The Las Vegas Raiders always has had a nice ring to it, and it already feels like one of those rare places where the team and city mesh perfectly. The Steelers are Pittsburgh, after all, just as the Cowboys are Dallas. So who better than the Raiders to represent a city overflowing with one-armed bandits?
Think about it: if every NFL commissioner has effectively served as the patriarch of the NFL, the Raiders are his problem child. Troubled. Rebellious. Nomadic. The Raiders are sex, drugs and rock n’ roll all wrapped into one, complete with a flophouse for a stadium and a freak show for a fanbase.
Vegas is perfect for them.
So let’s touch on a few of the storylines promoted in recent days — rightly or wrongly — as the Raiders hop on their Harleys and prepare for the convoy to Sin City.
1. Raiders fans are victims.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Sorry, not buying it.
If you watched any television at all the other day, you undoubtedly saw a succession of Raiders fans lamenting the departure of their team yet again. In 1982, the Raiders left Oakland for Los Angeles. In 1995, they returned. Now they’re off again, putting Oakland right there with St. Louis as a two-time loser of an NFL franchise, though the Raiders have the obvious distinction of losing the same franchise twice.
Let’s be honest: Raiders fans peaked in the 1970s and really haven’t matured since. The knucklehead who got his face painted in silver and black in the 1970s still has his face painted, but he’s now in his 60s and looks like Alice Cooper, gaunt and sunken-eyed. Either that or he’s walking on the beach with wrinkled skin, a bandana and a shriveling tattoo of “MOM” on the back of his shoulder.
In the 70s, this guy was cool. But now, he looks like someone time forgot.
2. Oakland has prevented the Raiders from being competitive.
Well, we’ll see.
In 2016, for the first time in 14 seasons, the Raiders made the playoffs only to lose quarterback Derek Carr to a broken leg just before the start of the postseason. Despite that, there are people out there suggesting that the limitations of the Coliseum have prevented the Raiders from being competitive in recent years because the Raiders can’t generate some of the revenue that most other teams do. Some reports have pegged them at 31st in revenue among the 32 NFL teams.
The truth? The Raiders have stunk for nearly a generation because they’ve made horrid personnel decisions and had atrocious drafts. The NFL is still the world’s best case for socialism. Individual revenue doesn’t matter so much. Over the span of a few drafts, the Raiders hit on Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, among others. Stadium or no stadium, they’re starting to sign free agents, too.
The stadium did not prevent the Raiders from competing. Bad management did. Which brings us to the next fallacy.
3. The Raiders have turned a corner competitively.
Again, we’ll see.
Look, if you want to buy into Jack Del Rio, go right ahead. In 11 years as a head coach, he’s had four winning seasons. The Raiders certainly have talent, but they’re now faced with the most peculiar of circumstances, having to play “home” games — two years, no less — in a city they’ve jilted for the second time. In the mid-1990s, the Cleveland Browns were crushed under the weight of an impending move. (Ask Bill Belichick about this.) Whatever momentum the Raiders built in 2016 appears to have been destroyed.
Can a team make the playoffs having to endure what amounts to 16 road games? We’re about to find out.
The Raiders, after all, have long thrived on thumbing their noses at conventional thinking.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.
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