Hello. Sebastian Blax here. As many of you may have noticed, I’ve been away from the NFL HOT TAEKS game for a couple months now. So, first off, large ups to LCSS for holding down Quotables for the regular season finale and through the postseason.
[Hold for applause; close eyes and imagine they’re clapping for me.]
Me? I’ve been dealing with depression, apparently. It’s a first for me so, in retrospect, I guess I’m glad I didn’t go and rip on everyone in the comments on OSZ’s little diddy ’bout it. I know, I know — I’m sure all you folks carrying clinical/psychotic are just rolling your eyes at me. So anyways, as part of my self-medicating (wait — has anyone seen blax and Hippo together at the same time?), I’ve been trying to keep the rage down. Considering the Cardinals definitely fielded a team worthy of going 0-16 last year (blessed by catching SF right after Garoppolo got hurt and before that civilian who caught fire and definitely could have shredded the piss-poor Steve Wilks defense had time to learn the sport), that meant not prioritizing the NFL.
But then, as many of you likely heard, slow-news-week news broke that first Tucson, AZ — and now a Tucson-Birmingham joint venture — have proposed sharing host duties for the Location-Off Raiders (working title) for 2019. For those of you who don’t keep up, CASINODOME (working title) is set to open in 2020 and, with the Raiders skipping town, the City of Oakland has filed suit against the franchise (and the NFL) for cutting and running with debts remaining on the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. The result? Both sides have walked away from talks to have the Raiders play in Oakland in ’19 and most obvious choices — including San Francisco flexing their geography sausage — do not appear to be nearing any agreements.
There are no details on the proposed Alazona deal other than that the two cities would split the Raiders seven non-London home games in 2019 between the University of Arizona’s Arizona Stadium (Home of the Wildcats) and Birmingham’s Legion Field (Home of UAB and the AAFL’s Birmigham Iron). It’s being promoted on the Tucson side by some area lawyer and, on the Birmingham side, some Birmingham city councilman.
Little else is known about the proposal but I am strongly channeling my inner Norm on the end result.
I spent many years in Tucson and, if one thing is going to give me the energy to be out of bed for more than eleven hours a day right now, it’s the opportunity to rip on that shithole town. In fact, I need to go take a breather and collect my thoughts so this doesn’t turn into some off-topic manifesto unrelated to this detail-free proposal that has everyone I know in the Old Pueblo sending me links to the exact same modified Raiders logo.
Seriously, Tucson is the worst fucking city. Now, people will say to me, “Wow, you hate Tucson.” Not necessarily and, if you’d understand my point about what a terrible place it is, you’d realize that the only reason to even bother discussing its flaws would be as a matter of academic discussion (as we are enjoying today). Tucson is objectively so far outside of consideration as a good place that having any actual emotional dislike is pretty much impossible. It’s a place that, if you had an appropriate feeling, it would be pity — but you don’t because it’s not like they couldn’t do better (though, practically speaking, that ship has probably sailed) so screw that Jacob Wohl of a town.
For comparison, this dude seems to straight up hate that place.
Okay — but this time strictly speaking in terms of the proposal to host the Raiders for 2019. Tucson makes just no sense as an option. Here is a generic make-it-happen letter to the editor that pretty well sums up the argument for hosting the Raiders for one season — it’d be good for the economy, Tucson wouldn’t have to really spend much money (that the city doesn’t have because it’s poor and bad with money just like its citizenry), and it would promote Tucson — a community that basically exists on building missiles and having nice winter weather.
What’s missing from this proposal? Well, I’m not going to comment on the Birmingham part because I don’t know anything about Alabama…
That’s right — what’s missing is, what is in it for the Raiders? It’s close to Las Vegas is the only not-completely donkey-brained argument I’ve heard and it’s as full of holes as Gabby Giffords’ head (she represented Tucson while opposing gun control bills while in Congress, you see). San Diego, for example, is a similar distance AND has a strong Raiders contingent AND has an NFL (arguably) stadium AND isn’t 120 degrees on the playing surface in early October.
What does Tucson offer in terms of facilities? Well, according to a 2015 Athalon Sports poll (the most recent year polling is available, apparently), Arizona Stadium is the 9th best PAC-12 football stadium. So I guess you can count out seeing the Pullman/Corvalis/Palo Alto Raiders next season.
How about a fanbase? Well, the main argument is that Raider Nation travels. As my yet-to-be-penned Cleveland at Oakland BOTG number will highlight, I can attest that there were a surprisingly large number of Raider fans flying out of OAK just hours after the game ended. But why does Tucson suck on this front then? Well, first, because 25% of their residents are considered impoverished it’s a strong need for the Raiders to fly in fans every week because that city likely cannot commit the necessary bodies to pay the $110 average NFL ticket price for a bleacher seat to watch what is sure to be some very very very bad 2019 Raiders football. Second, however, is the fact that the Tucson International Airport (TUS) is an underwhelming 20 gate non-hub that simply is not built to — nor has the airline traffic to support — an influx of fans traveling into town for a 24 or 48 hour visit.
Granted, many southern California fans may opt to drive, not fly, but the concept remains the same: Tucson has never hosted such a popular single-day event that the city would be able to handle the influx of travelers visiting the city. This is something Las Vegas is the tits at managing. Tucson simply is not built for this. It’s largest events are the weeks-long Gem and Mineral Show and week-long La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Rodeo — both of which include substantial vehicle (versus air) traffic and are spread out all across town. To give an idea of what the typical college football game day logistical operation encounters, the Wildcats had a 2018 average home attendance of 45,356 (stadium capacity is 55,675) while the 2018 Arizona Bowl hosted 32,368 non card carrying members of Raider Nation.
But now I feel like I’m getting into the weeds a bit — and that’s even before mentioning that all the logistics surrounding games at Arizona Stadium would need to work in conjunction with the fact that the stadium is on-campus (right next to the library) during the fall school semester. Oh, speaking of logistics, the University of Arizona is just finishing up construction on the only practice bubble (right next to the stadium, actually) and sharing that with the college team would be the only practice option if the Raiders were going to actually stay in Tucson rather than just fly in for games.
So the Raiders would then practice in Oakland, put the team on the three-hour flight to Tucson (and enjoy a mid-season time zone shift) while a field-prep team would outfit the stadium from navy and red to silver and black, stay in a hotel, play in an unfamiliar stadium with unfamiliar weather conditions, then fly back to Oakland. Say what you will about their on-field performance but this is the Raiders, not fucking Lilith Fair. They’ve written off the 2019 season, you actually think they even care enough to ‘make Tucson work’? Tucson can either pay them a king’s ransom in appearance fees to play some games at Arizona Stadium, or Mark Davis will just play that games at the Raiders practice facility in Oakland. He doesn’t care. The NFL doesn’t care. 2019 is nothing more than a countdown season until the Vegas move in 2020.
And consider the NFL’s rigid scheduling structure! The Raiders aren’t going to be on Sunday Night Football so they’re going to be playing on the conventional late-game slot. That’s a day game on FieldTurf. It’s 120 degrees on the playing surface and the north-south running stadium provides very little in terms of shade protection during day games. I mean, shit, it’s the conditions the hapless Cardinals suffered under until Bidwills conned the public into building them a $500 million stadium. And look at all the success they’ve had securing the number one pick with those upgrades!
Point is, it just does not make sense for the Raiders or the NFL to even entertain this proposal. They aren’t getting anything out of it. And while Mark Davis surely wants to Fuck You Oakland, I doubt the cartel that is the NFL ownership group wouldn’t put the Raiders in Levi’s before ever letting Davis consider a proposal like the Alazona one.
Okay good, so that’s just the facts without all the commentary on Tucson’s roads, leadership, property crime, traffic, and history of mismanagement. Maybe I can get a weekly off-season feature to dig at that place more? Whatever. Point is, Tucson is an absolutely horrible choice for the Raiders in 2019.