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

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. []