Beware, Las Vegas

The image that many folks have of Las Vegas, Nevada is quite possibly a bit different from reality. Oh sure, at any given time there are present show business folks, gangster types, hookers, drug dealers and visiting losers anxious to part with their money. Also, however, there are regular folks who work jobs , have families, go to school and stuff like that. I know because I’ve been there a couple of times. I wasn’t there to gamble or to see Wayne Newton, although I did once drop a nickel into a slot machine. Two nickels came back so I put in a dime and lost. I’ve been telling people I broke even in Vegas ever since. My purpose here today is to compose a sort of open letter to the baseball lovers who reside in that burning hot desert locale. This is a warning to all such people:beware. There exists now a shifty, slippery person that owns a major league baseball team and he is running a bit of a con game.

His name is John Fisher and the baseball team that he owns is the Oakland Athletics. Fisher and his lieutenants have been stubbornly working the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda California to provide funding and legal shenanigans for a 12 billion dollar real estate development that just happens to include a one billion dollar stadium for what he thinks is his team to play their home games in because another shifty and slippery rich guy coaxed the city and county into ruining their present locale to get him to move the Oakland Raiders (indeed!) back from Los Angeles so they could then move to Las Vegas. I’m not kidding.

John is a Fisher of dollars, not men. His most important lieutenant at the moment is Rob Manfred, otherwise known as the Commissioner of baseball. Fisher doesn’t talk much to the peasants who cover baseball for the various media but every once in a while his Manfred does. One gets the idea that the commish practices for this in front of a mirror after watching clips of the Robert Duvall character in The Godfather although he can’t quite pull it off. He comes across more like an assistant principal threatening tardy students with detention. He said in December that he would soon be speaking with Oakland’s new mayor, Sheng Thao but his definition of soon is apparently longer than two months. After all it is merely a topic that concerns billions of taxpayer dollars and significant alteration of the local geography. “I think the best way for me to answer that is to say that I think the focus since I spoke to you in December really has been on Las Vegas, ” he said last week. Notice that he didn’t say that his answer was the most truthful. Rather, it was the best. There was no accompanying laugh track when he added, “I think the focus in Oakland has been on the funding, particularly of the infrastructure side of the project. That needs to get solved in order for that process to go forward,” In other words, you people who work for a living need to understand that Forbes 500 dudes never spend their own money.

So beware, Las Vegas. Oakland sports fans are loyal and true. Folks who bought tickets to watch really good teams with Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Dagoberto Campaneris, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart and several versions of Rickey Henderson also hung in there with teams like the 104 game losers of 1979. The last few years, these fans have had to endure John Fisher’s extortion as he hoards his vast wealth while claiming he can’t afford a shortstop or a pitcher until he gets what he wants and a new stadium to boot. The real danger is that he might succeed. If he does not, and if the threats that he and Manfred continue to bluster and condescend about become reality, just remember this: if he did it to them, he could do it to you.

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