Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Al Davis Serves Sauron

I knew that title would get some click-through. But you have to read my sports rant first!

There are two reasons to worry about sports teams leaving your city. The more legitimate one is the loss of tourist dollars and the effect on the city's economy. The second and frankly less important reason is the patriotic one that we like the A's (or Raiders or whoever) and don't want to see them go.

As for the first one, what, exactly, do Oakland and in particular the neighborhoods around the Coliseum lose if the A's leave, in terms of revenue? What percentage of money spent on game day does not go directly into the As' (or Raiders', or Warriors') coffers? Have there been studies done as to how much money would be lost for Oakland's residents? It's hard to argue that restaurant revenues and other recreation in Oakland would take much of a hit because of this. Who comes to a Raiders game and then goes out in Oakland? I would love for this to change, but looking at the geography of the stadium, you either BART in, and then BART right back out (getting to Coliseum BART on the caged-in raised platform) or you jump back on the freeway. By the time you're passing the Broadway exit, do you stop for a beer at Pacific Coast, or do you keep going home to Pinole or Vallejo? While this seems reasonable, it's also all speculative and anecdotal, so if there are numbers please point me to them.

Pro sports teams are accustomed to (pardon the expression) having cities over a barrel when they threaten to move. Example: 15-20 years ago when the Steelers wanted a new stadium, they essentially told Pittsburgh "build us one, or we move, and your hanging-on-by-a-thread downtown area is dead". As a former Pennsylvanian, I can tell you (gratefully) that the West Coast is notoriously uninterested in sports relative to the Northeast and Midwest, probably owing to better weather, and furthermore out here we're much better served by non-sports tourism than cities in those parts of the country. San Francisco's downtown does not depend on sports revenue. That's why when the Niners tried the same stunt with Newsom a couple years back, he told them not to let the door hit their ass on the way out. Can you tell I love how stunned the owner was by this? (The day after I wrote this I was reading CNN and saw that in fact, parts further east are taking this same attitude: this article in part discusses the uprising against the Marlins' demand for a new stadium in Miami.)

As to the second reason - city patriotism - in general, Americans' attitude toward sports franchises is blurred. We think of them almost as a government agency. They're not; they're a local franchise of a national company, operating out of profit-motive. Just like the Taco Bell two blocks from your house. Are you more loyal to that one than the one up in Albany? That's all fine, but then don't be puzzled when teams screw their "home city" for a few dollars; don't be puzzled when players change teams "just for money". Yes. They're professionals. They're doing it to make money.

In addition to the lost revenues, mayors of other cities don't want to be known as the guy or gal who let the home team leave on their watch. By all means, follow Chip Johnson's proposal and sue the A's to keep the name and colors in Oakland, so the team can be reincarnated in the event another organization comes to Oakland in the future. For now, the current A's organization shouldn't hold its breath waiting to be courted.

I fully support the city of Oakland handling the A's and the Raiders the same way that Newsom dealt with the Niners. Losing these teams will not affect the downtown.

Also, how do I know Al Davis serves Sauron? Because he's an orc. Spot the difference!

Above: a vicious creature that creeps around in the darkness and slime whose occasional glimmers of intelligence emerge from incoherent hissing and growling only in flashes of deceit and animal-like blood instinct. The other one was in Lord of the Rings.


  1. OK, I certainly agree with you about professional sports, but I have a gripe about your blog. Other Oakland bloggers will be hearing this from me too.

    Can we please lose the black background with tiny white type? This is sooooo hard to read. I just had to increase the size of your text 4 times to go through your article comfortably. Please support my campaign for readable blogs and choose another template...

  2. Hedera, for you, my fellow Rockridge resident, anything. I'll change it in the next couple days.