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Time for Raider Nation to squish this Las Vegas lunacy

Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, left, and quarterback Derek Carr, center, stretch during practice at the team’s training camp Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Napa.
Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, left, and quarterback Derek Carr, center, stretch during practice at the team’s training camp Saturday, July 30, 2016, in Napa. The Associated Press

The Raiders broke training camp this week under the possibility their days in wine country might be coming to an end.

The story broke last week, anyway, that Raiders people were seen foraging east of the Sierra, looking for a new training camp site if the team moves to Las Vegas.

Reno does have a few things going for it, being on the flight path from Lake Tahoe to the Black Rock Desert where the annual Burning Man festival will soon be held. But as a place for football players to get ready for an NFL season, you’d think the Raiders have a pretty good setup where they currently are, even if the valley air gets a little murky every so often from nearby wild fires.

Man, I didn’t even think about that until you said that. That’s how focused we are on football. I love Napa. I love the Bay Area. If it is (the last practice in Napa), I loved it. If it’s not, I look forward to coming back. 

Quarterback Derek Carr, on the prospect of the Raiders moving their training camp if they relocate to Las Vegas

On Thursday night, the Raiders will play their second preseason game, visiting the Green Bay Packers, while they try to figure out where they’ll play their regular-season games over the long term.

Las Vegas is making a big push for them, and the word out of Nevada is that plans exist to put the Raiders in a stadium just off the Strip. Presumably the concourses would offer poker machines and off-track betting where you could play the dogs in Tijuana.

Why not? The NFL is all in with fantasy betting. Even if it’s not a house game, you can still lose the house just as easily as you can to an offshore bookie.

Of course, it is lunacy to think of the Raiders playing in Las Vegas.

Al Davis, the late and hallowed genius who built the Raiders into the most dominant franchise in professional sports for a while, did pal around some with Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Adelson is a financier and kingmaker on the right wing of American politics. His company is trying to fashion the deal to turn the Raiders into a Silver and Black chorus line of casino greeters.

No disrespect to the greeters. It’s honorable work, along the line of being a professional wrestling referee. Joe Louis did both when he was finished being heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

Only problem with making glad-handers out of the Raiders is they never got knocked out by Rocky Marciano.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was easy to recognize the past few weeks by the bright orange sneakers he wore around the practice field behind the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa. He’s also been easy to spot on the basis of the team he has constructed over the past couple of years. Brick by brick, he has transformed the Raiders from losers to contenders.

The Raiders are young, talented and motivated, and this is no time for them to be taking off for Las Vegas. Surely they remember what happened to Moe Greene. You’ll recall that he got rubbed out in the movies while he was being rubbed down in one of the spas on the Strip.

No, the Raiders don’t need the risks of Las Vegas. They are far better off in the comparative safety of East Oakland, one stop down from Fruitvale Station.

Davis’ son, Mark, currently runs the team, and if he looks around a bit, he’ll see that the place where the Raiders have played for most of the past 50 years is a perfect place to build, or rebuild, a football stadium. It’s freeway close, and BART stops there several times a day.

Amtrak also makes a regular run. In fact, you almost can make it on the train faster from the Sacramento Valley station to the Coliseum than the time it takes to drive from the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas to the proposed stadium site on East Tropicana Avenue, next door to the Hooters Hotel Casino.

True, not a whole lot of fans from Fremont Street will be going to Raiders games in Las Vegas. On game day you’ll see high rollers flying in and out of nearby McCarran International, with guys like Adelson waiting for them with limos. A man’s got to get his taste.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr looked sharp as usual the last day of camp in Napa, directing pinpoint spirals to his guys in a seven-on-seven drill. After the session, he was asked what he thought about the team possibly having practiced for the last time amid the hills of Cabernet Sauvignon country.

The Raiders are young, talented and motivated, and this is no time for them to be taking off for Las Vegas. Surely they remember what happened to Moe Greene. You’ll recall that he got rubbed out in the movies while he was being rubbed down in one of the spas on the Strip.

“Man, I didn’t even think about that until you said that,” Carr replied. “That’s how focused we are on football. I love Napa. I love the Bay Area. If it is (the last practice in Napa), I loved it. If it’s not, I look forward to coming back.”

You’d think they’d be able to get something done in Oakland, to keep Carr and the boys in town, or to at least make somebody happy who’s doing business over there out of a stadium or arena. Alas, with the political leadership flummoxed, the Raiders, A’s and Warriors are all considering their options.

Maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a mayor to get a stadium deal done. Willie Brown turned the trick for the Giants in San Francisco, and Tom McEnery did it for the Sharks in San Jose – not to mention Kevin Johnson for the Kings in Sacramento. Patricia Mahan even made it happen for the 49ers in Santa Clara, when Gavin Newsom couldn’t in San Francisco.

If Libby Schaaf can’t step up in Oakland, she faces a grim prospect. She could wind up as the lieutenant governor of California.

Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo

 

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