Let’s be clear about one thing. This was a pep rally. No more, no less. Rick Tittle set the tone as the emcee, talking about how teams are private entities, yet fans can make their voices heard through rallies like this. True to form, no official representatives from any teams were on hand. Tittle did his best to gin up the 200 or so people in attendance, talking up how Oakland is the only city in California with NFL, MLB, and NBA franchises. He also taunted a little, getting the crowd to respond when asking if certain other cities were “big league” (hint: one of them has the initials S.J.). Tittle finished his opening remarks by rattling off the names of numerous political and community leaders that were at the rally.
The podium was handed off to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who started off by giving a non-update on talks between the City and teams/leagues, not that anyone expected an update. She then talked about the “Oakland Loves Its Sports Teams” week, which will start with the Raiders’ home opener against San Diego on 9/10, a Monday Night Football game. The bookend event is the 9/14 A’s game against Baltimore, which is both the Star Wars fireworks night and an A’s blogger night set up by the team’s media relations department. Quan encouraged fans to sell out both events, which given the circumstances, should not be too difficult. During the week will be other events, including a fundraiser. Curiously, the Warriors were only mentioned in passing by Chris Dobbins and perhaps one or two other speakers, and none of the new signage (see pic above) references the W’s. This may have something to do with how the W’s preseason doesn’t start until October. Yesterday’s revelation of the team hiring an architect for their dream SF arena probably doesn’t help. Still, the W’s are the one team whose practice facility is located in downtown Oakland. You’d think there’d be more than a token mention.
A number of others took the podium, including City Council member Rebecca Kaplan and a person from Rep. Barbara Lee’s office. Throughout the 40-minute rally, there were frequent mentions of Coliseum City and how the project can help revitalize Oakland. Strangely, I didn’t hear a peep about Howard Terminal. Now that the Port is onboard, I was surprised that Howard Terminal wasn’t discussed even a little bit. Maybe I missed something while I was tweeting during the event, but “Howard Terminal” is a phrase that would’ve gotten my attention. (Ed. – I did miss Kaplan’s Howard Terminal reference while I was tweeting.) Now that I think about it, no one from the Port was there either. In the grand scheme of things the omission doesn’t matter much, yet it remains notable. It seems as if the two efforts, such as they are, are running in parallel and there’s no effort to unite them. It sends a mixed message.
Since we’re talking about mixed messaging, I got something else from the tone of the event. On one hand, Oakland supporters talk about how devastating losing the sports teams would be, how much of an impact they make economically, civic pride, etc. At the same time the City is treating the W’s somewhat cavalierly and the A’s in a standoffish manner. It’s what a jilted lover sounds like, and it makes little sense. Don’t get me wrong, events like this and the upcoming weeklong affair are important to elevate the topic among civic discussion. There’s a feeling that this is more of the same, wake me up when you have something new.
Throughout much of the event, there was a protester on the other side of the still-fenced off Frank Ogawa Plaza who was decrying the event, yelling, “Save Oakland, Not The Raiders!” The undercurrent of protest remains, even as the City announced this event on a Friday and held it at 11 AM the following Monday. What would happen if a rally like this were held on Monday during rush hour, with Occupy protesters ready to go? I can’t imagine it’d be pretty. As much as the City keeps claiming that these new sports investments (that’s what they are) won’t require voter approval, they are kidding themselves if they think the City’s residents won’t put serious pressure to put any stadium project to a vote. That’s why this stage is so easy and positive. There are no details. No costs. No sacrifices to make. Unfortunately, the placards and pom-poms have to be put away at some point. Quan ended her remarks referring to her attendance at the recent 15-inning game saying, “It may take a while, but we’ll win in the end.” If I’m a league commissioner in a New York high-rise, I can’t think of a more confidence-inspiring message.