The time has come now, I think, for the city of Sacramento, and perhaps its highest-profile developer, to quit following Al Davis around the pasture like some bawling calf chasing the wrong mother.
And yes, Al Davis is a wrong mother.
This is not to say that he doesn't have a working teat. Al Davis has a great, full teat with a rich and storied history, but it isn't the only teat in this pasture, and the spectacle of an entire city hanging breathless each time the Davis tail slaps a fly off its behind, of analyzing each twitch, each roll of those slow brown eyes as to how it affects the city's chances of latching onto that teat, is at this point a humiliation that is hard to watch.
Gregg Lukenbill, the developer who heads the group that wants to bring the Raiders to Sacramento, says that bringing a football team to Sacramento is important. And there is some truth in that. It's fun to have an NFL franchise, and fun is at least as important to a city as, say, a transportation system that works, because if it weren't, nobody would live in New York.
Beyond fun, however, there is no promised land.
Lukenbill's vision of Sacramento coming to greatness--I was going to mention "world class" again, but I'm too tired of hearing that to make fun of it anymore--through its sports franchises is simply a reflection of Lukenbill. It all sounds good and is empty of meaning.
What was it Davis called him--the kid off the turnip wagon?
Anyway, there's no need to spend a lot of time here recounting the changes this vision of greatness-through-sports has gone through in Sacramento in the last half a year. The economic promise that helped push Sacramento into a $50-million bond sale was simply wrong, and the idea that a major league franchise would in some way validate this place or elevate it to a new status is also wrong.
What getting the Raiders would do, simply, is give us a professional football team. And as much as I'd like to see that, it's time to ask how far we're willing to go to get it.
At least to get this professional team.
It was Lukenbill, as I remember, who came out publicly before the bond sale, saying it had to be done in a hurry because Davis needed to see that the city was sincere.
Or words to that effect.
And it was Lukenbill who said it had to be done in a hurry so that he and his partners could see that the city was in earnest. "Performance is an issue. Can the public sector perform?" was the way he put it.
So the city issued the bonds, and presumably showed it was sincere and earnest and could perform.
And Davis' entire reaction to this show of sincerity and earnestness was rolling his slow brown eyes back over the pasture again, just as he'd been rolling his eyes over the pasture ever since he put the old milk bag up for sale.
And as the estimates of when such a deal might actually materialize came and went--the last one from Davis' office was "sometime in the next several weeks"--an old, familiar feeling began to permeate the deal, that feeling you might have gotten the first time a girlfriend told you she loved you to death but didn't want to tie herself to one relationship.
Or maybe the second time, when you knew what that meant.
At any rate, first Davis was going to decide in weeks, then in months, then after the regular season, now after the Super Bowl. And all the time, he keeps taking offers. The last one Sacramento made was $50 million for the bus ride up, a $120-million stadium and more than $100 million in ticket guarantees.
Wednesday, Los Angeles offered him $76 million--most of it tax-free--to stay where he is. They also offered to tear down the Coliseum, which is as close to historic as anything you're going to find in L.A., and build a new $140-million stadium, probably with gold bidets in the super boxes.
And Davis rolled his brown eyes and looked back over the pasture to see what Oakland and Sacramento would do.
Looking at Los Angeles' new offer, it occurs to me that now would be a good time for the city of Sacramento to take a new tack. To negotiate back. To say to Al Davis, "You've got a week, and Sacramento withdraws its offer."
The advantage to this is that this city is no longer following Davis all over the pasture, bawling.
Davis knows he's got something we want, everybody knows that.
It's time now to find out if we've got something he wants, too.
Not just because Davis is better at negotiating than we are--and he is better--but because it's the only way we get to come out on the other end of this thing with our dignity.
And without that, football isn't any fun anyway.