There is something out there called the San Diego Sports Curse, and it's supposed to refer to the city's inability to capture a major pro championship in the last four to five decades. But it takes on a sadder and more disturbing meaning in the wake of Junior Seau's apparent suicide Wednesday.
Seau was a star linebacker on the 1994 San Diego Chargers, a club that went to the franchise's only Super Bowl. Only now it's a club that just subtracted its eighth player.
Go ahead and call roll, and you find that linebacker Lew Bush died last December from a heart attack. Defensive lineman Chris Mims died the same year that teammate Shawn Lee was a victim of cardiac arrest. Mims had an enlarged heart. Running back Rodney Culver was killed in a plane crash. Linebacker David Griggs was killed in a car crash. Linebacker Doug Miller was struck by lightning. Center Curtis Whitley died of a drug overdose.
But this is the cruelest blow of all. Seau not only was the best player on that team; he was the face of the franchise. Along with quarterback Dan Fouts and running back LaDainian Tomlinson he was the most popular Charger of the past 30 years, and though he left San Diego for Miami in 2003 he never was far removed from the city -- active in the community and behind a popular restaurant, appropriately called "Seau's," in Mission Valley where he sometimes would be seen.
When I went back to cover a Chargers' playoff game a few years ago I went to a restaurant where he was dining. When he saw our group -- one that included Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa and former Chargers' beat writer, Jay Posner -- he got up from his table and joined us. He was, as always, courteous and glib.
But that was Junior. He was talkative, appreciative and always, always, gregarious. When I wrote a story on him shortly after he joined the Chargers, he approached me in the locker room to thank me. Years later, after I had left San Diego, he always would ask about my family and my career.
I don't know what happened to him, but I know he will be sorely missed -- just like the other seven members of that 1994 championship team. All were part of one of the Chargers' most glorious and memorable ballclubs, but all are now part of one of its darkest chapters.
Too many former football players die much too young, with Seau the latest, but too many former football players are gone from one team, and it's those 1994 Chargers.
"Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now," the club said in a prepared statement. "We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family."
I don't know, maybe San Diego does have a sports curse. What I do know is that it has another tragic incident to get through, only the hurt from this one won't go away for a long, long time.