During his visit to Oakland last Sunday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stood among fans at the Coliseum, watched a rare Raiders victory and met with team owner Al Davis.
Nice of the commish to stop by, but his timing could have been better.
A trip to the Bay Area this weekend would have been more efficient and conceivably more productive.
Goodell would see the Raiders and 49ers today at Candlestick Park and, more to the point, could arrange a meeting with both owners to provide a gentle reminder why a shared stadium is in the best interest not only of the NFL but of both teams and their fans.
With a little cooperation and a lot of money, this Raiders-49ers battle might be the last regular-season game these teams play in this dump of a stadium.
Goodell shouldn't have to make the slightest veiled threat or to twist a single arm. With both franchises and their frustrated fans mired in the most unsatisfying conditions they've simultaneously known, how much persuasion would it take?
Once among the global sports elite, the Niners and Raiders have made stunningly graceless falls from royalty. Neither has reached the playoffs since 2002, when each last managed a winning record. Neither has a designated, full-time general manager. The 49ers are on their fourth head coach in nine years, the Raiders on their fifth in eight. While the Raiders and their fans long for a .500 season, the 49ers and their fans are praying for a miracle to reach that.
And no, we haven't forgotten that neither team likes its home. That's where Goodell comes in.
Candlestick Park and the Coliseum are among the NFL's oldest and dowdiest venues, ranking 2-3 (behind the Metrodome) in the category of most repellent. The Coliseum is usable but less than ideal. The 'Stick is, well, downright embarrassing for a league of such obscene wealth.
The 49ers say they need a new stadium and have proposed building it in Santa Clara, across the street from team headquarters. They have made incremental progress but remain nowhere near a desirable funding level, much less the plunging of a shovel.
The Raiders, meanwhile, simply want a stadium more befitting of today's NFL -- something along the lines of the new 82,566-seat palace the Giants and Jets, both of whom happen to be strong postseason contenders, share in New Jersey.
The best and likely only chance of the 49ers and Raiders satisfying their stated desire is a shared facility. Given the brutal fiscal climate, especially in California, it's the most logical and efficient path to the modern NFL experience.
And as for any 49ers fan who can't stomach the thought of sharing a building with Raiders fans, or vice versa, please take a deep breath and consider the big picture.
Understand that Goodell and, by extension, the NFL have endorsed a shared stadium and that Davis has not ruled out the possibility. Understand, too, that 49ers owner Jed York not only has said he's open to the idea but, in the event the Santa Clara vision evaporates, considers the Oakland Coliseum site as an alternate option.
The Coliseum, York told the San Francisco Chronicle last year, "has the location and the infrastructure. It's right on a freeway and it has BART access."
Last year, in his most recent public comment on the subject, Davis made clear that he likes the location of the Coliseum, if not all the aspects of it. During that same session, Al praised Jed as "a very bright young man." A new stadium would improve the image of both franchises, dramatically improve the fan experience and immediately become part of the Super Bowl rotation. In short, it would further enrich a league that hoards every dime it finds. It would be a win-win-win.
"I'd encourage (both teams) to evaluate it because it has worked in New York," Goodell said the other day. "I encourage them to take a look at that and evaluate it."
A recent analysis commissioned by the Coliseum Authority concluded a shared stadium would be doable, at an estimated cost of $860 million. The NFL, which helped pay for New Meadowlands, would pitch in for a shared stadium in Oakland.
Though no one from the 49ers or Raiders says it publicly, several knowledgeable sources say the franchises have engaged in discussions.
This weekend is the perfect opportunity for the commish to offer his input, with an interested audience, in one room. How can Al and Jed not afford to listen?
Meanwhile, we can always envy New York, where fans in that area know they'll host the 2014 Super Bowl and have reason to imagine a Giants-Jets Super Bowl even sooner.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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