Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bye Bye Radiers, Hello Uber…..or what’s a stadium to you?

The talk that the Raiders and/or the Athletics may be leaving Oakland has been going on for at least a decade. LA Raiders, San Antonio Raiders, San Jose Athletics, and Las Vegas Raiders are all floated….According to the some, the city is just heading away from the working class, blue collar mentality The Raiders symbolizes, as apparently the Uber techies are much more interested in video games than football. Every semester, there’s always at least one student who wants to make this issue the theme of their argumentative paper. I try to dissuade because the arguments are tired.

Sure, I’d be sad to see them go; they offer a shared language with others and are often good conversation starters. On the other hand, I see the point of those who fear their taxes would go up to keep them here, and that this could cut into city funding for basic social services that are already underfunded, and we could employ more people and create a better, more democratic and interactive sense of Oakland culture if we reopened the Kaiser auditorium to high-quality local talent rather than letting our money drain to the Corporate Clearchannel colonizers or the MLB and NFL.

Yet, the more I think about it, the more I feel the terms and the debate that is set on the news and sports stations and locker rooms of Oakland are not necessarily opposed to each other, that yes there are ways we can have more funding for social services, more homegrown local culture, and yet still keep both the Raiders and the As.

The ultimatum that the teams will leave town if the city does not help fund them assumes that a new half-billion dollar stadium is a necessity. There’s a conventional wisdom that the Oakland Coliseum (which is not yet called the Oracle Coliseum) is a laughing stock of the NFL and even MLB teams. Why? Because it’s old. Old means born in 1968. Generation X. Decrepit. Surely this structure was built to last at least as long as the average life expectancy of a human being…And, yes, people live in 600 year old buildings in Venice (which, by the way, is more of a tourist destination than Oakland). But this is America, land of conspicuous consumption and planned obsolescence. And more today (despite all the talk of “green sustainability”) than it was in 1968.

But the age of the building is not the only justification for the construction of a half-billion dollar new stadium or, more ambitiously, with an adjoining business-residential complex fit for the new silicon valley colonists. The necessity of a new stadium is justified on the grounds that the Raiders and the As are practically in the stone age----not because of Billy Beane’s mismanagement that fails to take team chemistry into account, but because the Raiders and the As share a stadium!

This of course used to be more the rule in cities that have both a MLB and NFL team (Mets & Jets & Beatles at Shea Stadium), but today it is the exception. The sad exception. The sore exception. It sticks out like a sore thumb! How embarrassing for the football teams to have to line up on the infield dirt! The kicker might slip, but so might the other team’s kicker. And, besides, it’s only for one or two games. More likely one, given the As likelihood to go deep in the playoffs in the Billy Beane regime.

But what if we take pride in the efficiency of a dual-use stadium, a defiant efficiency, thrifty (relatively speaking) jam econo working class Old (sic) multi-purpose stadium? Perhaps you have to be born rich, or have bought into the American dream of salvation through acquisitiveness (he who dies with the most toys wins) to understand why we “need” two separate stadiums for football and for baseball? Isn’t that an example of the same kind of American waste, decadence, that brought us blockbusters like shock and awe? Is it a developer’s scheme to seize more land at our expense and give us, what, some temporary construction jobs and then a distraction from being un(der)employed afterwards?

Is it not possible that the additional money wasted on two stadiums could house every homeless person in Oakland? And that that could be a great ballot initiaitive choice….

In the meantime, I believe that Raiders fans could tell the team owner’s---WE DON’T NEED A NEW STADIUM. WE LOVE THE OLD ONE! THE BLACK HOLE!  RAIDER NATION! COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE! JUST WIN BABY! WE’LL KEEP FILLING IT UP IF YOU PUT GREAT PRODUCT ON THE FIELD….a level playing field (and thank god for the NFL’s salary cap rule). The “ragged old” stadium has character, history, ghosts of all the hall-of-famers from the Madden era, etc. Of course, WE DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT HOW FANCY THE CUP IS IF THE DRINK QUENCHES OUR THIRST (you could lower the prices of your beer though)….we don’t mind if there’s a few cracks in the walls of the bathrooms…..besides, look at how bad the 49ers got the second they abandoned Candlestick for their shiny high-tech Levi’s stadium in Santa Clara (do you really think that’s an accident?)…

So, why not make a virtue of necessity? Is a new stadium really a necessity? You won’t hear that on the corporate stations (maybe say earlier…)

Now, I’m no student of economics so I’m not going to get into a whether paying a higher tax would in the long term actually help our economy more than not—though I’m skeptical…

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