Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Odd Couple, or Here We Go Again

It's more than two months old this time and it's getting stale. But in fact, it's just a reprise of the idea that first floated to the surface back in January: A marriage of convenience between Al Davis' Raiders and the York family's 49ers.

Now, the problem isn't the Raiders themselves, but the team's owner, Al Davis, who has been hauling multiple parties into court and suing them since before the Raiders split from Los Angeles. Millions of dollars in legal fees have been squandered by all sides - and that level of litigiousness certainly makes this Santa Claran wonder why the idea is even being proposed - again.

We thought this was properly dealt with back in January by Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask, who simply said in essence that the Raiders would be concentrating on the current season in a stadium they're simply thrilled with, and that they are not actively seeking out the 49ers as business partners.

But like a zombie, this 'joint stadium' idea has come to life once again, walking the streets by night and claiming more victims, many of them credulous 49er Faithful. This time, on May 29, a columnist from the Sacramento Bee blew some more zombie powder in the creature's face.

True 49ers-Raiders synergy? Not a chance - and to their credit, neither author above really attempts to make such a limp case. Rather, the 'sticker shock' of what will likely be a one-billion-dollar stadium proposed for our City of Santa Clara has some 49ers business-office people looking for more ways to make others feel their pain.

But what the article fails to underscore is that any such partnership of the Yorks and Al Davis makes Davis a partner of the City of Santa Clara as well. Santa Clarans should be looking at any such agreement with deep suspicion, based on Davis' past dealings with the County of Alameda. Such a cooperative venture involving Mr. Davis may turn out to be anything but "cooperative".

In fact, Al Davis' latest lawsuit against the NFL was finally thrown out by the California Supreme Court only on July 2. If all we have to look forward to in any future dealings with Mr. Davis is more frivolous litigation, this Santa Claran strongly suggests that our guest be handed his hat and escorted to the door.

Note also that the Raiders' lease at McAfee Coliseum is over in 2010; they'll have to do some real tap-dancing to keep themselves there year-to-year until 2012. But Alameda County and the City of Oakland are still on the hook for the $200M worth of debt they used to fix up the Coliseum in 1996 - and that debt, on which Oakland and the County pay roughly $11M per year, will not be retired until the year 2025.

The likelihood of the NFL allowing another franchise into McAfee, with two teams just down the road? Just about nil. If Lew Wolff does finally get the green light to move the A's to Fremont, only the Warriors will be left in the smaller Oracle Arena. We note a similar situation from the 1990s, when both the Rams and the Raiders left Los Angeles.

All of this makes one wonder how long the 49ers will commit to staying in Santa Clara. Now, that will be at least until Santa Clara pays off its obligations in the years 2033 or 2038, right? Hello?

You could also ask Oaklanders about their likely reaction to Al Davis and his Raiders skipping out on yet another dinner check in any move to Santa Clara - but you'll probably want your kids out of earshot first.

Now, there is an idea in the latest article that that should get honorable mention: Having Al Davis and the Raiders be full contributing partners in any stadium - as long as that lets the City of Santa Clara completely off the hook.

That's mere speculation on the part of one sportswriter right now. So kindly permit this reader to take his suggestion one step further: If the two teams prove they're serious about this - that they'll (1) finance the entire stadium cost privately, (2) assume total ownership of the stadium, (3) mitigate its use of all City services such as police overtime and (4) waive any and all tax abatements - this stadium opponent might get on board.

But if Al Davis, whose team is in financially worse shape than most of the other NFL franchises, jets down from Oakland demanding the currently-proposed level of corporate welfare from the City of Santa Clara, we residents should be up in arms: If the millionaire owners of the 49ers are not entitled to a public dole of over two hundred million dollars, the Raiders - after the litany of abuses by their owner in Oakland - certainly are not entitled to benefit from that giveaway either.

Al Davis could end up costing the City of Santa Clara a lot more than he's worth. Just ask the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

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