going to bring a championship here. And there's a lot of people rooting for Peter Seidler. I know there was once talk of building a Fernando Tatis statue , Someday I would put my money on. There's going to be a Peter Seidler statue out there someday.

S1: Well , and let's let's touch on that. You know , one of the amazing parts of this Padres story in this run is the fact that they've done this without one of their best players , Fernando Tatis Jr. He missed the earlier part of the season with an injury. Then he was suspended 80 games for a positive test and it ended up losing the trust of a lot of Padres fans along the way.

S3: But I do I do think it's had a cost. My daughter used to wonder his jersey and now she wants an Alfaro jersey. You know , she's and I think there's a bigger , broader sort of not moving on , but I think it's okay that , you know , he's not here right now , but it'll be interesting to see what happens if he can come back and and make a difference. I think that it's a it's a testament to how well they organized the team , that they can get this far without him. And I think just going back to the point about Seidler , it is really special to see what he's doing. But I'm also not willing to concede yet that he's losing money or that this is all a loss for him. I think that in my version of heaven is that I'd get to know everything about everything in the world , be truly omniscient , and if I could pull up , the first thing I'd pull up is the revenue and costs of Major League Baseball teams. Because I think all these playoff games , all this merchandise that they've organized so well and branded so well , the city connect uniforms , everything has gone so well that I'm willing to bet that he is he is fundamentally disrupting the economics of these teams and maybe showing that there's a path , maybe at least a break even with all this spending. And again , I don't know , because it's a closed book right now , but I think the Tatis signing was was further proof to the rest of the league , to people like Soto and others , that they're willing to go far. And , you know , hopefully Tatis could be another part of that long term story of , you know , a problem , a acknowledgment of vulnerability , if he can really stick with that and then , you know , a redemption story that everybody loves in sports a lot. And so we'll see if that's the path it goes or if he's if he's not able to melt back in all these playoff games. Do do lower this the suspension cost for next year. He'll be back early and earlier every game they play and I'm for one looking forward to seeing him back but I'd rather stay focused on the moment.

S1: Yeah and another is much more to get into there but we got to move on to the next question. Moving away from the Padres , you know , we know that they're not the only local team in the playoff hunt right now. In their first season , the San Diego Way Football Club , they found success on both on the pitch and in the stands.

S2: And the first thing the wave did was to hire Jill Ellis as their as their club president. And Jill was a national coach for a long time , won a couple of World Cups and obviously knows her way around around the sport. It's difficult to come in and and start an expansion team and they were even a year behind what most expansion teams would do. There was talk they might even not play this season and wait another year to to play. But Jill did a great job. She she hired Casey Stoney who. Might be the best coach in the league after in just one season. I would be surprised if he was not voted Coach of the Year in the National Women's Soccer League. She came over from England , has done a wonderful job. The biggest thing they did , and I think this is the key to their success in many ways is is you're getting Alex Morgan. You know , one of the best players in the world , one of the best American players ever. Southern California. And she wanted to come back and play in Southern California. And it's just been a perfect a perfect marriage , if you will , of of player and city and situation all coming together. At the same time , she was the leading scorer in the league. And she's also a she's a superstar in the sport and I think that really helped in terms of getting traction for the wave , getting them to be able to sell sell out Snapdragon Stadium for their first game. And I think even more impressive than selling out the stadium for the first game was what they did for the playoff game last week , which was to get , I think. I think they announced a crowd of 26,000 for that game to be able to sell that many tickets for , you know , for women's soccer at this point says a lot about sort of what people are looking for. And I think for the future of the franchise. They have a tough game this week. They're in the semifinals of the NWSL playoffs. They have to go to Portland. Portland has a superstar of their own. And Sophia Smith. The wave has been a big story and it's it's kind of gotten lost a little bit in the Padres postseason here. I think we were planning to do more on them in the last couple of weeks , but they sort of got run over a little bit by the Padres. And I should mention also the San Diego Loyal , which is the second Division men's team here , is also in the playoffs this weekend. And they play a home game on Sunday night in the in the start of the the USL championship playoffs.

S1: And going to Scott Lewis. You know Scott the last time we had you on you talked about the big jump there the big risk that the wave took moving into Snapdragon Stadium , the big house. But in watching a lot of national sports talk this week about the Padres , one thing that I've heard a few times is , you know , chargers are gone. Padres are the only game in town now , but we know that that's not true.

S3: The loyal the men's team that just mentioned did not want to move into that stadium. And there's various economic and entrepreneurial reasons about what they want in the stadium. But one of the things they didn't want is a bunch of empty seats. And for the wave to come in and fill the stadium as they have was just very impressive and they were very smart about connecting to the community. They had a challenge to make sure that local sports leagues , girls soccer across the region could sell tickets and try to , you know , beat each other and who got the most girls to go. And there were so many families so excited to go to those games. And this is a soccer town , really , especially youth. Soccer is just so big. And they've they've expertly tapped into that , the marketing department. And it's just so special to watch. Again , another entity committed to excellence , women's soccer is is roiling with scandal right now about abusive coaches. This club started with a very progressive vision to to make sure none of that was tolerated and in fact that there was a different culture built here. And to embrace everything so well and to take on such an I just love ambitious , bold investments in projects like this and to see the Padres pursue excellence like this. And now they're the loyal in their own version. And then the wave in this version is just so special. And and Snapdragon Stadium , frankly , I think really benefited to open with this club , not just as the football team as CSU because I think the the soccer team has really shown what it's capable of as a as a venue as well. And it's just it's been special to see it all come together.

S1: And as we wrap up here quickly , quick answers. Ten , 15 seconds. Padres are going to be playing three games in Philly starting this weekend. Any expectations ? Jay Posner , you first.

S2: Well , I think it would be pretty unlikely to see either team sweep the weekend series. So my expectation is that clear your schedules for Monday at 5:00 , because I think the Padres and Phillies are going to be playing at Petco Park and one team is going to is going to come back here and be playing that night for a chance to go to the World Series.

S4: Yeah , pitching wise , I got the Padres winning two out of three , which means on Sunday a bunch of scratchy throats are going to start happening around the region because everybody will want to take off work and get down to the Padres game early on Monday. But I think the strength of the pitching here by the Padres is going to be the difference.

S3: Yeah , same thing. I actually think the Padres will in the next to the third after that is going to be a tough one. But I think the pitching advantage now takes over. The the Phillies have two great pitching. But we have three and we'll see how that goes.

S1: Well , there's watch parties for both the Padres and the wave , so check them out and we're going to have to end it there for this week's edition of KPBS roundtable. And I want to thank our guests so much for being here. Scott Lewis , Jay Harris and Jay Posner. Be sure to stream our show any time as a podcast. KPBS roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken. Adrian Villalobos is our technical director. And I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us. Have a great weekend and go Padres and wave.

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Jacob Aere / KPBS
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Jacob Aere
Fans watch the San Diego Padres play at Petco Park on October 19, 2022.
Padre fever hits San Diego, and the San Diego Wave FC finds success in its first season.

KPBS Roundtable host Matt Hoffman hosts a discussion about the state of San Diego sports, as both the San Diego Padres and the San Diego Wave Fútbol Club find playoff success.

Guests include Jay Posner from the San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis, and Coast News columnist Jay Paris.