The NFL regular season is here, and that should be cause for hope and optimism if not unbridled joy.
Not this one, though. This one feels more like a wake than a celebration.
In a few short years, the Raiders will head to Las Vegas and neither they nor the Bay Area will ever be the same.
For better or for worse, like them or loathe them, the Raiders are Oakland’s team. Always have been, whether it was at Kezar Stadium or Frank Youell Field or Los Angeles of all bizarre places. Always will be.
So long, Pinky, Darth Raider, Pride and Poise and Black Hole.
See ya, Snake, Blinky, Tooz, Assassin, Hammer, Molester, Dr. Death, Mad Bomber and Mad Stork.
So long, Yoda, Chucky, Highway 63 and Loose Gannon.
Farewell, Bill King and Old Man Willie.
Buh-bye, Holler Roller and Ghost to the Post.
Oh, and good riddance, Immaculate Reception and Tuck Rule.
Sure was a hoot to know ya.
REST OF THE STORY: The inner Bay Area has been home to a pro football team for the last 72 years, an era that dates back to the 49ers in the old All-American Football Conference. That streak will end soon as well.
So how long will it take the NFL to realize that it’s bad for business to not have a successful team in or around The City if it hasn’t already?
You know, a well-managed operation with savvy owners that plays in a cool stadium, not like those jabrones in that open barbecue pit to the southeast.
The Oakland-San Francisco-San Jose market is the sixth-largest in the country. That’s a bit deceptive, though, as The Town and The City comprise roughly 70 percent of its population. The longer that Santa Clara fields a Triple-A team, the more easily that it will forgotten here, the wider the disconnect.
When and where a suitable replacement could be in place is a debate for another day. But nobody smells money like the NFL smells money, and there’s a lot of untapped gold in these thar hills.
THE LIST I: Ten Ballsy predictions for the Raiders this season …
10. Marshawn Lynch will show up on time for most if not all the games and score double figures touchdowns.
9. Someone will light the Al Davis torch and set O.co Coliseum on fire. And the arsonist will look a lot like Athletics owner John Fisher.
8. In his third season, Amari Cooper will break out in a big way.
7. Khalil Mack will make a serious run at the all-time sack record (22.5) and capture Defensive Player of the Year honors …
6. But even with Mack in the mix, no part of the defense will be Super Bowl caliber. Not. A. One.
5. It won’t be long before general manager Reggie McKenzie tries to sweet-talk Charles Woodson out of retirement.
4. Derek Carr will be under enormous pressure to live up to his five-year, $125 million contract. Relax, there will be some bumps along the way, but he’ll do fine.
3. Last season, the Silver and Black eked out nine wins by eight points or less. Won’t happen again.
2. Once again, the Raiders will lose the tie-breaker to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. But this time, they’ll unleash hell as a wild card in the postseason.
1. Carr will beat a quarterback not named Brock Osweiler in the playoffs for the first time in his career. Tom Brady will not be one of them.
THE LIST II: And 10 Ballsy predictions for the Santa Clarabells …
10. Rookie Reuben Foster will make general manager John Lynch look pret-ty good as the 31st pick in the draft. But No. 3 pick Solomon Thomas, not so much.
9. At some point, the Faithless will wish that Clueless Trent Baalke and Lynch hadn’t passed up quarterbacks Dak Prescott, Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson in the last two drafts. You know, like after the first offensive possession of Week 1.
8. Brian Hoyer will lead the team in rushing in at least one game. He’s the quarterback.
7. Jaquiski Tartt will have a break-through season because, um, er, ah … Hey, Balls just likes to type the name Jaquiski Tartt, OK?
6. The front seven will outplay the secondary from here to Santa Cruz.
5. The over-under is 4.5 for Rashard Robinson pass interference penalties. For the season, not one game.
4. At some point, Carlos Hyde will be benched because of — pick one — too many dropped balls or too many missed assignments.
3. Eric Reid will take a knee during the national anthem more times than the Santa Clara quarterback takes one on the final play of the game. A lot more. Many, many times more …
2. But the team will improve on its two wins of a year ago …
1. Hey, look — none of those three will be against the Los Angeles Rams, either!
Bonus item: Under the threat of boycotts and litigation, at least one team will offer Colin Kaepernick a back-up job. Which the unemployed QB will turn down.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE … Jim Harbaugh?
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