Marshawn Lynch gives an already-spurned city hometown appeal


Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

The Raiders don’t deserve the support of Oakland in their lame duck seasons in the Bay Area, and there’s no guarantee they’ll get it even with the acquisition of local hero Marshawn Lynch, but it does assure these two years will be a little more intriguing.

Ideally, Lynch will close out his second stint in the NFL with a red zone touchdown in the waning minutes of a Super Bowl win against the Seattle Seahawks, resulting in pieces of Darrell Bevell’s head being mixed in with the confetti raining on the triumphant Raiders. The Raiders then celebrate their third title as an Oakland team, and fourth overall, allowing the fans a clean break as the franchise goes off to toil in the desert. Given how competitive both the Raiders and Seahawks were in 2016, that's not the most unlikely scenario. You'll go mad counting on narrative perfection every time. After all, the Patriots are always around to own the AFC yet again.

Before Derek Carr went down in December, the Raiders were primed to make waves in the AFC playoffs. There were valid concerns that the team was too dependant on its offense to cover for a woeful defense, except at the time those were the same issues taken with the Atlanta Falcons, who were arguably one play away from clinching a Super Bowl victory over the Pats. Perhaps making the playoffs was enough of a victory for the Raiders in 2016 but with Carr going down just before the postseason, no one really knows just how far off they are. Oakland had the 6th rated rushing attack in 2016, albeit one that was instantly negated when the passing offense was no longer a threat.

Only days removed from his 31st birthday, it’s fair to question the efficacy of a running back who hasn’t played since an injury plagued 2015 season. Yet the three seasons preceeding 2015 were so dominant, it’s only fair to give Lynch the benefit of the doubt that there’s Beast Mode left to be dispensed.

What can’t be questioned is Lynch’s love of hometown. He made it clear on Twitter soon after the news of his return broke that this was all about the opportunity to play for Oakland. It just so happens that Lynch’s limited window for playing at an NFL level coincides with the end of the Oakland Raiders. 

Looking at this solely from the Raiders perspective, cynicism creeps in at the thought of Lynch being used by a franchise that knows it needs a way to keep the locals engaged until it can get out of town. Of course, there are plenty of ways for Oakland fans to be happy for one of their own without buying tickets. The NFL’s blackout policy hasn’t been enforced the last two seasons, and without an abrupt return there’s opportunity for fans to watch the Raiders even as the Coliseum sits mostly empty. Fans often make the mistake of confusing professional teams with public institutions, which is probably why those teams are so successful at reaping public money for stadiums and arenas. If the Raiders are using Lynch for a sheen of Oakland authenticity, that’s little different than any other example of a team bringing in a name for headlines.

The Raiders fans not sickened with the organization are clearly excited with Lynch’s arrival, as are NFL fans of all stripes. Getting one of the most charismatic stars to return is great news for a league generally mired in negativity. Just look how charmed the Internet was by the fact that Lynch wore his new Raiders helmet home from his contract signing.

Lynch’s absence from the sport was deeply felt in 2016, even if his charitable work and connection with Skittles kept him from fully fading from the scene. That’s enough for many to overlook the troublesome aspect of his return - that it helps a franchise temporarily paper over its treachery to come. Then again, enjoying football is always about looking past ugly truths, so if anyone is well equipped to deal with this situation, it’s NFL fans.

Mike Tunison is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va. and the former editor of Kissing Suzy Kolber. You can follow him at @xmasape on Twitter.

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