A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Those Were The Days

(Above: The Snake and an unidentified man on the right. Photo by Sports Illustrated)

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to Ken Stabler's induction into the NFL Hall of Fame on August 6 with mixed emotions.
Yes, I'm happy that he's finally getting recognized. But what took them so long? Why did they wait until after he died, when they knew how much it meant to him?
This isn't the first time the HOF has been a day late and a dollar short. They did the same thing to Les Richter, the great Cal and L.A. Rams linebacker, electing him six months after he died. And there are plenty of other deserving old timers waiting in line, including Jerry Kramer, Jim Marshall and the Mad Duck himself, Alex Karras.
But they're likely to wait a lot longer, as great younger players like Kurt Warner, Ray Lewis and Peyton Manning become eligible and elbow them aside. Kramer, the key player in the Green Bay power sweep, the most famous football play of all time, wasn't even nominated this year.
As more and more younger players retire and more and more Hall of Fame voters are too young to remember the old guys, many old timers will be lucky to get in at all, let alone in their own lifetime.
But don't let my grumpiness spoil the celebration. All hail The Snake, who was Joe Montana before Joe Montana. No amount of bureaucratic disrespect can diminish his glory or the pleasure he gave us.
It really was a golden age back in the 70s, with the Raiders, Warriors and A's all winning championships - the A's three years in a row. But the team that had the strongest hold on our hearts was the Raiders.
How much fun it was to attend a game at the Coliseum! Each section was a tiny community of its own, with many fans turning down the team's offer to move them to better seats as a reward for being longtime season ticket holders because they didn't want to move away from their friends in the section, who they had come to think of as family.
Each section seemed to have its own matriarch, usually called Mom, who adored the Raiders – especially Stabler and Marv Hubbard, who, sadly, also passed away last year – and despised the Broncos and Chiefs.
And Heaven help anyone who cussed in front of kids; the whole section would come down on him. The atmosphere was downright wholesome, in its own rowdy way.
And they were loyal, even when the team betrayed them by moving to Los Angeles. The most loyal of all was a group called the Bay Area Dirtballs, who flew down to L.A. for all the home games.
But within a year after the team returned to Oakland in 1995 most of the Dirtballs had given up their season tickets, preferring to watch games at sports bars like Ricky's, instead.
Why? Two words: Black Hole. They didn't like the new breed of fans the team brought back with it from L.A. They felt their team had been hijacked by a bunch of wild-eyed crazies they had nothing in common with, and it didn't feel like their team anymore.
So as a longtime Raiders fan, I know how a lot of Republicans are feeling these days.

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