By Spencer Bowen
I’m ecstatic that East Bay native and former Cal Bear Marshawn Lynch pulled a Brett Favre and unretired to join his hometown Raiders. Community-wise, it’s great. Marshawn really, really loves his “town bidness” and constantly invests time and money and turkeys into Oakland.
Football-wise, it’s great. Marshawn fills a power back hole and will theoretically stay fresh because he won’t be asked to play three downs.
AFC-wise, it’s also great. Adding Lynch to a talented offensive team puts the rest of the conference on notice and sets up a potentially delicious AFC Championship between the Raiders and the Patriots.
Awkwardness-wise? The Marshawn signing is not great. The Raiders have pulled the football equivalent of breaking up with their significant other but continuing to live together because the lease isn’t up and their new, WAY shinier digs aren’t built yet. The vigor of the Raiders’ celebration of signing a local folk hero is matched only by their owner’s burning passion to abandon that same locale.
A more cynical sports blogger might suggest that the Raiders signed Lynch to distract from their impending flight to Sin City. We will likely never know the organization’s true motivations.
Rather than any nefarious plot for hearts and minds, the delightful Lynch signing more accurately highlights the blinding hubris of Raiders owner Mark Davis. Davis can make his own team’s celebration of adding a true Oakland original and his unabashed desire to leave Oakland coexist comfortably inside his very, very wealthy head. Maybe it’s because no outside thoughts can penetrate his hairdo. More likely it’s because Davis, like his father before him, swaggers with an assumed confidence that the Raiders brand is unimpeachable. Hey Oakland, he says, before our team abandons its hometown for the second time, I’ll throw you not just a legendary tailback but an Oakland institution. Enjoy him for a bit. Also, I’m confident that a fanbase so genuinely and justifiably fired up about the addition of a hometown legend will proceed to follow us when we move to a municipality we are fleecing for upwards of $750 million.
Oakland? Los Angeles? Las Vegas? Doesn’t matter! The Greatness of the Raiders transcends hometowns and traditional NFL territory.
Except it doesn’t. Oakland and the Raiders share a unique and passionate bond. And some very obvious evidence just signed on to wear no. 24. The Raiders could have picked up a younger, cheaper, not retired player that would have ably filled the same gap that Lynch will. Instead, they went with the local icon tied into the very fabric of Oakland. Have you seen the video of Marshawn in the Raiders’ facility for the first time? He looks like he received a complimentary plate of Skittles as dessert at Sizzler.
The Las Vegas Raiders will never sign a Marshawn-esque player. There is no Vegas football legacy, no rich local history. The closest thing to a hometown hero is Bryce Harper, and I think the baseball thing is going pretty well for him. The Raiders have no actual connection to Las Vegas and likely won’t stay around long enough to establish one.
Don’t insult us and say Marshawn’s signing was solely a football decision. It was not. And the absurdity of Lynch’s addition on the eve of an abrupt and unceremonious move to a city that couldn’t produce a local character like Marshawn if it tried will permeate the entire 2017 season.