Should the Oakland Raiders Move to Los Angeles?
John Doublin – Jan 23, 2012With new ownership and a new general manager, the Oakland Raiders moving back to Los Angeles has once again become a topic of heated discussion. Fueling these rumors is a quote from Al Davis heir and new Raiders' owner Mark Davis in his press conference announcing former Raider player Reggie McKenzie as General Manager.
"Yeah, Los Angeles is a possibility. Wherever's a possibility. We need a stadium,"
Now, there are at least two groups proposing a stadium in L.A., one of which is Denver Colorado business man Philip Anschutz who hopes to move the Broncos there. Whatever the case, the "new Mr. Davis" is entertaining the idea of moving the Raiders.
While most every Raider fan in the world will agree that the Silver and Black need a new stadium, most have balked at the idea of moving the team back to southern California. The most common phrase I've seen in social media and fan sites is, "We are the Oakland Raiders. Anything else just doesn't feel right."
17th century physicist Sir Isaac Newton states that, "For every force, there is an equal and opposite force." The movement of fans trying desperately to keep the Raiders in Oakland is certainly a force, but so is the contingent trying to convince the team to move. Whether they're equal forces or not is up for debate.
Proponents of the idea will point out the fact that the Raiders' most recent championship came while they were stationed in Los Angeles. Those opposed would point out that Oakland is where the team's origins lie, and it started its rise to greatness there with AFL titles and two of their three Super Bowl wins, not in L.A..
Both valid points, however...
To make an informed decision, all factors must be weighed. A change this drastic and monumental goes far beyond surface issues, fan preference or nostalgia. There is the financial and playing field success of the team to consider.
First, a history lesson:
From 1982 through 1994 the Raiders were based in L.A.. While there, they amassed a record of 118 wins and 82 losses for a winning percentage of .590 and won Super Bowl XVIII 38-9 over the Washington Redskins.
In that time, the Raiders were playing in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the University of Southern California Trojans. The city said they would do everything in their power to build the Raiders a stadium of their own, or at least add luxury boxes to the current L.A. stadium, but none of that ever came to fruition.
During their time in L.A., the Raiders shared their stadium, not only with the USC Trojans, but with the NFL Rams as well. Of those three, high-profile teams, only the college team was able to sell the stadium out on a regular basis.
The Raiders were winning games, division titles and even championships, yet L.A. fans still didn't sell out the stadium. This is important because the NFL has rules in place now that state if you don't sell out your home games, your games will not be broadcast on television locally. This means more Blackouts for fans-something the Raiders managed to avoid all but once in 2011.
While in Oakland, the Raiders have won 338 games, lost 269 and tied 11 times. That's good for a winning percentage of .574. While that is a lower percentage than what the team had in L.A., it takes into account a lot more games, and some lean years in the beginning and the most recent mess of the 2003 to 2009 era.
The Raiders also won Super Bowls XI and XV while based in Oakland, along with the 1967 AFL championship.
The bottom line is that the Raiders are no more successful in L.A. than they are in Oakland.
Going even further back...
In 1946, the Cleveland Rams moved their franchise to L.A. and produced 28 winning seasons including three championship game appearances, an appearance in Super Bowl XIV and an NFL title in 1951. In all those winning efforts, the coliseum rarely sold out.
In 1960, the upstart American Football League placed the Chargers in Los Angeles. After a 10-4 season, capped by an AFL West division title and a playoff berth, the Chargers moved the team to San Diego. Why? Because, according to then head coach Sid Gilman, the team "didn't generate the interest we expected."
What does this tell us?
Well, each side of this issue is going to interpret this information in such a way as to make their own case. However, when you look at it strictly objectively, it's pretty clear that Los Angeles had their chance to be an AFL and an NFL city and chose not to support the teams or get them the stadium they were promised.
This begs the question: If the Rams, Chargers and Raiders all brought championship football to Los Angeles, why didn't the fan support follow?
The answer is pretty simple: Los Angeles is NOT a "football town." In the 80's when the Raiders were in town, who was the most popular athlete in L.A.? Was it Marcus Allen? Jim Plunkett? Howie Long? No. It was the Lakers' Irvin "Magic" Johnson, the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela and USC players Jack Del Rio and Sean Salisbury.
L.A. is a baseball/basketball/college town, plain and simple. The Lakers, Dodgers and Trojans sell out their stadiums regularly. Even the lowly Clippers, (not so much anymore however) and the NHL's L.A. Kings tend to fill their stadiums more frequently than the Raiders, Rams or Chargers ever did.
Granted, the Staples Center only has a capacity of 20,000 for basketball games and the Dodgers' home field holds 56,000. The L.A. Coliseum holds upwards of 93,000, so it is going to be more difficult to sell that many seats. However, the Trojans of USC don't seem to have a problem selling out, why couldn't the Raiders, Rams or Chargers fill the stands?
Again, the answer is simple: Los Angeles loves their Lakers, Dodgers and Trojans, and simply don't care enough about NFL football to go to the games in the same numbers they do for those other teams.
What about the fans...
Well, the L.A. Raider fans are saying that there is a strong contingent of Raider fans in L.A., and while that's true, do you honestly believe there are more there than there are in Oakland? L.A. fans have their loyalties divided between the Lakers, Dodgers, Trojans, Clippers, Kings and Raiders for the most part, whereas Oakland is all about the Raiders-and maybe the A's. The recent attendance numbers prove that.
One fan from L.A. even went so far as to say that L.A. fans have a difficult time driving six hours to Oakland in order to attend games at O.co Coliseum. To that, I ask: What makes you think it will be any easier for Oakland fans to drive six hours to L.A. to see a team they've had at home for 40 years? It won't.
Another fan says that all cities will support competitive teams, but when a team begins to falter, the fan support will too. My response to that is, if 118-82 record, (.590 win %) four division titles, seven playoff appearances, and a Super Bowl title isn't "being competitive" I don't know what is.
This is what the Raiders brought to L.A. in their stint, but the fans never supported them like they did the other professional sports teams.
The measure of a fan is not how they support the team when it's winning, but how well they support the team while they're losing. It's true that the Raiders weren't selling out while they were losing from 2003 to 2009, but in L.A., the Raiders failed to sell out during championship seasons.
Oakland fans show up more regularly and reliably than L.A. fans, regardless of the team's record or performance. This is a fact, not an opinion-the attendance numbers bear it out.
The bottom line:
This article was not written to offend or disrespect the die-hard Raiders fans that live in Los Angeles. It was intended to point out that it takes MUCH more than a contingent of hard core fans to support an NFL team. The casual fans have to care enough about the NFL to show up and buy tickets too.
I'm not doubting the die-hard Raider Nation contingent in L.A., I'm doubting the other 10 to 15 thousand fans that will have to buy tickets to fill the stadium each week.
The city of L.A. has proven on three separate occasions that the die-hards will show up, but the average citizen won't. Unfortunately for Raider Nation in L.A., that simply isn't enough to justify tearing the team away from their home and relocating them to what some refer to as their, "second home."
From the perspective of a fan that fell in love with the Raiders while living in Alameda, I don't want to see the Raiders move back to L.A.. They were there once, played championship football and were rewarded by the average fan and the city with an empty stadium and a broken promise of building a new one or updating the old one.
The only attempt to get the Raiders the stadium they were promised was when the city of L.A. and the NFL told the Raiders they could have what they were promised, but only if they shared it with another team. Al Davis took exception to this and moved the team back to Oakland.
L.A. had its chance to keep three separate NFL teams and couldn't muster the fan or political support to do what was necessary to keep them. So then, why do they deserve a team now?
The NFL will say L.A. needs a team because it's the 2nd biggest media market in the country and the league needs a team there. To that I ask: What good is it to have 9.8 million people in the county, if they won't show up to the games? You simply can't market to people that don't care.
In the end, it won't matter what Oakland fans, or L.A. fans or even the league have to say about this issue. The only opinion that matters here is that of Raiders' owner Mark Davis. If he gets an "offer he can't refuse," he'll move the team to L.A. no matter how much backlash he gets from Oakland die-hards.
If he fails to receive an offer he likes from a Los Angeles group, he won't move the team, no matter how bad the L.A. fans or NFL want him to.
Now that there is serious interest from Los Angeles again, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has released her plan for a new "Coliseum City" in Oakland on the current site of O.co coliseum. It appears that she realizes how important the team is to her constituents and wants to make a legitimate play to keep them.
Raider fans, regardless on which side of the argument, should simply hope for the team to hire the right head coach, fill the staff with solid people and bring in the right players to finish what Al Davis started-building a championship team.
Worrying about whether it happens in L.A. or Oakland is just a waste of energy because the fans will have absolutely no say in the matter.
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