Big O Tires

Oakland takes stage in latest act of Empty Gesture Theatre

Oakland takes stage in latest act of Empty Gesture Theatre

Editor's Note: The above video is from Nov. 6, 2016.

As we consider with the distance and clarity of the new day the latest developments from the City of Oakland in the attempt to attract the Raiders to stay where they are, we are reminded of one very important thing.

The Raiders STILL aren’t a part of these talks. Haven’t been, don’t want to be, and unless put in a bind won’t consider it.

In other words, what we have here is a deal between a city and a developer to buy land and build something FOR NO INTERESTED TENANT. Why this has escaped most people is an amazement, but there we are.

So I am now willing to predict a third potential outcome for this slow-motion train to nowhere: The league kicks the can down the road, putting off making a decision on the fate of the Raiders until one of these deals gets sweetened to its liking.

Now, back to the hilarious present.

The only intriguing thing about this new term sheet between the City of Oakland (throw-weight, $200 million) and the Ronnie Lott-fronted Fortress group (throw-weight: $175 million for the land as a starter) is that it exists at all.

But it isn’t a deal that seems to be attracting much notice from the NFL, the Raiders, or really anyone else. It is Empty Gesture Theatre, and frankly, it probably shouldn’t be anything more than that. Cities have been screwed into near-bankruptcy pandering to sports teams for decades, and both Oakland and Nevada deserve better -- though people don't often recognize what they deserve.

Now let’s reiterate the problems here:

The Raiders desperately want to leave. Mark Davis believes his best chance at future glory is in Nevada, and nobody has been able to shift him off that position, even though he has apparently been told as recently as two weeks ago that he does not yet have the 24 votes from his fellow owners at present.

Oakland has neither the money nor the political will to make a proposal that will dazzle the Raiders into staying. Mayor Libby Schaaf has committed the city to $200 million in infrastructure costs and no more, and part of the time-honored stadium soak is that a city throws in a lot more money, either through bond issues, tax increases, free land or a deal with the concrete guy. That cities shouldn’t even be in this business has dawned on Schaaf, and she really wants out of this deal is a regular tenant who will see to it that the taxes are paid in regular installments.

The NFL is frustrated that Oakland isn’t playing the city’s traditional role as a sucker. It doesn’t much like the Fortress people, either, which is still slightly more benign than its view of Las Vegas Casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who is still a linchpin of the Vegas deal even though he threatens to leave.

In short, Oakland provided no particular reason to have the owners look more kindly upon it, at a time when they want a reason to reject Vegas on market-size grounds. It is in many ways the Carson-v.-Inglewood fight of 11 months ago, in which the league’s owners had to decide on the site they liked (Inglewood and Rams owner Stan Kroenke) against the guy they liked (San Diego Changers owner Dean Spanos).

They voted the money, as you knew they would. The Rams are building in Inglewood, and apparently will joined, albeit with great reluctance, by the Chargers, who were rejected with great vigor by the voting citizens of San Diego last month.

Now in this scenario, the Vegas deal is the one with the short-term money but the long-term danger signs, while the Oakland deal has the market size but not the money or the will. And in the Oakland deal, the league doesn’t have direct leverage over Davis to modify his level of franchise control, which it very much wants to happen sooner rather than later.

So the other 31 owners can either accept one deal they don't like, another deal they don’t like, or give it another year in hopes that some deus ex machina will appear and make the decision for them. Typically the NFL at its most powerful had the outcome cemented ahead of time and just acted, but this is not the NFL of 20 years ago. It has been reactive throughout, letting events come to it, in exchange for which it now has two unappealing options with which to deal.

So I would expect the NFL to consider its options and delay a decision yet again. It wants neither Adelson, Fortress, the Oakland plan or the Vegas market, so it is most likely, barring some radical change in the current equation, to wait for a more clement time to strong-arm its desired conclusion upon everyone.

In the true spirit of NFL Christmas: Ho ho ho, and hands up, suckers.

Raiders' magic dissipates, but valuable lesson about contending learned

Raiders' magic dissipates, but valuable lesson about contending learned

So the Oakland Raiders are good, but not magical, let alone soaked in destiny. So they can make every game a hard slog for the opponent, but they are not invulnerable. So they can be inefficient, and too sure of themselves, and terribly wasteful when they’re cold.

In other words, they are part of the National Football League – no longer too good to be true.

Their performance against the Chiefs in Kansas City was a pyramid of blown opportunities, opportunities made necessary by a terrible start. A week ago, against a borderline playoff team, they could get away with it. Thursday, on hostile ground, against a team that has lost three of its previous 23 regular season games and has a defense that specializes in standing on your chest until you whistle Yankee Doodle through your navel, they couldn’t.

The result of the 21-13 loss in a game with 12 more points than degrees of temperature is that the Raiders are now the fifth-best team in the American Football Conference rather than the first-best team with four more chances to change that position.

In other words, Thursday’s defeat only provided this much wisdom: The Raiders are a good team vulnerable to other good teams with an iron-plated sense of purpose, stubborn defenses that can apply and maintain a chokehold for hours on end, and offenses that don’t feel compelled to imitate Oakland’s offense by getting into a shootout.

And also this: There is nothing that would necessarily prevent them from beating the Chiefs in case of a third match, even though Kansas City held them to fewer points in two games than they scored in every other game save one. They are still, as the pedants say, “in the argument.”

But they have flaws to be exposed against the right team in the right situation. Kansas City has been that team twice, and New England probably is, but there the list probably stops. Nobody in the AFC North or South seems terribly capable of matching them in neutral conditions, but here’s the other bone spur:

The playoffs are not about neutral conditions.

The Raiders have come a long way in what most people think is a long time, but in fact in terms of team construction, you can throw out everything before 2013, and almost everything before 2015. They are just now getting a full understanding of the hardest part of becoming a Super Bowl contender – the other Super Bowl contenders.

Yes, Kansas City has an indifferent playoff history under Andy Reid, but it is clear that under current conditions the Chiefs are serious players. And while we have no link to how the Raiders would fare against new England, we are pretty sure that they wouldn’t want to play the second weekend of January arse-deep in snow in Foxborough.

The point? Now they get how hard this contender stuff really is. They could not have learned that lesson any other way – not anyone they’ve played yet save Kansas City.

Their next lessons come in Weeks 16 and 17, when they face the frantically desperate Indianapolis Colts in Oakland and then the Broncos in Denver the week after. Desperate teams can be very difficult indeed, especially to teams that are safe and dry and home, playoff-wise.

And then there are the actual playoffs, which if they were played today would have the Raiders traveling to Houston for a very winnable game against the stultifying Texans. The week after, they could be either in Kansas City again or in New England, getting a gut full of visiting field disadvantage.

But as a learning experience, the Raiders may have come out very well indeed. They now know in very real and personal ways the real difference between where they think they should be and where they are, as well as how many ways this can go terribly wrong between now and then.

And also how well it can go, if they learn what the Chiefs taught them again Thursday.

Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist

Marshall's admission a reminder culture of health doesn't exist

Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets had one of his greatest games ever against the San Francisco 49ers two years ago and remembers almost none of it, because, as he told reporters Wednesday, he was cloudy-minded on painkillers.

This admission is one more reminder that sports are not necessarily good for one’s health, in large part because the culture of health in sports really doesn’t exist.

There is, rather, a culture of ordnance, and the players are the weaponry.

Marshall’s acknowledgement that he was masking pain from a high ankle sprain that should have kept him out of action for “four to six weeks,” by his own estimation but had him returning to action 10 days after the original injury.

“I’ll say it: I took a couple pain pills, so . . . I took a couple of pain pills to mask the pain,” he said on a conference call with CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. “I really wasn’t supposed to play. So I don’t remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. That was pretty much it.”

We now re-enter the culture of playing when it isn’t prudent, either out of a misplaced sense of bravado or employer-based pressure to perform (there is no direct statement from Marshall saying that the painkillers were given to him by the team). The sense of bravado, which most athletes have, probably can never be legislated, and the culture of downward pressure to perform no matter what the infirmity has proven immensely difficult to conquer.

But there is another factor here, and that is the general lack of efficacy of painkillers. Warriors coach Steve Kerr took to using a form of medicinal marijuana because the painkillers he was taking for long-lingering symptoms from his back surgery were doing more harm than good. He said he found the marijuana was equally lacking, but he had enough concerns about the deleterious effects of Vicodin, OxyContin and other standard medications assigned to athletes in pain.

“I’m not a pot person; it doesn’t agree with me,” Kerr told CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole on the Warriors Insider Podcast. “I’ve tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you’ve got a lot of pain, I don’t think there is any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”

He later expanded on that after the initial “Kerr Is A Sparker” headlines hit the Internet.

“Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, a lot of pain, a lot of chronic pain, I had to do a lot of research,” he said. “You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet . . . NFL players, that’s what they’re given. That stuff is awful. That stuff is dangerous, the addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long-term health risks. The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players.

“But I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country. The NFL, the NBA, it’s a business. So you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is. To me, it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues because the education will overwhelm the perception. If you do any research at all, the stuff they’re prescribing is really bad for you and the stuff that they’re banning is fine.”

It is instructive, then, that when Marshall was asked for his position on the NFL’s stance not to include marijuana as a permissible substance for pain management, substance, a Jets public-relations employee who could be heard in the background of the call saying that Marshall “knows better than that.”

But Marshall did answer the question, saying in essence that he fully intends to know better, period.

“That is something that I actually want to research more this offseason when I have time,” he said. “I’m not a guy that knows about the benefits of what it can do for pain and other things. But I’d like to hear others’ opinions and really research the effects it can have on us – positives and negatives.”

In the meantime, sports soldiers on, using increasingly debunked methods for dealing with the pain their businesses inflict upon their employees and issuing warnings about breaching the silence of the workplace. But tales like Marshall’s will continue to surface until the businesses that require him and his like come to grips with the toll of their shortsightedness and, in some cases, neglect.