If these are the final days of the Raiders having Oakland affixed to their name, let’s all salute those maniacs in the Black Hole. Hey, Darth Vader guy? This beer’s for you. Spikey shoulder pads dude? Well done. That 7-year old with a painted face hanging a Peyton Manning doll in effigy? Dad taught ya well.
Yeah, the rowdies in the moat around the Coliseum field have had their share of ugly moments. But all in all, we should give some dap to Raider Nation, because it appears their natural habitat is being taken away. The NFL is steamrolling toward bringing back a team or teams to L.A. And the more you talk with people monitoring the situation, the more it seems the game of musical billionaire chairs will stop without Oakland having anywhere to sit.
The Rams have bought land in Englewood. The Chargers want out of Qualcomm. The Raiders have attached themselves to the Chargers plan in Carson. And some permutation of these three teams will set up shop in Los Angeles in the next few years. Is there a chance the silver and black stay in Oakland? Maybe. But most laying money on the situation won’t touch those odds. Most believe the Raiders are as good as gone.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network has covered the L.A. relocation saga relentlessly. “It looks awfully bleak,” he told me this week on my show. “It’s more likely than not that by the end of the decade the Raiders are somewhere else.”
If the Raiders do move it won’t be the fault of the fans, those die-hards decked out like it’s Dia de los Muertos every Sunday. Local politicians have thrown more pick-6’s than Rich Gannon in the Super Bowl in figuring out the Raiders and A’s stadium situations. The Davis clan has always been a difficult brood to work with. And while there’s been plenty of empty seats for years, blame the rotten product on the field. It’s been more than a decade since Raider fans have seen anything resembling pro football. You wouldn’t show up to a broken urinal of a stadium to watch the XFL either.
The problem is the Coliseum has sprung too many leaks, and Mark Davis doesn’t have the same emotional connection to the region. Former Raiders CEO Amy Trask is now an analyst for CBS Sports. She tells me the emotional pull that drew Al Davis back to Oakland twenty years ago doesn’t exist anymore.
“I certainly don’t speak for Mark Davis… (But) I don’t think it will be that hard (to leave). I really don’t. I just don’t think it’ll be that hard of a decision for the organization.”
Is that because Mark just doesn’t have the same fondness for Oakland as pops did? Trask’s answer said a lot without saying a lot. “I know how Al looked at Oakland, I knew Al’s thought process, and I will leave it at that.”
Yeah, but if the Raiders did want to do right by the fans that have supported them for the better part of 50 years, there’s a sparkling new stadium 35 miles away where the other Bay Area team plays. What’s more likely, the Raiders getting their own new stadium in Oakland or eventually sharing Levi’s with the Niners? “I don’t think either are likely, to be honest with you,” Breer told me. “I think the likelihood is that the Raiders are somewhere else, and I think it’s anybody’s guess where that is.”
Oakland has always had some of the most passionate, committed and delirious football fans in the league. You think it’s easy to polish those spikes and wash those black capes during a 50-hour work week? Opposing players and coaches don’t want to play there. Never have. That’s what has made it awesome. But we’re nearing the end, because the NFL isn’t about preserving tradition or doing what’s right by fans anymore. It’s about squeezing more $100 bills from the public, no matter what it takes. Even if it means stealing franchises from municipalities and selling jerseys straight out of “Any Given Sunday.” So if these are the last days of Raider Nation in Oakland, let’s give them a high-five. You may not like them. But that’s what makes them great.