I’ve got some strong words for Mark Davis’ haircut and the thinking that goes on under it.
Of course, I'm more concerned about his thinking than I am the haircut. (I've already read about him driving his minivan hundreds of miles to a barber in Palm Springs so he can get... whatever he calls that thing on his head.)
I get that moving the Raiders to Las Vegas is a money move. Nevada offered a stadium that'll be paid for by tax revenue. The City of Oakland didn't, and rightfully so. With thousands of people sleeping on the streets, paying to build a sports franchise's new stadium would've been the ultimate example of helping the rich get richer. Plus, the City of Oakland is still in debt after enticing the Raiders to move back from Los Angeles in 1995.
So now that the final Raiders game has been played at the Coliseum, it's become a reality: they’re throwing a hail mary across the state line. And I can't be mad, because at the end of the day, it’s a business. And you know how we do business in America—with an all-encompassing phrase that I'm surprised isn't a Fortune 500 company’s slogan:
To hell with your feelings.
But football, the most brutal of major American sports, is a game largely built on feelings. The players emote like thespians. The coaches yell like drunk stepfathers. And the owners are often shown in their box seats, hands folded over their mouths, like a member of the choir praying during the sermon.
But the greatest feelings come from the fans. They show up on Sundays and paint their faces, get inebriated and scream their hearts out. It’s like going to church, the bar and to war at the same time.
Every stadium is a bit different, from what I hear. I’ve only been to Raiders games. But I can guarantee you that Oakland’s tailgate scene is unlike any other.
On Sunday, I saw social media updates of folks there at daybreak, with lit barbecue grills and liquor bottles bigger than the Lombardi trophy. As they rang in the final Raiders game in Oakland, many of the posts were emotional personal connections: the worker who's losing their longtime job at the stadium, the story of the guy who went to the first game in Oakland and scored a last-minute ticket to this one, stories of friendships and connections made.
I wasn’t there on Sunday. Instead, I was down in Nickerson Gardens in Watts, where I gave a head-nod to a brother in a Los Angeles Raiders cap. That emotional connection reverberates throughout Raider Nation, and reaches all places the sun shines.
Returning from my trip, I watched the game via livestream on my phone in the back of a Flixbus during a 10-hour ride. I don’t even like the NFL, but I watched.
I used to love football. I was a diehard Raiders fan. But then so many things happened that made me realize just how much of a business football is: Michael Vick’s treatment (to this day he’s still catching flak for his involvement in dog fighting, a crime he served time for). The fact that there are confirmed domestic abusers in the league, and Colin Kaepernick isn’t (and that the tryout a few weeks ago was a sham). Worst of all, the cover-up of concussions and other health issues players face during and after their time in the league.
A few weeks ago, former Raiders offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele was cut by the Jets after opting to have shoulder surgery in the middle of the season instead of taking painkillers and playing with a torn labrum. Before the surgery, as reported by the New York Times, the Pro Bowl player told the team he was in intense pain, and they docked his pay for the time that he sat on the bench.
How can you support a league that notoriously doesn't support its players?
Plus, it’s too much of an emotional investment. I spent chunks of my life yelling at the TV. If I told you how many times the Raiders let me down over the years, you'd either offer me a hug or a shot of tequila out of pity. Maybe both.
The list of instances would include the Antonio Brown saga from this summer. Trading superstar Khalil Mack last year. Remember the Tuck Rule game? I don't, only because I've successfully erased it from my memory.
There was, of course, the loss to Tampa Bay (coached by Jon Gruden the year after he left the Raiders) in Super Bowl XXXVII, and the backstory that Pro Bowl lineman Barret Robbins suffered a manic episode on the eve of the big game.
And on a smaller, more game-to-game letdown, there's the penalties. So many penalties. Oh, and Mark Davis’ haircut. Man, there are so many ways the Raiders have let us down over the years.