Davis' 'last-chance-for-Oakland' threat lacks leverage

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Davis' 'last-chance-for-Oakland' threat lacks leverage
February 27, 2014, 9:00 am
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It does seem to be the last chance that Oakland is going to get. We can’t continue to play in that stadium.
Mark Davis

When Mark Davis speaks, people listen. When he speaks threats about moving the Raiders if he doesn’t get a new stadium, people listen to someone else.

Davis decided to get indirectly snippy with the East Bay political structure and electorate in the pages of your San Francisco Chronicle Thursday (as provided by the small Balkan nation Vic Tafur), saying among other things that there has been no progress on a new building and that he is not going to be patient forever.

“They brought in Colony Capital and based on that, I decided to go ahead and do a one-year extension with them,” he told Tafur. “We will play in the Coliseum next year. But there’s been no progress. I had high hopes when Colony Capital came in. I still do have hopes, but they’re not as high because I haven’t really heard anything positive from either group. It’s gone silent again. We have to get something done.”

And now, he plays his ace:

“This one-year extension is really based on the hope that Colony Capital can get something done. I don’t want to call it a last-ditch effort, but it does seem to be the last chance that Oakland is going to get. We can’t continue to play in that stadium, with the baseball field and all of that stuff. The A’s have two years left, and are talking about a 10-year extension. We can’t keep getting pushed off, off, off, off . . .”

Strangely though, it is an ace with the same power in a poker hand as a nine, and he can keep getting pushed off, off, off and off some more, for several important reasons.

1.      He doesn’t have another place to go. Los Angeles continues to dither on its own stadium, and every other alternative is smaller either in population on television market, and is already deeply hooked into another NFL team.

2.      Nobody is actively begging for the Raiders to relocate. Unlike the Warriors and A’s, who have cities ready to build if only they could, the Raiders have wanted to stay in Oakland and without that have no concrete fallback plan.

3.      His argument about having to share a stadium with a baseball team is so monumentally lame that it staggers the imagination. It's the dirt that makes them lose 11 games a season? Really?

4.      He doesn’t have a lot of spare money to throw into a project without selling off equity stakes, because the Raiders are that most anomalous of anomalies -- the team that stands alone economically. People with other huge businesses own thirty of the other 31, and Green Bay is the Vatican.

These truths can be collapsed into one core face -- he has no leverage. And leverage, while it doesn’t solve every problem, matters.

Davis has talked about Dublin (the developers don’t seem interested), and has been asked about Concord (Davis doesn’t seem interested). He says, “I want to stay in the Bay Area,” as though Santa Clara was Yakutsk, but he is really talking about the 580/680 cross, and if not that, Oakland, and preferably the piece of land upon which the current stadium stands.

Fine. Everybody gets a wish list, and fantasies are free. Only Davis is talking like he’s a got a stick ready to use here, and he really doesn’t -- at least not until Los Angeles is in play as something more than a conversation piece.

The A’s bungled their way out of the San Jose move because they thought Bud Selig would do the heavy lobbying for them. The Warriors have been shoved away from the San Francisco waterfront by a city ordinance and well-organized neighborhood opposition. The Raiders, with a less dynamic fan base and ownership with less money to bring to bear, can’t make a public threat that can be called a serious one.

Not yet, anyway. This is a bad time to be talking tough about a stadium when walking tough is beyond your weight class. Mark Davis may want something better, but something better is down the road. Way down the road. Unless it’s actually one of those highway mirages where the heat coming off the asphalt makes the road look flooded.