Comment and Analysis
As Mayor Libby Schaff and the Oakland Planning Commission debate Coliseum City, Michael Taylor urges them to look beyond the hardware and consider the software - the value an International Icon represents.
As the Oakland Planning Commission sits down to debate the Coliseum City project, I hope that they will consider an aspect of the proposal that is often overlooked locally – the software.
The Coliseum City proposal is about hardware: stadiums, an arena, a hotel, shopping malls, entertaintment venues, housing, commercial space, and infrastructure.
This is what I think of as 'hardware'. It is easy to quantify. It all get down to dollars and cents, and an accountant is better qualified than I am to address that issue. But what about the intangibles, what I like to think of as the 'software'?
Oakland is a city of roughly 400,000 people. And for a city of that size, it punches far above its weight – both nationally and internationally – for one reason and for one reason only. It plays host to a football team, a baseball team, and a basketball team.
San Jose might be a richer city. It might have more than twice the population. But what, exactly, is San Jose's claim to fame except for a popular ditty from 1968 – 'Do You Know the Way to San Jose' – which, sadly, has not passed the test of time?
The View from Afar
I have spent most of my adult life living overseas, and I can assure you, San Jose rarely makes the news. It might sit at the heart of Silicon Valley, but few people know that. Silicon Valley is associated with California, not San Jose.
Oakland doesn't often make the front pages, either. And when it does, it is usually for all the wrong reasons – the earthquake the rocked the region in 1989, the fire that devastated parts of the city in 1991, Occupy Oakland, which for a few weeks in 2011 upstaged Occupy Wall Street on the international news.
Oakland has poverty, a high crime rate, a failing school system, a disfunctional government … the list goes on.
And yet, when I mentioned once to a fellow journalist (who is not American) that my home town had a population of roughly 400,000 people, he was astonished.
"With all of those sports team?" he asked.
"I always thought that Oakland must have a population of at least 1 million people! I always thought it was a really big city!"
So this is what I would like Mayor Libby and the Oakland Planning Commisson to take into consideration – please do NOT just consider the immediate bottom line. Think about the intangibles, and the long term opportunities, that building Coliseum City and keeping our sports teams could create.
With all due respect to the Oakland Athletics and the Golden States Warriors, I am going to concentrate on the Oakland Raiders.
The Oakland Raiders are more than a sports franchise – FAR more than a sports franchise. They are an international icon – even if the city of Oakland (and many of its citizens) doesn't realize it.
They add value to the city which – if properly leveraged (which has NEVER been done before) – could pay far greater dividends in the long run than the cost of building these facilities.
During my many years living overseas, I have often seen people wearing New York Yankees and Chicago Bears apparel. I have never seen people wearing Cleveland Browns or Tennessee Titans apparel. The reason is simple.
Some teams have local appeal (I'm sure you see people wearing that stuff in Cleveland and Nashville), and some teams have universal appeal. The Oakland Raiders belong to the second category. They probably have more fans living outside the city than within.
Much of that appeal has nothing to do with sports. Let's face it. The Oakland Raiders have the best colours, the best insignia, and the best slogans of any professional sports franchise in the United States – which, by extension, means the world.
The Oakland Raiders, simply put, have a MYSTIQUE, which defies explanation or definition …
And THAT is why you see people that know nothing about American football wearing their stuff – in the far reaches of the planet. Because the Silver and Black is COOL!!!
When the Raiders moved back from Los Angeles to Oakland 20 years ago, I ran into an American football fan from New Zealand at a cocktail party. This is what he said to me when he asked me where I was from, and I said, "Oakland, California!"
"I have always wanted to meet someone from Oakland! I am a big fans of American football, the Raiders are my favourite team, and I could never understand why they moved to Los Angeles. Half of the allure was that they represented this working class town that nobody had ever heard of – rather than a world class city such as New York or Chicago."
As I stood there dumbfounded, he continued:
"The Oakland Raiders are a part of Americana! They are right up there with the Statue of Liberty, Elvis Presley, Coca-Cola, Mount Rushmore, and the Marlboro Man. The Oakland Raiders are a part of what makes America unique."
So there you have it (and NO I did NOT make that up!!!) …
A final word to Mayor Libby and the Oakland Planning Commission: please don't be penny wise and pound foolish! And please don't kill the goose than laid the silver (and black) egg!
Let's start with the hardware. Then we can get to work on the software.