So the seats are red. And the logos have gold. And the address is 4949 Marie P. DeBartolo Way. And the fixtures are adorned with “SF” symbols. And the side attractions include a 49ers museum, a 49ers team store, a 49ers fanwalk and a Red Zone rally pavilion.
So what, Mark Davis?
And the facility is clean. And relatively new. And served by well-kept trains and depots. And not surrounded by industrial clutter and waste. And not requiring a spectator to wear a Hazmat suit and take three showers upon returning home.
So what, Raiderbagger?
It no longer should matter that Levi’s Stadium in the Silicon Valley is the complete, tragicomical antithesis of the Oakland Raiders in the Valley of Hell. If Davis wants to remain in the Bay Area beyond 2016, he’ll have to see red and bite hard. Because other than Santa Clara, it’s obvious he has no viable local option as the clock ticks toward some hard, long-overdue decisions about the future home of his orphaned football franchise.
His expected agreement Thursday on a one-year lease at the grimy, grotesque O.co Coliseum is merely a pregnant pause that gives him a few months of time … time to see if the Chargers somehow cut a new stadium deal in San Diego … time to see if he then might partner up with the Rams in Inglewood … time to see if a hypocritical NFL flip-flops on its anti-gambling stance and approves a move to Las Vegas … time to see if Sacramento or San Antonio or Toronto or London or the Galapagos Islands offer him a sweetheart deal.
All while, in yet another maddening season ahead, he takes the paying customers for granted and expects them to pay the same ticket prices in the same dump while wearing those same Hazmat suits — only four weeks after trying and failing to move the Raiders to Los Angeles. If Davis wants, he has the option of staying in the same dump two additional seasons.
Just when this limbo can’t become more miserable, it does.
“My heart is here in Oakland,” said Davis, “and if we can get something done, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
His heart is not in Oakland. Rather, his ego is in tatters, as observed during an afternoon news conference in which he maniacally challenged the A’s — yes, the A’s — to decide whether they’re committed to the Coliseum site for a two-stadium plan or will seek another site in Oakland. Two stadiums, one site? The city can’t even afford one stadium, and if politics are leaning toward a team staying in Oakland, it would be the A’s based on two simple truths: (1) They have 81 home dates a year to the Raiders’ eight, or seven after transferring their Nov. 21 game to Mexico City; and (2) The A’s never have left Oakland for another city, which the Raiders can’t say.
Still locked into the crude, rude, Darth Raider tailgate tradition that he describes as “probably the largest nondenominational gathering on a Sunday morning that you’ll ever find,” Davis is prioritizing the pregame parking-lot party over all other elements. Is this not a man who has lost his mind, unequipped to be one of 32 stewards in the world’s most powerful sports league? It only prompts cringing among owners who already think of him as a rube, the outcast they don’t want anywhere near L.A. even if the Chargers stay in San Diego. They don’t like the Raider brand — the thumping music, the John Facenda soundtrack, the slogans, the gang element in their L.A. days, a culture that is old and worn and doesn’t appeal to 21st-century corporate sponsors in a $14-billion-a-year league. What they want him to do is sell, but like his late father, Davis is continuing to fight and trying to portray the A’s as villains — not realizing that those who aren’t entirely sick of the story no longer have a dog in the race.
“We like the game-day experience of tailgating in that parking lot,” said Davis, glorifying what’s really just a rowdy county fair. “Right now, on the entire Coliseum site, there’s 120 acres. I don’t mind if we build two stadiums on that site. The A’s stadium would take about 12 acres, the Raiders’ stadium would take about 15 to 17 acres. That’s fine with me, but I do not want to give up the parking. If, in fact, the A’s do want to stay in the Coliseum site, they need to commit ASAP so that we can go ahead and design and take down the Coliseum, provide the infrastructure that’s necessary to build two brand new stadiums in Oakland, and two teams will then come back and play in two brand new stadiums.”
And if you believe any of this, I’ve got a fine cornerback in D.J. Hayden to peddle your way.
“What I don’t want to do,” he continued, sounding threatening like his old man, “is build a football stadium in the corner of the parking lot when the Oakland Coliseum is still standing, and then, once we have a brand new stadium, we build a new baseball stadium and then tear down the Oakland Coliseum, disrupting the ingress, egress, parking and tailgating experience for the Raider fans on game day.”
Ingress, egress, parking?
He should be emphasizing Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack — and getting his franchise to a place where football can be showcased for fans who can enjoy a rising team and not be bogged down by nonstop stadium politics. How long have we been hearing his refrain, anyway? Nothing will get done now in the East Bay when nothing has gotten done in years. To keep waiting on a miracle — a well-heeled savior to help build him a stadium, when Oakland rightfully refuses to help with public money — is a consumer travesty. If he still wants to stay in the Bay, he’d be a fool not to consider Levi’s, which was funded in part by $200 million from a league that did so with the expressed hope that two teams play there if necessary.
Niners boss Jed York reiterated recently that he’s fine sharing with the Raiders, not that he has any choice based on his deal with the NFL. The league would like both teams to play in Levi’s, knowing it was built to accommodate two teams with two major locker rooms and a stadium LED system that could flip to silver and black in a nanosecond. Davis may not even have to deal with red seats; the lease has language to that effect.
Why doesn’t he consider Santa Clara, then? You’ll never guess what he told USA Today during Super Bowl week.
Ingress, egress, parking.
“I just don’t think it fits the Raiders,” Davis said. “This is one thing I will say and I’ll say it again for the 50th time. There’s three words that mean something to me in a stadium, in a location. That’s ingress, egress and parking. The Raiders on game day … if you see our parking lot before the game, the tailgating, and I’m not going to give that up.”
Please. Last I looked, Levi’s has almost as much tailgating room as the Coliseum.
As Son of Al, he simply can’t swallow the thought of playing second fiddle in a 49ers-motif facility. Too bad. If he doesn’t have the money to build his own place or the clout to get it done with other people’s money, and if either the Chargers or the league block his rent-paying dream in Inglewood, he might as well break bread with York. It’s not ideal, but it sure beats limbo. Levi’s isn’t 534 miles away like Vegas, or 351 miles away like Inglewood, or 3,295 miles like the Galapagos Islands.
It’s 32 miles, an hour’s drive tops, leaving just enough time for the rowdies to defile and vandalize all things 49ers.
Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at the San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his website at jaymariotti.com.