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Lew Wolff’s new A’s promotion – “Let Us Stay In Oakland For Another Decade, Please” – will not fall on deaf ears.
In fact, two ears in particular are already perked to their full height and width – those of Raiders owners Mark Davis.
Davis, who has been stumping with conspicuous lack of subtlety about a new stadium of late, can only take the news that Wolff wants a new 10-year lease at the Coliseum as a direct challenge to whatever leverage he thinks he may have over Oakland, or what he considers “The Bay Area.”
That is, as opposed to what he does not consider “The Bay Area” – specifically, the part where the 49ers will be playing in 2014.
So what is Davis to do if he finds out that the A’s and Oakland have come to terms on a new extended lease? Well, one logical thought is that he starts stumping in earnest for a prime place in line when the NFL’s Race To Tinseltown begins.
It is considered a fait accompli by most observers both inside and outside the league that Los Angeles will be a two-team NFL town again, and that one of the two teams will certainly be the Not So Much St. Louis Rams. This means that there will be a full-on charge for the second team from both Oakland and San Diego.
And if Oakland is in a new flirtation with the A’s – which is to say that the A’s have finally understood that their San Jose adventure has all but left without them leaving the driveway – that leaves Davis with nothing to do but play the “I’m leaving” card.
The problem with the “I’m leaving” card is that most people have already deduced that he’s going to try to leave sooner rather than later anyway. He almost has to do so, because the Raiders are wedged between a rock and a wheel of rotating knives.
The Raiders make money – as an NFL team, they can’t NOT make money. But because they are a stand-alone football business, unlike nearly every other NFL team owned by a man who made his billions in other pursuits, they cannot generate income commensurate with the league’s more powerful franchises. Al Davis’ “I Only Care About Football” mantra might have seemed charming in its day, but the rest of the league changed around him into a far more corporate entity in which football is now only one of its subsidiaries.
In addition, the years of losing have rotted the ticket base to the point that future marketing and promotion may be considered the equivalent of throwing worse money after bad.
You might even consider the revivification of the 49ers as a factor, though the Raiders’ issues would have remained serious even if they had become co-tenants in Not The Bay Area Stadium. A sharing arrangement was never in Al’s best interests (as defined by Al), and the 49ers could never have committed to a construction partner who could cut and run for L.A. in the middle of the concrete pour.
In sum, the Raiders, once the fair-haired children of the East Bay political establishment, now find themselves at the thin end of the wormhole, paying for the sins of decades of iconoclasm and willfulness and on-field failure. They’ve been leaning toward Los Angeles for years, and now they may finally feel as though they are also being pushed in that direction.
True, the Oakland politicals could still screw up a lease extension with the A’s. The Oakland politicals could screw up a trip to Costco with a one-item shopping list.
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But for the moment, the A’s staying put another 10 years can only tell Davis that the sand is continuing to shift beneath his feet, and his only way to find firm ground is to find new ground. There are still any number of variables to be sorted, including the very real possibility that even if Davis wants to leave, the Spanos family that owns the Chargers may beat him there.
Still, if Lew Wolff gets his way, Mark Davis will feel increasingly sure that he will never get his, at least not in Oakland.
After all, you can’t spell “resale value” without “L.A.”
In fact, you can’t spell “Oakland” without L.A. Or for that matter, “some other place entirely.”