My dad is a sports fanatic. Growing up in Mexico his favorite sports were soccer, boxing, and eventually American football. Although there wasn’t much American football being played in Mexico, they would occasionally air Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raider games. Coming from a tough neighborhood in Mexico city, the rebellious nature of the team from Oakland, along with having a coach and quarterback of Mexican descent made it an easy choice of who to root for.
He eventually immigrated to the United States, joined the military, went to college, got married, and started a family in Los Angeles. Soon after his favorite football team followed him to LA so when his oldest son, me, was old enough he bought season tickets for us. The Raiders to me where like the other local teams (Dodgers, Lakers etc) but eventually they became so much more…
I eventually researched a little about the Raiders, more specifically about Al Davis—the man behind the shield. I liked that Al gave players, like Jim Plunkett, whom other teams thought were washed up, a second chance to revive their careers. Having friends and family members that are rough around the edges myself, I liked that Al attained misfits like Hendricks, Matuzak, and Alzado.
What I absolutely loved about Al Davis was he was a man of principle that went beyond football. For instance, during his first year as head coach of the Raiders he refused to play in Mobile Alabama in protest of their segregation laws. Similiarly, in 1965 Al Davis moved the AFL all star game to Houston in protest of New Orleans segregation laws. Al looked beyond color or gender when he hired the first African American head coach Art Shell; the first Hispanic American head coach Tom Flores; and the first female CEO Amy Trask.
I love that he’d buy personalized gifts for wives and children of Raider players even after they left the team or retired from football. I respect that he did gracious things like pick up the tab for Derrick Thomas, a former Raider nemesis, funeral because Derricks family couldn’t afford it.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are going to the La Coliseum to watch the Raiders with my dad: Having a bacon wrapped hot dog with onions, bell peppers and ketchup before the game. Smelling marijuana for the first time at the tailgates and having my dad explain what it was. Watching guys throw blows then go tumbling down the aisles. Wincing when Hostetler got hit viciously, only to rejoice when he got back up and stayed in the game. Seeing Vince Evans come off the bench cold and, on his very first play, throw a 60-yard touchdown strike to James Jett. Witnessing Marcus Allen come in the game with his arm in a sling at the goal line and still jump over the defensive line to score the rock. Being present when James Trapp came from the sidelines in street clothes to join his teammates in brawl. Watching sadly as Napoleon McCallum and Bo Jackson sustain tragic career ending injuries.
Eventually when the Raiders moved back to Oakland I was sad we couldn’t get season tickets any longer but I felt they were going to their rightful home. I hope the Raiders stay in Oakland, a city that gritty and rebellious like the pillaging pirates we’ve loved our whole lives. However, as long they keep the culture and legacy of Al Davis alive, I’ll follow the pirate ship anywhere it sails. After all, there’s only one nation in sports, the Raider Nation.
Written by: inonewordraider
Edited by: Kenny Stapler