The NFL Monday OK’d the Raiders’ move to Vegas. The team will now morph into a 57-year-old divorcee who moves to Clark County to spend his 401k on Eastern Bloc hookers, slots and a burgeoning meth addiction …only to be found dead a few months later in the jet tub of his Henderson town home.
Let us first define what NFL fandom means in 2017. You are no longer legion. You are no longer associated with an enterprise that is compelling or good or even decent. We know too much. The cause is vile, deadly. The conceit of grown men, enhanced with every drug the latest screen will allow, running into one another with car crash force, hoping to inflict permanent bodily harm and often doing so, even if it doesn’t manifest for decades, is narrowly defined as indentured servitude-meets-out-and-out-evil.
…And in many markets, such as, St. Louis, San Diego and now Oakland, you no longer matter.
The owners are a greedy, extemporaneous, scabrous lot. A generation ago these aspirationally benevolent—if not sometimes beloved—American knights and kingmakers roamed the sidelines cigar gnashing, hoisting up their players and coaches in exaltation. One of the gang and there for love of the game—they shook hands, locked eyes and wore tweed coats and fedoras.
Now it’s just them, isolated sociopaths whose gaze turns down, constantly, and the misery boils up from their necks even among family and friends. Buzzards glowering from their rarified perches as they wait on road kill.
The sky boxes act as Habitrail pods for their sub-human species. Supple glass menageries offer at once Popemobile-like protection as well as sanctuary from the ticket-paying, angry, drunken, hopeless masses. They’d rather not be there in the first place, but this investment has reached the multi-billion-dollar stratosphere and what once began as a lark in the same way a vacation property or third through fifth car would, is now a primary feature of their portfolio.
Since the money is so big, the owners themselves are now also beholden to interests even they cannot fathom. Industrious as they seem, their chief asset and the team’s fate is intertwined with giant domestic money holders and launderers, foreign lenders and entire municipalities. These relationships are antagonistic if not symbiotic and self-destructive. Look no further than the San Francisco 49ers suing the city of Santa Clara claiming city leaders “falsely accused” the NFL team of violating its contract. The lawsuit, filed last June in Santa Clara County Superior Court, is only the most recent shot fired in the ongoing friction between the football team and its adopted home city—a relationship once portrayed as one of the best in professional sports, gone sour in less than a half-decade.
The hostility is an ongoing case study in lying, backroom dealing and the misappropriation of public funds.
In other words, business as usual in today’s NFL.
The Raiders were approved Monday to stuff their carry-ons with Molly and flip flops they don’t mind losing and point it to southern Nevada by a 31-1 margin of the NFL ownership (only Miami said “No” and that’s just payback for the 1974 divisional playoffs.) For that, the city of Oakland will receive a rare gift in the form of millions of dollars per year in revenue not chucked away on a feudal enterprise.
It is estimated the Oakland Coliseum will lose about $7 million/year in naming rights, club fees, rent, concessions and parking. But the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, which owns and operates the Coliseum (A’s/Raiders) and the neighboring Oracle Arena (the soon-to-be vacated home of the Golden State Warriors), will spend an estimated $8 million/year for the remainder of the Raiders’ time in Oakland maintaining the facility and staffing it with police, sheriff’s deputies, security guards, parking lot attendees and the field maintenance crew (especially when both the A’s and Raiders are playing.)
So it’s not just that they don’t break even, they lose tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars—every game.
Oakland’s week-over-week fiscal loss during the regular season pales in comparison to the financial beating the City of Oakland and Alameda County have taken at the hands of the Davis family for nearly four decades. First there was the matter of the Raiders leaving the first time for LA in 1980, only to return in 1993 when city officials OK’d almost $200 million in stadium bonds to fucking ruin the Coliseum.
Those bonds will not be paid off by Oakland residents until the late 2020s.
In order to stay this time around, owner Mark Davis requested at least an additional $400 million towards a refurbished or new stadium. Oakland didn’t blink. In fact, they responded by raising the Raiders’ rent and that’s when the carpetbagging NFL ownership started shopping the Raiders elsewhere.
The State of California, it should be noted, does not help cities come up with stadium money. Even though the Raiders’ leaving still leaves the state with a trio of football franchises, the embattled 49ers and their Superman’s bedroom lair of a stadium nobody who’s been there ever wants to visit again, the unmoored San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles are adrift with no fan base and no idea where they’re going to live long-term—so they keep answering Craigslist ads for rooms available in Silver Lake (dogs OK woof, Cats to purr, 420 friendly within reason)—and the LA Rams, the league’s most hapless franchise, will be treated to a new stadium in Inglewood that nobody in greater Los Angeles is going to give a fuck about unless there’s a food truck gathering and yoga retreat in the lot on game days.
The Raiders will remain in Oakland in 2017, and likely again in 2018. Their $1.9 billion stadium in Vegas is set to open in 2020, which leaves them homeless for a year. Maybe they can find a burned-out warehouse near the dark end of downtown to house their remaining faithful. By then the majority of Oakland fans will have already moved on. And the only Raiders-themed back window stickers driving around Hayward will feature Calvin peeing on Mark Davis’s signature bowl cut.
“My father always said, ‘the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,’ and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness,” Davis said in a statement Monday. Fortunately for Raider fans within Oakland city limits, that future doesn’t include having their pockets picked. And maybe those who are about to bid them farewell, with pocket change jingling tenfold because of money saved on tickets, food, face paint and body armor, will learn sooner than later that there’s a lot more to life than wallowing in the Black Hole of a billionaire’s bratty progeny’s personal checking account.