Monday, July 28, 2008

Al's trigger happy lawsuit habit

I came across another excellent article so re-posting it here. Oh calm down Raider Nation, it's not a hater article. It's all about how Al is spending the money you throw in his direction.

Al Davis' Other Game
By Harvey Araton , New York Times
August 13, 2003

While we were getting our first titillating fix of Kobe in a courtroom last Wednesday in the Colorado mountains, a sports-related trial far less sexy but reeking of its own rapacious character was winding down that very afternoon in Sacramento.

There, a jury was sent to deliberate four months' worth of testimony in yet another lawsuit filed by the Oakland Raiders and their owner, Al Davis, the ageless rebel without a righteous cause, or clue.

Though barely a blip on the national radar, this latest Davis litigation lobbed like a 50-yard Hail Mary to the end zone amounts to an attempt to financially rape the very taxpayers who welcomed Davis back to Oakland in 1995 after he abandoned them more than a decade earlier when the Raiders slithered south for a miserable run at Los Angeles Coliseum.

Davis was lovingly embraced, but the self-styled and typically celebrated slickster claims he was conned into the move and will have lost more than $800 million in revenue and franchise value by the duration of his lease in 2010.

''He says it was fraud, but how can that be when he got all the money?'' Ignacio De La Fuente, the president of the Oakland City Council, said in a telephone interview yesterday while waiting for the jury to reach a verdict during another day of deliberation.

Eight years ago, when Davis fled the downtown Los Angeles location where he was losing his shirt, the Oakland deal lavished upon the Raiders more than $50 million in upfront money, a new training facility and several million to Davis in personal wealth, according to a person who was directly involved in the negotiations as an outside contractor.

''There were some problems because Al was moving in June and it was such a rush job,'' the person said yesterday on condition of anonymity. ''But were the Raiders defrauded? Of all the claims he's made in the suit, it's the only one the judge didn't throw out, and yet it's the most ridiculous. In so many ways, Oakland bailed him out.''

The man characterized by his lawyers as football's most innovative mind signed the deal in 1995 and an amended version one year later with no crowd guarantees. Yet Davis wasn't back long before he was arguing he could leave again by invalidating the lease, which Oakland went to court to enforce. Davis countersued and, as De La Fuente said, ''Here we are, hard to believe.''

Shouldn't be, given Oakland's first experience with Davis and his predilection for litigation. Famed for his beloved ''commitment to excellence,'' Davis's problem is with commitment to commitment.

''I think his ultimate goal is to have the right to leave again,'' De La Fuente said, and with a few hundred million in traveling money, possibly from the pockets of the people who have been paying their way into the Coliseum for the past eight years.

Defendants in the suit are two defunct parties, the Oakland Coliseum Commission and the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, along with a former commission board member, Ed DeSilva. But according to Richard Winnie, the Alameda County attorney, the city and county assets could end up in play, given a judgment for Davis.

How's that for gratitude? How's that for a feel-good summer sports story? Already, De La Fuente said, the lawsuit has drained several million from a long-troubled city buckling under the weight of a $37.5 million budget deficit this year. At the root of the suit is Davis's charge that he was promised sellouts through the execrable process of peddling personal seat licenses. Davis says Oakland officials hid information that foretold thousands of unsold tickets, but during the disputed time period, even Bay Area newspapers reported that games for the 1995 season were not sold out.

Davis's response? He didn't read the papers, nor, apparently, did anyone else in his employ.

During the trial, Davis's attorneys suggested that Oakland and Alameda County swindled the Raiders into returning so they might renovate the stadium now known as Network Associates Coliseum and keep baseball's Athletics in town -- a curious strategy considering that the pyramid-shaped monstrosity of seats erected in 1996 and now referred to as Mount Davis stole from the Coliseum its views of the Oakland hills and any baseball charm.

Whatever Davis claims, he does so with practiced conviction, with natural charm, with the flash of Super Bowl success. ''I would never underestimate his impact on a jury, the impact of celebrity,'' said the person who worked on the 1995 Oakland deal.

This can also work well in the court of news media opinion, where it is so much easier to take down the athlete who trips over his sense of entitlement, or -- as in the case of Jeremy Shockey -- a warped sense of humor. At the Super Bowl last January, Davis reveled in fawning media treatment, with few, if any, mentions of the weasel angle he was working back home. He was his swashbuckling old self, at least until his team was impaled by the Buccaneers and Jon Gruden, his ex-coach who escaped Oakland and won it all at Davis's expense.

In Tampa, this was the stuff of storybook legend. In Oakland, it could be a scheme for another end run around logic and the law.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A look back at how AFL players dealt with racism in America

I came across a great article and thought I would share.

It's so easy to forget the conditions many players had to endure in the 1960's. Today's caliber of player has no regard for those that came before them. The 'me' generation is all about their bling.

Defiance led to tolerance
Oakland Tribune, Sep 25, 2006 by Jerry McDonald

Clem Daniels is sitting on a bench, enjoying the festivities of the Raider Nation Celebration, talking about the old days of the American Football League.

When asked if contemporary African-American players know of the sacrifices made by their predecessors, Daniels' mood sours for a moment as he offers a dismissive wave of his hand.

"No, they don't," Daniels said. "Absolutely no idea. None whatsoever. Most young players today are out of touch with the AFL history, and they have been for a long time."

Daniels, 69, joined the Raiders in 1961 after playing a season as a defensive back for the Dallas Texans, a franchise which later became the Kansas City Chiefs.

Many African-American athletes found the AFL more willing to provide an opportunity than the established NFL. The Raiders' Al Davis, the Chiefs' Hank Stram and the Chargers' Sid Gillman were among those in the forefront of those actively seeking black talent.

Former Raiders cornerback Howie Williams, who played two seasons in Green Bay (1961-62), said he lived in a renovated barn with five other blacks his first year in Green Bay. He said the racism practiced in the NFL wasn't always overt.

"It was like benign negligence," Williams said. "They just ignored it. It was like, 'As long as guys make out OK, it's fine.'"

Williams remembers getting off a bus in Florida for a preseason game and walking with some of his white teammates toward the team hotel only to be pulled aside. "Vince Lombardi called over (defensive end) Willie Davis and told him to talk to me," Williams said. "Willie said we were going to a hotel on the other side of town."

Art Powell, a receiver Davis recently called the "T.O. of his time," was released by the Philadelphia Eagles because he refused to play in a preseason game in Norfolk, Va., where black players stayed in a separate hotel from white players.

When the same thing happened with the AFL New York Titans in Greenville, S.C., Powell again refused to play, although this time he kept his job.

"You used to have guys tell you, 'Look, kid, you've got a lot of athletic ability. Just keep your mouth shut and don't worry about it," Powell said. "I wasn't the lone ranger. There were other guys who stood up."

Daniels was one of those players.

"We had to take stands to break down a lot of the bigotry and things that were going on," Daniels said. "There were still some very segregated cities, and we were confronted with a lot of situations. And that's the best thing I can say about Al Davis -- he backed us."

Davis moved a Raiders preseason game from Mobile, Ala., to Frank Youell Field in Oakland because of the concerns of his African- American players, which included Daniels, Powell, Bo Roberson and Fred Williamson.

He did it despite losing gate receipts for attendance that would have been considerably more than the 8,317 that came to the rescheduled game in Oakland.

In Mobile, the stands were segregated and blacks were not allowed to use the bathroom, Powell said.

Daniels said the black players met and told sportswriters they wouldn't play. He also said he told Davis.

"He said, 'I'll call (AFL Commissioner) Joe Foss and get it changed,'" Daniels said. "Just like that."

Davis, Powell and Daniels were also involved in having the 1965 AFL All-Star Game moved from New Orleans to Houston when 23 black players left town in protest over the way they were treated.

"When we got to New Orleans, I get my luggage, run into the street, hail down a cab, and the driver says, 'I can't take you,'" Powell said. "I said, 'What do you mean, you can't take me?' He says he can only have white customers and that I had to find myself a colored cab. There weren't a hell of a lot of colored cabs at the airport in those days."

"Colored cabs,"
according to Raiders assistant coach and Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown, came with restrictions in terms of where they could and couldn't go.

"They wouldn't go in certain areas," said Brown, who made the All- Star team playing for Denver in 1965. "They'd drop you off."

Black players met at their hotel and signed a legal pad produced by Powell in which they decided not to play.

In the book "America's Game, the Epic Story of how Pro Football Captured a Nation," author Michael MacCambridge writes that city officials produced Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, an African American who would later be the city's first black mayor.

Morial, the first African American to receive a law degree from Louisiana State, told players they were overreacting and defended the New Orleans record on civil rights.

Powell remembers feeling insulted.

"He blamed it all on Dr. (Martin Luther) King, that he was a troublemaker for trying to do change," Powell said. "I told the guy, 'You just blew it. Those were the worst possible combination of words you could have said.'"

Powell said he then got a call from Davis, who said he would see what he could do. Players left New Orleans, and by the time most of them had gotten back home, the game was moved to Houston.

Davis, in an Aug. 1 press conference, talked about how the 1960s affected the Raiders and professional sports.

"In'65, we had cultural revolution in this country," Davis said. "We had the Watts riots, we had Detroit, we had Martin Luther King in'68 getting killed. It's tough to go back in retrospect and remember, but there was a little turmoil in every organization, in every league, over the diversity issue and what was going to happen about it in the country."

Davis helped build the Raiders into a power by aggressively seeking talent from small, predominantly black colleges.

"He'd have someone go to Grambling, Southern, Jackson State, Alcorn State, all the black schools," Brown said.

Art Shell, whom Davis made the NFL's first African-American coach in 1989, is fond of recounting the Raiders draft class of 1968, in which he was taken in the third round.

That year Davis also selected quarterback Eldridge Dickey of Tennessee A&I in the first round, George Atkinson of Morris Brown in the seventh round and tight end John Eason of Florida A&M in the ninth round.

"He has always felt, and he tells me to to this day, that there are players in those schools," Shell said. "They're out there. You've just got to find them."

Powell said he always appreciated the fact that Davis stuck by him when he requested a trade to Buffalo in 1966 so he could pursue a business opportunity in Toronto.

Labeled as a locker room lawyer and a divisive force by some of football's establishment, Davis' parting words have stuck with Powell 40 years later.

"He told me, 'Don't let people try and get it in your head that you should change. There's nothing wrong with you,'" Powell said. "He could have just said adios."

By the time Shell arrived in 1968, players such as Powell and Daniels had helped pioneer a more tolerant era.

"There were a lot of people that took a stand, and I'm very appreciative of it," Shell said. "I would hope that if players today would go back and look at their history, how things occurred, they would appreciate it too."

Brown said he doubts there is a single player on the Raiders roster who knows any details of the struggles of African-American players in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

"That's the thing that's changing about our society," Shell said.

"They don't know their history. Players don't know the history of this league or the history of the team they're playing for. I think that's regrettable because they're missing out on a lot."

Pat Toomay's Take on Al

The following is excerpted from Pat Toomay's ESPN Page 2 article "Al Davis the Awkward Genius."

Al Davis, then as now, possessed a reverence bordering on awe for the sheer physicality of many of his players, particularly his great ones. There was something almost childlike in his veneration. Seeing a player perform a trick with a football, Al would try the trick himself. Inevitably, he would fail, looking foolish in the process, much to everyone's glee. Discomfort with his own body led to long sessions in the weight room, which prompted more teasing, since Al tended to focus on his upper body at the expense of his legs. This "arms first" approach gave Al the proverbial toothpicks-for-legs bodybuilders' syndrome. "Ol' Baggy Pants" was the inevitable nickname. But Al's willingness to reveal his vulnerability to his players endeared him to them. It created a bond between players and owner that existed nowhere else in football.

Ol' Baggy Pants, Al Davis, had toothpicks for legs. There were limits to this, of course. If a player challenged Al in the sphere of money or power -- as some did -- Al would annihilate him without giving it a second thought. It was just something you didn't do as a player. Not if you were smart. It violated the psychological contract. But the obverse was also true. If Al overstepped his bounds, mixing up power and performance issues, say, the player could respond with equal vehemence, and Al would suffer the abuse with equanimity. For those of us who were unfamiliar with the code, this could lead to some startling exchanges, as happened late that Sunday afternoon in Cleveland after we beat the Browns in Municipal Stadium.

After games, three buses left at staggered times for the airport. The first bus departed 45 minutes after the game, the second bus 15 minutes later, the third bus 15 minutes after that. Generally, most everybody got on one of the first two busses, but I found that the older I got, the longer I liked to linger, so I usually found myself on the third bus, along with a few other stragglers.

On this day, Snake was the only other player on the bus when I climbed aboard. He'd taken a seat on the left side all the way back. Settling down behind him, I accepted a paper cup half full of whiskey, a fifth of which Snake had stashed in his briefcase. We toasted, drank and, after a minute, Freddy came back. Still sweaty and wired from the game, Freddy plopped down across from Snake, fired up a cigarette as he threw down the whiskey Snake had passed him. "Let's go, bussy!" Fred yelled at the driver. "Who's left anyway?" The driver held up his hand. "One more," he said. "Come on, let's go!" Freddy barked. But the driver insisted on waiting. Then we saw why. The one person left was Al Davis.

As Al got on the bus, he grabbed the pole behind the driver and was about to swivel into his seat when he caught sight of us in back. "Hey!" Al shouted at Freddy, pointing a rolled up game program at him. "You cost me another $2,500 today with the way you butcher your uniform every week!"

Fred recoiled, as if his trust had been violated and he had been called a traitor. His response was immediate and assaultive, for he was defending hallowed ground.

"F--- you, you no-legged baggy-pantsed mother------," Freddy snarled. "You told me 'Whatever it takes!' "

Hearing this, I cringed, slid down in my seat until I'd disappeared from view. In my experience, this was unprecedented. Violence, I was sure, was imminent. But then I could hear Al start to laugh. Slowly, I raised my head. Sure enough, Al was laughing. Head thrown back, he was laughing and laughing.

"I guess I told him, huh, Tombstone?" Fred said to me. Now chuckling himself, Fred tossed off more whiskey.

"Zhivago, you're some piece of work, man," Snake remarked.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Vince and Mike boogie down

I don't know where this photo was taken but it looks like sweaty, drunk, NFL guys grooving to music. That is Vince Young in the center with Michael Huff on the right. The photo is from the Sacramento Bee newspaper (who I guess clipped it from a blog site). I don't know anything about the circumstances but I think it's just their free time recreation.

Al is outclassed by the Patriots - again

It must be a familiar feeling by now to Al Davis, overspending on an unproven talent and then being financially saddled with that player in a media griping match when standards for greatness are not met by the player. In this case, it is Lamont Jordan being snapped up quickly by New England hours after being waived. That says something, even though this is nowhere near an impact as a Randy Moss trade, it is a fitting end to the drama. This indicates the Pats believe they can peel away the negatives he has accumulated as part of the Raiders franchise and see if they found a serviceable talent in Lamont Jordan.

We already know in Raiderland that Jordan is not a full-time ball carrier. The Saints or Lions would be disappointed if they tried to use him that way. He's a backup so this move by the Pats tells us how badly they needed to spell Laurence Maroney, especially in the pre-season. That's not a bad gig for Lamont but he'll have to bust his hump to make that team. His fitness will come into play and whether his injuries have mounted enough to really slow him down as much as it appeared to during his time as a Raider.

It's an easy gamble though for the Pats. It's not like Lamont is that valuable if he does not pan out. It is displaying it in full view of Al's face that is the msssage. They are saying we're not even going to give you a low draft pick and there is no way we are picking up his 4 million salary. We'll just re-sign him for what we want to pay him THEN, we'll visit you on your home field December 14th 2008 and beat you with this player as we rest our first stringers for the playoffs.

See ya, nice not doing business with ya.

Al was so decisive in making sure a divisional foe would not pick up LJ that he forgot about the Pats or maybe he knew and realized what was happening but could do nothing about it. Perhaps he was openly being tooled all along.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, situations like this always lead back to the jilted guy coming back to haunt his former team. Even if that is his only good game of the season or the last of his career, it is destiny in the making. That's just how it is.

Somebody give this man a job already

The last few times the Oakland Raiders head coach position has opened up, Jim Fassel's name is mentioned. Since his unceremonious departure from the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 after serving for two years as Offensive Coordinator, he has become part of the Raiders backdrop, developing or enhancing a rapport with Al Davis, no doubt talking football.

If we look at the timetable of events, it is clear Jim Fassel came close a few times to becoming the Oakland Raiders head coach. The sticking point perhaps is reaching an accord over decision-making authority. I think we'd all like to know what those boundaries are. I'd like to think Fassel, being the type of coach he is, would need that framework in place before taking on the sort of responsibility that comes with a high demand to win the majority of your schedule.

Coach Fassel is not a salty yes man. Being salty in this sense means you project an old school type of approach to the game yet you know your real tasks are organization and the outward appeal to both media and fans. Everyone wants absolute autonomy but in any professional football job you are going to have to make compromises. How well you do that will dictate your success.

Since he is one of the family now, it's obvious Coach Fassel meets with Al's approval as far as depth of knowledge and abilities, otherwise he would not be engaging him in formal interviews for the head coach position. It's not just to meet NFL requirements to interview a certain number of candidates. There has to be value involved or why bother.

Just recently at Raiders training camp he was asked by Jerry McDonald, Raiders beat writer for the Contra Costa Times, about the possibilities of him coaching the Raiders. He said,"No, please don’t even bring that up. Quite honestly, sometimes you stay away because you don’t want that type of speculation. I really came here because Lane invited me to come. It was very nice of him. I appreciate that. My son’s here" [as a quality control staffer]. "I know all the people here.” Fassel said he has also talked to Al Davis and didn’t deny the two have discussed a coaching position over the past few years. “We’ve had our conversations. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Since Tom Flores' departure, Al tends to like salty, veteran type guys like Art Shell, Norv Turner (even if Norv is a nice guy, he chose to be a salty coach to get the job), Mike White (who rebelled), Joe Bugel (who flopped), Jon Gruden (who was not veteran at the time of his hire but is very much a salty guy) and of course the ill-fated Bill Callahan.

Jim Fassel has the option of being salty but he isn't. He's an innovator and his own man. He's been through the gauntlet as head coach of the NY Giants. He understands the pressures of the NFL as well as anybody in the profession. He did not enjoy success most recently as Offensive Coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens so he's not on the most solid of footing. It's been a few bumpy years for Coach Fassel but the truth is he does know offensive game planning.

Most recently when asked by Jerry MacDonald if he wanted to get back into coaching, Fassel said, “I hope so, at some point in time. It almost happened last year (in Washington). We’ll see.”

Fassel was thought to be hired by Dan Synder to coach the Redskins but was inexplicably bumped at the 11th hour for Jim Zorn. Coach Fassel can't seem to catch a break.

Ol' Jim is seen as somewhat of a retread candidate for head coaching jobs at this point. It may be an unfair stigma. Jim Fassel is a viable candidate for a role on an NFL team. A head coaching assignment would not be surprising but he could fill a number of roles in an offensive capacity. He's not washed up. Everyone hits rough patches so it's really not a big deal to bounce back. This is a guy who made it to the Super Bowl with the Giants in 2000. There's no shame in losing to that monster Ravens defense of the day. He knows how to win so he's worth another shot when an opportunity is out there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Raiders are a corporate entity operating as a hedge fund

Editorial edit 7-27-08

Just want to make it clear, the purpose of this article is not to highlight anything shady. Whatever is mentioned here is normal business practice. I'm just expanding on it based on news in the public domain and making that information available to interested readers.

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Al Davis Sells Minority Stake In Raiders To Three Businessmen
By David White, San Francisco Chronicle

Al Davis is still in complete control of all things Raiders. He just has more partners and additional cash flow after Wednesday's deal.

At the league owners meeting in Philadelphia, the NFL gave the Raiders approval to sell a 20 percent minority interest to a group of investors. However, Davis and his family retained their controlling interest in the team. They did not relinquish their power, and they don't ever plan to.

The small group of East Coast businessmen is led by David Abrams, director of the Abrams Capital investment firm; Paul Leff, founder of the Perry Corporation money management firm, and Dan Goldring, managing director at Perry Corp.

"They are thrilled to join the history and tradition of the Raiders," team chief executive Amy Trask said. "We are impressed with their passion for the Raiders and their love of the game of football, and we are excited to welcome them as limited partners in the Raiders."

Team officials did not release any further information about the limited partners or terms of the sale.
Davis, who was believed to own about 67 percent of the team, is the majority shareholder and managing general partner. He's tried to sell a minority share for at least a year after picking up a 31 percent share in a financial settlement with the heirs of former Raiders co-founder Ed McGah.

Davis reportedly paid out about $90 million in the court-mediated settlement. Forbes magazine estimated the Raiders' value at $812 million, which ranks 28th in the 32-team league, in its annual league evaluations last month.

The other limited partners are Ginny Boscacci, Rita Boscacci, Jack Hartman, Bob Seaman, Doray Vail and Gertrude Winkenbach, according to the team media guide.

The deal has been in the works for several months and awaited NFL approval at this week's owners meeting. The vote was unanimous, according to a league official.

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Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal
Oakland Raiders managing general partner Al Davis received $150 million for the 20 percent stake in the team he sold to three investors last month, league and financial sources said, placing a value on the franchise of at least $750 million.

Because majority buyers normally pay a takeover premium, and the team's stadium lease expires after the 2010 season -- meaning the club can move -- the value of the franchise is likely even higher. Any debt on the team would also add to its overall value.

While the club has a rich history and reputation, the price surprised some in finance because the team in recent years has played to weak crowds and struggled on the field. The team's president, Amy Trask, also said the limited partnership stake includes no option to buy the team when Davis, 78, dies.

"If there was no right to match or right of first offer [to a takeover], I think that valuation for a nonvoting [limited partnership] interest was very high," said one of the financial sources, who requested anonymity because he had been briefed on the subject by an NFL owner. "If those rights were available to the investors, it strikes me as still being a bit high, but understandable given that it may be very difficult for Davis' heirs to hang on to the business upon his passing."
The Raiders declined to comment on terms of the deal.

Recent Raiders history has the club not winning more than five games in a season since 2002 and failing to regularly fill 63,000-seat McAfee Coliseum despite the venue's being one of the league's smaller stadiums.

As a bottom-tier team in terms of revenue, a Raiders' valuation of about $750 million would be regarded as one of the lower prices for an NFL franchise. Earlier this year, the Jacksonville Jaguars, another lower-tier revenue team, received offers in that range. Upper-tier teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Washington Redskins are thought to be worth well over $1 billion.

The three investors buying into the team are David Abrams, Dan Goldring and Paul Leff. Abrams is managing member of Abrams Capital, a Boston investment firm. Leff is co-founder of New York hedge fund Perry Partners, where Goldring is a managing director. None returned calls for this story.

The price, at least for these three, indicates there is little concern about a coming labor war in the NFL, said Marc Ganis, a sports consultant who advised the Raiders on their 1995 move from Los Angeles to Oakland.

"[The price] indicates an expectation that the league will get player costs in line," he said. NFL owners have been unhappy with the collective-bargaining agreement extension signed last year. The owners have an option to opt out of the deal in November 2008, a move that would make 2010 the final season of the contract. That season would also carry no salary cap.

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So, there's a lot to chew on here. Let's look at the essentials as a starting point. "Three businessmen," that would be Mr. Paul Leff, Mr. Dan Goldring and Mr David Abrams.

All I did was a little bit of googling and came up with these pics in the public domain. I brashly re-use them here to illustrate the points I am making. My apologies for including Mr. Goldring's lovely bride, it was the only photo of Dan available. You guys are now part of the Oakland Raider organization and the Raider Nation as we are known.

So for purpose of our discussion we're talking about three regular Joe Raider fan investors as team chief executive Amy Trask explains"They are thrilled to join the history and tradition of the Raiders"

Amy Trask continues, "We are impressed with their passion for the Raiders and their love of the game of football, and we are excited to welcome them as limited partners in the Raiders."

With all due respect to the PR folks at Raiders HQ that's not what's going on here. I'm sure they are excited but the part about love and passion, nah. These guys are not passionate Raider fans who had the financial means and simply wanted in. I'm willing to bet the farm that they don't even follow football and never have (ok, maybe Dan does). Yea, I know football is played in the Ivy League. I'm a big Columbia fan but nah, c'mon. The truth is these guys are hedge fund wiz bangers, expert financial engineers who sling around large chunks of millions as a daily habit. In simple terms, a hedge fund is sort of your big money backup system. It keeps cash flow moving in areas that are doing well to offset any losses you are taking elsewhere. What it comes down to is a large monetary infusion of 150 million clams into the Al Davis free agent slush fund as payment for the "three businessmen" to have a stake in the Raider cash flow empire.

This is where your Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands, DeAngelo Hall, Gibril Wilson, Kalimba Edwards discussion comes into play and also Nnamdi of course but that is a different story. Are we saying there's no piece of that 150 million pie for sackmaster Derrick Burgess? That's the real shame of this whole thing.

A few years ago there were some rumors about various investment groups (Brent Jones, Eddie Debartolo Jr.) at some point in discussions with Al but nothing came of it until these Bahstin/Wall Street guys show up. So realistically why would these upper stratosphere financial guys be interested in the Oakland Raiders?

Make no mistake, these investors are pros. They aren't about to put 150 million on a losing horse. The NFL is a safe haven for cash flow because it is consistent. The fans budget their lifestyles for their teams. Fans will crimp and save, lay down the credit card, get a second job, pawn off that old guitar to support the silver and black. The rich men know this. They ride that pony to recoup their investment and turn a profit. The fact that the team has not won more than 5 games in a season since 2002 does not seem to have been a factor in the goings on. I'll bet the farm (again), the team's recent won-loss ratio never even came up in discussions! They don't care as long as there is positive cash flow in the Raider treasury and there is, without a shadow of doubt.

What this tells us is Raiders HQ operates like a corporation. Their business strategy is to have multiple complex revenue flows, all at the expense of the Raider Nation consumer. As a future essay will illustrate, this is all part of a grand matrix I refer to as The Raiders Luxury Tax.

Al Has Forgotten More About Football Than You Know

This hasn't happened to me (at least not recently) but have you noticed that is the stock response supporters of Al Davis will use in his defense? It doesn't seem to matter what the topic being discussed is or in what context. Al must be right, whatever is at issue, because he has forgotten more about football than the rest of us know.

Well, be that as it may (I won't even bother arguing the point even though it can be dismantled), who cares? What does that have to do with addressing the issue being discussed? It's a way of detracting from the issue, sticking up for the guy even though the criticism may be valid. If the criticism is not valid, state why instead of spouting the meaningless, stock response.

I find it difficult to find any worthwhile discussion of the Raiders with Raider fans. Raider Nation, try and up the value of your content rather than stand behind the one guy who could care less about you and is more concerned with your financial allegiance to his franchise. You are merely a feeder system to enhance the wealth of others. Open your eyes.

On the other hand, don't let me disrupt your plans to blow your budgets since that is what you intend to do anyway, all for the greater glory of Al.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Kiff won't be back

This topic has been talked to death and rehashed in so many different forms but STILL, the Raider Nation is divided. There are believers in Al. There are those who cannot fathom why Lane Kiffin would be jettisoned as head coach should the team pull out a respectable win-loss ratio in the upcoming season. Then there is the reality crowd who simply say, "the writing is on the wall." The mountain of evidence all points to Kid Kiff being the unfortunate lame duck as were many other coaches before him.

Realistically, this was a two year stint to turn things around. Had Kiff been more subservient, he would have stood a chance at staying on should the team show improvement on last year's 4 win tally.

You've all read or heard by now about the famous letter that sparked media feeding frenzy in January 2008. News leaked about a letter allegedly sent by Al to Lane's agent that significantly reduced Kiff's authority as head coach. It went so far as specify Kiff would not have input on personnel and coaching staff decisions. That's heavy duty stuff. It's the stuff that smacks of Al's fingerprints. Though actual proof of this letter was never revealed, the scenario just made too much sense. It would have been hard for the media to not react. This was a pattern Al had been using for some time in dealing with people (not just head coaches, anyone) who he feels has failed him. He can be a magnanimous man (look at how he has taken care of many former players and their various situations) but Al can also be a ruthless man. Remember, this is a guy who fired Mike White on Christmas Eve in 1996. Christmas Eve man, come on! I mean if that does not spell out what's really going on back there at HQ I have no idea what would.

A few writers came down real hard on Al when this occurred. In particular, Ray Ratto who is one of the most hilarious, insightful and talented sports writers in the business. The last thing you want to do as a sports team owner in the bay area is get on Ray's radar, giving him ammunition to meet his column deadlines. If Al is going to clang an iron fist then he has to expect that opens himself up to criticism. Plain and simple. Al is his own worst enemy as far as setting himself up for scrutiny with the press.

Lane was no angel in the process. He accelerated his own demise by raising the prospect of Rob Ryan's services being better served elsewhere. I like Rob Ryan as much as the next guy. Never met him but he looks like a good dude. BUT he has done what any company Yes Man would do. He has denied the incident took place at all.

When Lane presented his idea to Al about moving on without Rob Ryan, Al mulled the options and decided not only was Ryan staying, he had enough of Lane as head coach. There was some other rumblings that Lane allegedly instigated the trade of Randy Moss, getting a lower draft pick in return. Al was displeased at Randy's success with New England. Gee Al, that's never happened before you know, a player going to another team and finding new life. It's not like Randy was interested in being a Raider and giving it his all anyway.

Regardless, we know the Ryan incident ticked off Al who then allegedly sent Kiff's agent the famous letter. At this point, the gist of the contents - but not the letter itself - had made it's way to print nationally.

Raider HQ went into defensive mode immediately and denied the incident as valid. It must be myth! Al's legion of Raider fans rally to his defense, alleging the sports writers are hacks or stretching the truth to get a good story. The media hates Al! Down with sports writers who say anything bad about Al!

We all know everything's peachy at Raiders HQ. Ahhhhh...serenity!

This gets embarrassing for everyone. The Raiders are obviously embarrassed. The only thing worse would be a photo of Al sitting on the can appearing in The Onion.

Well, the incident must have occurred. As Lane verified when asked, "...where there's smoke there's fire. Obviously, there was something. Everything wasn't made up".

One thing to keep in mind, Kiff really has very limited experience dealing with the press. He did not do a whole lot of that up to his appointment as Raider head coach. He's not polished when it comes to coachspeak, which former Raider coaches were fluent in. Art Shell, Norv Turner, Bill Callahan, Jon Gruden, Joe Bugel, etc all were skilled at deflecting questions without revealing too much. Kid Kiff will learn but he's not there in year 1 or 2.

Still, Al's defenders believe:

1) The problem doesn't exist because some Al hating sports writer must have fabricated the whole story.

2) If a sports writer is not complimentary in their analysis then they are automatically Al haters, even though they are pointing things out Raider fans should be aware of but may not necessarily want to believe.

The only defense Al has and that his defenders have is to discredit the writer and then hope the incident blows over. What choice is there? Lose face by revealing Al is a dictator? We already know that he is of course but we're not supposed to call attention to it, especially the media (which I am not). That would be sacrilege! Surprise, 6 months later we're still talking about this incident because we know it's true. By denying reality it just makes a mockery of the franchise and its fans. It paints us as blind followers, loyal meatheads and banner wavers - the ignorant elements of the Raider Nation. You know, the target of the rest of the league's heaping abuse for not seeing what everyone else sees.

OR, do people actually read the criticism and notice that despite the blatent Al bashing, it was really nothing new. Everyone always wonders how long it will take for Al to get frustrated with his coaches and make changes. He has already started working on Kiff's replacement staff. James Loften has quietly been on staff as a receivers coach (replacing the iconic Freddy Biletnikoff) and Paul Hackett has now joined as a "consultant" or "Offensive Assistant." Hackett is an experienced offensive mind and is in good graces with Al as a result of his recommendation of Rich Gannon several years ago. Loften and Hackett are Al's new Yes Men to join Rob Ryan (who has no reason to leave if Kiff goes).

Here's the startling facts; experienced observers - like sports writers - have become cynical about Al because they have seen all this before, quite a few times. We all have. The biggest rumor is true - The emperor wears no clothes. Meaning, we're all supposed to just follow the company line and protect the boss. It's a political problem for Raiders management and they don't deal with it properly as a result of Al's temperament, effectively shutting down those lines of communication with fans.

Oh and excuse me, as a Raider fan I'm not supposed to raise these issues. I should be an ignorant banner waver and fork over my credit card for season tickets, shut my mouth and keep buying new merch to feed the silver and black marketing machine. Raider fever, catch it!

Let's cut through all the nonsense and look at the reality:

1. Al wants Lane out - or at least he did following last season. Something tells me nothing less than a Super bowl win will see him be invited back as Raider head coach in 2009.

2. Kiff has shown he's not comfortable with Al's management style. BUT, he's in a good spot. He is head coach of an NFL team that is primed for better things in the upcoming season. He is due 4 million for the experience. If he gets fired, he still collects. Most importantly, he is highly employable with this under his belt. There are better jobs out there that have supportive management for his services.

There has been speculation Kiff is under a 3 year contract but thankfully, Raider HQ has grown a set on this issue and admitted Kiff is under a 2 year deal with a third season contingent on meeting certain goals.

So all derisive media opinions aside, it sure looks like Kiff will leave on his own terms sometime after this season, before the next. Unless of course Al is insistent on making that call and fires Kiff beforehand.

Culpepper's golden grin does not land him a job in '08

For all Daunte Culpepper's stature last season as a possible savior of the Raider offense, his play was marginal. His best day came against the worst team in the NFL last season (Miami). No one was impressed with Josh McCown either but he was rewarded with a 6 million dollar two year contract by the Dolphins who see him as an upgrade to John Beck (Who? Exactly).

Pep's problem is his ego. While he does have medical concerns, he has all the physical tools to be a solid veteran backup/mentor in the league. He would have been perfect in this role to Jamarcus Russell had he played his cards right with the Raiders but Pep's ego cannot withstand that notion, at least not while he still thinks he's a starter. Daunte blew a good chance to be a backup in Green Bay in '08 by declining their offer. He probably would have gotten a chance to be starter once Aaron Rodgers got hurt or played himself out of the job.

Pep can't handle the inevitable slide players endure as their age diminishes their skills. It happens to the very best and while Pep's best years are behind him, he is a fool for throwing away a chance to continue to be on an NFL roster. The fact is, teams need strong backup QBs who will inevitably get in the game. Why should he care he is not named "starter" off the bat.

I lost respect for Pep a long time ago for various reasons, primarily his arrogance and foolish decisions. For instance, foot racing Stanford Routt in a Raiders practice and damaging a quad muscle as a result. That's just brilliant Pep, have a foot race with a world class track athlete. Or how about throwing a tantrum and protesting like a baby when Trent Green was brought in to compete for the Miami job with him in '06?

Bottom line is Pep is just like so many other bling'd out pro athletes who think they really are superior based on their contract of the moment or past achievements when their bodies were younger and more capable. Pep is gifted with an NFL arm and other physical attributes which make him a serviceable QB if he would just lower his expectations a bit, he would land himself a gig.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Raiders HQ brings out the posse

I don't know why but my Google Reader was displaying what at first appeared to be a mundane article on However, a closer look at the article was more revealing. A whole posse of Raider players, Raider coaches, Raider legends, executives, staff AND the 3 Lombardi trophies had arrived at... a business park in San Ramon, California for a catered gathering that included a business presentation of some variety by the Raiders.

"The Oakland Raiders recently welcomed over 70 chief executives and company presidents operating in Bishop Ranch Business Park to an evening event focused on business to business operations."

Hmmmmm...."business to business operations." Maybe they do a lot of these types of events so this particular one may not be unique at all. Still, I could not help notice the names in attendance:

Fred Biletnikoff
Jim Otto
Amy Trask (CEO)
Rob Ryan (Defensive Coordinator)
Greg Knapp (Offensive Coordinator)
Don Martindale (Linebackers coach)
Darren McFadden (Runnig back)
Ricky Brown (Linebacker, special teams
Jon Alston (Linebacker, special teams)
Oren O'Neal (Fullback)
HQ staffers
3 Lombardi trophies with beefy security team

That is a lot of payroll and hardware to bring out. This had to be some sort of pitch for sponsorships and/or ticket sales. Bringing out the Lombardi trophies, that says something. I'd say there's a big fish in there somewhere to go through that effort. Perhaps the pitch was not just for any ticket sales but luxury suite sales which have been notoriously hard to sell at McAfee Coliseum for Raider games. The challenge is Oakland has tremendous historical value as an NFL franchise but in reality, deep pocketed fans tend to be more finicky with their entertainment dollars. You have to be a REALLY big Raiders fan and rich to pay for a luxury suite. I don't know what it costs but it would have to be a few grand and who spends that on a football game. I wonder if any blinged out Oakland gangstas book those suites. Or maybe they are screened out. You have to depend on local businesses to buy those tickets and use them as perks in their operations.

No matter what window dressing the topic is given, the main problem with the Raiders is they are not as popular in the Bay Area (or Silicon Valley in particular ) with affluent football fans as the San Francisco 49ers. That is the elephant in the room. Rich football fans in the bay area tend to be in the art and wine crowd and lean towards following the 49ers or local college football like Cal or Stanford. The Raiders are a blue collar team representing a blue collar city with a blue collar fan base. There's no wine in the parking lot at tailgates or if there is there are no wine glasses.

Not to say those who could afford luxury suites are not out there, specifically in the driving distance of the east bay and who are Raider fans, it's just a harder mine to dig. The Raiders face a significant community relations stigma when it comes to winning business, namely premium ticket sales and luxury suites from bay area rich folk. Yet, they need those sales to help the franchise compete as an entity in the NFL. Al has lamented for years the Raiders do not have world class facilities. This is Al's vision for an NFL franchise to be able to provide the amenities that are found in other newer, classier, better designed NFL stadiums. One of the main reasons the Raiders moved back to NorCal from SoCal was the agreement that those luxury suites would be built at Oakland Coliseum. Now that they are fully functional and the Raiders do have the ability to compete as far as amenities, there is question if those suites are selling.

If you have not seen the suites, check the Raiders web site. The suites are tricked out plus you get catering. It's a hot date for sure. Not cheap to maintain.

So this business to business shindig in San Ramon makes sense EXCEPT for the fact that they only invited the "chief executives." My guess would be their strategy was they needed the attention of people responsible for spending money. The theory goes in business it flows from the top down but I think they would have better luck pitching higher priced tickets to tech workers with expendable income, not just "chief executives." Silicon Valley is very diverse and tech workers have money to spend. You have to find the Raider fans among them and catch their interest. What makes a great sales pitch is if it is directed at the right people.

How many Silicon Valley tech workers would love to attend an event to talk shop with Rob Ryan and Gregg Knapp, meet Darren McFadden? Yea, it would have to be limited in attendance and could be too much for the Raiders event planners to deal with but you stand a better chance at making those sales with mid-range type silicon valley types who earn triple digit income. Who knows, if McFadden really makes an impact and the team gets some wins, a winning team stands a much better chance at filling the high end seats.

"Most of all, the evening provided an excellent opportunity for the Raiders to showcase their ability to build strong and beneficial relationships with the business community. Through dialogue with attendees, the Raiders were able to generate a clearer understanding of each company’s objectives.

The Raiders possess many ways to reach a wide and unique audience and can subsequently help businesses grow larger and stronger. By directly engaging with a corporate audience at an event like this, many new ideas were born that will hopefully lead to mutually beneficial relationships."

In the dot com days, when the economy had a huge boom bubble to work with, millions of dollars in capital was available. Bay Area companies with cash to burn would splurge on perks like luxury suites. In high tech, perks are often used as a form of showing good will or partnership. Say a Cisco sales rep was trying to attract business away from a competitor, the rep would say "Hey Bob, what if I offered you and your family a luxury box for Sunday's Raider game?" That'll usually close your deal. But again, that takes a budget to burn and a lot of companies have cut back on those perks these days. Any way it is looked at the better tickets are going to cost somebody a chunk of change that is becoming harder and harder to come by.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lamont Jordan navigates himself into a corner..but still collects a check...for now

Just a few short years ago the Raiders rushing attack was on Lamont Jordan's shoulders. He was awarded a sweet multi-million dollar package to be an Oakland Raider after subbing in admirably for Curtis Martin with the Jets for four seasons. Since 2005, Lamont's performance has been mixed. He did well in some games but most observers saw an overall mode of decline after suffering through injuries, some lingering. His rehabbing from injuries never seemed fully in synch with the demands of being a premium dollar, every down type of back. The decline of Lamont Jordan and rise of Justin Fargas was no surprise to anyone really. Life as a pro team means re-shuffling the deck continually. LJ is now lost in that shuffle.

Frustrated, Lamont committed the worst possible sin he could commit as a Raider. He spoke unfavorably about his diminished role to the media. Those in the bay area may not have seen Lamont on the many post-game sports talk shows where he is interviewed. LJ became a broken record, stating he is unhappy with one thing or another, mostly that he is not getting his carries. Compounded with mounting Raider losses there was just no way to justify his trade demands anyway. He looked real stupid thinking his value was above the team's need to win games.

The problem is Lamont was unable to accept his lifecycle as a starting back had a short window. LJ went from good to adequate to serviceable to barely serviceable. But let's be fair, we don't know where LJ stands now as far as capabilities on the field. He has been shut out of practices thus far.

With his history of injuries, he could very well still be the borderline serviceable backup we believe he is or...Al could be right in his resistance to simply release LJ or trade him without getting fair value in return. Al's strategy considers the bottom line which is Lamont's contract. This was originally a 20 something million dollar deal. There are all kinds of ins and outs with cap space. In fact, LJ's contract has been renegotiated to accomodate Raider cap space needs in the past. There seems more to the picture than on the field realities. Cap talk is complicated so it's beyond my ability to address intelligently.

Realistically, LJ needs to prove he is even capable of being a backup at this point. He's a serious gamble as a starter in Detroit or New Orleans or elsewhere. Teams don't have to offer anything as trade bait for backups. Bottom line is there is no fair trade value for Lamont. Being a long time astute observer of player value, it is hard to fathom Al Davis does not see the angles. The sticking point seems a stubborn refusal to simply cut his losses and release the player. There must be a painful pill of cash outlay involved for it to be this problematic as to interfere with the team's ability to sign all their 2008 draft picks. Is LJ's value on the Raiders depth chart heading into training camp really that important in this era of precious roster spots...or is this personal?

On one hand it seems Lamont is intentionally being punished by the front office for speaking his mind to the media. That is why he is still on the roster as of this writing. The longer you keep a guy out of another team's reach, the less value he is on the market as teams work with the players they already have under contract. It becomes harder to learn other teams' systems in short time spans, teams are less likely to take a chance on you unless they are desperate. This punishment strategy resonates with similar situations over the years where Al seems to have no problem continuing to pay malcontents while they sit on the Raiders bench, behind the scenes sending a message he is imposing his will and forcing them to live up to their contracts one way or the other.

On the other hand, there is realistically no team to trade his 4 million salary to and if he is waived that is a salary cap hit.

Still, a pro player needs to be graceful when losing their starting job. If you say "I'm not happy" or "I want to be traded" that immediately puts you in the doghouse. It's a cardinal rule of professionalism, don't speak through the media to management. It does not work in the Raiders organization and it does not work anywhere in pro football.

It's too late for him now but where LJ needed to ply his trade was as a short yardage pounder. He may have hung around as a situational back. Now, he will be lucky to catch on with another team if/when he is released.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How I went from Jets fan to Raider "Fan"

It wasn't that dramatic a process really. It mostly had to do with moving from New York to the Bay Area in 1990. I wanted to leave everything New York behind so that is what happened though Jet memories stay with me.

When I was a little kid in summer camp during the 70's, one of the things my friends and I would look forward to was going to New York Jets training camp. One or two or three times a summer, they would load us up in a bus and take us out to Hofstra University campus on Long Island where the Jets allowed fans to watch the practices from the bleachers, for free as I recall. It was exciting stuff at the time. Actually, the build-up towards training camp and going there was more exciting than the practices themselves. There were no names on the back of the jerseys so we relied on football cards to correlate jersey numbers to names wherever possible or try to ID players just by sight. That was half the battle was figuring out who was on the field.

Then of course you just try to figure out what's going on in general. It's not like they are communicating to us what they are doing. There's drills, wind sprints, huddle up, water breaks, yada, yada. It's really die-hard fan activity to hang around all day out there, for those who really want to feel like part of the team. Boring in actuality.

Though, as kids, it really solidified our relationship with Jets as an entity. Even from afar, the Jets were our guys. There was little second guessing on our part at that age. Win, lose, whatever. We barely even knew the players names. We knew the big ones the media mentioned like Richard Todd. Looking back, those teams of the 70's were not very successful. A lot of 8-8, YET, that's not a catastrophe either which is allegedly why Walt Michaels hung on to his job for so long and Joe Walton after him. Leon Hess was a patient team owner.

Walt Michaels (who coincidentally was on Al Davis's staff with the Raiders in the 1960's) was not a great head coach. He was not even a good coach according to his detractors. All I remember was NO playoff appearances until a miracle season in 1982 when all of a sudden the Jets made it to the AFC Championship game @ Miami.

Wouldn't you know it, the field was saturated due to rainstorms and the Mud Bowl as it became known is best remembered as Dolphins Linebacker A.J. Duhe's day in the sun, embarrassingly picking off 3 of 5 Richard Todd INTs on the day en route to a Jets defeat. Woo boy, you could hear the air coming out of that balloon real quick in New York.

It was painful to be a Jets fan with that really bad championship game. To that point, the Jets only had Super Bowl III as their reference for success. When you think of it, Super Bowl III was what, the 1968 season. In 1982 that was an eternity ago and now this dude Richard Todd just implodes the whole franchise. I remember watching that game at a friend's house with his dad who was a real hardcore Jets fan. The silence was just overwhelming. It's one thing to lose but to lose in such awestriking fashion like that was tough to shake. All Jets fans everywhere felt it.

Sad to say, that day ruined it for me with the Jets. I know it's just one game, one season but can you think of a better opportunity the Jets have had to actually play in another Super Bowl since III? This haunted me as a fan. I could not get over it.

I sought solace in the game itself. My best friend, Mick, was an ardent Oakland Raiders fan or more specifically, a Jack Tatum fan. We actually played football in junior high school. We were both defensive backs, ironically positioned next to each other. I don't think we made a distinction between free and strong safety at that time. What stood out at the time was that I had no role model. Whoever played DB for the Jets completely eluded me so I adopted Mick's idol, Jack Tatum - The Assassin.

I actually had no concept of Tatum's playing style at first other than it was aggressive. When I studied Tatum's style more closely it did not resonate. I'm not into intimidation. My style of play was tactical.

I liked football and stuck with it through 10th grade or so but it gave way to juvenile delinquency as a high schooler. Honestly, it made no difference since I had no future as a player anyway being roughly 5'9" and on the slender side through my collegiate years.

I was still heavily tuned into the game by my junior high school football experience. I now fully felt the game's violence. I was up close and personal with it, even as a youngster at that age when you feel the impact of those pads smashing into your body and head, the game takes on a different meaning. I now understood the field level instincts of what the player goes through at a basic level. Ever since, when I watch a game I see it as a slugfest that is physically grueling for the participants. Raider fans and others may want to read Jim Otto's autobiography as perspective.

When I try to pinpoint it, I think the Jets still felt like my team because they played at Shea Stadium which was also my original home in Queens, NY. It was the Jets legacy of Joe Namath, Matt Snell, Emerson Boozer, Jerome Barkum, Richard Caster, Don Maynard and most importantly, head coach Weeb Ewbank that stuck with me most of all.

It was obvious the Jets were bad for so many years since Super Bowl III because they got bogged down sticking with mediocre coaches, mediocre player development, mediocre front office management, all for too long - like forever. I'd like to see them bounce back but they continue to be a hard luck franchise, even today, which is discouraging.

When I moved to the Bay Area from New York in 1990 the presence of the Raiders was still around even though they were based in Los Angeles at the time. The friends I happened to make all followed the LA Raiders. When the franchise moved back to Oakland in 1995 I became "sold" on being a fan but they made it real hard with the high cost of tickets, the whole personal seat license nonsense and local TV blackouts. The Raiders made it obvious they were not a fan friendly franchise from this vantage point. Still, as a fan it was just a natural fit since I have lived in the east bay ever since. It's a geographical vibe. I'm a blue collar guy in a blue collar environment, part of a blue collar community of Raider fans. That about sums it up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Woe to the Snake

I just got finished reading Ken Stabler's autobiography "Snake" for the third or fourth time since it came out in 1986. In many ways it's a great book, easy to read, informative, hilarious. But also, it's a revealing book. A rather full chapter is devoted to discussing his dad Slim Stabler. This was a guy who kept it all inside and reading between the lines, didn't show his love for his son. Slim was a troubled fellow with booze. We feel for young Ken who really wants a good relationship with his dad but it's unavailable except in intervals. They bond over cars, sports, but in the long run Ken doesn't feel he got everything he could out of his dad or measured up to his father's expectations, whatever they might have been. Ken was always striving to win his dad's approval. This was a motivator for him to excel in sports.

When Ken was a rookie he bailed on the Raiders training camp, bummed he was sitting third on the depth chart (behind Blanda and Lamonica), he drove all the way home to Foley, Alabama. His dad told him he'd be a fool to let the opportunity slide. After thinking it over, Ken decided his dad was right and drove all the way back across country to Raiders training camp to give it another shot. Makes you wonder if all that couldn't have just been handled with a telephone call! Anyway, Madden was irked at Snake but everyone knew the potential in Ken so they allowed him back. Things would have been very different for Raiders history without Slim Stabler around.

It's amazing the charisma, chemistry and mojo the Raider teams of that era carried. In so many ways Snake symbolizes that old guard Raider mystique. Everyone loved Snake and he fed off that to create a larger than life persona. The man got laid at will, could out drink the hardiest of souls, brush it off and go win a professional football game all in a span of a few hours. This was consistent with him as a way of life, his motor was always running. Snake does so much traveling at high risk on so many toys (cars, boats, etc.) and is drunk so much the time it's amazing he has never been in a major accident, knock on wood. Everything about him smacks of fun and a need to ride the razor's edge. Sadly, now in a different era entirely, it's those very qualities which have gotten Snake into some trouble.

People look at his recent DUI and think, "oh well that's just Snake, he's been like that for years." It's true he dug his own hole but you know what is interesting is that nowhere in his book is the word alcoholic or alcoholism mentioned, not even when discussing his dad. Other terms are used such as "the drinking" but confronting the alcoholism is absent as far as I can tell. Some 20 odd years after this book was written I wonder where he is in his own head with figuring this out. I hope he does not have a strategy to run himself into his grave from booze.

I don't preach to other people how to live their lives. I like to drink myself. We all have our vices, some of which we can quit but others are more difficult. Booze is tough to kick but for Ken's sake I hope that is the path he is on. I won't do him the indignity of re-posting his mugshot from his latest DUI arrest. Let's not beat around the bush. Ken, you look like hell. It looks like father time has done you wrong. My take is, there's still time for him to fix his life if that is what he aims to do.

You know, each of us have our threshold when we think we have had enough of our old ways. I've never met Ken or pretend to be anything than a voice from the blogosphere. I do wish anyone who has a problem with booze to understand the difference between drinking for recreation and drinking out of need. I know Ken's smart enough to see the difference.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A sharper, more agile, white jumpsuited Al

All kinds of civil officials had opportunities to keep the Raiders in SoCal in the 80's but a deal for a new stadium did not get done. It's a muddled area, POLITICS. Though, there are some who believe Al played his hand masterfully, getting what he wanted in the end which was moving back to Oakland and getting the city of Oakland to pay for it. At the time this was not yet known in this rare 80's interview with Al.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Al and the Media

There are those who say the media is out to get Al Davis and the Raiders any chance they get. To an extent that may actually be true. It's a give and take relationship that has deteriorated over time. Al has grown weary of the media turning on he and his team and not showing enough love. As a result, the Raiders have become a franchise that is not forthcoming with details about anything, however small a news item it may be. He has stated several times that he wishes things could be different with the press but they remain at odds most of the time.

In Al's defense, it's a tough thing to do year in and year out; to be courteous and grant interviews, allow people to see the real you and then you get publicly ripped to pieces by the people you just invited into your world. That is what sports writers are to team owners - parasites who you have to treat royally, allowing them into your practice sessions, your facilities, basically talk to whoever they want to collect nibbles of juicy storylines. You even feed them. Did you know there is someone at Raiders HQ who is responsible for making sure there is catering at Raider press conferences? It is a normal feature of teams and the media.

In response to the walled off nature of the Raiders organization the press find ways to chip away at Al's castle. The bottom line is it's the job of sports journalists to hold team owners accountable for every decision associated with your franchise. It so happens this includes the good news as well as the mistakes. That's the business newspapers are in.

What I find interesting is Al typically resists the temptation to display a knee-jerk reaction to an issue. He seems deliberate, slow to respond. He's a deep thinker and shrewd planner YET, when he does respond, it's the same as if he did respond immediately - with blunt decisiveness.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The most annoying Raiders fan EVER

This clip is hilarious. I found it through a youtube search, keyword: raider fans. I'm not sure who the first player interviewed is in the clip is but the presence of Jason White indicates that is the Oklahoma tunnel after a defeat to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Raider Nation reprezent

The reason for this blog

I have been resisting the idea of a blog for some time but the thoughts have been building. Lately, I just have a lot to say about the Oakland Raiders - the most bewildering franchise in the NFL. So much has happened over the last few years to stir the pot. The Raider Nation really wants to know, what is going on already? Is this karmic payback upon Al Davis in his twilight days? The achievements and optimism that was so high during the 2002 season has been obliterated and forgotten because of the embarrassing loss to the Bucs in the Super Bowl. We still have not recovered from that loss. It is not ancient history. It is our albatross. Since then the franchise has been at rock bottom for much of the time and as stable as Al's legs (no offense intended. I don't think it's a secret the guy is not in spring chicken form). Off the field the news is rarely encouraging as well.

Still, I am looking forward to the upcoming season with the same sort of passion as everyone else. I wouldn't be a football fan if I was not stoked for a new season. The difference is I have tempered (or maybe lowered) expectations. The fact is it's hard being a Raiduhs fan these days. Maybe that's the real reason behind why I started this blog. If I keep it all in I won't cope as well with the flow of events. Let's face it, as fans we pay close attention to what goes on in the news. I know I read the wire almost every day and scroll through my Raider feeds and bookmarks for fresh material. The Raider Nation lives and dies all year along with our team, not just during the season.

This blog is one way to make my contribution to the Raider Nation cause. Good or bad, it is what it is. In addition, I will also be covering football history of the various leagues and other entertaining posts.

Rick Neuheisel and the San Antonio Gunslingers

A few months ago I noticed Rick Neuheisel was appointed head coach at UCLA. It's great to see Rick back in the saddle. You have to wonder if the opportunity was afforded to him because UCLA is his alma mata. He did leave both U Colorado and U Washington under negative circumstances. At Colorado he did well with the team but there were questions about some of the football staff's recruiting methods. He bailed to Washington, leaving the athletic department to clean up the mess and face the music with the NCAA investigation. Then, during an excellent stint as head man with Washington he gets busted for something really ridiculous - participating in a basketball betting pool. Who cares, right? The fuddy duddy NCAA does apparently and Rick was shitcanned - only to sue and win a few million in damages from the university. Nice.

Not that his wrongs were any greater than anyone else's in the coaching profession, Rick just got caught. Though life hasn't been bad for him since his firing from Washington. He worked his way up to an offensive coordinator position with the Baltimore Ravens this past season.

I've always liked Rick as a coach but whenever his name comes up I can't help think back to 1984 or '85. I was watching a USFL game on TV. The San Antonio Gunslingers versus somebody. Rick Neuheisel was the QB for San Antonio. He was pretty good with the supporting cast he had to work with. Regardless of what anyone may think, some of those USFL games were fun to watch. Some good players came out of that league. The main problem with it as I recall was penalties from undisciplined oaf players. You know, stupid things like late hits just slows down the pace of the game when penalties are called.

Rick was a good prospect and might have played in the NFL but was probably offered a decent salary to be the Gunslingers showcase talent. I don't know why that particular image of Rick in the USFL is burned in my memory. It's not like they were an interesting team or Rick did any one thing exceptional to stand out. I think Rick just made an impression on me with his overall demeanor on the field. A QB really does need to be a little bit cocky without overdoing it, balancing the need for his teammates respect but with a visible chip on his shoulder. You need that edge in order to win games. You have to know you are capable of leading your team in whatever situation comes up. A QB needs to be a leader by example with poise under pressure. Those are the intangibles and not a lot of guys have it. I think Rick had all that, not just in that game, I remembered him when he played at UCLA. He put up big numbers but he was seen as a typical southern California blonde surfer boy who fit the image of UCLA. So maybe he was not liked by everyone, still today. The fact is he is a helluva coach. Look at his record at Washington and Colorado. He's a good recruiter as well. I think he deserves a fair shot. It's not easy nowadays playing in the shadow of a perennial national champion like USC so Rick has his work cut out for him. I bet that's a reason why he was hired at UCLA, because he still carries that brash, get after it mentality to collect the wins.

A man named Smelley

At first I thought this had to be a joke. A guy with a last name "Smelley", no way. But there he is and not just any guy. This is the starting QB for the South Carolina Gamecocks coached by Steve Spurrier. Now I don't just want to jump on this kid because of his name but I mean how did this come to pass? Most surnames have some sort of ...relevance. The name "Smelley" does not compute but I guess there's a lot I don't know about in this world.

My next question is, why has this guy's family not done something about the problem? If my name was Smelley I would take whatever time I needed, acquired whatever resources I needed and FIXED this problem. A name change, taxes, the whole deal. I mean, that is just to much.

The first I heard about Spurrier was when he was USFL head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits in the early 80's. I couldn't find a photo of Spurrier getting sacked but here's one from his days with Tampa Bay playing the Raiders.

Tom Landry

I never thought of Tom Landry as a player but imagine the surprise at coming across this photo. He did indeed play. He was a cornerback for the NY Giants for a few years before finding his calling. He transitioned to defensive coordinator in 1956 to begin his coaching career. Vince Lombardi was his opposite number as the Offensive Coordinator on that Giants team. In 1960 Landry was installed as head coach of the NFL expansion Dallas Cowboys.

I really don't care much about the Cowboys but I find it interesting how Landry fits into the old guard NFL. I was never fooled by the stoicism. I knew he must be repressing emotions. You can't be a football guy and not have strong emotions. I learned later he was a deeply spiritual man. I suppose this can account for an ability to control one's emotions but it all seemed so blank, meaningless. Why be involved in the game if you are not going to enjoy the experience? For me Landry represented a facade for the business of football.

Though I guess he let his hair down a bit and smiled after the Cowboys first Super Bowl win in 1972.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Oakland Invaders - the Raiders’ alter ego

With the Raiders' move to Los Angeles prior to the 1982 season, Oakland fans were left without a team. Fortunately, the USFL started up and a local investor created the Oakland Invaders. The team was welcomed with open arms by the Oakland football faithful, drawing close to 50,000 fans for games, 25,000 of which were season ticket holders. What most people don't remember is the Invaders pitched John Elway an offer of 6.4 million. That didn't work out but Fred Besana out of Cal turned out to be the right QB for the job, at least to get things started.

Under head coach John Ralston, the Invaders struggled out of the gate in their inaugural 1983 season. They turned it around to go a gritty 5-3 over the last eight games to win the Pacific Division title and secure a playoff berth. In front of 60,000 at the Pontiac Silverdome, the Invaders fell to the Michigan Panthers, 37-21 in the first round of the playoffs.

On the season, former Raider Arthur Whittington ran for 1,043 yards and had 66 catches. Fred Besana passed for 3,980 yards and 21 touchdowns. Another familiar name to Raiders fans, Tight End Raymond Chester led the squad in receiving with 68 catches for 951 yards.

To say that Oakland stumbled in 1984 is a major understatement. The Invaders began the year 0-9, scoring a paltry 82 points in the first half of the year. Head Coach John Ralston was fired. Chuck Hutchison was named interim coach in week four but it took the Invaders until the tenth week to show results. Oakland then reeled off seven straight wins to finish with a respectability and momentum.

In 1985 the Invaders merged with the Michigan Panthers. Former Raiders Assistant Coach Charlie Sumner took over as head coach of the Invaders. As head coach he smoked cigarettes on the sideline and presided over the action with a furrowed brow. Coach Sumner ran the Invaders as if it was the Raiders with a tough as nails "Just Win" attitude. Fred Biletnikoff was wide receivers coach as well which couldn't hurt.

In 1985, after getting off to a 4-3-1 start, the Invaders won nine of the remaining 10 regular-season games. The team finished with a league-best 13-4-1 record. QB Bobby Hebert threw for 30 touchdowns and more than 3,800 yards; Anthony Carter, Derek Holloway and Gordon Banks combined for 179 receptions and 26 touchdowns in 1985. The Invaders scored 473 points – second only to Jim Kelly's Houston Gamblers with 544 points.

A much improved roster and Charlie's hard nosed coaching methods propelled Oakland to the playoffs. In the 1985 quarterfinals, the Invaders beat Steve Spurrier's Tampa Bay Bandits 30-27 then beat Pepper Rodgers' Memphis Showboats 28-19. The Invaders were USFL Western Conference champions.

They earned the right to play against the USFL champs from the previous year, Jim Mora's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars in the 1985 title game. Interestingly, during the regular season the Stars and Invaders battled to a 17-17 tie that could not be broken in 3OTs.

Ultimately it was sloppy play that ended the Invaders chances of a victory. A personal foul penalty by FB Tom Newton thwarted the winning drive for Oakland as the Stars won 28-24 on a rain-soaked Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Bobby Hebert remarked 20 years later "The guys were yelling at him in the shower because he cost us the game"

The Oakland Invaders franchise had a brief but exciting run that ultimately ended in heartbreaking defeat.


I had a t-shirt with this design that amazingly lasted like 20 years but then one day I found it shredded. One too many cycles of laundry I guess.