This column is coming from an unlikely source, I’ll grant that. If I had a dollar for every time someone said I should call myself SF Sports Guy, I’d be able to afford an apartment in San Francisco. OK, a storage shed. In Alameda. Or maybe Tracy.
Believe it or not, I’ve employed Raiders writers in the past. I even wrote sporadically about the Raiders during their often-scintillating 2016 season, despite the paltry numbers garnered by anything Oakland-related on BASG … other than the Warriors.
I could write 1,000 words insulting Jed York, Trent Baalke and Paraag Marathe in my sleep and it still got 20x the page views of anything about Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, arguably the most exciting young pair of teammates in the league.
So it’s tempting to write off the Raiders and make this story the last one written about the team for this site. After all, what kind of trash franchise moves from Oakland to Los Angeles, back to Oakland (Oakland and Alameda County taxpayers still owe $95 million for “improvements” to the Coliseum), and now to Las Vegas?
That’s where this gets messy, because what if they win the Super Bowl this year and there’s a parade in … Oakland? Do I just ignore the whole thing? Because it’s a possibility (Vegas thinks they’re the eighth-likeliest team to win it all), and that’s what makes today’s news even more painful.
Finally, they’re good. And the sick thing is that their rise to respectability probably helped their cause when they decided to leave Oakland. Again.
Oakland fans have been dealing with B.S. for years (the A’s are the only team that looks like they’ll remain within the city limits beyond 2019, and that’s only because the Giants and MLB wouldn’t let them move to San Jose). Today it all came to a head. This weirdly-coiffed dome, right here.
— 106 KMEL (@106KMEL) March 27, 2017
At least the Warriors were nice enough to remain within 15 miles of Oakland after they started winning. No such luck for Raiders fans, who supported the worst franchise in the entire league for well over a decade. Once Al died, his salary cap mistakes were wiped away over time, and Carr and Mack were good enough to lead a Raider renaissance … Viva Las Vegas. Hasta la vista, Oakland.
NFL owners approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas this morning by a 31-1 vote (Miami was the lone “no” vote, and the York family is probably at least three bottles of champagne deep after experiencing such good fortune). Mark Davis, after raising ticket prices by a considerable percentage from last year (after holding prices steady for several seasons), told season ticket holders that they’d be allowed to obtain a full refund in light of today’s news. Which is something, I guess. But it’s hardly enough to boost the spirits of Oakland fans. And who really believes Davis would’ve been so magnanimous if the team wasn’t winning and there wasn’t a “Season Ticket Priority Waitlist” already in existence?
There’s a school of thought that the NFL is on the precipice of a major fall. After all, they’ve decided to install three teams (the Raiders, Rams and Chargers) within a five-hour radius (four, if your right foot is made of lead and you avoid getting caught). They’ve embarked on three messy relocations, even though Los Angeles was lukewarm to the Rams in 2016, the Chargers will be second-class citizens in L.A., and Las Vegas is the No. 40 media market in the nation. Throw in an overly-commercialized product that destroys the bodies and minds of much of its labor force, foists sloppy Thursday games on the public, and can’t seem to find enough competent quarterbacks to fill the most important position on its rosters, and one has to wonder how the NFL can possible stay on top when they don’t respect their customers.
Easy. The NFL believes that fans aren’t people, but consumers who fill enormous, glossy stadiums paid for with public money. And those fans — sorry, consumers — happily fill that role and absorb any abuse they’re lucky enough to get.
I had two friends in my neighborhood over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. They both own Raiders season tickets (not together), and with anticipation they discussed the upcoming season (while shrugging off the price increases) and the opportunity to purchase season tickets after the team migrates to Vegas. We’ll see if they feel the same way when they see the overall price tag including seat licenses, but right now the team is winning and they’re thirsty for playoff success.
Other Raiders fans will throw up their hands and say “enough,” and either follow a different NFL team (cut to a grinning Jed York, rubbing his hands together like this guy) or stop watching the league altogether.
But the vast majority of Raiders backers in the East Bay and North Bay will complain a little … while planning to spend disposable income on yearly flights to Vegas and Sunday Ticket when the Raiders flee from this market.
Some fans are so brainwashed by the NFL’s culture of militarism and owner-worship that they blame Oakland for not bowing down to the league’s and Davis’s demands. Right, because a city that recently went without a police chief for about seven months is going to match this ridiculous offer from Las Vegas.
Las Vegas schools increased class sizes this year bc of $14M in budget cuts.
But cool to spend $750M on a stadium.https://t.co/dmHC0Uz70O
— Jason Schwartz (@JasonSchwartz) March 27, 2017
There will always be governments ready to provide welfare for billionaires (or, in Mark’s case, leveraged millionaires) on the backs of its citizens. And there will always be fans willing to claim “Raiders 4 life” no matter where they reside. Much like helmet-to-helmet collisions, there’s only so much change a human brain can handle.
The casino magnates in Las Vegas know that enough people will make decisions that go against their best interests to keep their coffers full, and the NFL knows the appetite for legalized violence performed by large men in cool-looking uniforms can withstand just about anything as well. In a perfect world, the Davis family influence would’ve died with Al, and Mark would’ve sold the team to someone local who’s rich enough to build his own stadium (maybe to another Mark, the guy who runs Facebook). Then the Raiders could’ve enjoyed a fantastic home field advantage for decades. But Davis and most other owners don’t care who sits in their seats; they only require a revenue stream that never stops flowing.
If I was a Raiders fan, I’d never let Davis see the inside of my wallet again, and I’d shun Tommy Boy for good. Yes, even after the Vegas stadium gets “old” and he comes to the Bay Area with his hand out again. As little effort as the NFL says Oakland put forth, that’s how much Davis wanted to stay. If karma exists, he’ll get food poisoning from his next P.F. Chang’s lettuce wrap.