The NFL doesn't need any help digging into people's pockets. Italso does notdeserve suggestions that bail itout of the messes itcreates for itself.
So consider this a gift.
If the league has to weasel out of its two-year minimum stay in Oakland before the Extortion Palace of Las Vegas opens, it might as well take the lame-duck Raiders completely away from their lame-duck fans and weasel them all the way south, over the border … and into Mexico City.
The preceding series of animal metaphors were brought to you by the most savage, uncivilized sports league in American history, the unholy spawn of King Kong and Godzilla. It now adds Oakland to St. Louis and San Diego as cities the beast has squashed.
Yet, in wreaking havoc in its home country, the NFL either inadvertently or intentionally has opened a door to testing the waters for a full-time team playing a full season as an international franchise. The league keeps dipping deeper into London — next season, after three straight seasons of three games a year, London will host four — and strengthening the ties between one of its teams, the Jaguars, and that city.
The Raiders are starting to be that team for Mexico City, now that anotherhome game is scheduled there in 2017. This time they'll "host"the Super Bowl champion Patriots; last season, they hosted the Texans, whose fans also traveled well and were a natural draw for a game there.
The Raiders, to their credit, fully embraced last year’s game; having Olympic hero Tommie Smith return to the city where he won his gold medal (and raised his fist on the victory stand) to light the pre-game torch was an inspired touch.
Moments like that are the kinds that are remembered fondly when the taste of the team’s latest abandonment of Oakland gets too sour. So is the entire Raiders season last year, their return to contention after a drought that severely tested the Oakland faithful — and, of course, was rewarded with the Las Vegas defection.
So instead of yanking Oakland’s fans around for two years, and taking their money one last time for nothing in return, the NFL and the Raiders can make something … positive? Less negative? Moderately digestible? … out of the two-year window.
Franchise free agency, blackmailing cities and lusting for relocation fees have always been the NFL’s currency, but the last 14 months have taken it to new depths. With Las Vegas now out of the picture as stadium leverage, the way Los Angeles is, the NFL needs fresh markets with new elected officials to exploit and fans to fleece.
The U.S. is tapped out; Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis likely won’t be interested in a while in bending over backwards to lure a team away with a taxpayer-funded facility.
It will have to be either overseas or over the border. Logistically, Mexico City makes the most sense for now. If the logistics of having a team on the other side of an ocean were simpler, there might be a team somewhere in Europe (or Asia) already.
Yes, the current White House occupants are badly straining relations with Mexico. No, don’t expect the NFL to see that as an obstacle, if they really want to set up shop there … for a few games, a few transition seasons, for good.
For now, it solves an immediate problem.
Oakland fans won’t enjoy seeing their team in yet another townand should notbe expected to like it. But the Mexico City-For-Now Raiders would do fine with silver-and-black fans from everywhere else.
And it’s infinitely better than making Oakland host the party, make it fun andclean up afterward, then telling it,"We’re outta here, turn out the lights and lock up for us."