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OAKLAND We are long past the point of fighting the inevitable, of forlorn thoughts of what could have no, what should have been.
The Raiders are gone.
They havent packed up yet the team facility in Alameda will be operational for a few more weeks but Sundays game, a 20-16 last-minute loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, marked the final moment that the Raiders belonged to Oakland, the symbolic end of an era.
They soon will soon fill up some boxes, put them in trucks, and head to Las Vegas to a new stadium, a new team facility, and what they think will be a brighter, more lucrative future.
But in that 560-mile move, the Raiders will be leaving their soul behind.
Things in Nevada will never be as good as they were in Oakland. At best, it will be a novelty in a city that has endless entertainment options.
And Ill bet dollars to cents that in a few years the Raiders will be the ones pushing forlorn thoughts what could have no, what should have been.
The Raiders have been fixing to leave Oakland for so long that no one not even those who booed them off the field Sunday and showered them with bottles can blame the team for finally exiting. The citys pension crisis and performative politics combined with Mark Davis leadership of the franchise created impossible barriers to an East Bay future for the Raiders, and when the state of Nevada likely duped offered nearly a billion dollars and the NFL agreed to back the move in a more-than-emotional capacity, the relocation to the desert became a no-brainer.
The NFL is big business after all, and in Las Vegas, the Raiders who reportedly ranked last in the league in revenue this past season will no longer be the leagues pauper.
Davis, who will be able to keep the family business in the family, is thrilled, though tact required him to push mixed feelings in public for the next few weeks. The NFL is thrilled, too. The cartels little-brother franchise will soon be able to live on its own, and the league will have access to Las Vegas for big events. All Roger Goodell had to do was co-sign a loan. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
The Raiders new Las Vegas stadium is being pushed as a place to see and to be seen.
Raiders fans comprise the only fanbase in sports that can rightly call itself a nation. Such is their nomadic history, their decentralization, and devotion to the squad. Raiders fans will travel from the Bay, from Los Angeles (where there are still millions of fans), and everywhere else the first few years in the desert.
But I dont think that will last long.
Theyll go. Theyll see it. And after that, theyll stay home. Televisions are pretty great these days.
And why go back? There will be no tailgating scene in Las Vegas; they didnt build enough parking lots. No Black Hole in the stadium, either; that might scare off tourists.
This new stadium couldnt be a starker departure from the Coliseum. The Coliseum was a den of hedonism for the common man. It was featureless and amenity-free, a place youd go only if you were so into football and drinking that youd forget the home team played only one playoff game in the last 17 years.
No, this new stadium will be a den of hedonism for a different clientele the whales of Las Vegas. The new digs will be full of the club levels, VIP seats, and luxury experiences that have left the 50-yard-line seats at Levis Stadium empty and a good chunk of fans in bunkers (away from the poors) at Chase Center. The Raiders dont want blue-collar in Las Vegas, they want the fans in the upper deck to be blue with envy.
Anecdotally, it seems as if the die-hard Raiders fans who would come to all eight (thats the one preseason and seven regular-season) home games at the Coliseum are going to make the trip to Vegas once, maybe twice a year.
Eventually, people will stop making trips even that infrequently.
The money that was usually spent on gas, meat for the grill, and beer (and a bottle of something hard to pass around the tailgate) will be spent at the casino. How many Saturday night crap-outs will have to happen before those field trips to Vegas become more and more infrequent?
Meanwhile, the new local market is smaller than Sacramento. But Im sure it will make up the difference, though (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
The Raiders move to Las Vegas has all the makings of a second Chargers debacle. The Bolts have played 16 road games a year since moving to Los Angeles, and the Rams arent doing much better. But the NFL is scrambling to figure out how to solve that problem now theyre inviting a second problem to form.
The Coliseum wasnt even filled for Sundays final game and that was with the tarp still on Mt. Davis.
Once the novelty of the new Vegas digs wears off once whats left of the fanbase visits the desert I expect that there will be plentyof Broncos orange, Chiefs red, and whatever-the-visiting-fanbases color is in Las Vegas. Itll be a blast of a field trip for them.
The success of the NHLs Vegas Golden Knights, who sell out the 17,000-plus seats at T-Mobile Arena 41 nights (but mostly weeknights) a season, is often cited as a reason why the Raiders will be successful in Nevada. But I dont think that analysis is taking into account that the Knights were first to market (a huge advantage in any business), were wildly successful the first year in town (making the Stanley Cup Final), and that new Raiders stadium holds nearly four times the people and will be used mostly on Sunday afternoons.
Have you ever been in Las Vegas on a Sunday afternoon? Its a somber scene with people heading to the airport and a few trying to win back what was lost. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
The kind of fans who would show up to this East Bay dump might have dwindled in number over the years, but you cant say that those who stuck around didnt care. They cared more than any of us could know.
It was the kind of passion, the kind of devotion, you cant buy.
But now the team is gone and the traditions and rituals that came with watching them here the things that made a Raiders game the last bastion of old-school football culture will have nowhere to be channeled. The Raiders just wont be The Raiders anymore.
Try as they might, theyll never be able to recreate what they had here.
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