Friends, we have a crisis blooming in the NFL. No, I’m not talking about the threat of concussions on the game’s future, or the shaky ratings for the Super Bowl, or the blind eyes that teams turn toward domestic violence when playoff berths are at stake. I want to discuss something much more serious.
I’m talking about the tragedy of billionaire owners unable to find a place for their teams to play.
I know, I know. I’m as shocked as you are. This is America! We’re supposed to take care of our billionaires! And yet, at this very moment, almost 10 percent of all NFL owners — a full two — are in danger of not having a place for their teams to play football. Can you imagine? These men simply want to deliver quality entertainment to the public in return for checks with an armful of zeroes, and they’re on the verge of not being able to do so. It’s a cold world we now live in, folks.
First, we have the Raiders, who have spent the last few weeks wandering like a sad puppy in a thunderstorm, looking for any safe haven. San Francisco cruelly turned its back on the Raiders, and Vegas is pulling the old “you can’t check in yet, your stadium’s not ready” routine. And they’re not even letting the Raiders store their bags and wander the Strip for a few months. Customer service is dead.
All is not yet lost for Mark Davis and his silver-and-black vagabonds. A new proposal would have the Homeless Raiders play some games in Birmingham, Alabama — where, much like in California, they’d be something like the third-best football team in the state — and Tucson, Arizona. How generous, cities offering to share a team! That’s the kind of can-do camaraderie we need more of in America these days. Look, forget the part that Birmingham’s mayor said he didn’t know about the idea; it was probably going to be a surprise for him and the nasty ol’ media went and spoiled it.
Some will say that the Raiders would simply be spreading failure over a larger area rather than concentrating it in one location. We disagree. We think they’d be spreading love.
And then there are the Washington Redskins, who’ve been seeking a new stadium since roughly eight minutes after they moved into their current one. Word came down Tuesday night that Maryland’s governor has withdrawn from efforts to lure the team to the Old Bay Seasoning State. How mean is that, dumping someone two days before Valentine’s Day just so you don’t have to get them a gift?
Washington owner Daniel Snyder doesn’t deserve this. He’s been a jobs provider, giving employment to nearly a dozen head coaches while owner of the Redskins. He’s also a visionary, solving the problem of too-crowded football games and allowing fans to move around in FedEx Field with enough room to park an RV on their aisle — for a reasonable cost, of course.
Maryland’s bug-out means Snyder just lost an important bit of leverage while trying to negotiate with the District of Columbia; being a good steward of Redskins history, he wants to have the site of old RFK Stadium, where Washington won three Super Bowls. And by “have,” we mean “wants to convince Congress to hand over the valuable land to the District, and then use that land for a stadium.”
Snyder, ever thoughtful, probably didn’t want to take up Congress’s important time discussing such an obvious maneuver, since Redskins and D.C. officials tried to quietly slide a provision deeding control of the land into an omnibus spending bill last year. But they got found out — probably by some spoilsport who hates surprise parties — and now they’re back to Level One of the Great D.C. Stadium Hunt. Unlike the Raiders, though, who need a new place to crash now now rightfreakingnow, the Redskins are in their current digs until 2027.
Both of these cases illustrate the immense difficulty inherent in being an NFL owner. Do you know how hard it is, trying to figure out how to direct firehoses that just spew cash? And here’s another troubling fact. Did you know that there are only about 30 NFL owners, give or take, in the entire world? It’s true! These are precious commodities, people. We need to give them the respect, the care — if I may be so bold, the worship — that these rare gems deserve.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: NFL owners could extend out their arms and, at any moment of the day, fall into a pile of money. And that’s true. But have you ever actually fallen into a pile of money? It’s kind of nasty. All those dollar bills, all grimy from (briefly) spending time in poor people’s hands. Rolling around on hundreds isn’t nearly as much fun as it looks in the movies.
And, look: NFL owners don’t ask for much. All they want are sweetheart leases, local and state tax breaks, public funds to underwrite their private endeavors, personal seat licenses where you pay thousands of dollars just for the opportunity to buy tickets, and the right to bolt without a look back the moment they get a better offer. And if you really loved them, you’d let them own the stadium property too, but it’s up to you to decide if you’re that generous of a person. The billionaires aren’t going to beg for your affection; they simply deserve it.
“But Bob,” you’re saying, which is strange because my name’s Jay, but whatever, “what about the owners who just up and left their towns? What about the Rams and Chargers, who skipped out on their longtime hometowns for some Los Angeles mirage?” To which I say: how selfish can you be? You’ve enjoyed the benefits of having an NFL owner in your hometown for decades, and now you want to deny another city that pleasure? Don’t cry that it’s over, St. Louis and San Diego; smile that it happened.
It’s high time we think of our billionaire NFL owners’ best interests, America. Because they’re definitely thinking of yours. No, really. Promise.
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