Ratto: The end of talking about the end


Well, we're finally here, at the end. We've talked about it over and over and over again, for literally more than half the decade, and now it has finally arrived to the usual lack of fanfare.

It is The Final Raiders Game In Oakland. No. 370 in a series of 370. Collect them all, and then ship them to Nevada.

In keeping with the National Football League's unsubtle slow-fade strategy for a franchise that has adamantly refused to take root since the moment it was conceived, the schedule has handed us one final nothing-burger — the fast-crumbling Jacksonville Jaguars. The league, doubtless worried that Raider Nation would declare war on the rest of us, gave us a game 10 days before Christmas that essentially will have no impact on any other teams. It will be gray and damp (56 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain, 100 percent chance of blah). There will be some perfunctory booing of Derek Carr. There will be a few preposterous "Please Stay" and "We Love You Raiders" signs held for the cameras that will show them only as interstitial shots between look at Jon Gruden trying to swallow his own face while watching his ever-pliant defense ennoble Gardner Minshew.

In other words, it will almost certainly be a fittingly inconsequential end to a quarter-century of chasing the good old days without ever catching them. The last game in Oakland should matter much more than it does, but there we are.

Part of the problem is the Raiders themselves. If you stand in the doorway threatening to leave the party for hours, eventually everyone else will agree that you should leave. Now multiply that by years and you'll see why there is so little note being taken of this goodbye.

Part of the problem is us. We flit from good team to good team at a moment's notice because, as good consumers, we don't show up for things we don't enjoy. We don't boo players, we show them our chair backs. We used to care about college sports an eon ago; not any more. The Warriors and their prohibitively expensive tickets are now obtainable on the secondary market with a couple of twenties. The Giants' attendance has dropped 20 percent in three years.

And the Raiders have not been enjoyable, and so they have not been enjoyed. Four winning seasons since they came back in 1995? Got it. A better regular season record than only Cleveland and Detroit? Sell that. Fewer playoff appearances than anyone who was in the league in 1995 (yes, even the Jets)? Tickets are available. If they were the Philadelphia Raiders, the fans would be far more passionate and perpetually enraged. But they're not. Their proudest traditions began to fade in 1981 and are now mostly grainy film.

Add to that the fact that the place that would probably embrace them most warmly, Los Angeles, was prevented from re-engaging because the 31 other owners, who understand California the least and prove it with every passing day, went out of their way to make sure they couldn't.

But all that's been chewed on before. This is the week that was, finally and presumably forever. Any fears that the fans will rise in fury and indignation have long since dissipated, and nobody in the East Bay political system even wants to sue to make their departure uncomfortable.  Everyone involved agrees — "It's not you, it's us, but it's also you."

The Bay Area will actually be poorer for their departure because fewer games are never better than more games, but too few people care about those extra games any more. They've heard goodbye since 2014, and now they're finally getting it. The people who care about this have long since known this was coming and done what grieving (and grilling) there is to do, and all that's left is Jaguars at 1 p.m. Sunday. Tailgate like it's 1999... plus 20.