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Scott Ostler

Irwindale Getting a Lot More (Flak) Than It Counted On

September 17, 1987|Scott Ostler

You're Irwindale, a friendly little burg located between a rock and a hard place, and the clock is ticking.

You have about one month to outwit a handful of politicians and come up with a parking lot for about 40,000 cars, or risk having Amblin' Al Davis amble on down the road with $10 million of your money.

This would be an exciting format for a new TV game show, but it's real life. It's your money, it's a lot of gravel, and you're concerned. The amount in question represents a shade under $10,000 for every citizen of Irwindale, which is no Beverly Hills.

Powerful and sinister forces don't want the Raiders in Irwindale. You scratch your head and wonder why. I scratch along with you.

Didn't you save the Raiders for greater Los Angeles? Any idiot could see that Al Davis was past the bluffing stage and was serious about moving out of the Coliseum. If no local city could offer the Raiders a suitable new home, their next stop would be Laramie or Cancun.

In putting together an attractive package, you showed the kind of spunk, ingenuity, daring and weird creativity that has made our area the world capital of free enterprise and bikini roller skating. The Irwindale Story could happen only in Los Angeles.

My hat is off to you (how else could I scratch my head?). Other towns put up bingo parlors. You had a better idea.

You figure you're doing everyone a great service. You're not only keeping the Raiders in L.A., you're building a showcase stadium, and a Raider Hall of Fame, something that's long overdue in our society. You're also making the Raiders accessible to Raider fans.

Since they moved to Los Angeles eight years ago, do you know how many Raiders home games have been shown on local television? Sure you do. You looked it up.

One. Uno.

That's because the Coliseum is too big. No sellouts, no local TV. Your new stadium will sell out every week, especially if the Raiders ever find a quarterback. Shoot, you've already sold 1,064 season tickets. OK, you sold them to yourself, but it's a start.

So you have doubled the number of games Raider fans will get on TV. You have agreed to furnish a wonderful stadium. You have asked no money from anyone but yourself. You have broken no laws, stabbed no backs, trampled no codes of ethics. And what do you get?

You get politicians trying to turn your town motto into "Irwindale--The City That Almost Got the Raiders."

You didn't expect the rest of Southern California to throw a parade in your honor when Al Davis took your check, but you didn't expect to get treated like a leper colony, either.

You wonder what happened to the local politicians' deep-seated philosophy of pro football franchise movement--A team is a private enterprise and should be allowed to move about at will.

That's how they felt when the Raiders wanted to leave Oakland. Back then, Al Davis was a bold adventurer and Los Angeles was the land of the free. Now they act like Davis is trying to sneak out of town with LAX in his trunk.

You wonder why the Army Corps of Engineers won't sell you the land for the parking lot. Something about the land being a flood basin. So, worst case, the fans come out after a game and half of their cars are gone or damaged. Isn't that how it is now?

Well, let the guys in the silk suits try to rob you. You're not some slack-jawed bumpkin. You didn't turn a moonscape into a gold mine by sheer luck. You'll put on the gloves and step in the ring with those tough-talking shadow-boxers.

They won't give you a parking lot? Hey, you've got some land. You'll build a parking lot down the road, on your own property, and install a modern shuttle system. Maybe a mile-long subway. If there's one thing you know how to do well, it's dig.

Besides, it's not like you're in this fight alone. You've got Al Davis on your side. Didn't he defeat the NFL, the city of Oakland and Georgia Frontiere?

Of course, Al stands to pocket your $10 million if the deal falls through, but you trust the guy. His loyalty goes deeper than his pockets.

But does it go as deep as a gravel pit? You'll find out soon.

You figure the fans are on your side. Even the ones who want the Raiders to stay in the Coliseum would rather see them in Irwindale than in Albuquerque.

As for the politicians who would steal your team and your money, you bear them no ill will. In fact, your welcome mat is out.

You say to them, "If you're ever in the neighborhood, please drop in."

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