OAKLAND — The team that Al built in the town that Al once owned now has an expanded stadium to make Al rich, and if the Raiders ever win again, something might finally go right for Al Davis.
Until then, there are TV blackouts, personal seat license sob stories and further damaging evidence of genius on the wane.
Billy Joe Hobert? Pat Harlow? Rickey Dudley? The most talented team in the league? The Carolina Panthers, an expansion franchise last year, have won five games since the Raiders last won.
Now go sell tickets: The team that ran a down-and-out to Oakland a year ago has 20,000 remaining tickets for its 1996 home opener Sunday in the renovated Oakland Alameda County Coliseum.
A PSL campaign, designed to keep Oakland from using tax funds to support the Raiders' cause, has collapsed. The Oakland Football Marketing Assn., charged with the task of selling tickets, no longer has a marketing director, having gone through three in the last year.
More than 4,500 fans chose to take a loss on the $250 to $4,000 investment they made in PSLs a year ago to avoid buying season tickets this season. How did they know the Raiders were going to open 0-2?
Hello, is anybody home in Oakland? Only 2,700 of more than 9,000 club seats in the posh new Coliseum lounge have been sold, only 60 of 140 luxury boxes are under consignment, and 10,000 more PSLs still must be sold to keep the city and county from dipping into public funds.
Won't be long before the Raiders send a limousine for anyone interested in buying a ticket.
"Buy a ticket?" said William Stone, who lives in Hayward. "I'd be the happiest guy in the world if I could unload my two PSLs, which cost me $8,000. I bought them thinking I could make money selling my Raider tickets like I did when they were here before, but now I'm just giving them away."
Stone ran an ad for his 50-yard-line seats in the Oakland Tribune for four consecutive days. His telephone never rang. "I was suckered in like a lot of people who thought it was going to be like the old days when they were here," Stone said. "Now there isn't anyone in the world buying a PSL. Everyone's heard what a bad deal it is."
Billy Joe Hobert? Pat Harlow? Barrett Robbins? The Oakland Football Marketing Assn. allowed PSL owners this summer to purchase an additional six season tickets for the upcoming season in the hopes of selling out the Coliseum to avoid the embarrassment of an empty stadium for their two home Monday night TV games. Once again disappointment: Only 2,400 tickets were sold.
Amy Trask, the Raider attorney who was very involved in negotiations to bring the team to Oakland, remains upbeat. She said the team's relationship with Oakland is a 16-year proposition and should not be judged prematurely. If all goes well, she said, Oakland not only will use nowhere near the public funds St. Louis, Baltimore and Nashville put up for franchises, but the city and Alameda County will make money.
A Raider victory sometime this decade might also aid the cause.
In the month leading up to Sunday's season-opener, with the Raiders looking like Tampa Bay, the OFMA managed to sell only 1,000 tickets. "Right now things are flat," said Ray Krise, the association's chief operating officer. "Twenty thousand available tickets are a big disincentive to buying PSLs."
Short of installing a big-screen TV in the Coliseum and showing the 49ers each week, the Raiders, the city of Oakland and Alameda County have a problem. They have lost the momentum of the Raiders' move, have no new marketing plan in place and are already running out of time.
"If we don't sell another PSL, we will have to make some contribution from the general fund in 1997," said Craig Kocian, Oakland city manager. "That's the worst-case scenario."
That's the present-day scenario: When the PSLs went on sale, city and county officials predicted a gold rush-like enthusiasm, but instead were greeted with only 44,000 requests--and almost 5,000 of those were rejected because of credit problems.
Handicapped by a lack of time to implement an effective PSL campaign, the city and county agreed to ticket prices--the highest in the NFL at an average of $51.41--designed to turn off the discerning sports fan, while also installing a 10-year time frame to the PSLs rather than the lifetime guarantees offered elsewhere. The city and county have plans to resell the PSLs after 10 years, in effect starting all over to raise yet more money for renovation or local improvements. Fat chance, considering the campaign's start.
"With all the problems there, I'm personally astounded that they still have 35,000 PSLs," said Max Muhleman, who devised the PSL concept. "Their ticket prices are very high, and the 10-year limit on PSLs with the idea of having people pay for them again after that is very stressful for the fan. It's a situation that's salvageable, but they need modifications and may have to take less money than they planned on taking."