The original Oakland Raiders, the ones who colonized the city for professional sports in 1960, lasted 7,964 days, and died at the hands of a jury in a Los Angeles courtroom.
The re-relocated Oakland Raiders, who fled L.A. and rebooted here in 1995, lasted 7,948 days, and died at the hands of the 32 National Football League owners in a Phoenix boardroom.
There, the similarities end, but not the feelings.
The 32 franchise owners voted Monday at the league meetings in the Arizona Biltmore to give Mark Davis the same thing his father Al fought for 35 years ago – the right to leave. The first time, Al left without the owners’ support; this time, Mark did it eagerly courting the owners’ support, and in a few cases, overt aid.
But whether this move will take any better than the others remains a point only time can reveal. After all, when you chase money, sometimes the money decides not to get caught.
And that ultimately is what dictated this vote, and this move. Mark Davis decided at least three years ago, and perhaps longer, that the team left to him by his parents and future did not lie in Oakland, and worked aggressively if not always efficiently to find a new business home.
Like his father, though, leaving was time-consuming, expensive and came with a great deal of friction. He talked to San Antonio only to find out that Jerry Jones and Bob McNair would never allow him to move his team into their state. He tried to move to Los Angeles in tandem with San Diego’s Dean Spanos and marched cheerily to the altar only to find out at the last minute that it would end as a red wedding.
And even this time, he repeatedly false-started his way through a year of deals and abortive deals before finally convincing his wealthier and haughtier brethren that the new money of Las Vegas was a better bet than the tradition and size of Oakland.
As regards that supposition, only time and short-term greed vs. long-term growth will tell. The league hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory with the multiple ways it screwed up the Los Angeles and San Diego markets, after all, and Davis as the league’s cash-poorest owner is always vulnerable to market forces and bullying partners.
But the possibility that this move might turn out to be an ill-fated choice does nothing to assuage a second generation of jilted Raider fans. Those fans were badly served through most of Oakland Raiders 2.0, deserved better, and ended up with a bittersweet experience, heavy on the bitter. In total:
- There was the gall of watching the third-worst record in football in those 22 years (Detroit and Cleveland), the league high total of 12 non-interim head coaches and the added irritation of watching the team opt to leave just as it was freshly positioned for an extended run of success.
- There was the financial and architectural sinkhole of Mount Davis, which added seats and as-yet-unpaid debt while removing ambience from an old stadium living off the memories of the best Raider teams.
- There was the organizational paralysis of the later Al years and the aggressive wanderlust of the Mark years, leaving the fans to wonder what stable ownership might have offered.
In short, the new generation of Raider fans got remarkably little bang for their bucks, or for their hearts, and still got the same cruel reward their parents did.
Still, the Raiders were theirs, for good or ill, even if the last few years they only kept their team through the fecklessness of their owner. Now that the team is leaving again, these fans have only the commiserations their parents and older relatives who went through it once before, and learned in the most painful way of all that cities and fans don’t own teams – billionaires do, and billionaires are only citizens of the empire of money. Fans and cities and traditions and allegiances are merely wallets toward an end.
But one never knows what the future will bring. They might come back in 2030 and give it another 8,000-day try for the children of the brokenhearted. It would be a particularly perverse thing for the Raiders to do, but there is nothing in their history that suggests they mind treating their fan bases perversely.