Raiders in Shade When It Comes to Legal Heat

It is a normal training camp for the Raiders, if you are willing to overlook that they aren't sure where they will be playing and, if it happens to be Los Angeles, how it will feel entertaining in a stadium devoid of viewers.

They also aren't sure who will be performing at quarterback, but in the context of other crises, this is a manageable problem.

It happened for eight years during training camp that the Raiders found themselves in litigation, engaged all at once in as many as five cases.

Down to one this year, the Raiders are breezing. They are being sued for $58 million by an old confederate, the Los Angeles Coliseum, claiming breach of contract.

Following blocks applied by the Raiders, the Coliseum raced to $29 million in loot, the cash lifted from the NFL in an antitrust action.

Up until then, the Coliseum was noted for its lack of funds, leading the Raiders today to look upon this body with the rawest contempt, suing the ally that made it fat.

Yet as training proceeds in this seaside village, the Yank at Oxnard, Al Davis, is engaged in contract conversations with the Coliseum, where his current lease expires at the end of next year.

He also is having discussions with Oakland and Sacramento, but not at this point with St. Louis, Baltimore, Jacksonville or Memphis. All are eager to offer refuge to Al, not to savor his courtly charm, but because he has a team and those cities don't.

In order to land the Raiders, a city must offer as a foremost qualification a class restaurant that serves dinner beyond 10 o'clock.

During his stay in Oakland, Davis, who dines late, dealt with two establishments that would keep the kitchen open until he arrived. It's great to be a winner.

But both have since changed hands, meaning in Oakland today Al would have his choice of palaces purveying pizza, or of installing a hot plate in his office.

Neither is satisfactory, jeopardizing negotiations with Oakland.

As it is, the Raiders remain the only team in the NFL residing in a hotel during training camp. While they are quartered amid everyday comforts at the Radisson here, others in the league are on safari, occupying dorms.

"A place that doesn't have room service will never get my team, or me," Davis once said. Which, of course, would affirm today that the Raiders might have lost money, but not their style.

Reviewing incredible events of the last decade, you find that the Raiders fought bitterly in court to trade Oakland for Los Angeles, a logical swap at the time.

Then, winning the right to move to Los Angeles, the Raiders would choose to move out, finding the venture in L.A. a colossal bust.

They claimed a double-cross on the part of their landlord, and the landlord charged over-negotiation on the part of the Raiders.

The old adversary, Oakland, suddenly reappears, agreeing to a $600-million package for the return of the team to the loving precincts of East Bay.

But poised to snatch this treasure, the Raiders are foiled dramatically by vigilantes unappreciative of their art.

You pictured a guy tunneling patiently for months under the gallery housing the Star of India. The plan is brilliant. At last, he bores through the floor and is reaching for the gem when a scampering cat breaks the beam and sets off the alarm.

The guy gets away, but without the Star.

Now it's back to new blueprints.

Critics don't seem to ruffle Davis, who takes the position that what the Raiders are attempting to do with their franchise is standard today in sports and other industry.

Al has a commodity he believes is worth something to the city obtaining it. No one is going to get that commodity for a smile and a fund of persuasive reasons why it ought to be his.

That commodity will go for what the market brings, and it becomes the judgment of bidders to establish its value.

If all cities decide it is worth nothing, it will go for that sum.

But sports today isn't a game of Eagle Scouts, as evidenced by what promoters have done to real estate and other booty from (a) new locations seeking their teams, or (b) old locations threatened by their departure.

What is happening now with the Raiders at least offers carbonation to a training camp otherwise occupied with such issues as injuries, unsigned players and assessment of rookies.

The club seems recovered from the devastating loss it suffered at Oakland, blowing the recent deal.

You have heard of the nickel defense? The Raiders ran up against a $600-million defense.

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