Isn't that going to be awkward? Anyone who has ever watched a Raiders' home game realizes that the Oakland fans are . . . special. Fanatical. OK, they're bloody lunatics. Elaborate costumes ranging from barbarians to Darth Raider that would turn heads at ComicCon, all in the iconic black and silver, and concentrated in the Black Hole, the seats at the south end of the field. You don't get that anywhere else.
It seems that the Raiders are the league's last old school football team. They've never been pretty. Raider uniforms attract mud, grass, and blood in great quantities. Their heroes have nicknames like "Snake" and "Assassin." Going to a Raiders game is to take your life in your hands. Even outside the Black Hole the fans tend to be raging, drunk, and more interested in fights than watching the game.
Sadly, this seems to be increasingly common at NFL games. Time to end tailgating and deny access to drunk fans.
But as crazy as that fan base is, they are devoted to the Raiders and to Raider Nation. They endured a 12 year shunning when the team moved to Los Angeles and welcomed them back with open arms. The venerated an owner who treated his fans as commodities, not part of the larger zeitgeist that made the Raiders so great, even in the long run of losing seasons that followed their humiliating loss in 2002's Super Bowl XVIII.
So a lot of people are asking why move the team? Why abandon this cultural phenomenon that has been roaring along since 1960? I've seen many, many fans declare that they are done. I'm seriously wondering how many people will both to go to games in the next two seasons as the new stadium is constructed in the desert?
The answer to my question is money. Unlike most NFL owners, the Davis family does not have extensive sources of income outside the team. Al Davis, who has a memorial eternal flame at the Coliseum, spent his life focused on the Raiders. He never built a large outside fortune. His son, Mark Davis, who inherited the team on his father's passing, wants to cash in. Las Vegas offered a big package.
But like I said, they team has at least two seasons before they have anyplace in their new home to play. The stadium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is completely inadequate when it comes to the demands of hosting a professional football game. It has been suggested that if the City of Oakland and Alameda County refuse to provide vital services for home games, the Raiders might play in Los Angeles, San Diego (which just lost the Chargers to Los Angeles) or at Levi's Stadium here in Santa Clara.
Ha. We'd demand a huge rent for that. Levi's is a shrine to the Forty-Niners. The Raiders would be playing in a red and gold temple to names like Montana and Rice. It would be awkward as hell for everyone involved. I've even seen Stanford of UC Berkeley mentioned as possible temporary shelters for the homeless wandering players.
Here's the nightmare scenario for everyone. Last season, the Raiders made the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years. What happens if they win big next year and go to the Super Bowl? How does that work in the face of a probable fan boycott? If the team plays the year in San Diego, and wins the Super Bowl, where do you hold the frigging parade? Do you dare hold it downtown Oakland, a city known for violent protests? San Diego, which won't really give a damn? The NFL must be cringing at the possibility.
But that's sports. My beloved Giants spent nearly a century in New York before moving west, and there aren't many lakes in Los Angeles to name the Lakers after. It is, at its heart, a business. And as majority owner, Mark Davis has every right to make the moves he feels best for the team. The only major sport franchise where this couldn't happen is with the Green Bay Packers, who are owned by the people of Green Bay, Wisconsin. I'd love to see that model expanded.
As a closing note, the vote of NFL team owners to allow the move was 31-1. The owner of the Miami Dolphins was the sole vote against. I guess he didn't want to give up the title of Tackiest NFL City.