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We need to talk about Oakland: While We’re Waiting

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Happy Monday morning, Cleveland! How’s everyone doing?

If you stumbled over this way expecting Scott’s weekly column, I’m sorry to say you’re stuck with me today. While he spent his weekend getting pelted by batteries enjoying himself in Madison, Wisconsin, I’m pinch-hitting on this morning’s While We’re Waiting.

What a huge weekend for us, Cleveland. The Indians are undefeated in the month of October and up 2-0 on the Toronto Blue Jays. Andrew Miller is mowing down batters with the kind of stuff legends fantasize about. Lonnie Chisenhall seems to be hitting just about everything, and we’re mere days away from the Cavs hanging a championship banner from the rafters of The Q. Even that 0-6, orange-and-brown duck-duck-lose football team can’t bring me down after a weekend like that.

With so much goodness going on inside our little Cleveland bubble, one piece of professional sports news may have flown under your radar… because it certainly flew under mine. You guys, are you following what’s going on in Oakland?

On Friday afternoon, the Nevada State Legislature approved a plan that would funnel $750 million of public money into building an NFL stadium in Las Vegas. Governor Brian Sandoval is expected to sign the deal today, and it’s presumed that the Oakland Raiders will eventually move the roughly 560 miles east to Vegas, relocating to play in the City of Sin.

Confession: I’ve always held onto a pretty negative opinion of the Oakland Raiders. Blame it, perhaps, on the fact that a sizable sampling of their fans dress and act like they just wandered off the set of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Or, blame it on a childhood filled with sports-themed kids movies like The Mighty Ducks, giving me a preconceived notion that teams wearing any combination of black, silver, and gray are the bad guys.

But now, I find myself feeling for their fans. I was 11 in 1995, and I’ll never forget the heartbreak my family went through as the Browns left Cleveland. I remember my parents, crowded around a tiny TV with bunny ears, trying desperately, in spite of themselves, to see the bitter end; the last game that was blacked-out on the major networks. I remember my mom crying as the fans in attendance slowly and surely picked that stadium apart, piece by piece and seat by seat. I remember how it felt when our team was gone.

You remember that feeling… and then you see this:

John Locher/Associated Press

John Locher/Associated Press

That’s Raiders owner Mark Davis, celebrating the proposed forthcoming move, decked out in garb for a team that doesn’t even exist yet—the Las Vegas Raiders. Call me crazy, but that hits me right in the feelings. (I’m also trying really hard to not comment on Davis’ haircut. My God.)

On Saturday, Davis assured ESPN.com that the Raiders would be staying in Oakland for at least two more seasons—while the team’s new domed stadium in Vegas is under construction. “We want to bring a Super Bowl championship back to the Bay Area,” Davis said. As long as that championship happens in the next two years, right?

Davis, who has a $1.9 billion financing plan in place to build the 65,000-seat stadium in Southern Nevada, is expected to be on-hand when Gov. Sandoval inks the deal later today. From there, Davis will travel to Houston for the NFL’s fall meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, where he’ll give the league an update on the Raiders’ plans. Then, at the league meetings in January, Davis and the Raiders organization will officially ask for permission to relocate to Las Vegas. They would need 24 of the 32 NFL owners to vote in favor of the move.

Proponents of the move are praising Vegas as an NFL destination because there’s so much to do within city limits, but I see that as a problem. There. Is. Literally. So. Much. To. Do. There. Who’s supposed to go to these games? Locals? Tourists? The people who stand on The Strip, dressed vaguely like popular cartoon characters and posing for photos with tourists?

Undoubtedly, a city built on glitter, flash and being over the top will produce an NFL stadium unlike anything anyone has ever seen. But I can’t help but believe the Raiders will be hard-pressed to pull Vegas’ 42 million annual guests away from the slot machines, showgirls, and all-you-can-eat buffets they came for.

And then you have the Mad Max folks Oakland fans. Raider Nation: Your 4-2 team is currently sitting atop the AFC West, and I hope you guys are enjoying it. Celebrate every play. Live it up and love your team. For the first time ever, I’m rooting for you.1 If Mark “The Haircut” Davis breaks your heart in two years—and it’s looking like he absolutely will—the Dawg Pound is always here for you.

Alright, Cleveland, let’s get after it. Roll Tribe.

  1. Ed. Note: Oakland fans have had a rough year with a 73-win regular season team with the unanimous MVP blowing a 3-1 NBA Finals lead and all. []

  • NankirPhelge

    WWW bright and early this morning! I like it.

    I feel bad for Oakland fans — again. They’ve always been very supportive of the Raiders, and the Raiders have been a big part of the community’s identity. But that hasn’t kept greedbags like “What the Hell Is That on Your Head?” Davis and his creepy father from moving the team to silverer pastures. As you allude to Jessica, it’ll be interesting to see how well they draw there, and how much they’ll charge for tickets.

    I guess it’s naive of me to think that pro sports owners should realize that their franchises are a public trust — that the teams belong to their city, and the owner is expected to be a good steward of these civic institutions. Alas, too many are like the Davises, Modell, Irsay, Bidwill, Frontiere, and “What the Hell Is That on Your Head, Too?” Kroenke.

  • KaiHaaskivi

    I think the Raiders become the destination ‘away’ game that the visiting fans attend. Being a frequent visitor of Las Vegas, I like having the option of attending a football game (not named UNLV). My friends and I went to the Pac 12 basketball tourney at MGM last year and it was a cool interruption from the constant gambling that we do.

  • Garry_Owen

    Ahem. In keeping with our new tradition, I think it should be “silverier.”

  • mgbode

    Nevada mountains are known for their silver – California mountains their gold. I suppose the Raiders going to Nevada and the 49ers staying in Cali was an inevitability (still hate it for their fans).

  • Garry_Owen

    If the ’95 move has taught me anything, it’s perspective. I was 22 and absolutely crushed when the Browns left, and I hate it for any fans, however lame (St. Louis) or weird (LA) who lose “their” team. At the same time, in the course of my own introspection, I have had to see this from the business point of view. I believe in private ownership of assets, and these dudes, whether we like it or not, are owners. Without owners, these teams that we love wouldn’t exist. I hope that these owners will make decisions that consider their customers (more often than not, they actually do; in some glaring instances, they don’t), but if I choose to swim in someone else’s pool, I choose to accept that someone else controls the quality, temperature, accessibility, and even location of that pool.

  • NankirPhelge

    Ha haaa, excellent! And the goldiest star to you!

  • Garry_Owen
  • JNeids

    But you choose whether or not you pee in their pool.

    …I don’t know how that connects to the NFL owner example. I can’t stop thinking about the old Muni troughs…

  • Garry_Owen

    Or on their grave. As the case may be. Allegedly.

  • Garry_Owen

    2 million people in the Las Vegas metro area. Packing 8 NFL games could work; but it’s a gamble. Nobody’s commuting to those games.

  • BenRM

    Footnoted zingers are the best kind of zingers.

  • I, too, hate to see any fan base lose a team after what we went through with the Browns. That said, is there a degree to which Oakland fans are getting used to it? Sure, Vegas next, but then who knows? Back to L.A.? Back to Oakland again? Sacramento? I propose the Raiders become the official test team for future cities who want an NFL franchise. San Antonio want to get in on the action? They get the Raiders on loan for a few years. Mexico City? Los Asaltantes para tres anos! Toronto? Welcome the R-eh-ders to the great white north! I’d say London, too, but the Jags have dibs.

  • I see what you did there.

  • Garry_Owen

    Wow. Completely unintentional!

  • Garry_Owen

    Can’t compete with the London “Jag-YOU-ars.”

  • NankirPhelge

    Heh heh, everybody knows it’s pronounced “Jag-wires.”

  • CB Everett
  • Chris

    Most of California’s teams were snatched from other markets to begin with. I really don’t have any sympathy for them losing one.

    Warriors? Philadelphia
    Giants? New York
    Athletics? Philadelphia
    Sac. Kings? Kansas City
    Dodgers? Brooklyn
    Lakers? Minneapolis
    Rams? Cleveland originally and of course St Louis most recently.
    Clippers? San Diego (still in California, but I’m counting it anyway)

  • mgbode

    Understand your point, but worth noting…

    Sort of an unfair comparison for most of these teams as the professional leagues all started on the East coast and the only way for some of these expansions West were for teams to move and not have new teams form.

  • mgbode

    Everyone around here calls them the Jag-Wars and it drives me crazy

  • mgbode

    San Antonio attempted to use your plan, but Davis used them as leverage to get Vegas to pony up the $$$.

  • mgbode

    What zinger? I see a statement epitimozing true empathy for a devastated fanbase.

  • RGB
  • Chris

    NFL would sooner relocate a franchise than start a new one, so it’s even more fitting that Las Vegas had to steal one from the state most notorious for doing so.

  • Chris

    Everybody pees in the pool. Where I draw the line is that certain owners do it while standing on the diving board.

  • NankirPhelge
  • Pat Leonard

    Hmmm is that the same as Ja-Gwars (pronounced like the band “GWAR”)? That’s how I say it.

  • mgbode

    No, it is distinctly different. Jag and Wars might as well be separate words.

    Also, if you are going to market an identity, it might be best to not have 4 (and counting) ways people pronounce it.

  • Pat Leonard
  • Natedawg86

    2 years of death row? Ugh that is sickening. It was bad enough when we found out half way through the season!

  • Natedawg86

    Is there a silver liner in this move?

  • Natedawg86

    More like Jag Yars

  • mgbode

    and, it is even worse. hey, after a decade of futility, the Raiders are good again. celebrate with us for 2 years before we move away. AND, we are moving to a place that you might enjoy visiting on occasion, but now will have your old team with ads plastered everywhere anytime you do go there. enjoy!

  • RGB