That inevitable empty feeling has come

I feel like a part of me died on Monday; that I’d lost part of my childhood.

The feeling started over the weekend when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who seemed against the Raiders re-locating to Las Vegas when the idea first came up last year, decided that Oakland’s last-ditch effort to save its NFL franchise wasn’t good enough; had too many question marks.

And, when I read that the owners voted 31-1 in favor of Oakland’s move on Monday, I felt sick to my stomach; felt empty. I’d spent some of my best times as a teenager and adult at the Oakland Coliseum, either taking the Greyhound bus or driving, so I could watch the Athletics and Raiders. It was a home away from home.

I wasn’t surprised by the vote Monday. It was inevitable, but still hurt. Simply put, the Oakland Coliseum is outdated and a dump. It should have been torn down and replaced many years ago.

I attended the Kansas City Chiefs game this year. It rained on game day, and there was at least an inch of standing water in the concourse behind the seats in the lower deck. That shouldn’t happen. Taking the BART across the freeway to the airport a Raider fan from Arizona commented on how bad the stadium was.

Many people will point a finger at Mark Davis and blame him for the move. What people should be doing is pointing a finger at city officials, including current Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the several mayors before her.

The mayor, on a Bay Area talk show Sunday night, said she’d only been on the job two years, but at least in the media, didn’t appear that receptive to a new stadium for the Raiders when she came aboard.

Schaaf, at least in the media, appeared to be more intent on making sure the Athletics didn’t leave town. She claimed there was no public money to help out the Raiders. Maybe she didn’t trust Mark Davis, or maybe she was getting bad advice from other city officials.

What has bothered me throughout this ordeal is that Oakland seemingly waited until the last moment to come up with an offer. Where was this Fortress group 10 years ago? Problems with the stadium have been ongoing in the last 20-plus years.

The biggest improvement was the permanent seating structure built mainly for football. The third deck, however, isn’t used on game day to ensure that the team sells out its home games. It’s a shame because those are some of the best seats in the building. There were so many things that should have been done besides that addition.

I do feel sorry for Oakland fans, though. They are without an NFL franchise again. It isn’t their fault. They always supported the team; were loyal fans.

I’m anxious to see the season-ticket renewal rate the next two years. Will the Coliseum be jammed or will it be a ghost town? The Raiders have two one-year contracts with the Oakland Coliseum. Will Vegas residents come and watch their future team?

What about 2019? I’ve heard reports that the new Vegas stadium won’t be ready until 2020. Will the Raiders share the 49ers’ stadium for a season? Could they play at Cal? Would they play at UNLV for a year?

One thing I learned, and really always knew, is that the Raiders have fans everywhere. The two games I attended this year, I was amazed at how many fans came from Southern California, taking advantage of fairly inexpensive tickets on Southwest. When the Raiders played in San Diego, they would have tons of fans, too. It was hard to tell who the home team was.

I cut my journalism teeth covering the Raiders under the guidance of John Madden and Tom Flores. I covered the win over the Eagles in the Super Bowl in New Orleans. I saw the “Holy Roller” in person in San Diego; saw the “Sea of Hands” play in Oakland. The five-plus years I covered the Raiders were the best in my 40-plus years in this business. I was a 20-something getting to travel around on the team plane. You couldn’t ask for more.

The Raiders owned the Bay Area back then. They were a salty group, a roster yearly filled with cast-offs and bad boys. They were media darlings.

How will this affect me? It is 5 1/2 hours to Oakland or 7 to get to Vegas by car. My hope is that Southwest or Allegiant has some cheap flights to Vegas when the move finally takes place because it’s always more fun to see a game in person than watch it on TV.


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