Please excuse the jockiness of this post. We’ll resume the artsy stuff momentarily.
“The massive Raider Nation is beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and wackos ever assembled.”
-Former Raiders fan Hunter S. Thompson
Why are there any Raiders fans left in 2009? Chuck Klosterman wrote in a book(!) that it is illogical to be a steadfast fan of a particular team in this modern sports era. To be tightly bound to the concept of diehard fandom is more about cheering for a brand or a mascot than it is about cheering for a “team” in the concrete sense. In the post-free agency world, team loyalty has essentially vanished into the ether.
In the Raiders’ prime it was common to find ardent supporters of team owner Al Davis and his brash, atypical style of governance. These days, I’d be surprised if Davis’ family even bakes him cookies. Most Raiders followers are fans of a mystique. I guess it’s similar to why The Rolling Stones still sell-out stadiums. This was a team of outcasts and trouble-makers; of hard hitters and speedy receivers. They valued scrappy play and drive over discipline and talent. But that bygone aura doesn’t explain why some of us continue to cheer on an Idea that has become a distant Myth. To put it simply: this pirate has no clothes.
My familial ties to California are responsible for my Raider obsession. All of my friends were fans of the much more geographically sensible Cowboys. Pssshhh. Pirates were way cooler than cowboys. I guess by that logic I could have just as easily become a Buccaneers fan, but those were some damn ugly uniforms.
In 1990, Art Shell coached our team to the AFC Championship…where they were beaten 238 to 3 (I think) by the Jim Kelly-led Buffalo Bills. This clusterfuck of disappointment should have been a presage of what was to come. To this day, I remember going to bed on the verge of tears.
1990 was also the year that my all-time favorite athlete, Bo Jackson, had his leg ripped off and eaten by a bengal tiger. This fallen hero was a man who could run up 15 foot walls to snag would-be home runs. A man who once threw a baseball 1 mile…flat-footed. A man who ran the 40 yard dash before the echo of the gun could reverberate. A man who could pretend to play every sport on earth in Nike commercials. A man who was supposed to make the Raiders into a juggernaut. Bo knows retirement.
Then Jay Shroeder was traded and replaced by crystal meth enthusiast Todd Marinovich: the NFL’s equivalent of Corey Feldman. The former USC and high school phenom turned out to be little more than a Trojan horse of sucktitude. In 1993, Howie Long was traded to Radio Shack for a remote controlled car. All the while, Al Davis and future Hall of Famer Marcus Allen were participating in a lover’s quarrel that would’ve made T.O. and McNabb blush.
I stuck it out, certain that the move back to Oakland, coupled with the addition of walking mustache Jeff Hostetler, would bring us back to the glory hole.
The ’90s were a pretty mediocre-at-best decade for the Raiders. While the rest of the country basked in the warm glow of Clinton’s presidency, swimming in pools of cash, buying compact discs, laughing at “Friends”, and receiving copious amounts of office fellatio, The Raider Nation cried and tried to avoid succumbing to serious heroin addiction.
Just as I was prepared to jump ship, the Raiders rescued rocket-armed Rich Gannon from his nursing home and led the team to two championship games in three seasons…before eventually losing the Pirate Bowl to the Buccs. Final score: 322 to 12. Sigh.
The Raiders went on to a 4-12 record the following season. And then went 5-11, 4-12, 2-14, 4-12, and 5-11. I would have to check the books, but I’m pretty sure they committed twice as many penalties as points scored. They hired (and quickly fired) a 13 year-old coach who would later go on to drink moonshine in Tennessee and heckle Gators. Their current coach, Tom Cable, stabbed his entire coaching staff to death this preseason. Or something like that.
I was thrilled when the Raiders ALMOST defeated the under-performing Chargers a few weeks ago. Then when I sobered up I realized just how idiotic this charade was getting. I had finally sunk so low that I was rejoicing in near-wins.
This past Sunday I watched what was essentially a scrimmage between the Giants and the Raiders. Eli Manning won the game in the first quarter and Cable quickly threw up the white flag, forfeiting. For the first time ever, I was rooting for the “other team”. The sword is dull and I’m hopping into the ocean. I’ll take my chances with the crocodiles.
More fun facts:
- The team’s original moniker was the Oakland Señors. Aye carumba!
- Their first-ever regular season home loss was to the Houston Oilers on Sept. 11, 1960. Make your own joke about 9/11 and oil.
- In 1961 the total attendance for the season was 50,000.
- They had a 19-game losing streak during 1961 and 1962. You are not alone, Lions.
- The neighborhood around the L.A. Coliseum was so dangerous that, in the late ’80s, the NFL scheduled all Monday Night Football appearances as away games.