Game secondary to tragedy

In his latest diary entry, Drayton Florence reflects on the California wildfires and his team's 'home' game in Arizona.

Updated: October 29, 2003, 1:38 PM ET
By Drayton Florence | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Defensive back Drayton Florence, taken in the second round of this year's NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers, will chronicle his rookie experiences in a weekly diary for ESPN.com.

Drayton Florence
Florence
My first appearance on Monday Night Football is one I will never forget. I'll never forget the game and where we played it. But most of all, I'll never forget why we played it there.

The wildfire situation in California is extremely serious. When you're driving, you have to have your windshield wipers on to keep the soot and ash off your windshield. The normally gorgeous Southern California scenery has been reduced to brave firefighters patrolling it trying to contain the damage.

Last I heard, 11 people had lost their lives and more than 1,100 homes had been destroyed. I've never been around any wildfires, but I've learned how dangerous and deadly they are this past weekend.

Qualcomm Stadium was being used as a staging facility for those who lost their homes. Local residents are supposed to go to our stadium and watch us play football -- not go there as they hope their houses don't get burned. I feel sorry for each person who has been affected by this tragedy.

As a result of everything, the NFL and the Chargers decided to move Monday night's game to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. We found out Sunday night the game was being moved, so we had to drastically change our gameday preparations.

We flew into Tempe on Monday afternoon. It was a short flight and we had a few extra passengers on the plane. The officials rode with us because the crew had to get to the game just like us.

After we landed, we went to a local hotel and had our walk-through in one of the banquet rooms. Then, we had our pregame meal and went to Sun Devil Stadium. Before the game, some of my teammates were wondering how many people would show up. There was a pretty big crowd, and they were into the game from the start.

The people who set up Quaalcomm Stadium did a great job making Sun Devil Stadium feel like a home game. They had to travel just like the players and they at least made it feel like a home game. The end zones were painted and banners were hung with our logo. Those folks really did an awesome job.

As far as the game itself, it was very forgettable. We made too many mistakes and the Dolphins capitalized. We really wanted to win, not only for us but also for our fans who have had to deal with a horrible situation in our community. It was a tough game to play with everything going on, but what makes it worse is that we couldn't deliver for our fans. They deserved something good to happen with all the bad things that have happened over the past few days.

The game was secondary compared to what's going on in the community where we all live. It was one of the hardest games I've ever had to play and to make things worse, we lost. The community of San Diego is like us: The people are tough and resilient and will battle through this and rebound. The families of those who have lost loved ones are in the thoughts and prayers of all the members of the organization as are the firefighters who are battling the fires. Keep up the good work and your hard work is not going unappreciated.

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