March 27, 2017. Darkness hovers over my sports fandom.
The NFL, spurred on by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, approved the Oakland Raiders relocation move to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Raiders.
excuse me while I tend to some digestive discomfort
You say that name and you automatically think, Oakland.
And if you don’t, who are you?
In all seriousness, the Raiders are Oakland. You see it in their fan base: passionate, tough, hard-working. In other words, they care.
As is the nature of sports in today’s world, the Raiders don’t care about them in return. “Raiders” in this context means Mark Davis.
Full disclosure: I am a life-long Oakland Raiders fan. Back in 2014, I wrote about the state of the team and how I thought Davis should sell. Although they returned to the playoffs this past season and are on an upward trajectory with a talented core of players, I still think Davis should have sold the team.
I didn’t like his leadership, particularly in light of the departure of former team CEO Amy Trask. Trask, who had been with the organization for decades, wouldn’t leave without good reason is what I thought. She may say it was “time” or she wanted to “pursue other opportunities”, which she has done.
But, my instincts told me there was more to it.
Trask was (and still is) fiercely loyal to Al. Although I disagreed with some (many) of the decisions Al made over the years, there was no denying his passion for his team: The Raiders.
Mark Davis is no Al Davis.
Mark Davis is doing what’s best for Mark Davis. In his best Al Davis-impression, he is uprooting the team from its home, its fans, its core and heading to (greener) $$$$$$$ pastures in Vegas.
I’m sure the people of Vegas will love it, initially. Businesses will love it too. Incoming fans might love it…until they see how much more everything costs to stay in Vegas. That $750 million Vegas & the state of Nevada are ponying up for a new stadium has to come from somewhere, right? Taxes upon taxes levied at out-of-town visitors.
You don’t just go to Vegas.
You do Vegas – or so I hear.
Gambling, shows, cuisine, other unmentionables that I don’t know about – it all adds up, financially. Now tack on the astronomical cost of hotels to pay for the stadium? Yeah, that’s not blue-collar. That’s not the Raiders.
That’s Mark Davis.
Let’s not forget all of the other events that will take place at this fancy new stadium. The Raiders only have eight home games, plus two preseason ones. 10 dates for NFL football. What about the other 355 days of the year?
Vegas will probably be more successful than other cities with NFL stadiums at luring top-level sporting and entertainment events. According to LasVegasNow.com interest is already heating up, “Events at the stadium would fill hotel rooms all over the city during the slower months and they are already in talks with Europe’s top soccer teams to come here.”
European soccer clubs? Nope, that’s not my Raiders.
Take a team out of a city and the owner changes the name. In my heart of hearts, the Raiders will always be Oakland, the city of my birth.
But, when I step back and look at this scenario with no emotional attachment, I ask myself one question: Why do teams have to use a city/state in their name at all?
Sure, it’s tradition and all, but in today’s day and age where teams relocate like what we’ve see in the NFL (three in the past 16 months), why do teams need to have the city/state as part of the name anymore?
Yes, Steelers fans, I can hear you now. The Steelers will never leave Pittsburgh. Sorry, but the Rooneys won’t always own the team and if they do, who’s to say they’ll have the business sense of the current crop?
Never is a long time and life is unpredictable.
Cliches aside, at their highest levels, sports teams are loyal only to themselves in business. If a better business option is available, they will take it.
To me and so many other Raiders fans, they will always be the Oakland Raiders. But, teams don’t owe fans any loyalty in business. Those who choose to do so, well done. You don’t have to, but you do. You try to operate in good faith – keep it up.
Even when they moved to Los Angeles, I still cheered for the team because they were the Raiders. There was always a possibility that they would return, so it didn’t make sense not to root for them. I was thrilled when they did as that where they belonged.
Now, the Raiders are leaving again. Returning will be out of the question – they’re gone.
As long as they are in Oakland, I will cheer for them. How can I not when they have players like Deek Carr:
— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) March 27, 2017
As for when they arrive in Vegas, well, I don’t know how I will feel. It’s disappointing right now, sure. But, anyone who says they know how they will feel in a few years (next year?) time, is either fooling with you or fooling themselves.
This move is yet another notch in my move away from sports team fandom. I “loved” the Raiders because they were the city of my birth – the first team I ever cheered for. Growing up in Arizona pre-Cardinals, there was no NFL team to cheer for.
The Oakland Raiders were my team.
They were my first “sports” love.
Like first loves in life, you don’t forget your first sports love. It’s forever embedded in your memory. Perhaps for some, they still have that connection to it. The passion and emotion is still strong after decades together. Others aren’t so blessed. Just ask St. Louis, San Diego, Hartford (NHL), Atlanta (NHL), Seattle (NBA), Vancouver (NBA)…
Still, some try to reunite with that first love, even when they’ve made it clear…they don’t want you back. It’s hard to let that first love go.
Deep down, Mark Davis doesn’t want Oakland Raiders fans. He wants Raiders fans.
Even when in L.A., I never left my Oakland Raiders fandom.
But now, it’s leaving me.