Tony Avelar / AP
Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Remember in middle school when you were too bashful to make eye contact with that girl on the opposite side of the dance floor.
You repeatedly walked in her direction with your head down, hoping she’d eventually notice. That’s how we’ve attacked bringing professional sports franchises to Las Vegas over the past decade.
For the most part, they don’t notice us. And when they do, with the exception of a National Hockey League expansion team we are patiently awaiting to be awarded, it’s simply a tease to use as leverage with other cities.
The NFL, unfortunately, is out of our league.
It’s the biggest and brightest of all sports organizations, so much that they own many Sundays of the year and demand so much money for television rights it doesn’t matter how many people attend games. The priest at my church came from Milwaukee and tells a story of how pews would be empty during football season if services conflicted with Green Bay Packers games.
There’s a chance — albeit an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary heave with time expiring — the NFL could one day call Las Vegas home. Rodgers completed two of the last-second prayers this season against all odds, thus anything is possible. It just seems unlikely.
The Raiders are eyeing the 42-acre lot UNLV purchased on Tropicana Avenue and Koval Lane near the Strip for a stadium, and Las Vegas Sands is pushing to build a $1 billion, 65,000-seat facility. The Rebels would play there, too.
If the NFL wants to come to Las Vegas, we should stop at nothing to make it happen. That includes — don’t hate me, please — finding public money to help build the stadium. Details of how it will be funded aren’t fully known.
Being part of the elite fraternity of cities with the NFL is so attractive we’d be crazy not to give the Raiders our full support. It would enhance our city’s credibility and help continue transforming the town into a destination with endless entertainment options. It’s not all about gambling in modern-day Vegas.
We excel at putting on events. The NFL is 10 dates a year — it’s doable. Real doable. Imagine Pacquaio-Mayweather multiple times a year and the money that would flow through our city. And the Raiders, the one franchise in the NFL known for being rebellious, is a perfect fit for our city. We, too, have given the league fits over the years, but — like the storied Raiders — the NFL would be lost without us because having money on a game creates more interest.
They just won’t admit it.
The NFL isn’t forward-thinking enough to allow one of its teams to call Las Vegas home because it’s scared of sports gambling and the perception games could be fixed. They fail to realize our sports books are tightly regulated, giving gamblers a safe environment to wager in. It’s estimated that $3.8 billion will be bet illegally on this year’s Super Bowl — with no guarantee of when, or if, payouts will be received.
Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys was scheduled to attend a fantasy football seminar on the Strip last summer until the league stepped in and forbade it. We are days away from the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event not only in the NFL but worldwide every year, and Las Vegas still can’t use the words “Super Bowl” to promote its parties. Instead, we call it the Big Game.
That’s why it’s important to not get your hopes up with Thursday’s news of a stadium and the Raiders relocating. They are simply flirting with us. The NFL would never allow the Davis family, which has had run-ins historically, to make the move.
Let’s just hope that doesn’t prevent the stadium from being built. It’s much-needed for Tony Sanchez’s Rebel program.