The Raiders have been bad for football and worse for Oakland.
From the calcified, inflexible leadership at the top all the way down to a fan base that contorts itself to turn dismal performance and monetary mismanagement into some sort of badge of honor, the Raiders long ago lost whatever Pride or Poise the franchise had. Sometimes dead is better. Knowing that the NFL isn't in the business of downsizing, we would be willing to settle for the next best thing — repatriation to Los Angeles. The Silver and Black love bumper sticker sentiments, so here's one for the bumper of the moving van that I and many others would cheerfully cut a check to help rent: Send Them Back!
The Oakland Raiders 2.0 have been a clumsy, insecure team that represents a city that knows all too well the price of pointless braggadocio. If it were just a football thing, we could choke on our Sausage McMuffins each Sunday and endure the penalty-ridden corpse of yet another loss, comforting ourselves with the knowledge that we were the cat's meow thirty years ago. But when the team's performance creates a grotesque fun house mirror of the city, it's worth alerting the authorities.
Al Davis has served the Raiders in every capacity other than team dentist since his team knocked out its first set of teeth. Like most autocratic rulers, his first three decades were his best. But one-party rule creates an unhealthy dynamic where mediocrities move up while talent moves on. Davis clearly cannot abide coaches who take up a sliver of the sun that should be shining on his boyos in uniform. Hence head men John Madden (Super Bowl champ), Tom Flores (Super Bowl champ), and Jon Gruden (Super Bowl champ — oops, wrong team) either retired or left for other work when the man behind the curtain decided winning wasn't everything after all. It's almost Shakespeare in cleats. The young prince groomed to ascend to the throne is too much of a threat to the monarch in his dotage so he must be banished, and in his place a functionary gets to sit in the big chair for a spell. Wait, that's not Shakespeare, that's Ayn Rand. Al Shrugged.
On the field, the team seems to follow the city's own dysfunctional leadership plan. Take a tragic attraction to celebrity (thanks L.A!) combined with a shamelessness in cashing their checks and you've got the Commitment to Wretchedness. Oakland's hard-working foot soldiers get usurped by a glamorous being from somewhere else and then watch as the anointed ones underperform/sulk/demand more power still/negotiate for a better gig and then say how they never really wanted the Oakland job anyway. It might as well be the Oakland mayor's office.
The Raiders have messed up the Oakland Coliseum for everyone. Even a Day on the Green concert would be lousy now. They were lousy then too (The Fixx! Madness! Oingo Boingo!), but at least we had them. Mt. Davis cut off the last connection that spectators might have had with nature. The A's, model tenants, who put far more in to the park and asked so little, got treated like a red-headed step-child after Davis and his prodigals first announced that maybe Los Angeles wasn't all that. Powerless once the barbarians were inside the turnstiles, A's fans put on the face of helpless acceptance when the football games ruined the grounds. When the Athletics were sold to owners who stubbornly insisted on making a profit, the sound of crickets chirped through the city council chambers. And thus a team that represents the best of Oakland — success in spite of obstacles, being whip-smart without becoming braggarts or bullies — will be setting that example for the folks in Fremont instead of Oakland.
Even the fans who make up the Raider Nation (population shrinking) have done the incredible; they've managed to make the color black un-cool. Aging outlaw wannabes, bearded meth manqué, and the old ladies who love them, shouting obscenities at the opponents and then attacking the visitor's spectators because the only catharsis they can get is beating up fans of winning teams. It's a fan base drowning in the recent past, eagerly sharing stories to a dwindling listening audience about athletes who rocked the AFC West. This is Oakland at its most pathetic; its people holding onto stories of a brighter past that half the homers passing them on never even lived through.
Put it all together: non-responsive leadership, a commitment to glitz over gumption, a panting fan base ready to commit a beatdown on anyone who looks at them sideways and it all adds up to ... Los Angeles. The Raiders are Oakland's team right now, but it isn't too late to do something about it. They can break a lease, they can litigate like hell, they can even break some hearts on their way down the road. It's the Raider Way and its way past time that they go.
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