I read the sports section of the Chronicle and occasionally watch a professional sports game on TV, but basically I hate professional sports and root against the home team – Oakland, in my case. Here’s why:
Exhibit #1: The Oakland Raiders.
I’ve lived in Oakland’s “Funktown” for nearly 50 years now. I was here since before the Raiders moved to Los Angeles (1982) and when they came back (1994). I didn’t notice not one iota of change in my neighborhood when they left town nor when they returned. So I don’t care if they leave.
Now, they’re moving to Las Vegas. The move is a matter of principle for the NFL. The principle is that for any city to have the privilege of hosting a pro football team, that city must pony up millions of dollars. In the case of Las Vegas, taxpayers will be paying $750 million. Oakland taxpayers are still saddled with an estimated $83 million debt from when we paid for the Oakland arena remodel in 1983.
Meanwhile, nobody knows how many thousands of homeless people we have here in our city.
Exhibit #2: Golden State Warriors
Yeah, I know, they’re not an Oakland team anymore. They headed for greener (as in the color of money) pastures across the bay. That’s because the real estate market there is really booming, even more than in Oakland. The most prominent co-owner of the Warriors is Joe Lacob, a “billionaire venture capitalist” according to the Washington Post. A Warriors spokesperson explained the move: “We’re transforming from being a basketball team that rents its building to a sports and entertainment organization that’s responsible for every aspect of its business…. At Chase Center, we will own and operate this building”… and profit enormously.
Okay, business is business and what can you expect but for them to try to make a profit. But here’s the truly slimy part: According to the deal the Warriors had with the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda, if the Warriors “terminated” their contract in Oakland, they are still responsible for the costs of a previous renovation. The Warriors are claiming they didn’t “terminate” the contract; they just let it expire. So they’re trying to stick the tax payers of Oakland and Alameda County with the unpaid $40 million balance. This scandal is never mentioned by any of the sports writers.
And I wonder how many thousands of dollars the Warriors are charging for seats in their new arena. (One thing I always used to notice whenever I watched a Warriors game in Oakland: Despite the fact that basketball is the most popular inner-city game, you hardly ever saw any black fans sitting in the stands in Oakland. Could that be because of the cost of tickets even then?)
Nor will I ever forget the victory parades around Lake Merritt whenever the Warriors won a championship: The city used to kick out the homeless encampments for the parade. Wouldn’t want to remind people of that crisis!
Exhibit #3: Oakland A’s
The principle owner of the A’s is the real estate swindler John Fisher. Fresh from helping gentrify San Francisco, now he’s busy working on the same project in Oakland. Fisher is right up there with Trump’s education secretary Betsy DeVos in terms of pushing school privatization.
A few years ago, Fisher & Co. decided to profit from the Oakland real estate market. San Francisco was already claimed by the SF Giants. So they looked around and decided that the best place to profit from Oakland real estate was near Oakland’s beautiful Lake Merritt. They teamed up with the Peralta Community College District’s then-chancellor Jowel Laguerre to lease the land right across the street from Laney Community College for a new stadium. (Laguerre was since forced out due to financial improprieties.)
A pro sports stadium right across the street would have ruined Laney, what with the noise and traffic – not just from the games but also for concerts and other events. And that would have put real estate speculator Fisher in a perfect spot. After all, Laney stands between the then-proposed new stadium and Lake Merritt – a perfect location for building housing, hotels and other real estate ventures. Long opposed to public education, that would have been two birds with one stone for Fisher.
After near-unanimous opposition from both the students and the faculty at Laney, the Peralta Board was forced to nix that plan. (For the details of that story, see this article.)So now, the A’s scored some land at the Port of Oakland. This will make a major hit for what should be the real business of any port – shipping, and all the well-paid union blue-collar jobs that go along with it. But who cares? As a spokesperson for the A’s said at one hearing, this deal will make Oakland a tourist destination. (It follows the partial destruction of Oakland’s beautiful Knowland Park – swallowed up by the corporate-controlled Oakland Zoo. At that time, a spokesperson for the zoo commented that their expansion project would “change the face of Oakland”. Guess whose face they wanted to change.)
How can Oakland become a tourist destination? One way: legalize gambling with a bunch of floating casino’s on the Oakland estuary! Why not? Cities back east have done it.
So, that’s why I don’t root for the home team. Sure, I know that probably every single other pro-sports team engages in the same practices. But my local Oakland pride makes me feel especially bitter to those teams that are sticking it to my home city.