Changed times, but Davis is out to prove you can go home again

June 24, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

When Al Davis became the first NFL owner in over two decades to move his team in 1982, it started a trend of owners holding their cities hostage in search of the best deal.

Three other teams have moved since then and several others got sweeter deals in their own cities by threatening to move.

Davis, meanwhile, went against the trend he started when he agreed yesterday to move the Raiders back to Oakland.

Davis didn't go back to Oakland for the money or the deal. He went back to try to win a fourth Super Bowl.

The Raiders owner left a deal for a new football-only stadium in Hollywood Park on the table when he departed for a renovated stadium he'll have to share with a baseball team.

A team in a new stadium in Los Angeles is probably worth more than one in a renovated stadium in the smaller Oakland market that will share the Bay Area with the popular San Francisco 49ers. Davis also didn't get any guarantees or public subsidies to return to Oakland.

But the Hollywood Park stadium wouldn't be built for two or three years and Davis turns 66 on July 4. He wants to win now. He thinks he has a better chance of doing that in front of passionate sellout crowds in Oakland than in the half-empty Los Angeles Coliseum.

"That was a better financial deal for the Raiders [in Hollywood Park], but he wants to come back to Oakland. He wants to come back to a city where he can win," said Oakland Coliseum board member Ed DeSilva.

Gene Upshaw, the former Raiders guard who now heads the Players Association, said, "Anyone who played in both cities knows the difference. There was a passion to the Oakland fans. Every game was life and death. They talked about us in the bars. In Los Angeles, we were just another bit of passing entertainment."

Said former Raiders linebacker Matt Millen: "Los Angeles is where the score is tied in the third quarter, you're driving for the go-ahead touchdown and someone yells, 'Surf's up!' and everybody heads to the beach."

The Raiders did win their third Super Bowl in their second season in Los Angeles in 1983. They haven't been back to the Super Bowl since and have won just two playoff games.

This is intolerable for Davis, who coined the slogan, "Just win, baby" and likes to point out his is the only team to play in the Super Bowls in the '60s, '70s and '80s.

But there's no guarantee things will be the same in Oakland. Football has changed a lot in the 13 years the Raiders have been gone. The players are paid a lot more and aren't likely to hang out in the Oakland nightspots the way they did in the past. Some argue the current Raiders aren't as good as the old Raiders and won't have the same mystique.

Another potential problem is that the Oakland blue-collar fan base might not be able to afford the personal seat licenses and the higher ticket prices.

Davis, though, is gambling he can go back to the future and recreate the old days.

As team official Jim Otto, a one-time Hall of Fame center for the Raiders, said, "This is where the Raiders belong. We're the Oakland Raiders."

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