Raiders Won't Be Sold
There are so many things wrong with this story itís hard to know where to start, but the lack of credibility for the writer, Michael Silver, is a logical beginning.
I know Silver well. I first met him nearly 20 years ago when he was sports editor of the Daily Cal and we were both on a trip with the Cal football team to Japan, where the Bears played Washington State in the Coca-Cola Bowl. We have often talked about Cal football, a mutual passion, and Mike was even a neighbor in Oakland before he moved to Santa Rosa.
Iím telling you this so you know thereís no personal animosity, just a professional evaluation when I say that Silver is much too close to the DeBartolos to be credible. When Eddie was trying to retain control of the 49ers despite the gambling scandal that hung over his head, Silver was on KNBR telling listeners that Eddie would win that fight. Today, he was on KNBR again, telling listeners that his story in SI is true. He was wrong the first time, and heís wrong again.
The fact is, DeBartolo is not getting back into the NFL. League executives and owners donít want any connection with gambling, the reason Las Vegas has never been considered as a possible site. Eddieís connection with the Louisiana gambling scandal was what got him out originally, and itís what will keep him out.
Itís a moot point, too, because Al Davis wonít sell the Raiders.
For some time, thereís been speculation about Davisís health. He has obvious problems with his legs, having gone to a walker last year. That has kept him from making some trips, such as one to the combine in Indianapolis this year, but he still travels with the team. Iím sure thatís because they take charters, where he can get aboard without being witnessed by the general public; he doesnít want to be seen struggling to get on a commercial flight. But, if necessary, he can do that. He went to Dallas for the meeting when owners and the Players Association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and apparently played a key role. Davis is also scheduled to present John Madden for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in July.
There is no evidence that his health is otherwise deteriorating, and he recently has gone back to working out in the weight room, after most Raider employes have gone home.
The question about the future of the clubís ownership has been decided by recent events. Davis purchased the shares of the Ed McGah family in settling the suit the family had brought, which puts his share of the club somewhere in the 70 per cent range. Meanwhile, his son, Mark, who was nowhere to be seen for many years, is now at the facility regularly. Mark also was the presenter for Ted Hendricks at the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame last month. Clearly, Davis expects his son to be his successor.
POLICY WAS on KGO this morning denying this story, and it makes little sense for him, either.
Carmen has been establishing a vineyard in the Napa Valley, two miles east of The French Laundry, which we both use as a landmark. The first harvest is scheduled for this fall, and the house heís having built on the property is scheduled to be finished in December.
That doesnít mean that he doesnít want to get back in the NFL; once youíre in that private club, it always tempts you. Though he hasnít told me this directly, I think the only team he would want to run (again) would be the 49ers, because he loves the Bay Area. If he were back with the 49ers, he could still keep tabs on his winery and continue to patronize the many fine restaurants he loves. He could put together a group to buy the club (without DeBartolo) in a New York minute.
But, John York doesnít want to sell. End of story.
There is no question the NFL wants to get back into Los Angeles. Itís embarrassing for the No. 1 professional sports league to be out of the second-biggest market in the country Ė and the entertainment capitol of the world.
The plans for getting back in, though, are far from settled. The most consistent rumor for the last two years has been the relocation of the New Orleans Saints. Even before Katrina, the Saints were playing in an outmoded stadium and in a small city with a relatively high percentage of residents who canít afford the high ticket prices. Like the 49ers, the Saints are saddled with an inept owner, Tom Benson, who wanted to move the team to San Antonio, the kind of small city the NFL is trying to avoid. It would be a public relations disaster to move the Saints at this point, though, and the NFL does know public relations.
Itís also uncertain where the Saints would play. There has been talk of remodeling the Los Angeles Coliseum, which was built in 1923 (not for the 1932 Olympics, a common misconception), but that strikes me as akin to putting a fancy dress on a pig. There has also been talk of a new stadium at another location.
There has also been talk of an expansion team, but that makes no sense. The L.A. market is probably the most fickle audience in the country; an expansion team would play to a near-empty stadium. Adding one expansion team would also unbalance the league and create scheduling difficulties. I just canít see that happening.
OH, YES, thereís another difficulty with the Silver story: The Raiders have a lease in Oakland which runs through 2010. Though Davis has twice moved his team, he hasnít broken a lease either time. So, any move to L.A. would be at least five years away.
None of these obvious problems with the story prevented SI from running it, further proof of the decline of the magazine. Now, SI is on a level with the most unreliable bloggers. Sad to see.
CORRECTION: I confused Barry Bondsí wives in yesterdayís column. His first wife was white, his current one is black.
LETTERS: I updated this section yesterday.
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