To give you an idea of how stable NFL football has been over the past two decades, prior to the 2016 season, the last time an NFL team changed cities was when the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee in 1997. That feels like a LONG time ago, right? Hell, some of you reading this probably weren't even alive when the moving vans pulled up!
What had been relative calm for nearly 20 years, though, essentially became prologue to the next great wave of franchise movement in the National Football League, as the Rams (who, ironically, triggered the seismic shifts of the mid-'90s that saw them, the Raiders, the Browns and the Oilers all move) retreated back to Los Angeles prior to the 2016 season, and now this offseason has seen the Chargers and the Raiders both change cities.
The Chargers move was approved earlier this year, and on Monday, by a resounding vote of 31-1 (the Dolphins were the only dissenting vote; more on that in a moment), the Raiders were allowed by league owners to pick up stakes and move from Oakland to a brand-new domed stadium in Las Vegas. Indeed, Sin City has a professional football team!
Three teams in less than a year shifting locales and jilting fan bases is not a great look for the "customer service" aspect of the NFL. However, Roger Goodell is measured by his bosses (the owners) on revenue growth. In that area, the last year has been a home run. The ground will probably stop shifting for a while now, as the well of public money (Vegas is ponying up $750 million in tax money to help build the stadium) is probably dry. The next team to move could head to London, but that's a long way off.
For now, let's dig briefly into this Raiders move and identify some winners and losers...
There SHOULD be a legit concern by the Raiders that they now have dozens of highly paid employees with tons of disposable income in a state where gambling, debauchery, booze and prostitutes are rampant (and LEGAL, although prostitution is legal only in Nevada's rural areas). Now, not only do all of these things exist, but at least one prominent sexually oriented business leader wants to market directly to the Raiders:
According to Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Sun, Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof announced plans to open a Raiders-themed establishment called “Pirate’s Booty.”
“I’ve had a license for a seventh brothel near Las Vegas for some time now, but I was waiting for the right time to launch another house of debauchery,” Hof said. “The Raiders coming to Vegas will mean big business for me, so my next sex den will honor the ‘Men in Black’ and their ‘Raider Nation.’”
The house of ill repute will be 90 miles outside of Las Vegas in Crystal. Hof said Raiders players and staff will get 50 percent off at his establishments, and there will be a VIP section at staffed with “over 20 cheerleader-garbed working girls.”
Commitment to excellence!
3. Bowl haircuts
It's hard to say in an era when Donald Trump is the leader of the free world that anyone has outperformed his haircut more than the Donald, but Mark Davis is certainly in the team picture (and what a hilarious team picture that would be!). The man in this video just closed a multibillion-dollar deal to move an NFL franchise:
We need Davis wigs at the Raiders concession stand and sold on NFLShop.com
2. Sports media (in 2022, likely)
At the top of the category of "things that non-media people could give less than a rat's ass about" is the excitement level that we in the media feel about Super Bowl venues. This will become abundantly clear when content-consuming public gets sick of all our whining next January over the subzero temperatures in Minneapolis. Similarly, my guess is none of you care how giddy we all will be in 2022 when, presumably, the city of Las Vegas hosts the Super Bowl, and, in turn, hosts thousands of fat scribes and talkers. Oh well, deal with it! VEGAS, BABY!
1. Derek Carr
Each offseason, it becomes a quarterback's turn to become the highest-paid player in football. Last offseason it was Andrew Luck's turn, and it would appear that this offseason, the time has come for Derek Carr to get paid. Since he was a second-round pick in 2014, the Raiders do not have a fifth-year option on Carr, so he is slated to become a free agent after the 2017 season. The franchise tag is there for them to keep him, but my guess is they want to lock him up now. Could we argue that Carr now has even more leverage on how much he gets paid given that a) he is the face of a franchise moving to a new city, and b) it's a city that doesn't totally jibe with Carr's Christian views? (I'm being tongue in cheek on the second one, but how great would it be if Carr charged the Raiders a "sin tax" of an extra million per year for having to exist in close proximity to strippers, sex workers and table games?)
4. Agents of young players with money
Remember the scene in Jerry Maguire where Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) is walking into a police station with one of his clients doing the handcuffed perp walk, and he is screaming at the media about what a great football player the guy is, in the face of obviously being in some degree of trouble? Well, agents better keep those phones nearby in the middle of the night when their guys are running around Vegas. Also...
3. Kansas City Chiefs team security
...think about this — the Chiefs's three road trips in the division each season are to Denver (legal weed), Los Angeles (bright lights, big city) and Las Vegas (GULP!). Yikes.
2. Opposition to sports gambling legalization
For decades, the NFL has treated sports betting like it's a virus that could wipe out all mankind. Even in the last decade or so, the league has refused to soften its stance on sports betting even though a) the NBA and MLB have both embraced it as part of the fabric of sports moving forward and b) it's the main reason half the fan base watches the game on television (gambling or fantasy football). Now, one of the NFL's owners stands to make billions moving to Vegas, and the stance on sports gambling is "It's still not something we approve of, but...umm...yeah...is the draft here yet?" The NFL may have galvanized the movement toward making sports betting legal with the approval of the Raiders to Vegas.
1. Stephen Ross
The one dissenting vote, so by definition, Ross is a loser. The only loser:
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“My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted," Ross' statement said. "I want to wish Mark Davis and the Raiders organization the best in Las Vegas.”
He may be a loser, but I admire his stance. That said...VIVA LAS VEGAS!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.