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Raiders decision cuts wide path

This one's for the good people of Portland, Oregon -- the people who think it would be a great idea to commit $350 million in a new baseball stadium for the Portland Expos.

And please, take this in the spirit it is given.

What are you, whack jobs? Too much money in your wallets? Haven't been made to look stupid in so long that you forget what it feels like? Do you never pay attention to anything?

OK. We feel much better now.

But the point remains the same. Portland has that acquisitive smell in its civic hooter, one that only a big league ball team with Vladimir Guerrero and Javier Vazquez can satisfy. And they are ready to commit an immense amount of money to satisfy that smell.

Just in time, we hope, to remind you of what happens when desires outstrip the ability to meet those desires.

The Oakland Raiders just won a $34 million judgment from the Oakland Coliseum Commission, a local lawyer and the numbers-crackers at Arthur Andersen, because they convinced a jury that the people who ran Oakland in the mid-'90s were both dim and devious.

Now it could have been worse. The Raiders were asking for $1.1 billion, so those 34 scoots represent a mere 1/32nd of what it could have been.

But a jury of nine women and three men in Sacramento were convinced that Al Davis was unfairly bamboozled by the Oaktown Gang into believing that the Coliseum would be filled each and every time with ticket-buying, beer drinking, curse-word-conjugating fans.

And you know that it takes a heap of bamboozlement to get Al Davis.

Why this affects you, oh Portlanders, is because while Al may be the sharpest knife in the litigation drawer, he isn't the only one.

Your duly elected cheeseburgers are throwing money at a blind future, and needing the cheerful connivance of Major League Baseball to make it happen.

And here's a safe bet: When it comes to money and the smell thereof, baseball people have as educated a beezer as football people.

They have the supply (the team). They have manufactured the demand (Portland is fighting with Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia for the Bad Vlads). And they can yank cash out of your pocket so fast that you'll be grateful they left the lint.

This is why you must beware. If you want to escape this with your pants north of your ankles, you must promise them nothing beyond what you're already on the hook for -- that stadium.

No sellout guarantees. No promises that the luxury boxes you don't need will be bought by people who don't really want them. No lease givebacks. No convoluted side deals that insure that the team goes tax and rent free.

Not a penny spent that you can't afford to lose, capisce? Because if you do, you will be destroyed, skinned, gutted and eaten before you know that your shoes have been removed.

These people are pros. You're not. Be very, very careful from this moment on.

Now we are not here to dispute the findings of a jury. They listened to enough stultifying testimony to pull off their own heads, and they concluded that the Oakland smart guys fibbed to the Raiders about sellouts, and gave the Raiders the equivalent of Nick Van Exel's contract to compensate.

And we are not inclined to listen to those elected officials explain how the jury got it wrong, how they didn't understand the issues, or how their underwear was starting to ride up so much that they came to some half-assed verdict just to go home. They had this coming from the moment they thought they could out-Al Al. They deserved to be embarrassed, and if they could be, they would have long before this.

But the truth remains the truth. Al doesn't deal with people from a position of weakness. He knows his opponent years before the opponent knows he is going to be the opponent. If you want what he has, he has you, pure and simple.

The same lesson can be applied here, dear naïve, trusting Oregonians. When you say you have $350 million to spend, people come to see if they can't get that money from you. Smart people see how much more you have. Professional sports people already know how much more you have, and have thought of ways to get it, knowing that as an eager buyer, you'll eventually do anything to be given permission to buy.

And then you'll like the yahoos in Oakland, wondering why people laugh at them.

Do you want this? Can you afford this?

Or have we come to late to save you from yourselves?

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com