The NFL Town Hall series...The plan set forth by the NFL was designed to afford fans the opportunity to vent, air their grievances, give their support, and even share their football team realated storie directly to the NFL; as it was previously done in San Diego on Wednesday night and in St. Louis on Tuesday in their respective town hall meetings. In those previous two events, fans were angry (rightfully so) and took the opportunity to get a lot of their chests. With no Rams or Chargers ownership at either venue, fans directed their ire to the four sacrificial lambs comprised of NFL executives sitting on center stage. And that's how the NFL wanted it. This was the dog and pony show the league put in place so late in the game to give the illusion that the fans get a say-so in the shell game of team relocation.
That is, until Oakland. That is until Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff showed up for the Oakland Town Hall. Mayor Schaff opened the evening by stating her brief case for Oakland and the Raiders which drew applause (with just a spattering of boos) and then Mark Davis was introduced and drew a raucus standing ovation along with a spontaneous chant of "Stay In Oakland." "https://twitter.com/DeMarcusRFNET/status/659915303854276608"
Even though Davis spoke and stated that he would be here for this event for the entire 3-hour duration, he wouldn't be taking any questions and justly so; the NFL's set-up was to have fans address the stage of executives. Davis likely didn't want to ruffle the NFL's feathers by taking over the event, but having him present did alter the tempurature and tone of the Town Hall nonetheless.
What made Oakland stand apart is what wasn't done in other cities. In San Diego and St. Louis, you had anger that was mostly due to the fact that the fans had no one really to directly blame, aim, or address their concerns to. That's because of how the NFL set it up these hearings. A Town Hall with none of the real major players present. But with Mayor Schaff and Owner Davis in attendance in Oakland, you had a more passionate, heart felt meeting between the key parties involved; the paying fans, team ownership, and city government. Fans shared stories about raising their children and religion, " I have a 34 year old son. I've taken him to more Raiders games than I have church!" You also had some evoke the great and rich history of the City of Oakland and it's ties to the Oakland Raiders and even some who offered Mark Davis an impassioned warning of dissent by suggesting, "If you think the grass is always greener in LA, you might be coming back to an not welcome sign!" in the most polite manner one could put it (if that even makes sense).
One fan after another addressed Mark Davis directly. One even recanted his childhood around Mark's father Al Davis and the Raiders' earlier years and his own father. The story, which ran over the alotted time limit, touched Mark Davis in such a way that after the man was done speaking, he and Davis walked towards each other to shake hands as Mark patted the young man on the back. A genuine gesture of understanding, compassion, and more importantly, listening. There was even a moment where a fan lead those in attenance in signing the Oakland Raiders' hallowed anthem, The Autumn Wind after his turn at the podium.
And then you had "Bauce Man" step up to the mic. For those who follow @bauce_man82 on Twitter, then you know him for his wildly vociferous and no-holds-barred manner of posting. So when I saw him getting ready to speak, I honestly was bracing for the worst. But in true Oakland form, Bauce self-admittedly stated that he did indend on letting loose on Davis and Schaff as he was working off the pretense that neither were scheduled to be at this meeting and he wanted to excoriate them for that. But because the two didn't hide from the process and attended, he gave them both praise and opted for a more intensely focused and intelligent series of comments that left many there proud of the Oaklander (myself included). The young man didn't sugar coat his opinions but did extend an olive branch of sorts:
After the Town Hall session was over, NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman spoke to reporters. It would seem that, in true "Al Davis" like fashion, Mark Davis' appearance Thursday night threw a monkey wrench into the plan of how the NFL wanted these procedings to go. It was Davis' and Schaff's participation that turned the planned circus event into a ture community effort between it's city leader, team owner, and the paying fans. This 'changed dynamic' clearly didn't sit too well with Mr. Grubman (as seen below in the Youtube video posted by "Zennie62"), "Mr Davis being here and the Mayor being here changed the dynamic. There are multiple leaders that have to get together to do these things and to have them in the room, gave the crowd the opportunity to address them directly. That's not what these hearings are set up for, but that's what the people wanted to do. And we respct that and it changed the dynamic."
All in all, the Oakland Town Hall was exactly that; a community gathering of the exchanging of intelligent and passionate ideas and stories, gripes and concerns, hopes and payers. I believe it was the soul of Oakland that shinned the brightest that Thursday night. A city, a community, an identity inextricably linked with it's football team that I hope will never be severed.