Sacramento better off without Al Davis' Raiders

September 29, 1992|By R.E. Graswich | R.E. Graswich,McClatchy News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It must be clean living. How else do you explain Sacramento's luck with the Raiders?

Talk about close calls. I still get chills when I recall how the city almost handed Al Davis $50 million a couple of years ago. The cash wasn't an equity share in a proud old franchise. It was a finder's fee, a bribe to Dirty Al for gracing our community with his warmth, wit and playoff potential.

Just think. Had Davis accepted the dough and moved the Raiders to Sacramento, we would be duty-bound to shell out $38 for tickets to see Todd Marinovich throw interceptions. We would watch visiting linebackers convulse in laughter over the Raiders' running game. We would endure the spectacle of seeing our heroes lose on a weekly basis. Where are Snake Stabler and Kenny King when we need them?

On the bright side, the Raiders would have given the Sacramento Kings company in the cellar. They would have made Sacramento famous for two bad teams, put ting our town right up there with Indianapolis and San Diego.

Which isn't to say life around here would be grim with the Raiders. Any team -- even a bad one -- is better than no team.

But given the sorry state of the Raiders, it would seem reasonable to charge Davis $50 million for letting him move to Sacramento. Far more reasonable than the other way around.

The Raiders and their downfall illustrate the perils faced by cities when they chase pro franchises.

Pity the citizens of Denver and Miami, who in six months may find their inaugural baseball seasons shut down by a lockout. And pity the taxpayers of St. Pete and San Francisco, who have yet to discover the true costs of luring and saving a mediocre baseball team.

There are people in Sacramento who believe our town's finest

hour was when friend and enemy came

together and offered Davis $50 million for moving his football team to Arco Park.

No doubt, the sense of purpose was impressive when Sacramento's business and political communities united to pursue the Raiders. When Dirty Al said no, it was a lesson in municipal shakedowns.

Davis ultimately tried to extort more goodies from Oakland and Los Angeles, cities keen to catch Al's eye while ignoring far more important necessities in their back yards.

Los Angeles won Dirty Al's heart. But the courtship brought empty promises. An insurrection on the Raiders' porch ruined Dirty Al's scheme to have L.A. build him a bunch of luxury sky boxes at the Memorial Coliseum. So much for those leather couches and marble wet bars, Al.

Davis won't admit he blew it by not taking Sacramento's offer, which seems positively golden today. Dirty Al insists he still loves L.A., regardless of the city's troubles. Right. Just like he still loves Oakland.

Watching the Raiders play the Kansas City Chiefs last night, the collapse of a once-proud franchise was complete. Desperate for victory after three consecutive losses, the Raiders tried gimmicks.

They made Marinovich go long, exposing the inadequacies of his left arm. They put eight men on the defensive front, exposing their advanced age. The Chiefs toyed with the Raiders and won 27-7. Key play: On third-and-43 in the third quarter, Marinovich handed off to Marcus Allen, who gained 4.

No simple explanation justifies the Raiders' demise. My favorite indicts Davis for his insistence on coaching from the owner's box. Davis was a football coach about 35 years ago. Time has clouded his judgment, leaving him in a fog.

There was a time when Davis was unique among owners, the last of the old-school bosses who could draw plays and cook the books. But the game changed. Davis and the Raiders haven't been the same since they moved to Los Angeles.

Dirty Al gave the Raiders a consistent look for three decades. Now the team doesn't know which way to turn. The season is lost. It's time to plan for next year, starting with a retirement party for Al Davis.

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