Opinion: Raiders’ move to Vegas hurts NorCal fan base
I am kind of numb after hearing the news this week, but not surprised. I was born in Oakland but moved to Lake County when I was almost 4 years old. Yet I remained a Raiders, A’s and Warriors fan. It was a good time and culture. The blue collar boys found ways to “just win” and made everyone proud.
The Warriors won when I was born. The Swinging A’s had three-peated, and the Raiders had won 5 of 6 AFC West championships. With the likes of Jack Tatum, they leveled the Vikings in Super Bowl 11.
And much like the Niner fans relived “the Catch,” I relived the Jim Plunkett lob to Kenny King over the Eagles D and down the left sideline for an 80-yard TD en route to winning Super Bowl 20.
Then, when I was 11 years old, my Raiders bolted for the City of Angels. Unlike many, I remained loyal. And I was re-payed a year later when Marcus Allen dodged and weaved his way through the Skins D en route to a super Bowl 23 victory.
Then came the Niners legacy that my dad never let me forget and four winters in Buffalo that we couldn’t get through. Yet, I stood firm. Then in 1994, one of my biggest dreams came true: The Pirates came home.
Unfortunately, it came at a huge PSL Club Seat price, and Mt. Davis ruined the Oakland Coliseum. Yet I waited. I waited for the PSLs (personal seat licenses) to go away so I could afford to go to the games, and for Jon Gruden to rebuild the team. But that was short lived, and the Al Davis implosion was slow and painful.
And now this week I learn that the trek of the Raider Nation will journey to an oasis in the desert, eventually moving to Las Vegas.
Most people will read the news and will conclude Oakland has lost its team for a second time. Yet this is where I will argue this was no surprise, and it was a long time coming.
The “Oakland” Raiders never really came back to Oakland. After Irwindale, Inglewood and Sacramento didn’t pan out, Al Davis came back to Oakland out of necessity, and only because it was the PSLs and sky boxes he wanted.
I loved going to games at the Coliseum, but I have traveled across the country over the last few years to other stadiums with my best friend. And as much fun as we have had, the sad conclusion that we kept discovering is how terrible the Coliseum is compared what the rest of the country has.
That brings up the real issue that no one seems to be talking about — the city of Oakland simply does not have the tax base to support a team anymore. Any team. Other blue collar cities keep and maintain the home team because they truly live there.
In Pittsburgh and Kansas City, the fans are a part of the community and pay their taxes to support the beloved teams. The sad truth is that most of the Raider fan base travels to games from afar. It has not been an Oakland team … it has been a NorCal and CenCal Team.
The phrase “Raider Nation” is actually the root of this drama. The fans come from everywhere else besides Oakland. The A’s and Warriors are in the same boat. The fans come from Sac, Walnut Creek, Fresno, Modesto, Napa and such. The fans are not Oakland taxpayers.
Oakland has been simply an agreed-upon meeting location since 1994. It should be no surprise that the city cannot build a new stadium now. They never could and never will. The A’s have wanted a new stadium too, and Oakland cannot pay for that either.
The A’s actually chose to move to an area between Santa Clara and Fremont about 5 years ago, only to be shot down by the Giants. And, as soon as a viable option across The Bay opens up, the Warriors are ready to bolt, too.
The city of Oakland is an economically depressed area that struggles to meet the needs of its citizens. The Raiders are just the first ones to be offered a justifiable new home. I truly believe that Sacramento would have made the most sense, but Kevin Johnson and Sacramento just expended all of their resources on keeping the Kings.
As torn as I am about this move, there was no viable option in NorCal for the Raiders, and going back to L.A. sounded like nails on a chalk board!
However, Las Vegas makes sense. No. 1, it will be the home of the Raiders. They will not have to share the market. And No. 2, the fans will travel. They always have. And now they are in a location between the L.A. and NorCal fan bases by air or highway.
I am apprehensively excited to see what the future holds for this talented young team that Reggie McKenzie and Jack Del Rio have built. And I will gladly catch the one-hour flight to go see my team play in a new state-of-the-art Crystal Palace.
Others may be sad for Oakland, and I feel for the NorCal fans, but I saw this coming. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum has been on a prolonged life support system. It will only be a matter of time now before the A’s pull the plug.
The sad part is that the people in Oakland won’t care. Not many people will show up when they implode it. It will not affect them. It is Northern California communities surrounding Oakland that will feel the loss.
Jim Bennett is a Truckee resident and a social science teacher and wrestling coach at Truckee High School.