Ira Ross sat with a couple buddies in a booth the other night, taking in the Warriors and Giants on TV screens that circled the bar in Firestone Public House in downtown Sacramento, when an interloper asked him about another Bay Area team that had stuck its silver-and-black eye patch into the news cycle.
With the NBA playoffs into the conference finals and the Giants battling the Dodgers, you’d think the Raiders would be considered out of season. All they did Tuesday was practice, the least important thing in the world according to Allen Iverson. But a ton of intrigue surrounded them as Ross mulled a question about the team he’s followed his whole life.
Most of it swirled around the Raiders’ bizarre potential stadium deal in Los Angeles with the San Diego Chargers. The teams are negotiating with officials in the dead zone of Carson, about 20 miles south of downtown L.A., on the construction of a $1.7 billion stadium they would share.
“It’s all part of the saga,” said Ross, 35, of Sacramento, who is the director of a nonprofit special education program.
That saga has been going on longer than Ross has been alive. It started when the Raiders sued the NFL in 1979 for trying to block their move to Los Angeles. They won a federal court suit and moved south for the 1982 season and won a Super Bowl there. Of course, they grew unhappy with their stadium situation in L.A. and in 1994 moved back to Oakland, where they made the 2003 Super Bowl but haven’t had a winning season since.
Attending the spring meeting of NFL owners at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, the inheritor of the Raiders empire stepped outside to meet with fans. Their leadership group included a man who calls himself Dr. Death, although his licensing status could not be verified with the California Medical Board.
Losing begets unhappiness, with stadiums and everything else, and now the Raiders want out of O.co Coliseum. An inability to get anything done with officials in the East Bay drove the Raiders to consider the joint stadium plan with the Chargers, who are equally dissatisfied with Qualcomm Stadium. If San Diego can’t arrange a new facility, the Chargers say they’re willing to shack up in L.A. with their hated rival from Oakland.
Monday kicked off the news week with a ghastly image for Raiders fans. Over coffee, they read on their morning Internet that an Oakland stadium deal was “gurgling blood,” according to a source quoted by San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross, two guys who have been covering this sort of stuff for more than a quarter-century.
Tuesday dawned bloodless, but with reports that the city of Carson had swung a land deal for the stadium next to the San Diego Freeway. Next into the batter’s box stepped Carmen Policy, the business genius behind “The Genius,” the book about coach Bill Walsh and his Super Bowl championships with the 49ers. Policy reportedly would navigate the stadium plan to fruition.
As the noon hour approached, Raiders owner Mark Davis kept the story going. Attending the spring meeting of NFL owners at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, the inheritor of the Raiders empire stepped outside to meet with fans. Their leadership group included a man who calls himself Dr. Death, although his licensing status could not be verified with the California Medical Board. The doctor made his house call Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton as he always does – his face painted silver and black and his black matted dreads stuffed beneath a silver construction hat. The head piece appeared to be spiked with knife blades lined up Mohawk style.
In earshot of reporters, Davis said he did not want to leave Oakland, but that the fan lobby needed to press the stadium issue with city and county officials. Davis told the fans, “You’ve got to do it quick, man,” thanks to the Carson real estate deal and the retention of Policy.
While Davis worked on building his coalition, his team practiced in Alameda. Coach Jack Del Rio declared the session a success, although quarterback Derek Carr didn’t participate and now appears slated for surgery on the ring finger of his right (throwing) hand.
Del Rio said he likes what he has seen as the Raiders work through the offseason. Carr will have several new targets, including first-round draft choice Amari Cooper and free agent Michael Crabtree. The coach also noted with excitement the play of his third-round draft pick, tight end Clive Walford, who made one terrific catch with a leap that took him over what seemed to be the entire Raiders secondary.
“Every day he’s out there, he shows up and does something that grabs your attention,” Del Rio said.
Where will Walford attract that attention, long term?
Del Rio said “we’re not naïve” to the L.A. vs. Oakland discussion. Its resolution is “just not our job,” the coach said. “It’s our job to work at this and focus on the things that are important for us to be able to be productive come Sundays in the fall.”
As for the saga, Ira Ross, the fan at Firestone, said that when it comes to the Raiders, “You kind of expect that to be part of the ride.”