Well, come on, it's not like I've gone skinny-dipping into uncharted waters. The topic has been broached here before once or thrice, although when I used the search thingy I was surprised to find so many football related stories penned by baseballgirl. Pleasantly surprised at that.
I am not here to plead my case for the NFL; as surely as there are dog people and cat people, I imagine there are baseball folk and football folk. My quest, just a week or so from Super Bowl XLIII, is merely to find out where Athletics Nation sits on this subject, and- to dig a little deeper- where their allegiances lie (that is, if they lie at all).
Before you show me yours, I'll show you mine (not that you couldn't just click on my profile for this info, but whatev). In this case, I swing both ways. I am both baseball and football fanatic. And while the old ticker beats louder for the A's than for any other sports conglomerate, the Raiders are not that far behind. (Collective AN groan).
Look, I get it. I know the Raiders left for thirteen years and acted like they still owned the place when they returned, to the point of rearranging the furniture to their liking. I am fully aware of the mess they leave on the field every August through October, which speaks nothing of the actual product.
But there was a time that the A's and Raiders got along (this was never depicted so splendidly than in HBO's 2003 documentary, "Rebels of Oakland: The A's, the Raiders, the '70s"). They were unified in the fight to shake the overwhelming shadow cast by San Francisco, in their outlandish behavior, and perhaps most of all, in winning. From 1971 through 1975, the A's and Raiders earned nine (out of a possible ten) post-season trips. When the baseball team's three-year reign as World Champions came to an end in the '75 playoffs, its brightest star urged the football team to keep the good times rolling:
By the end of the decade, the Mustache Gang had been broken up, and the Raiders' impressive playoff run had come to an end. And while it was Al Davis who ultimately took off for not-so-greener pastures, it could have easily have been Charlie Finley, who was lining up possible gigs in New Orleans and Denver.
I, for one, was happy to have the Raiders back, though I was none too pleased with the renovations at the Coliseum. Sadly too much else has changed. The team is in a tailspin of epic proportions (first team to lose eleven or more games in six consecutive seasons). But even the mood is different. Not only are these not my father's Raiders; the House of Thrills is no longer so....thrilling. A younger generation has tried in vain to make a visit to Oakland as intimidating as it was before the move, not fully understanding that it was players like "Assassin", "Molester", and "Kick ‘em" that made it so.
And still I go. While baseball brings out the hopeless romantic in me, football tugs at my wilder side. No, I don't paint my face or dress like Darth Vader, but I do let my hair down a little (sorry, no details there). Football is appealing because every game means something. Well, almost every game. Put it this way: there is no recovering from an 8-game losing streak in the NFL.
Oakland has long been considered a football town; hell, even in the A's heyday they had trouble attracting a million fans a year (thanks, Finley). I may not like that title much but I do like that the Raiders have a rich history here, even after jumping ship in '81. I like that 45,000 Raider fans are louder than 60,000 of anyone else's (and yes, I am biased). I like that my loyalty- our loyalty- however misguided at times, has never wavered.
So I go. I go because eight Sundays out of every year, I get to hang out with the man (Dad) from whom my fandom started, and the young man (Don Jr.) to whom the torch is shared with, and will someday be passed. Dad turned 77 last week, and until he stops going, I will keep going, even though too often lately my oldest brother and I will turn to each other during yet another defeat and say, "Why do we do this?" We do because of Dad. And for Dad, who first took his boys to see the Raiders at old Frank Youell Field in the early 60's, and who took me to my first game in 1977. Some traditions die hard.
And some traditions die too easily. We'll never again see a time in Oakland like the mid-70's; the characters, the crowds, the championships.
But one can hope.