Where Will Raiders Roam if Coliseum Is No Longer Home?

Unraveling life's mysteries, as they pertain to your children of crisis, the Los Angeles Raiders, we reach the conclusion today you can blow them a farewell kiss.

They aren't anxious to be blown a farewell kiss, because for all the treasure beckoning elsewhere in the way of franchise fees, moving is still an admission of defeat.

Enduring eight years of agony in federal court to gain the right to live and prosper in Los Angeles, the Raiders expected, least of all, to be licked by Los Angeles.

But the venture has been a bust, as evidenced, for instance, by the crowd of 38,747 appearing at the Coliseum on Sunday to watch the Raiders deal with New England.

Many places, more than that number will turn out to see a fire.

If the stadium is lightly inhabited, it also is dated. Its management is mostly hostile, and hope is thin that a deal could be arranged for a new facility and a more compatible relationship.

A stadium management group billed as Spectacor insists it can yet pull off a Raider deal in Los Angeles. It promises that if the Coliseum Commission makes the land available for private leasing, it will construct a spit-and-polish stadium seating 65,000. For special occasions, it could be broadened to 80,000.

It would include luxury suites and club boxes, without which promoters today find life hollow, and Spectacor confides that such an edifice would bring back UCLA, which joined the multitudes fleeing the Coliseum Commission.

Thus, among the Raiders, USC and UCLA, Spectacor paints a stadium rich in occupants and a city rhapsodic.

It's a romantic idea, except that Spectacor doesn't operate as a public philanthropy and its role in the melon-cutting isn't yet fully researched.

Nor do the Raiders trust the responses of the Coliseum Commission. It is their suspicion that Commissioner Pete Schabarum, working in concert with commission lawyer Marshall Grossman, wants the Raiders (a) embarrassed into accepting nickels and dimes, or (b) out.

The Raiders see them favoring an expansion team whose owner would be more submissive than Al Davis, who isn't submissive at all.

As a Raider enemy, Schabarum is no freshman. He has fought ownership since the day it sought to enter the holy gates on Figueroa, casting the only negative vote against its contract.

It is a fear, too, of the Raider curator, Davis, that even if he made a deal with the Coliseum, forces would rise and block it.

Irwindale was a nice, clean deal. Things didn't go wrong until after the handshake. New people, with new attitudes, moved into power. And, despite a $10-million deposit, Irwindale is adios.

Attitudes also changed at the Coliseum when the individuals who made the deal with the Raiders were replaced.

But Los Angeles needn't feel offended. Davis is suspicious of Oakland and Sacramento, too. Negotiating with cities, he has come to find that deals get most dangerous after the signatures are on paper.

Still, there is every reason to believe his decision will be to depart the Coliseum for Oakland or Sacramento.

He knows right now where he is going, but no one else knows, not even Bo, who knows everything else.

But if Oakland doesn't waver, meaning it comes up dutifully with the cash and the stadium improvements it has promised, the guess here is that celestial paradise is his choice.

Have conditions created by the earthquake put people in Oakland out of the mood for financing the Raiders? Those negotiating for football insist, amazingly, the earthquake has helped. Anxious to show the world that Oakland is still in business, the town wants the Raiders more than ever, if you want to believe the football advocates.

Up until now, no one ever reckoned with the civic benefactions of an earthquake.

It seems, offhand, that the package proffered by Sacramento is most stable of all. But, of course, the question has been posed, "Does Davis picture anything he owns called the Sacramento Raiders?"

"Why not?" Al once snapped. "Until the Raiders got there, Oakland was nothing in sports, either."

When would the team be compelled to make an announcement?

A time frame indeed exists, especially for Sacramento, which would require about two years to build a stadium.

To renovate a structure now standing, Oakland would require less time, but sufficient notice would have to be served the baseball A's, who would have to make arrangements to live with problems caused by construction.

The A's today command a lot of respect in their pueblo. They are flying the flag of a world champion.

An announcement to move on the part of the Raiders could be contingent upon how the team performs the next couple of weeks. If it rolls into contention for a wild-card spot, it wouldn't be anxious to chill its followers by announcing its exit.

This wouldn't figure, either, to help ticket sales, already catastrophic.

But, falling out of the running, the Raiders, with little to lose, could declare themselves history in these precincts just about any time.

Then, by the contract they hold with the Coliseum, they would have two years to die here as a lame duck.

Could they buy out of their lease? Only if the Coliseum Commission were to bag, miraculously, that expansion team in the sky.

It isn't recommended, though, you hang from the goal post, awaiting such a capture.

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