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The Second Time A Clown

Karl Marx is famously quoted as saying that history repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce.” If we needed any more proof of this aphorism, we’re getting it thanks to the comedic talents of the NFL’s Louis-Napoleon, Raiders owner Mark Davis.

A story that ran this week in the SF Chronicle shows that Davis is comedy gold–a status befitting a man whose hairdo was apparently inspired by Moe Howard of the Three Stooges.

Davis appeared on the team’s flagship radio station 95.7 The Game–which is fast becoming a fount of absurdist theater surrounding the Raiders move–apparently to perform a standup routine for the Raiders diehards who are still out there for some reason.

As befits the Raiders’ grand history of propaganda–that guy wearing the eyepatch on the helmet might just be a portrait of Josef Goebbels–Davis’s appearance was finely attuned to setting the record straight, which of course means blaming someone else for the team’s relocation. In this case–and in a move that must have been awkward, considering that KGMZ is their flagship station, too–Davis wanted to make sure that everyone knew that it was the Oakland A’s who were to blame.

First, Davis claimed that there was a deal in place to get his team a new stadium in 2013, but that that deal got blown by the A’s getting a new 10-year lease at the Coliseum, and that the A’s shot down any proposals to build two stadiums at the Coliseum site. Furthermore, and most impressively–I assume this was his closer; you always save your best jokes for the end of the act–Davis also made the claim that he “offered to sell the A’s 20 percent of the Raiders to get the ball rolling.”

Really? He offered the A’s an ownership stake in the Raiders? That boggles the mind on many levels. Specifically, my mind is boggled trying to come up with any recent examples of one team in major professional sports being an owner–even a minority owner–of another. It’s not unprecedented–so-called “syndicate ownership” of teams was a big problem in the early days of professional baseball–but it’s not a practice that has littered the landscape in recent times. A number of teams in various leagues are or have been owned by one individual or corporate entity that also had ownership of another team, but that’s really more of a third party holding ownership of two separate franchises; Stan Kroenke owns both the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Rams, for instance. It seems really unlikely that the owner of an NFL team would seek to sell part of his franchise to an MLB operation.

And, of course, it’s really wildly unlikely that the team getting into such an arrangement would be the Oakland Athletics. Of all teams, the A’s are most frequently held up as examples of the poor, sad-sack, low rent district of professional sports. They are hardly the organization that would be buying into an NFL franchise.

Perhaps Davis actually offered to sell part of his team to A’s owner John Fisher, or the team’s former managing partner Lew Wolff; both men personally have the money to buy in there as minority owners. But the team itself? Doesn’t seem very likely.

So why would Davis make such an offer? Or at least say he made such an offer? This could, after all, be pure fairy story.

Most likely, because it had the potential to direct local anger at a different target–the A’s–rather than towards its legitimate mark…or should I say, Mark? As noted in this space’s the latest Feature, deflecting blame has been part of the Raiders playbook from the moment the move was made official. No doubt Davis was just trying to provide himself more cover so the legions from his “Nation” don’t unleash hell upon him when he shows his face at the Coliseum on Sundays this fall.

The problem–for Davis, of course; for us out here it’s just knee-slapping–is that it makes him look like a laughingstock to anyone with half a brain. The idea that an NFL owner is getting bullied by the local baseball club must have football owners from Los Angeles to Dallas to Foxboro laughing their asses off (or, conceivably, having a stroke at the very idea). It also demonstrates the one real argument against the Raiders succeeding in Vegas: they just might blow the opportunity if the management of everything is left in Davis’s clumsy hands.

Furthermore, it shows just how weak Davis is financially, if he had to go begging the A’s to help him out. What all this really tells us is that Davis is a lightweight who is being saved not by his own actions, but by the greed lighting up the eyes of NFL officials, Las Vegas officials, and Bank of America.

So much for the comedy; let’s leave this matter with a quick look at the tragedy. Here’s the money quote–in more ways than one–from Davis’s standup routine:

“The only people Oakland was in competition with was themselves,” Davis told 95.7. “If they could have come up with a deal that would have given us the land, either leased it or gave it to us at reasonable terms, and gave us the infrastructure, and we had the ability to find a developer to fill that funding gap, we may have been able to do something on that site.

First, again, note the finger-pointing in a different direction: Oakland is to blame, not him. But beyond that, notice the word that keeps coming up in that quote: gave. If they would have “given us the land”; “gave it to us at reasonable terms”; “gave us the infrastructure.”

Gave? Given? Davis is supposed to be in business; since when are businesses supposed to be given anything? He’s not running a soup kitchen. It’s an NFL franchise; they make billions of dollars a year (the league, not the team individually, but they’re part of the one cartel). Why the hell should any city “give” a business like that anything?

The prime example of cities or counties giving a business anything would be Walmart. For the past few decades, the retail chain is famous for receiving extraordinarily favorable terms from local government entities in order to get Walmart to locate one of its stores nearby. The result, time and time again in those deals, has been a shiny new Walmart on the edge of town…which undercuts all the local businesses, drives the locals out of business, hollows out the nearby community, and never produces enough tax revenue to make up for the breaks they got in the original deal. That’s the byproduct of businesses having a “give me” mentality.

Oakland officials were right to not “give” Davis whatever he asked for to keep the team in town. I personally do not oppose the team’s move to Las Vegas; that’s not really the argument here. What I do oppose is lying–and that’s been coming out of the mouths of Davis and his surrogates all week.

Now that they’ve decided to leave, they should probably just go as fast as they can, never mind what the lease with the Coliseum says about 2017 and 2018. At the rate their going, the Raiders will have long outstayed their welcome by the time next season kicks off.

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