Don’t tell anyone, butE |

Don’t tell anyone, butE

Paul Andrew, Tribune real estte acount executive

I am a Raider fan. No, I don’t have a collection of human skulls in my closet, bite the heads off of snakes, or smash beer cans against my forehead.

It all started in 1962, when my father took me down to some little shack in Oakland to buy tickets for a team playing in a league called the American Football League. At 8 years old, I didn’t know much about football, but remember thinking the pirate logo was cool. My mother laughed when she heard we were playing a game against a team called the Chargers. What’s a Charger?

The Raiders first stadium, Frank Youell Field, was a temporary set of bleachers named after an undertaker. Stars in those days included Jim Otto, “00”, Clem Daniels and quarterback Tom Flores, who later coached the Silver and Black to two Super Bowl championships.

From the beginning, the Raiders and their inferior league were looked down upon by our elitist neighbors from San Francisco. The Niners, their fans and their newspaper always portrayed themselves as upper class, chardonnay- drinking fans superior to the blue collar, dregs of society, Raider side of the Bay — an image difference that still exists today.

When the team moved into the new Coliseum in 1966, Oakland finally was “big league.” The team started winning consistently and represented the AFL in the second Super Bowl against Vince Lombardi and the mighty Green Bay Packers. Though the Raiders lost the game, they made a statement that they could play with the best the NFL had to offer.

Once the leagues merged in 1970, the Raiders were consistently among the league’s best, though they often lost close, controversial playoff games. Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” in Pittsburgh continues to haunt Raider fans.

The Raiders had a reputation of having a roguish bunch of players in those days. From the early days, characters such as 6-foot-8 Ben Davidson, with his handlebar mustache; wild man John Matuszak; Jack “The Assassin” Tatum and Ken Stabler reinforced the Raiders’ image as a an outlaw bunch. Stabler, known as “The Snake,” once threw four touchdowns against Denver in a snowstorm after pulling an all-nighter.

Great games and incredible comebacks were frequent for the Silver and Black. Oakland scored two late touchdowns to beat the Jets on national TV after NBC had switched from the game to show the kids’ movie Heidi. After a flood of irate callers blew up the NBC switchboards with calls, the league agreed to never cut away from a game again. With no time left against the Chargers, Stabler and a few of his mates intentionally fumbled, kicked and rolled the ball into the end zone for the winning touchdown, creating the now famous “Holy Roller” play.

The league changed the rules shortly after that game.

Bitter rivalries were created with Kansas City, Denver and especially Pittsburgh. Steeler coach Chuck Noll once called the Raider defensive backs part of a “criminal element,” and filed a lawsuit because of their style of play — like the Steelers were a bunch of choir boys!

In 1977, it finally happened! After beating Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship, we stood in line all night at the Coliseum to get tickets to Super Bowl XI in Pasadena. Behind the passing of Stabler and running of Clarence Davis, coach John Madden and the Raiders dominated Minnesota in Super Bowl XI and became world champions.

Behind castoff Jim Plunkett, we won again in 1980, though there was a black cloud surrounding the team. Owner Al Davis was then talking about taking our team to Los Angeles. He couldn’t do that! We supported this team from the beginning. Well, he did it, breaking the hearts of Oakland fans who lived and died for their team. Like many fans, I was bitter, and wished nothing but bad luck to Al’s team after they were stolen away.

Even though the Raiders won another Super Bowl in Los Angeles in 1983, the move down south proved to be a mistake. Losing seasons, small crowds and an extremely rough fan base were prevalent in those years. Several attempts to bring them back failed, until an agreement was signed in 1995 for their return. “The Raiders were back where they belong!”

After struggling on the field for a few years, the Raiders are now in the Super Bowl, facing the Tampa Bay Bucaneers and their old coach, Jon Gruden. Today’s stars, Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, have built a team that Oaklanders are proud of. Will Al Davis again possess the Super Bowl Trophy? We’ll find out on Sunday. Go Raiders!

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