San Francisco Steals Warriors from Oakland

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OAKLAND - Down in Los Angeles the only thing the Lakers and Clippers lost were games, albeit important games. Up here in Greedsville-by-the-Bay, Oakland is losing its team. To San Francisco.

This is the way it works in the lawless, wild west, where you check your firearms at the turnstile but hold on to your ego: Santa Clara steals San Francisco’s pro football team, San Francisco steals Oakland’s pro basketball team, the one with an all-inclusive name, Golden State Warriors.

Keep your wallet in hand or that might be gone, too.

A couple of very rich guys named Joe Lacob, a venture capitalist from the Peninsula, or the Proper Side of the Bay, and Peter Guber, movie mogul, bought the W’s two years ago.

The fact that despite a history of awful teams, the Warriors continuously packed 19,500-seat Oracle Arena, which was rebuilt only 15 years ago, obviously didn’t mean a thing.

As you are aware these are difficult days for Oakland, the less glamorous burg across the bridge from justifiably lauded San Francisco.

The baseball team's owners would like to haul the A’s to San Jose. The Raiders are hinting if they don’t get the kind of stadium the Niners are getting, they’ll move, maybe for a second time to Los Angeles. And the Warriors on Tuesday announced they are building an “architecturally significant’’ building in San Fran to open in 2017.

"It is going to happen - let there be no doubt,” said Lacob with the arrogance and certainty which wealth bestows.

Of course, it’s going to happen, because in sport the only issue is the cosseting of high-income individuals who peer down from luxury boxes at the ordinary folk loyally supporting a franchise which has failed to make the playoffs 17 of the last 18 seasons.

"They will do whatever is good for them,’’ Oakland councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a member of the commission which oversees Oracle and the adjacent O.co Coliseum said of those in sports front offices.

“Nothing else matters.’’

The Warriors once were the San Francisco Warriors but because they played a dozen or so games one season in San Diego after the Rockets moved to Houston – this sleight-of-hand mobile franchise business isn’t new – and then based themselves in Oakland, underwent the name alteration.

That there is no such location as Golden State was of no consequence. The Warriors' late owner Franklin Mieuli wanted at all costs to avoid having his team being called “California,’’ as in California Angels or California Berkeley.

Attempts to change the Golden State label to Oakland failed to gain traction on numerous occasions. But surely in five years, they’ll once more be the San Francisco Warriors. 

Lacob is the individual who when being introduced during a halftime ceremony for the retirement of Chris Mullin’s number, 17, was heavily booed by a full house of people disenchanted with the team’s play the first 24 minutes and by the trade of star guard Monta Ellis two weeks earlier.

In retrospect, it’s understandable now why he might want to yank the Warriors away from those ingrates to a more benign location across the water where the beautiful people sip their lattes.

Rumors of the presumptive move to the city of cable cars, fog and lunatic politics started almost from the moment the sale to Lacob and Guber was completed in November 2010.

To their thinking, Oakland is not so much a Second City but Third World. They were probably surprised streets were paved.

A couple of weeks ago, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, who couldn’t hold on to the Bay Area’s most beloved team, the 49ers, wrote to the Warriors and invited them to set up shop in San Francisco. Lacob and Guber couldn’t react quickly enough

Oakland officials, although knowing they were doomed, hinted they could replace Oracle with yet another arena, a great waste of money. Soon cities will be erecting new basketball and ice hockey buildings every other month.

Chris Dobbins, founder of Save Oakland Sports and also a member of the Coliseum authority, described the Warriors’ intent to flee as a “slap in the face.’’ Would that be an intentional foul?

“We’re very upset,’’ was another Dobbins’ observation. But Lacob, Guber and Lee are ecstatic. “We’re jumping up and down,’’ chortled Lee, who said filching the Warriors from Oakland was “my legacy project.’’

As that bumper sticker advises, “He Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins.’’

The sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who sees dollar signs every time a ball bounces, explains a new waterfront arena in San Francisco would increase the Warriors' value by tens of millions.

"(San Francisco) has more large corporations,’’ Zimbalist told the San Jose Mercury News. “It has more high-income people; it has a larger population base to draw from; and it potentially incorporates the market in San Jose.’’

And it leaves Oakland feeling it just had its pocket picked. Which is exactly what happened.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America. His columns appear in RealClearSports on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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