Friday, December 23, 2016

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Al Davis for Moving the Los Angeles Raiders Back to Oakland

December 23, 1994: The Los Angeles Raiders play what turns out to be their last home game before moving back to Oakland. They lose 19-9 to the Kansas City Chiefs in front of 64,130 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

So why, after only 13 seasons in L.A., did they go back to Oakland?

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Al Davis for Moving the Los Angeles Raiders Back to Oakland

5. The Anaheim Rams. L.A.'s 1st major league sports team had already moved out of the Los Angeles Coliseum, down the freeway to Anaheim. And, at the same time, they wanted out of Southern California, too.
4. College Football. With USC  playing at the Coliseum, and UCLA playing at the Rose Bowl, L.A. already had 2 high-profile football teams. The Raiders were never more popular than either one.

3. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The reasons that the Rams left were still there when the Raiders moved into the Coliseum after 1 NFL-less season: The NFL team didn't own the stadium (the City did), USC always got first dibs (and still do), the location puts it on the edge of the South Central ghetto, transportation links weren't very good (they have since improved), and it's hard for even a great team to sell 93,000 seats.

Then there was the Northridge Earthquake of January 17, 1994. It damaged Anaheim Stadium, but it really caused problems for the Coliseum.
January 18, 1994

Al Davis knew he couldn't stay there, due to the stadium's age, condition, location, and lack of skyboxes. But he also knew that the only viable alternatives were Anaheim, which was a lousy stadium for football even with the additional seats; and the Rose Bowl, which is even older than the Coliseum (by 7 months) and didn't have luxury boxes, either. So he made his deal with Oakland.

2. They Never Fit In. True, the Raiders embraced their ghetto image (the Raider gear worn in umpteen rap videos of the 1980s and early 1990s is a big reason why they'll have more black fans in L.A. at least until the Rams put together their next serious Super Bowl run), but they never really fit the L.A. image.

Despite having Jim Plunkett, who's 3/4 Mexican-American, they never really caught on with Southern California's Hispanics. (Although they reached out to the Latino community when they went back to the Bay Area, and now their biggest fan base is Hispanic.) And white fans, scared off by the gangsta image, never really took to them.

In 1984, the season after winning Super Bowl XVIII -- still the only NFL Championship won by a Los Angeles team except for the 1951 Rams -- the Raiders averaged 64,065 fans per home game. Only once in 8 games did they come within 10,000 seats of a sellout. And in 4 of the 8, half their games, they didn't even top 50,000. The time of the year was no excuse: Only 1 of those games was in September, when the Dodgers and Angels were still playing. (The Dodgers were at home, not headed for the Playoffs, and they didn't quite get 25,000 fans, either. The Angels were in Chicago.)

Face it: Howie Long may have been tough, but he was a cultured white New Englander. Marcus Allen played in the Coliseum for USC, but he was from San Diego, and was more USC than South Central. Hollywood? Beverly Hills? Venice Beach? These were not Raider places, and weren't going to be. And despite the heavy metal aspect to their video answer to the Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle," it wasn't until after the classic lineup of Guns N' Roses broke up, by which point the Raiders were trying to get back to Oakland, that Axl Rose began wearing Raider jerseys onstage.
Did you think I was kidding?

1. Their Ancestral Home. The Raiders belonged in Oakland, the way they never did in L.A.
VERDICT: Not Guilty. Al never should've taken them out of Oakland. He never would've had to move them back in.

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