From the moment Mark Davis secured the money to build his Xanadu in the desert, there have been two Raiders -- the Oakland ones, and the Circling Las Vegas ones.
It is why the things the Raiders have done under the aegis of Jon Gruden have made more sense the further away from Oakland you get. When other teams gut themselves to chase a better future, it is logical; when it’s your team, it’s treachery.
This duality brings us to Monday night, and the last game the Raiders will ever play in Oakland -- unless it isn’t. And why this season will end without a resolution to the most pressing issue the Oakland Raiders have.
Whether they’re still going to be Oakland after next Sunday.
It’s why whoever goes to the Coliseum Monday will largely be the equivalent of driving by an accident to see what there is to see.
And historically, that wouldn’t figure to be much.
Last games are typically morose affairs that only the most loyal choose to attend. The Raiders’ last game in Los Angeles drew almost 30,000 empty seats, for example, and the last Rams’ games almost 40,000 below capacity.
More recently, the San Diego Chargers had about 14,000 less than full, and the most spectacular of all, the 1996 Houston Oilers ended their time in Texas with a loss before 15,000. The point is, the stages of fan grief reach abandonment before the team actually leaves.
And maybe Monday’s game will hasten the process even more, even if the Raiders and the city come to some desperate accommodation out of mutual pragmatism.
More to the point, the game is likely to further undermine the stereotype that the Coliseum is a dangerous place to go. That hasn’t been true by the normal fan behavior standards in years; Raider games are well within tolerable limits for safety.
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It seems unlikely that Monday’s game will be than just a gray-tinged optic of sadness for what might be on the horizon, and maybe for what very definitely is beyond it. The costume-ology of Raider games don’t seem to fit quite so much this weekend, either, because, well, dress-up is for happier times.
The Black Hole was once the place that best defined the franchise’s connection to the city; now, it might be Marshawn Lynch going to the Oakland City Council the other night to advocate for the A’s planned new ballpark at Howard Terminal.
The Raiders -- one word -- will go on, and maybe this teardown will result in something good in Southern Nevada in a few years. But the Oakland Raiders -- two words -- have either ended their time on this mortal coil or beginning the real end, having promised so much to the town it leaves again and having delivered relatively little.
Either way, one shouldn’t expect grand agonizing shows of rage or sadness. With or without the Raiders, Oakland is a tough, resilient, bullheaded town with a hundred other quirks that define it better than the Raiders did.
Oakland is more than just its pro sports franchises and will show that Monday night. Not because Oakland is happy about the Raiders leaving, whenever that is, but because it deals with what it must.