A fundamental premise in sports journalism is that “Winning cures everything”. A fractious locker room can become a circular tape of Kumbaya when the team is winning; a sullen fanbase – like the folks in Philly who threw snowballs at Santa Claus – will cheer the local heroes if they win. Winning is a panacea. If things go as they look to go this Fall, we may have an interesting test of that premise.
The Oakland Raiders will be the test subjects. The team has one foot out the door in Oakland and ownership went so far as to hold the Raiders’ draft party this year to introduce the new crop of players to the public in Las Vegas. The team plays in a horrible venue – perhaps the worst in the NFL – and the folks who operate that venue have made it clear that they would be perfectly happy to see the Raiders pick up and go elsewhere instead of playing out their lease on the stadium. In 2016, the Raiders had the lowest average home attendance in the NFL; on average, the Cleveland Browns with their 1-15 record outdrew the Raiders by almost 10,000 fans per home game.
The Raiders made the playoffs with a 12-4 record last year despite losing their starting QB late in the season; their tenure in the playoffs as a wild-card team with a fill-in QB was brief. However, they made positive moves in the off-season and in the draft and Derek Carr’s leg should be completely healed by the time training camp begins. The Raiders will be the pick in a lot of places to win the AFC West and will likely be in contention to get a bye-week in the playoffs.
So, it will be interesting to see the degree to which “Winning cures everything” in Oakland this season.
- Raiders’ home attendance has room to grow by about 9,000 fans per game based on last season. Will fans show up to see a winning team that all but has the moving vans packed?
- The Raiders had traditionally been in the Top 5 in the NFL with regard to sales of “team gear” such as jerseys, hats, mugs and the like. Sales last year dropped a bit with all the uncertainty about the future of the team. Will sales return to normal levels in 2017 if the team wins as much as most folks think it will?
Raiders’ fans and supporters have shown interest in the upcoming season at the betting windows in Nevada as reported in this piece in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Does this support indicate a strong belief in the Raiders as a serious Super Bowl contender in 2017 or is this a “local phenomenon” because the team is about to become part of Nevada? The NFL season is interesting by itself; this year, there will be off-the-field stuff that will be interesting to watch.
If fans in Oakland harbor ill-will toward the Raiders, it is understandable; most divorces involve a healthy helping of ill-will. However, there is ill-will in Cincy toward the Bengals now stemming from the team drafting RB, Joe Mixon – he with the baggage of assaulting a woman. The local ABC affiliate in Cincy wants fans to boycott the Bengals’ home games in 2017. The Bengals’ home attendance average in 2016 was 29th in the NFL; it would not take a huge boycott to put them at the bottom of the league in 2017 even if the Raiders do not get a bump in their attendance because of their “Winning cures everything” aura.
Here is a link to the report of this suggested boycott – and a suggestion that the fans take the money they would have spent on Bengals’ tix and donate those funds to a charity that protects women from violence. Interestingly, in that report, you will find the fallback position that winning will cure everything for the Bengals and team ownership.
As Arte Johnson would intone on the old Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In:
“Verrry interesting …”
While I am in the mode of discussing NFL issues that are not directly related to on-field happenings, let me address another one. About a month ago, a couple dozen NFL players took part in an arm-wrestling competition that was held in a casino in Las Vegas. Evidently, this was a “made-for-TV event”; no, I have no idea when it will be on the air. The NFL is going to fine those players for violating its policy regarding “making promotional appearances at gambling-related establishments”. You may recall a couple of years ago that the NFL put the kibosh on Tony Romo participating in a fantasy football convocation/event because it was also in a Las Vegas casino.
I am certain that somewhere in the CBA there is some sort of language that justifies this priggish and Puritanical position. I am equally certain that the celebrity arm-wrestling event poses exactly no threat to the integrity of the NFL games or to the NFL brand. This position by the league goes beyond nonsense and leaves bunk, balderdash and baloney in the dust; this is pure poppycock. Please consider:
- The NFL is about to put a team in Las Vegas meaning an awful lot of players will be housed there and will be required to visit there. In case the NFL has not figured this out, the casinos in Las Vegas are not going to close down once the NFL arrives.
- With regard to “protecting the brand”, the NFL has been the employer of folks who have committed murders, who have abused women, who have abused drugs and distributed drugs, who have driven while impaired and who have violated various firearms laws. That list omits the myriad bar fights and the like that seem to find NFL players with regularity. Each and every one of those sorts of situations threatens “the brand” a whole lot more than a celebrity arm-wrestling event in a casino. This is as “self-evident” in 2017 as were the truths that Thomas Jefferson labeled as “self-evident” in 1776.
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times that seems to fit today’s rant perfectly:
“A Nevada brothel owner says he plans to open a Raiders-themed bordello in 2020.
“And for an extra $50, they’ll even throw a penalty flag for excessive celebration.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………