Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Oakland, CA: A Sports Ghost Town

            It's hard to imagine a city like Oakland having some championship pedigree in the NFL, NBA, and MLB, yet they're on the verge of losing all of their franchises in a span of a decade. The Oakland Athletics and Raiders play in a broken-down swamp known as Oakland Coliseum and the Golden State Warriors are jumping across the bay to the more hip city in San Francisco in 2019. The Raiders are headed to Sin City in 2020, accompanied by a $750 million stadium funded in part by the taxpayers. The A's are scrambling to find a new stadium to get them out of their native dump, but are also facing relocation rumors (the most prominent being San Jose and Sacramento). With all this reshuffling of Oakland's teams, it seems like San Francisco's bay brethren will become a sports "ghost town" in the near future.
            It wasn't always like this. From the 1972-75 Oakland A's to the modern budding dynasty in the Golden State Warriors, Oakland has quietly been a sports bastion and home to some of the greatest teams in sports history. The 2002 Oakland A's won 20 straight games and were the revolutionary sons of "Moneyball", a concept and brainchild of Billy Beane that was centered around sabremetrics. The Warriors are introducing the concept of efficient three-ball shooting and "small ball" teamwork where the players move better up and down the floor. The Raiders are on the comeback, invoking memories of the 1980's Raiders and making the playoffs for the first time since the early 2000's. They're armed with some dangerous offensive weapons in Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. Raider fans are still filling the "Black Hole" to this day in spite of a shoddy owner relocating the team in the future.
            Unfortunately for Oakland fans, two of their better teams are leaving for greener pastures. The city itself has been bogged down by crack/cocaine problems dating all the way back to the 1980's and violent crime. The crack/cocaine epidemic has evolved into one of economic woes. Filled with a large number of African Americans, Oakland has had its share of trauma that it's had to deal with, but sports has given the city hope. Unfortunately, in an age where taxpayer-funded stadiums are the norm, cities like Oakland can't afford to keep up with such trends, especially at the expense of their citizens. Granted, this is a good thing for a rebounding city like Oakland. But who will the people have to fall back on in the face of various epidemics like the crack/cocaine epidemic?
            This was a city that had lost franchises in the past: They lost the California Golden Seals in 1976 as they moved to Cleveland and eventually folded (they played in the Oracle Arena like the Warriors, which was known as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena back in the 70's). They also lost the Raiders before the Las Vegas move. Al Davis moved the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles before moving them back to Oakland in 1994. Franchises moving out seems like a part of being a fan of Oakland sports, especially when the teams are moving to cities that have more sex appeal and leaving a city with a beautiful sight like Lake Merritt.
            The days of Jim Plunkett, Rickey Henderson, the Bash Brothers, and Tim Brown are behind Oakland sports fans. What's more, sports have been the one thing that has kept Oakland residents happy for as long as they remember. With the uprising of the Warriors and the Raiders, this only makes it worse for Oakland. The city will be reduced to just a sports "ghost town".

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