To NFL fans, the Raiders become the Traitors

by Gary Shelton on March 30, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Raiders' Derek Carr can drive his team to Las Vegas./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Raiders' Derek Carr can drive his team to Las Vegas./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Thursday, 3 a.m.

The first time I was at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, there was a holdup in the security line to get in.

Seems that the guards were busy checking out the light sabre of some guy named Darth Vader.

Seriously, here I was, waiting for officers to make sure my laptop wasn't a nuclear device, and a few folks in front of me, Darth was making small talk. It was taking him a while to get his plastic armor through the line. The force, I guess, wasn't with him.

The security guards had no whimsy to them. They studied as he turned this intergalactic phallic symbol on and off, off and on. I wanted to shout out "these aren't the droids you're looking for."

It was a cramped stadium, and by the end of the night, it would be left looking like someone's trash heap. There was nothing special except for the celebrities. James Garner was there, as I remember. The other guy from Chips. Dionne Warwick, who didn't know the way to San Jose. A whole Love Boat filled with guys who used to be on TV.

Ah, but the fans who were there loved the silver and black. I still remember that. They'd lean over the rails, and

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they would act like the world's largest biker gang. To them, the Raiders were still that intimidating force from another time, back when Al Davis was smart instead of doddering, back when the Raider quarterbacks were feared in the deep.

They have always been a unique franchise, long before Davis started moving them around like queens of the chessboard. There was a thuggishness to the Raiders, a mean streak that the rest of the league would insist didn't bother them. But it did.

There was Big Ben Davidson, with his terrific handlebar mustache. And Tom Keating and Daryle Lamonica, the Mad Bomber. There was ageless George Blanda and Marv Hubbard and Gus Otto, old number 00. There was the Assassin and the Mad Stork and the Tooz. The Snake and the Ghost and Dr. Death. They were comic book villains in shoulder pads.

There for a while, Davis was slightly smarter than most other owners, and his personal renegade nature permeated that of his team. He won three Super Bowls, and until he went a little bit crazy, as they say, the greatness of the Raiders was in the future.

And now?

It's gone. All of it.

It would be folly for the Raiders to show up in Las Vegas have their new fans act as if they had shared in their better days all along. That's as silly as Johnny Unitas being cheered by the Colts; he played in Baltimore, not Indianapolis. Personally, I believe that any team that changes cities should erase its previous history. The Ravens are not the Browns and the Arizona Cardinals belong to neither St. Louis nor Chicago. If Jacksonville goes to London, well, I don't care to see the Brits celebrate Mark Brunnel, you know.

The Raiders closed their history out in Oakland when they left, once again, to go hang out with Wayne Newton and Siegfried and Roy. They share a history with Bugsy Siegel, not Warren Wells. With Moe Green, not big Bob Brown.

Shame on the NFL for this move.They turned their backs on thousands of fans, piled up the allegiance and sold it. In the past, they have done the same to fans in Cleveland and St. Louis and San Diego and Baltimore. Someday, they may do it your city. It doesn't matter how much you support them. It doesn't matter how much you love them.

Oh, there was always something special about the Raiders. When I was growing up, it seemed the Raiders were always on at 4 p.m. Sometimes they were playing the Steelers, or the Jets, or the Dolphins. They were Heidi. They were indestructible.

In the NFL, there are so many teams, and some of them just don't matter very much. San Diego hasn't mattered for years. Cleveland. Texas. But the Raiders, even when they were bad, mattered. Until their dying day, they mattered. They might as well have been Leatherface and Freddie Krueger and Jigsaw and Pennywise and Michael Mayers and Norman Bates and Hannibal Lector. And that's just the defense.

They were Hayes and Haynes, and Shell and Upshaw, and Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch. They were Jim Plunkett, who not only was wonderful at  football but has the honor of answering perhaps the silliest Super Bowl question of all time. One day, he spoke in quiet tones about his mother, who was blind, and his late father, who had been blind when he lived.

"Jimmy, Jimmy, I want to make sure I have this right. Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?"

There was the wonderful Marcus Allen. There was Howie Long. There was Marv Hubbard.

There was Willie Brown. There was Ray Guy.

Now? Now they're just greats from a forgotten city and a forgotten fan base. They used to play here. They don't anymore.

Of course, it removes some of the sting that Davis lost his marbles. He started firing coaches and ignoring their contracts – like Lane Kiffin. He traded Jon Gruden – Chucky – to the Bucs, only to see him come back a year later and woodshed his team. He watched losing season after losing season after that Super Bowl.

Still, they were the Raiders. Still, they mattered for a very long time.

There was John Madden, who once had the label of being unable to win the big one. There was Tom Flores, who would be in the Hall of Fame today if some weren't convinced that Davis was running things. There was Tim Brown. For a few minutes, there was Jerry Rice.

This week, those names have faded into the vapor. Their team no longer exists. Their best moments will soon be forgotten.

The Raiders have died.

Somehow, a part of the rest of us did, too.

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