The Raiders dumped Oakland last season but then they signed Marshawn Lynch for a pair to give fans temporary amnesia. The question is, is there enough magic left in the candy man’s legs to make them forget about how the Davis family did them so dirty?
The Oakland/soon-to-be-Las-Vegas Raiders, true to their name, are thieves and scalawags. Dating back almost six decades now, the NFL’s original bad boy/love-to-hate-’em franchise has turned petty thievery and plunder into a family business; sleight of hand and carpetbagging is not so much an art for the clan Davis, but a way of life.
Patriarch Al was an early days football innovator. He ditched the three-piece suit for a suit of sweat high and tight and a fedora swapped out in favor of slicked back and sunglasses. A gum-popping, jaw-clicking, self-made millionaire, then billionaire, Davis broke broke the rules seemingly just to establish new ones… and then broke those—just because. Though he was reviled by owners and municipalities alike, he garnered the kind of adulation and respect at the end of his life saved for the most fierce of adversaries.
Along the way, there wasn’t a contract he met that he honored and if trust were a four letter word, it would have been the one he’d have used least. Even in his dotage, Davis was working to screw over Oakland one last time.
It worked. Davis died in the fall of 2011 leaving behind the seeds of a deal that would five years later take the Raiders out of Oakland (for a second time) and put them into a town built on diversion of large rivers, fantasy and tourist dollars (this time Vegas instead of L.A.) He left a mound of debt to be shouldered by the residents of Oakland and an unyielding Pavlovian loyalty of fans to his one-eyed mascot, Davis’ avatar, in his wake.
Alameda County is still on the hook for about $90 million from stadium renovations at the Oakland Coliseum, from 1995, when the team thumbed a ride a couple hundred miles north from the decimated LA Coliseum on the 5.
Now that they’re frequent flying using Wanna Get Away fares from OAK->LAS to occupy a $2 billion stadium a few Vegas blocks from the tarmacs of McCarran (buoyed by a $750 million commitment of public funds committed by Clark County in the from hotel taxes which, of course, take money straight from visitors’ pockets and diverts it away away from schools, hospitals, roads, libraries, lunch and after-school programs, parks and lawsuits to defend such fleecing), the Raiders are bringing their brand of sin to the town that minted it, full stop.
Nobody should be happy about this. Oakland residents are going to be left behind in 2019 with nothing but a large empty parking lot full of swirling trash and empty silver and black Bud Light cans, along with the memory of permanent Halloween in the Black Hole and decades of mediocre football. Las Vegas residents, already no strangers to having their town taken over by face-painted interlopers on weekends, are welcoming a middling professional sports franchise to come in and attempt take down the biggest house of all, the public interest.
The only thing that gives the deal any kind of illusion of fairness is that it sucks for everyone.
Enter Marshawn Lynch, 31, the Skittles popping, one-line cracking, YouTube-owning, real-life video game running back who decided to pull a Murtaugh and come out of retirement at $12 million/per to get his head, abdomen and knees bashed—as well as those dreads grabbed—a half dozen times/year in front of the home crowd is the Raiders’ biggest PR stunt post-move announcement to date.
…Before we get to that, first, a Marshawn YouTube break.
There’s this from his playing days:
…And in his brief retirement, his wheelie popping on a rainy day (is there any other kind?) in Scotland smoothness:
Marshawn is a fine example of a norm-bending quixotic Bay Area icon. He matriculated from Oakland Tech (and reminds viewers during every first-possession intro), spent a handful of years up the hill running over USC linebackers at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. Then it was off to Buffalo to toil in anonymity for three-and-a-half seasons before spending five in Seattle that resulted in a haul that totaled four Pro Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl ring and several spots like this on Conan:
OK, one more… selling Beast Mode chocolate with “sugar made in Emeryville” because that’s where they make sugar:
…So, like, of course Raider fans, who are quintessentially Oakland (underestimated, self-effacing and love Tony! Toni! Toné—did I get the order right? Yes!) are hyped on bearing witness to the one Bay Area athlete (this side of, say, Tom Brady) they hoped would one day come home and play.
The AP summed up #RaiderNations’ perspective nicely with this account of a long-suffering fan visiting the team’s training camp in Napa Friday: Alex King, a 23-year-old lifelong Raiders fan from Salinas, sported his Lynch jersey with a leather vest over it and spiked leather cuff bracelets Friday in a front-row seat off the practice field. “I really like that he’s doing a real good thing for his town,” King said. “He’s always been good for the city, he has never been a ghost and left his city. For him to come back to the team he’s always wanted to play for, it’s really good for the city and the team itself.”
You got that right. Leather vest OVER the Lynch jersey in 94-degree weather.
Yep, the front office is betting that it’s that kind of short-sighted optimism that will keep Raider fans simmering in the Black Hole for the next two seasons, the same length, it should be noted, as Lynch’s contract. Basically, it’s the same as continuing a relationship with the solid eight after she tells you she’s only going to stick around till she finds someone better… or until your money runs out—whichever comes first.
But I guess if you’re among the Raider faithful you learned long ago to simply enjoy the ride as long as they let you.