Amid all the hyperbolic talk of the Oakland Raiders being led to the edge of irrelevancy like lemmings by owner Al Davis is an obvious fact hiding in plain sight: The Raiders are very profitable.
Among all the NFL franchises, very few have the worldwide exposure of the Raiders. It is safe to say that there are more Raider fans in England than there are Houston Texan fans in the United States.
Davis is unlike any owner in all of professional sports. His football roots give him a perspective no other millionaire turned sports fanatic can match. Jerry Jones was never the commissioner of a major sports league. Mark Cuban has never coached a professional team that achieved the highest goal possible.
However, it is not his success alone that makes Mr. Davis and his beloved team such a sports landmark; it is his failures as well.
Since the Cleveland Browns have returned to the NFL, they’ve been an unholy mess not even the Pope himself would fix his eyes on. However, it is the fall of the Raiders that is discussed on a daily basis.
When the Kansas City Chiefs made the biggest reach of the 2009 draft by selecting LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson third overall, not one person batted an eye. As soon as Roger Goodell announced Darrius Heyward-Bey as the seventh pick in the draft, the sports world was turned on its head as every media outlet in the country was given a topic to plaster across its headlines and discuss ad nauseam for weeks to follow.
Mr. Davis has never been one to listen to the consensus; he does things his own way. His maverick practices are the reason the world still keeps a keen eye on all things Raider related.
JaMarcus Russell updates are daily fodder for the blogosphere. When J-Russ floats an errant pass in May, it is instant inspiration for writers, reporters and fans alike to get emotional about. Nobody cares about Matthew Stafford’s physique, but Russell’s is the talk of the sports nation.
The Oakland Raiders are not the franchise they once were. There has not been a Lombardi added to the trophy case since the team returned to Oakland. Mediocre coach after mediocre coach has been hired and then dismissed by Mr. Davis. Six years of sorrow have left Raider fans wondering if there will ever be a time when losing is not the norm.
For the NFL, the success and failure of the Raiders is inconsequential. Either way, the league profits whenever Al Davis makes moves.
Disney can’t get enough of the Raiders. They use every chance they get to lampoon them. The irony is that a lot of that Disney money that went into the NFL’s pocket for broadcasting rights has also found its way into the pockets of Al Davis.
Professional sports are a bottom line business. No matter what you hear debated, at the end of the day, the business must be profitable. If you know your history, then you must also know that the gambles of Al Davis have helped make professional football a billion dollar industry in North America alone. Imagine if the game was played globally.
Most will just chalk his rolls of the dice up to his age and diminished stature. Others will claim that his ego is leading the charge. There is some truth to be found in these statements, but the fact is that the Oakland Raiders are still a ratings bonanza for the NFL and all the members of the media.
The Buffalo Bills sold their souls to the devil to gain a little attention. It is only a matter of time until Terrell Owens departs Orchard Park taking his TV cameras with him. Mr. Davis has created a similar stir with a receiver who has yet to play a single NFL game. All eyes are on Heyward-Bey.
Perhaps you will consider this Raider Rhetoric, simply passing my writings off as myopic propaganda. That’s fine by me, I don’t need the validation, but Roger Goodell does. Why else would he have requested that the two biggest train wrecks in the NFL meet on Thanksgiving Day in 2009? Perhaps Goodell is as big a fool as Al Davis. The ratings are sure to tell something much different when millions worldwide tune in to watch the Cowboys and Raiders lock horns as an entire nation pauses from its turkey chewing to see the drama unfold.
Raider fans can still watch their favorite team playing in primetime despite a hideous half decade while fans in Cleveland salivate over one Monday Night appearance in the same amount of time. Imagine what a successful Raider team would do to the NFL’s primetime schedule.
Call the Raiders a circus all you want, just know that the circus isn’t free. You have to pay in order to get a good view of the three rings in Oakland. If not at the gate, then you’ll feel that tug on your wallet when you purchase the Sunday Ticket or when it’s time to reup with Sports Illustrated. Mr. Davis thanks you for your donation.