Truth is, I loathe the general concept of franchise relocation.
I hate when a passionate fan base loses a team. It guts you. It strips away your sports soul. Most especially, I feel for the kids. And the parents who have to explain it, have to smooth over immense heartbreak.
I felt absolutely terrible for the amazing and passionate Raiders fans in the Bay Area upon hearing the news that the organization gained the approval of the NFL owners -- by a 31-1 margin -- to leave Oakland for Las Vegas. It's going to be quite an awkward and uncomfortable period here, with the Raiders spending at least the next two (and possibly three) years in Oakland, while their $1.7 billion home is erected 550 miles away. Talk about a franchise in transition ...
All of the above can be true.
We've talked about this potential move for quite some time now, and I've always been a huge advocate -- for a number of reasons.
The Raiders' current stadium situation in Oakland is the worst in the NFL, bar none. And there was no viable plan to upgrade. Your franchise can't be in limbo, looking into the crystal ball, hoping against hope that something will materialize. Moving into the next decade, you can't keep playing in a decrepit stadium. You can't keep playing football on the Athletics' infield dirt.
The new stadium is going to be dreamy and state of the art. It's going to be an attraction in and of itself. You can't compare the stadium situations in Las Vegas and Oakland. It's like comparing Ken Stabler to JaMarcus Russell.
The Raiders are going to own Vegas and captivate a rabid fan base. I've always argued that the city should have multiple professional sports teams -- and that the NFL definitely should be there. Las Vegas has the population -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000 -- to sustain. And it's the ultimate destination city. Folks from this omnipresent and die-hard fan base of Raider Nation will get on a plane and head to McCarran International Airport. And when the dust settles in the Bay Area, many fans will take the short flight to see the Silver and Black. (It's just over an hour, through the air, from Oakland to Las Vegas.)
But, you ask, what about the casino factor?
The old line of thinking on sports gambling has become archaic in 2017. If you want to wager on a sporting event, you can do it from your computer or phone. You don't need to hit the Vegas Strip. By the way: The NFL already plays a bevy of games in London, where it's legal to gamble on sports.
And let's be honest: The Vegas aura and mystique fits in with the history and tradition of the great players and characters of this organization. The renegade Raiders of the 1970s clearly would've been right at home in Sin City. And this move will benefit current players, enhancing the star power of Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. The newfound gutsiness of "Black Jack" Del Rio? Yeah, obviously, that'll play.
Of course, a good product is always important in show business -- especially when you're the new show in town. Well, with the aforementioned players forming a very strong young core, this organization is in strong position to contend for titles for years to come. That includes the remaining years in Oakland, too -- something that'll help smooth over the legit, understandable feelings of heartache among Bay Area Raiders fans.
Again, I hate the idea of a team leaving a city where there is so much rich history and tradition. But this is a business. That's the cold, hard truth. And nostalgia alone just isn't enough to clear some serious business hurdles. It's not about the Fred Biletnikoff days. It's about giving the Raiders franchise the ability to succeed and prosper in the long term.
Vegas is such an untapped gem for the NFL. The Raiders are ready for the glitz and glamour and unpredictability of Vegas. They are going to become part of the circus and thrive. It's going to be larger than life -- in the city and well beyond. And I can't wait to watch it unfold.