Friday, August 8, 2014
What could an NFL team do for us? | Last Word
The recent flurry over the mere possibility that the Oakland Raiders might be interested in moving to San Antonio brought to mind a conversation I had 25 years ago with Mayor Henry Cisneros.
We were sitting in the back room of a Mexican restaurant and he was making the pitch that San Antonio really, really needed an NFL team.
I’d be lying if I said I still had my notes, but one part of the conversation lodged in my memory.
“Like it or not,” said Henry, knowing that I didn’t like it, “sports are so big in America that to rise to the top tier of American cities you need to have an NFL team.”
Sports are big in America, although the World Cup reminds us that we are hardly alone in our addiction.
I’m not immune to it. I’m a big fan of the Spurs – how can you not be? – and of the St. Louis Cardinals.
I came by the latter honestly.
My mother was a huge fan.
In 1968, when the eldest of her six children became the first of us to get married, the invitations were already out when my mother postponed the wedding.
She had tickets to the World Series game against Detroit that day.
Still, I didn’t buy Henry’s argument. Perhaps I should have.
San Antonio had something of an inferiority complex back then, and it appeared the nation supported the complex.
San Antonians told stories about being asked, when they traveled, whether the city had an airport.
We were known mainly as a military city with a tourist-friendly River Walk.
The Spurs weren’t doing much to help.
In the five years leading up to the election in which we voters approved a tax for the Alamodome, the Silver and Black had finished no higher than fifth in the Central Division.
Three months after the Alamodome was approved, they missed the playoffs with a record of 21 and 61.
But that was then and now is now.
I’m still skeptical that you have to have an NFL team to be a great American city.
Certainly plenty of cities that do have NFL teams are not basking in urban glory these days.
Which of these cities would you choose for your children’s future: Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Green Bay, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Oakland?
Meanwhile, Forbes Magazine this week picked Austin as the third “coolest” city in the nation.
And while some wags would argue that Austin does have a professional football team, it doesn’t have one in the NFL – or in the major league of any other sport.
And meanwhile San Antonio has moved up considerably in both national and local esteem.
I see little evidence of the inferiority complex we once wore on our sleeves.
There are many factors.
They include Toyota, Rackspace, the Pearl, USAA, the Army and Air Force medical complexes, the Culinary Institute of America, a certain newly named cabinet member and more.
San Antonio has the national image of a city on the rise.
And if sports does play an important role in that, then the Spurs have provided considerable evidence that you don’t need an NFL team.
Since Tim Duncan came aboard in 1997, the Spurs have had the best winning percentage in either the NBA or the NFL.
Or in major league hockey and baseball, for that matter.
What’s more, they’ve associated San Antonio with an image of intelligent leadership, selfless play and good citizenship.
Even the immigrants, who make up a majority of the team, demonstrate good citizenship.
They make you proud to be an American – and a San Antonian.
How much more could an NFL team do for the city?
Oh, and for the record, the Oakland Raiders went 4 and 12 the last two seasons, and haven’t had a winning record since 2002.
As for citizenship, a study done a year ago showed their players to have 19 arrests since 2000.
That put them in the middle of the pack for NFL teams.
The lowest had nine. Two had 40.
As I said, I’m a Spurs fan.