Las Vegas Is Where Billionaires Go To Feud
2:12 PM EDT on April 23, 2023
There is finally a good reason for the Oakland Athletics to leave the Bay Area and move to Las Vegas, and it is this: To renew a wonderful old enmity between two underclubbed but overly petty guys that with any luck can only become pettier and more acrimonious.
Yes, the A's and Raiders, and John Fisher and Mark Davis, co-tenants in a hell both wanted enough to fight over until neither wanted it any more, and now in the process of becoming partners along The Strip, the place where dreams get too drunk and high and end up ODing in a cab queue. They have fought for leverage and power in a town that has not had enough to give either, come up empty, separated, and now seemed destined to rejoin hatreds that have only been off the stove for a few years.
Now who doesn't want that? I mean, Vegas may not want baseball and is only lukewarm about the NFL team they have (their fan base is everyone else's, and their interest fades the further they get from the sports books), but they're up for rich folks in a scrap any old time. Just ask Bugsy Siegel ... if you could, which you can't.
The rivalry between the A's and R's actually began in 1968 when the A's left Kansas City for Oakland, where the Raiders were already safely ensconced, owning the town and being the only game in the brand new Oakland Coliseum. It got worse when the Raiders, who left for Los Angeles 14 years later, returned in 1995 and fought over the shell of the Coliseum and the lease that held them both. Mark Davis wasn't even the owner of the team then, but he apparently holds grudges like his old man did and dragged them out for the Las Vegas Review Journal's man about town, tables, buffets and dancers poles, John Katsilometes.
And given that he speaks in public only slightly more often than A's owner John Fisher, his welcoming speech was a beauty. It lacked only the salutation, I want him to die broken, naked and alone in the desert, and that's only after he has been diagnosed with incurable skin-eating viruses.
“I won’t forget what they did to us in Oakland," Davis told Katsilometes the day after the A's announced they had begun the process of getting land upon which to put a stadium. "They squatted on a lease for 10 years and made it impossible for us to build on that stadium. They were looking for a stadium. We were looking for a stadium. They didn’t want to build a stadium, and then went ahead and signed a 10-year lease with the city of Oakland and said, ‘We’re the base team.’”
Good start here. A territorial fight in which the football team claimed right of first proposal because it was the first team ever to inhabit Oakland, only to become the first team to abandon it and then the first team to return to it. The baseball team, on the other hand, claims the right of dominion because 81 home dates per year is more than seven, or eight, and won the lease that allowed them control of the Coliseum, the stadium they now claim they have hated for decades. In real estate terms, this is the "Sure, it's a shithole, but I'd rather it was our shithole than yours" clause, and its main goal is to make sure that each tenant hates not only the shithole but the other tenant ensconced therein.
But then Davis got personal, or at least as personal as one can with a pair of robots like Fisher and his soul-deficient parrot, Dave Kaval.
“They marketed the team as ‘Rooted in Oakland,’ that’s been their mantra through the whole thing,” Davis said. “The slogans they’ve been using have been a slap to the face of the Raiders, and they were trying to win over that type of mentality in the Bay Area. Well all they did was fuck the Bay Area.” [Author's note: we are assuming the blanks in Katsilometes's quotes hide profanities that we have interpreted on our own for extra piquancy].
“Rooted in Oakland” was a slogan developed by Kaval in his role as an insincere huickster as the team pursued its now-stalled Howard Terminal project in the East Bay. It was bullshit on Day One, and deteriorated from there. Not that Davis has any place to stand here. True, he was at least less disingenuous as it concerns Oakland, but only less.
“For them to leave Oakland without anything is pretty fucked up,” Davis said, "because that site that the stadium was on was a good site.” Not good enough for the Raiders to do anything with because Davis is among the least cash-infused owners in the NFL and probably will own this team only for years rather than decades more because of it. Among other things, he has no nepo-babies upon which to bestow it when he starts circling the life-cycle airport. And even at that, his laments for Oakland do not obscure the fact that he was the first to leave, followed by the Warriors. But in fairness to yappy dog/owner Joe Lacob, the Warriors never made any secret of wanting their own building on the west side of San Francisco Bay from the day he and his partners liberated the team from the cloth-eared dullard Chris Cohan.
But Davis's foot had not yet achieved satisfaction upon Fisher's sternum.
“We ended up in Las Vegas, which is absolutely fantastic and couldn’t be better,” Davis said. “But the A’s never gave us a real good chance to stay up in Oakland.
“I have nothing against the players. I was an A’s fan, way back in the day, Reggie Jackson and all those guys. Reggie’s a good friend. But not this management group, no.”
Under normal circumstances, this could mean that Davis might muster a fight to keep the A's out of Vegas just out of spite, but the people who helped him relocate to Las Vegas are no longer there to protect his flanks, let alone his wounded feelings. His political allies are gone, and the new governor, Joe Lombardo, wants a team of his own to foist upon the citizens the way former governor Steve Sisolak carried Davis's water. In other words, he can't stop this from happening, and can only hope that Fisher's essential incompetence, fecklessness, and grifter's instincts will undo the project on its own.
In short, nothing is sealed, but the short money is on Las Vegas getting the baseball team it never wanted and in doing so winning an ongoing spitfest with the football team it thought it would never get, while the hockey team everyone agrees is a credit to the town awaits the worrisome specter of the NBA expansion team that might steal its own thunder. Las Vegas could become the home of four billionaires who would rather kill each other than live happy and cooperative lives themselves, and let's be honest, we envy Las Vegas today for this very reason. Not even hitting a 10-team $1,000 parlay while beating Mattress Mack out of an eight-digit payday provides as much satisfaction as billionaires attacking each other with hotel fountains filled with battery acid, and no city has ever been rich enough and small enough to make it all happen.
And it all began because for some reason Mark Davis holds his father's grudges as tightly as his father did. He may have the haircut of a Renaissance angel cursed by a vengeful barber, but he just revealed himself as a bit of shrapnel off the old landmine.