In Oakland sports, you do not have nice things.
Or, well, you sometimes do. Fleetingly, usually, though sometimes grandly: You had the AFL charter member Raiders in the heady days of 1960, followed by the pilfered-from–Kansas City Athletics, resplendent in green and gold, in 1968. By 1971, with the permanent arrival of the NHL expansion California Golden Seals and the previously trans-Bay Warriors, you had the big four of sports fandom and a bounty of jerseyed riches and ticker-tape parades to come. I will tell you how it all goes wrong.
Tell me that Derek Carr, who on Sunday had the misfortune of getting into a spine-versus-knee battle with Broncos defensive end Adam Gotsis, might miss only a game with his transverse process fracture, as Tony Romo did with the same diagnosis in 2014. Tell me that Carr, whose broken leg in last season’s Week 16 seemed to some true believers like the only reason the Raiders didn’t hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February, could follow Cam Newton, who also suffered the same injury and also missed just one game, and then took his team to the Super Bowl scarcely a year later. Tell me that Carr is just 26, and that as far as broken backs go, this one is decidedly minor, and that the great football spirit could not possibly desert such a steadfast follower with such natural (?) eyelines.
Tell me that, and I will tell you to watch the closing minutes of Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, when wait-hang-on-who’s-the-backup-QB-oh-my-god EJ Manuel tossed the ball ever so placidly into the waiting gloves of Denver safety Justin Simmons.
EJ Manuel pick ends it. Broncos win pic.twitter.com/S7nMrhZuvz— Brett (@Cubbieblue97) October 1, 2017
Then there’s all the rest of it. The A’s and Seals were for a time owned by Charlie Finley, a parsimonious megalomaniac who somehow managed to alienate so many fans during the A’s back-to-back-to-back championships in the 1970s that they unfurled a banner with the words “Finley, Get Your Ass Out of Town” in the midst of the World Series. Fifteen years later, the A’s were in yet another World Series when an earthquake, literally a biblical harbinger of plague, happened just before Game 3. Meanwhile, the Seals did not once rise above .500 during a nine-year tenure. The Warriors, historically good and with little to suggest an end to their domination anytime soon, are finally, after 46 years in Oakland, going to feature the city on their uniforms. Yet this announcement came a few months after a balletic symphony of tractors to christen the groundbreaking of their new stadium in San Francisco, to which the suddenly dynastic franchise will decamp in 2019.
And, gosh, the Raiders. Carr’s 2014 rookie season was the first time the Raiders went a full 16 weeks with the same starter since Rich Gannon in 2002. Since their inception, the Raiders have won three Super Bowls; one of those came during a stormy, 12-year sojourn in Los Angeles that resulted from demands that Oakland—or, more specifically, its people—pay for extensive renovations of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. In response, the city filed a lawsuit against the team. Ultimately, though, Oakland caved, spiffed up the Raiders’ former home, and welcomed the team back in 1995, a negotiation for which the city’s taxpayers are projected to continue paying $13 million a year until 2025. The L.A. stint was in turn used as apparent proof that Raiders fandom obeys no geographic boundaries—that there truly is a Raider Nation, as opposed to a Raider Half of the Bay Area or Raider Micro-Generation of Angelenos—and that, as a post-regional team, there is no reason why the Silver and Black shouldn’t play in Las Vegas. In March, that is where the team announced it will go, bidding Oakland farewell for a second time for a gleaming stadium built just for them and scheduled to open in 2020. Set aside that the new stadium will be distant from the Strip and is slated to offer exceedingly little parking, that the team’s claims that it will fill half its new seats with tourists are risible at best, and that the record-setting $750 million Nevada lawmakers pledged toward the project is galling, particularly in light of the Raiders’ now thrice-exhibited propensity to jerk around whichever cities they can get to give them cash. They are going to the desert; it is written. The team will soon be known as the Las Vegas Raiders, and Oakland—as well as the greater non-suburban Bay Area—will be out a football franchise.
So, with just a couple of years left before their team leaves the city once again, Oakland fans were handed one final bit of hope. Sure, there is that whole bit of looming ugliness, but Patron Saint of Oakland Marshawn Lynch burst out of retirement this summer. Hayward, California, native Jack Del Rio pledged himself to the Super Bowl–in-Oakland cause. And Carr, of Bakersfield and Fresno State, together with one of the league’s best receiving corps, would seal the deal. It would be bittersweet; it would be enough to shut down the JaMarcus Russell jokes for good.
Now that brilliant, beautiful future, that final, triumphant, many-skulled march up Broadway, has a transverse process fracture. It has a two- to six-week recovery time frame. Of course the Raiders don’t really have a backup quarterback—Connor Cook, who filled in for a disastrous and then-injured Matt McGloin to close out the 2016 campaign, became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to notch his first career start in the playoffs—because why would they? Derek Carr is the present and the future.
He almost certainly is still the latter—a minor back break, remember?—and in the meantime he is apologizing for being so selfish as to allow a part of his spine to be split into pieces. And the A’s are leaning hard into being the formerly four-teamed city’s only professional franchise and pitching a new, privately financed stadium just outside of downtown Oakland, and—shh—the city is, as ever, San Francisco’s feistier and lovelier little sister. There are silver linings, still, and so many reasons to take a deep breath and be rational about all of it. Just like all the other times.