Divorce, Loyalty and Sports:
My emotions are running the full gamut today as I sit back and try to make sense of the nonsense that is NFL relocations. I feel very mixed and powerful emotions.
It hurts when you’ve been left by someone you love and hurts even more when the same person leaves you twice.
This is exactly how many, like me, who grew up an OAKLAND Raiders fan feel. One of the most, if not the most iconic team brands in the world, leaving one of the most loyal fan bases in sports, twice. The team was born and raised in Oakland and I grew up along with it. I was 10 when they won their first Super Bowl and I actually got physically upset the previous 3 Decembers after crushing defeats to the eventual super bowl champion Dolphins and Steelers, twice. (are you seeing a theme here?)
Like many other kids, I bonded with my father over local sports teams and in this case the Raiders. Every Sunday during football season my dad would have the transistor radio on with Bill King’s amazing broadcasting talents filing the house, car or yard on Sundays. Bill King seemed larger than life and the play by play was like a symphony of sorts…despite me not knowing what a symphony was back then! Sundays in the Fall were all about my Dad, King and the Raiders. (Certainly my brother would have been a huge part in this as well but I recall him being in the other room listening to or watching the 49er games) Those memories are forever etched and is just one example of how a sports team can galvanize communities and families alike.
I felt like the luckiest kid ever when my dad would take me to a Raider game. It was maybe one game every other year but I remember it like it was yesterday. Third deck, could only see half of the near end zone but it was sublime. Parking across the train tracks and walking into the parking lot to what seemed at the time like the biggest block party ever. The Raiders fan base has always connected to the team in a unique and special way. Oakland is as blue collar and working class as any city in the US and the players of that era were closely tied to the community. The fans truly were “part of the magic” that happened on Sundays, most of which ended in wins for the Silver and Black. Simpler times when the players would go out with the fans after home games and socialize…different times indeed.
I’ve been through a divorce and its messy and no fun. The Raiders leaving OAKLAND is like a divorce only in this scenario the fans married the same team again and they left AGAIN. Divorce often drifts to, “who wins or losses” in a array of situations, in the case of the Raiders leaving the city of Oakland, I’m not sure who wins. (but let me be clear, we all know the NFL and its owners win with the insane amount of money being transferred)
Loyalty…it’s a word that isn’t used in today’s society very often for the sole reason of its not showcased nearly enough as it should. The NFL doesn’t care about fan loyalty…they disguise it with phrases such as, “ we tried to get the city of Oakland to put together a feasible stadium option and they couldn’t get it done”…As Roger Goodell plainly stated, “sorry OAKLAND, we tried”. To be blunt, this doesn’t smell right. I get it, it’s a business and that part of the “game” is not lost on me. However, to ask cities, such as Oakland to pony up crazy money and have billionaire’s sit back and expect others to pay is wrong. The NFL is really good at taking fans money but show absolute zero loyalty to those very same people. Every NFL owner just made $55 million on the Raiders relocation and the real fans of the OAKLAND Raiders and the whole east bay region just got the hardest kick to the gut and may not be able to take a full deep breath for years, if ever.
And don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of the NFL’s stance on gambling. For those that may not be aware, the league doesn’t allow game officials to step foot in Clark County Nevada during the season, period. The NFL wont even allow Vegas to use the word Super Bowl in betting lines…it has to be phrased something like the professional championship game in betting lingo. The Green Bay Packers stay in a local area casino the night before home games, …really? The league has been so averse to all things gambling and now they have a team that’s going to play in the gambling Mecca of the world and reward that city, whose foundation IS gambling one of the most recognizable sport franchises ever? The NFL is all about money, greed, selfishness and NO loyalty whatsoever. The fans are little pons being played by suits in NYC and it’s amazingly wealthy owners.
For the Raiders, they still will play in OAKLAND next year and maybe the year after. What will the real fans in OAKLAND do? After your wife or husband leaves and then you let them back to only have them leave again and then have the balls to ask for money while they build a new house with a new husband/wife? I know what I would do, what about you?
Was this a case of extortion against the city of OAKLAND? The economics of football, simply put, is not favorable to any city, period.
Regarding the Mayor of Oakland…good for her to holding her ground. As tough as it is for sports fans to have to choose between what’s more important; schools, public safety , etc. or a football team. It’s a huge debate but I applaud her for taking a stand and not wavering on the use of public money.
You can’t put a price tag on civic pride or the civic identity that the Raiders give to the city of OAKLAND. The NFL pitted the Oakland A’s and the Oakland Raiders against each other (NFL wanted the Raiders to kick the A’s out of the Coliseum) and in doing so has torn the fabric of the community apart.
The decision for the Raiders owner Mark Davis to move is not complicated from a business perspective, the average value of each NFL franchise skyrockets with each relocation, Loyalty is huge word and the NFL doesn’t care one bit about loyalty on the fan level…they are only loyal to increasing the revenue of their bank account and protecting the “shield.” Everyone in the NFL is getting richer and yet they are asking the fans to foot the bill for new football palaces…doesn’t smell right to me and there should be a lot of people who should be ashamed that it came to this. The NFL has built a fortress of stadiums and has become the richest league in America. The evolution has been stunning in magnitude and yet so very brutal on sentimentality.
Maybe I’m jaded and by bringing in my personal experiences and lumping them in with the Divorce of Oakland and its beloved football team doesn’t match up. Well in my mind, and the mind of countless others, it does add up and it hurts, deep. Thankfully perspective will shine through and in the end it’s a game. But for now the team I grew up with and was loyal to just turned and walked away, again. How do you put a positive spin on that? Well for me I have two main reasons to move on. Two specific people that I am a lifetime fan of. Their love, smiles and laughter are as loyal as ever and its been earned on both sides and has noting to do with money.