Monday, August 31, 2009

Masochism and (American) Football

There's a blog post by this guy Bagehot over at the Economist, "Of masochism and football," that that has a paragraph that rings true to this fan of American football. Particularly this Raiders fan:
Watching football, particularly but not only in the flesh, has obvious similarities with religious worship. There are rituals, there are chants, there are regular seats and neighbours, as there might be in more orthodox places of prayer, plus the elusive sense of community that churches or synagogues can provide. And football, like many religions, works on a principle of deferred (sometimes endlessly deferred) gratification, promising but withholding a heaven of success reached by most supporters only very rarely. The scarifying waiting, with all its failures and disappointments, is not incidental to the attraction: it is, I think, much of the point. It is an exquisite and addictive form of self-punishment.
The deferment he's referring to here is about goal scoring in soccer, but it applies to us Raiders fans, recently anyway, in terms of touchdowns (especially the Art Shell/Tom Walsh squad) and wins. But extrapolating this into American Football, I would say that the comparisons to the churches and synagogues remain, and I would add that American football is played on Sundays. Even at the lower levels, High school and college, the games are played after sundown on Fridays and on Saturday afternoons. And our stadia, especially the new ones, are as spectacular in their architecture as any cathedral.

Part of what is so frustrating about being a Raiders fan, and I imagine that a lot of 49ers fans feel this way, probably even more than we do, is that at one time, we were great. Al Davis, the renegade, the outsider who came from Brooklyn with a middle finger sticking in Pete Rozelle's eye, won ballgames with style. We were John Madden screaming at refs. Jim Plunkett winning Super Bowls and being immortalized in 460 Years of Chicano History.

Now, John Madden's a video game salesman, Jim Plunkett's a preseason radio personality, and Al Davis is an aging, senile patriarch.

But we stay faithful, I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because the uniforms are still badass. Or maybe because we know that as sad as it is, Al will pass on, eventually, and he can be remembered as he was in his (relative) youth, when his team dominated more than situations involving overhead projectors.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bill Romanowski: Character Witness for the Defense

Phil Barber catches up with Bill Romanowski:
I have no idea what the coach did or didn't do. Nobody does. All's I know is I just talked to him for 10 minutes--I like his ass. I'll tell you that straight up. He's a straight shooter and I said, "If you need anybody to help you out, I got your back."
Thanks, Romo. I'm sure coach appreciates it. With friends like these? Anyway, he goes on to talk about why he's a Raider-por-Vida now:

By the way, though two of his former teams were going head-to-head in Napa, Romo's allegiances were clearly defined. In retirement, he's a Raider.
"As far as football goes, this is my team," he said. "I played for both of them, but I'll tell you a true story. When I left and retired, I got one call and only one. I was close to a lot of people, close to a lot of organizations, and it was from Al Davis [...] I love Mr. Davis. I do [...] at the end of the day, I want to see this organization kick ass. Because at the end of my career, they let me play another year and half.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

In a column that makes Lowell Cohn's read like a John Herrera transcript, Mike Silver takes a chainsaw to the Raiders. This quote, from an unidentified former player, makes me want to throw up:
“That [Romanowski punch] got the publicity, but I saw so many things like that,” says one former Raiders player who is now with another team. “I saw a player push a coach and get his game check taken away. Other players would cuss out coaches and get away with it. One coach made a smartass comment and a player pushed him almost to the ground. I saw a coach take a swing at a player. Coaches were verbally going after other coaches. And guys were getting drunk in meetings or coming to practice still drunk from the night before. They’d throw up before we went out on the field, or you could smell the liquor on their breath.”
NFP broke the story about Hanson's decision to go to the Police. He's also lawyered up.

Is it Morrissey time already? Last year we made it to October before giving up. It's still August.

Question for Cam Inman

What's so disturbing about JaMarcus taking off his gear after practice? It was over, right? And what's he supposed to do, carry his own stuff? Isn't that why the team employs equipment staff?

This a serious question, because I just don't understand. Is there some kind of unwritten rule that you don't take off your pads until you get into the locker room?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

About that Hater of the Week...

Dan wrote a really great post the other day giving Lowell Cohn the HOTW award for his one-two punch evisceration of the Raiders in columns on Sunday and Monday.

Nobody takes the piss out of the Raiders like Lowell Cohn. I stand by it. And it's mainly because we know, deep down, that what he's writing is probably true, at least when it comes to writing about Al Davis. That's why it hurts so much.

But then came the news that Chaz Schilens, who had looked so good in camp, broke his foot.

And then came news that the league is investigating the Jawbreaker incident.

And now we get word that the offense this morning, in the joint practice with the 49ers, was an atrocity.

And Mike Florio at PFT gets to unleash his wit on the Raiders:
And regardless of whether Cable punched Hanson with a fist, threw him out of a chair, or went Bob DeNiro-as-Al Capone with a Louisville Slugger, Hanson suffered a fractured facial bone during his fracas with Cable.
And in discussing the beatdown the offense took this morning:
Raiders coach Tom Cable likely was frustrated enough to punch someone.

Or throw someone out of a chair.

Or maybe a little of both.
Har-dee-fucking-har. What's apparent now is that the real Hater of the Week isn't Lowell Cohn, or Mike Florio, or even Nancy Gay.

It's God.

That's right. That's the only thing it could be: God has cursed the Oakland Raiders. Otherwise, why would be suffering the football equivalent of the Egyptian plagues, in injuries, ridicule, and losses? The only thing left if is for God to strike down the first-born sons of every player and coach.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ESPN Sucks

Bronco Bill gets called away to Minneapolis to help cover the Brett Favre signing. Like it's a national emergency, and he's Anderson Cooper or something. Give me a break.

Because lord knows ESPN doesn't have enough boots on the ground in Minnesota right now. Unless Ed Werder and Mort got lost somewhere in Brett's colon.

The only people excited about Brett Favre coming back are Mike Vick and Tom Cable, because nobody's talking about them anymore.

God Hates Us

What a week. First, Cable's cold cock.

Now, Chaz Schilens, our number #1 receiver, has a broken foot.

Schilens says he'll play against the Chargers if God does a miracle. But since God obviously hates the Oakland Raiders, he'll probably get gangrene and never play again.

I'll talk to you guys later. I have to clean the oven.


A couple of more reaction columns this morning. Kawakami has a predictable, "This is why the Raiders suck, because Al Davis cultivates a paranoid atmosphere where nobody, especially the head coach, is really in charge, and so they do stupid things like punch each other in the face and lose 11 games a season," column up at the Merc. His comparison to the Shell/Lombardi feud of 2006 doesn't really work here, because that was more a battle between more or less equals for front office supremacy. They both loss. I guess Kawakami's point is that there's Al, and then there's everyone else, and in Al's eyes the head coach is just as much a peon as a generic defensive assistant. And besides, he took Hanson's side in the Kiffin debacle.

Which brings us to Ratto, who uses his column as an opportunity to take a shot at Lance. It's pretty funny, too:

So while we await developments in Napa and New York, we are most eager to await developments in Knoxville, Tenn., where Kiffin has some form of I-told-you-so clawing at his soft palate and desperate to get out soon.

Trust us, he won't be able to help himself. I mean, he never has before. That's why he's in the position he is today.

I think I'll take this opportunity to play a couple of songs by Jawbreaker.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hater of the Week: Lowell Cohn

Lowell Cohn, you ask? Not Nancy Gay, for whom the award was originally named and the writer who broke the Jawbreaker story?

Once you have a read of Johnny's professor's one-two combo, you'll know why.

His take on the Cable story is brutal. He begins by musing over Cable going to jail over the incident:
"If Cable goes to the pokey, can he coach the Raiders via cell phone from the exercise yard or while cleaning the latrine, or would he actually have to see the game?"
He goes on to take the requisite jabs at the organization:
"They have a highly stable situation over there in the wilds of Napa. The coaching staff clearly is a model of harmony and organization for the players, and the fact the coach hasn’t yet been arrested should give Raiders fans confidence this team can win at least four of 16 games this season."
He continues with a few shots at Cable:
"If the rumor of the sucker punch is true, does that make Cable a punk? Does it make him a potential felon? Does it make him the perfect Raiders coach?

Answer: All of the above."

"After he gets fired, I see Cable driving a Coors truck in Livermore or Cloverdale."
But then he goes on to extrapolate a few Raider fan comments on sports Web sites to represent the general Raider fan reaction. Oozing with derision he refers to the fans as "intellectual," "thoughtful," a "wit." And he closes with harsh words containing only an insincere disclaimer:
"Have you noticed Raiders fans are different from all other fans? I’m not talking about all Raiders fans, just some. These beauts take pride in incidents like this. From their informed point of view, it’s merely business as usual for their beloved team."
One could argue that Lowell is just doing what he loves - taking what the Raiders give him - and that they have once again stumbled into a distracting off-the-field fiasco just when things on the field were starting to look promising. But on Sunday he wrote an impassioned piece essentially asking to be named Hater of the Week. His article explores his feelings about the Bay Area teams:
"I do like the 49ers better than the Raiders and I’m trying to understand why."
Any person's feelings about the Raiders are intrinsically linked to his or her feelings about Al Davis. Lowell does not like him. His article presents a case likely echoed by local writers and HOTWs who have come before him. Al is vengeful. He punishes writers. After an odd betrayal of Bill Walsh's disdain for overweight coaches, Lowell uses Walsh as expert witness to Al's self-made "life of conflict."

But the point that stings the Raider fan is the following:
"Al wastes his time settling silly scores. Al wastes his time on useless stuff and that is part of why the Raiders have stunk."
Congratulations Lowell Cohn. For declaring your distaste for the Raiders while twisting the knife that is stuck in Raider fans, you have earned HOTW status.

Tom Cable breaks Randy Hanson's Jaw?

Well, here we go. Just when I was getting excited, that irrational exuberance that Raiders fans get sometime between the start of free agency and opening night when everything comes crashing down.

Nancy Gay, who's been AWOL from her perch at the Chronicle since we re-named the Hater of the Week Award, now writes for AOL's NFL Fanhouse. And it's a doozy:

Two NFL sources have told FanHouse the attacker was Raiders' first-year head coach Tom Cable, and "that Hanson never saw it coming."

So, Tom Cable sucker-punched the guy Lance Famously tried to fire right before Al broke the overhead projector, breaking his jaw. Outstanding.

I personally agree with Greg Rosenthal at PFT, who nominates "CABLE, BUMAYE!" as the 2009 Raiders Slogan.

Apparently that's what the players were chanting before practice. Nancy Gay, in one of the lamest sentences I've read, writes,
Earlier, as players took the practice field they were heard chanting "Cable Bumaye!" (Cable Kill Him) -- a reference to the infamous chant made famous by boxing fans in Zaire when Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the 8th round during the Rumble in the Jungle fight in 1974.
Thanks for the history lesson. Meanwhile, Mike Florio reports that Tom Cable told Mark Schlereth that nothing happened:
During halftime of the Panthers-Giants game on ESPN, Chris Berman relayed some info from Mark Schlereth.

Schlereth says he has spoken to Raiders coach Tom Cable, and that Cable claims "nothing happened" between himself and assistant coach Randy Hanson.

If true (and for now we're not inclined to think it is), that would directly contradict the report from Nancy Gay of FanHouse, who wrote earlier tonight that it was Cable who cold-cocked Hanson earlier this month, sending Hanson to the hospital.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Raiders are owed an Apology

Sorry for the silence. Dan's been holding down the fort while I've been trying to do some "real" writing. I'm listening to the game right now, planning to watch the first quarter or so on the tape-delay at 10:00. JaMarcus, McFadden, and Schillens sound great coming out of Greg Papa's voice. Michael Huff even has an interception, although he just got called for PI in the endzone.

I was all set to write a post about the irrational exuberance I feel every year during training camp. But the news of Michael Vick signing with the Eagles is more interesting, so I'm going to ramble about that for a minute. I beg your indulgence.

Ever since he got out of prison, we've been subjected to an onslaught of articles written with the assumption that it was only a matter of time before Michael Vick was flown to Oakland by Al Davis and given the keys to the city, along with a $200 gift card to Pet Food Express. These assumptions were lazy and ridiculous, and usually went something like this:

The Raiders are Gangsters,


Al Davis is a maverick who loves speed,


Michael Vick is a criminal (gangster) and fast (Al loves him).


Michael Vick will join the black hole.

I've gotten into arguments with friends about this. I've written profanity-laced emails to ignorant writers who made these ignorant articles. I'm not holding my breath for an apology.

I just wonder if he'll room with Andy Reid's boys in the halfway house.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

All Time Raiders

Raider fans love history, and we love looking back at the great players who have worn the Silver & Black through the years. It's become an even more popular pastime as we've suffered through record-breaking futility in recent years, and history always provides a handy comeback for Charger fans who troll the Raider blogs.

Side note: I've still never met a Charger fan face-to-face, the closest being our own Dobolina, who sort of had a curiosity about them growing up, and Unk, who never could muster enough emotion about them to hate them like he hated the Steelers, Chiefs, Broncos, and even the Seahawks.

Today Monte Poole weighs in with his list of the 50 greatest Raiders players of all time. Our four loyal readers will know exactly where my eyes first went on that list. And I'm pleased to agree with Monte, who puts Lester Hayes at #8. That ranks him ahead of Hall of Fame hopefuls Stabler, Branch, and Guy, and ahead of Hall of Famers Blanda, Casper, Howie Long, Marcus Allen, and Mike Haynes.

Why isn't Lester in the Hall of Fame? I've registered my guess here in the past. But I would love to hear it straight from the committee's often breathed-through mouth at some stage.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, there's a "real" NFL game on tonight, and it's pretty cool to see the Titans in the old Houston Oilers gear. Maybe not so much for Houstonians, who still hate Bud Adams like we hate Mike Shanahan, but I always liked that Oilers franchise, particularly when I lived next door to Gary Brown during his 1000-yard season. The Oilers actually delivered his checks to our apartment, but my roommates and I faithfully delivered them to him each week. Too bad he didn't remember us when he cashed in with a big contract. In fact, in response to a question from the press regarding what he planned to do with his million dollar signing bonus, he replied, "Move." A note on tonight's game: reminding us all that Punters are football players, and therefore Ray Guy belongs in the Hall of Fame, the Oilers just pulled a pretty sweet fake punt that the punter ran 40 yards for a touchdown.

Anyway, back to Monte's list. Who is missing? The Tooz is a glaring omission. Alzado? I would put Eddie Anderson on my personal list.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Must Post

It's happening again. I'm getting excited. Curse this Silver & Black disease! Ah, who am I kidding...I love the Raiders no matter how many 11-loss seasons they rack up. In fact absence is likely making my heart grow fonder for Raider victories.

How can one not be excited by Jerry's post today? There's reason for optimism:
  • Mental mistakes are down. Wow!
  • Tyvon Branch sounds like a quality safety.
  • Mario Henderson suddenly belongs at LT, and because of his play!
  • JaMarcus has looked sharp in more than one practice.
  • Schilens!
  • Jon Alston not only has grabbed onto the SLB position, he's also getting into skirmishes every day.
Another reason for excitement: Jerry's and David White's Twitter feeds. Revolutionary.

I also managed to get Jerry to reply to two of my questions during today's live chat:

[Comment From DH]
The standard answer to how the Raiders will stop the run in 2009 is "better teaching." Do they look more disciplined in this regard, is the emphasis on run fits new, etc.? Or will it come down to personnel changes (e.g., Morrison/Brown, Tyvon Branch, Ellis)?

jerrymac: No way to know until they face a team that is bent on running them into the ground and they prove they can stop it. That doesn't happen in practice. They do seem to have cleaned things up in a lot of areas because of the `learning phase.' Maybe the run game will be one of those things as well.

[Comment From DH]
Mario as LT seems to be a foregone conclusion, and we know Al's opinion carries weight. But it sounds like he's actually playing well. Has he locked onto the spot with his play?
jerrymac: The job is his, barring injury.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Training camp is on, so I'm feeling way overdue for a post. There's all the big questions - Bronco Bill pointed out the obvious ones in his Camp Confidential (though Johnny rightly complains that the QB controversy is overblown. Since when is putting a little competitive pressure on someone a bad thing? "He needs to feel relaxed..." Huh?). But a few smaller ones are cropping up as well.

What is going on at linebacker? Last year's strongside starter Ricky Brown remains the second team middle linebacker after signing a healthy contract in the offseason. And he's apparently playing with the ones on the goal line. Jon Alston, meanwhile, seems to be the guy at SLB. Is Alston that much improved? Is this a little competitive pressure for Morrison in the middle? Might there be actual personnel changes in addition to all of this "better teaching" in order to stop the run in 2009?

What goes on in Javon Walker's head? Apparently he had experimental surgery and cannot even divulge where it took place. Either he will continue getting crazier and will find a way to sit out the entire year collecting his guaranteed money, or maybe we'll have a gift of a good receiver on our hands.

Is Tommy Kelly aiming for perfect snap anticipation? He jumps offsides every play. If he hones this skill by week one he'll be an incredibly disruptive second year away from ACL surgery force on that defensive line. If not? Well, he has a lot of money.