So it turns out after years of finagling, deal-making, deal-breaking and bribe-taking all around, the NFL has declared the Oakland Raiders to be nothing more than the league’s official poison pill.
Take them and you die.
Going to Los Angeles always seemed like such a perfect solution for Mark Davis – the value of the club rises, he doesn’t have to look at No Stadium For You ever again, and he could say that for once in his life, he beat the big money.
Instead, he got double-dealt, as some always thought he would. Dean Spanos, the owner of the San Diego Chargers and the original architect of the Wayward Sons Of Los Angeles movement, who had entered into an unbreakable deal with Davis to team up in Carson, was pulled out of the deal by his good friends across the league and blackjacked into a partnership in Inglewood with Stan Kroenke of the now-Los Angeles Rams in which Spanos will get all the worst of it in perpetuity.
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In other words, the NFL took teams from stronger markets with greater wherewithal to provide stadium help for the teams they housed and rammed them together in a shotgun marriage, and left a team in a city with no stadium plan and no particular impetus to create one.
The only way this makes strategic longterm sense is that, other than the short money of keeping Kroenke happy, the owners would leave Davis in Oakland in hopes, perhaps futile, of starving him out – a difficult bit of work given that no NFL team could lose money if it threw bundles of hundreds out of the sunroofs of every front office employee every day.
But the NFL lives for the short money, knowing that until the game crumbles under the weight of skittish parents keeping their children away from the game, the long money will follow. Kroenke is very big short money, and what he could not do with his own charm (go on, find it, I dare you), he got Jerry Jones to do for him. And if anyone other than Kroenke won in this one, Jerry did.
That’s the NFL’s problem, though – that, and Spanos’. Oakland won by keeping its team, although it is now back in the same hilarious bind it was before – with two teams and no stadium prospects for either. No, this deal rewards the town that never tried that hard to keep its team by the NFL give-us-all-your-money definition while punishing the two that actually put money on the table. That is because it rewarded the two owners it wanted to keep happy and punished the one it didn’t much care about one way or the other.
Trust us, it makes sense if you’re on the inside.
And that’s what this was in the end – a victory for the inside. The owners voted to gamble on Los Angeles’ ability to support two teams it spurned two decades ago, and at these levels of revenue and income, high-stakes gambling is about the only thing that keeps their arteries from turning into bungee cords.
As for the Raiders, they are back where they started – in a town that lives in hope that they are turning a corner while living in the reality that they will never have the wherewithal to build a stadium without enough attached strings to make an army of Pinocchios. The town dodged a bullet Tuesday, but more will be coming, and in the end nobody will get out alive.