Raiders’ owner Al Davis died today, and sports people everywhere are eulogizing him. He was an innovator. He was passionate. He was paranoid. He was a maverick.
I don’t disagree with any of those things, but you won’t see me shedding any tears. When I was 16 years old, Al Davis took my football team away from me.
Growing up as an only child can be a isolating experience especially if your father is in his own world chugging a 24-pack a day. He was a functional alcoholic and wasn’t abusive: he just liked to be in his own world.
Even after my mom left my dad and we moved out here to California, I never had any formative sports education. Although to be fair to everyone in my family I was a sissyboy and a nerd who wanted no part in even watching sports.
Soon as adolescence creeped up I figured I needed to find out something rudimentary about sports. So I became a fan of the Dodgers, Lakers and Raiders — by this point the Rams were awful and complete laughing stocks. And I loved these teams especially the Raiders.
Now I didn’t follow any of the off field stuff. I just knew that quarterback Jeff Hostetler had an awesome ‘stache, and Art Shell could do no wrong. I heard about the Rams moving to St. Louis which was all right with me since at least the Raiders were still in town. (I would eventually completely change my opinion of this going so far as to celebrate when their owner Georgia Frontiere died.)
I knew Al Davis was looking for a new place to play. I vaguely heard about Irwindale. I heard about Hollywood Park. One day I woke up, and I found up they went back to Oakland.
Fuck them. From that point on I wished nothing but awful things for them until Al Davis died. So yes, I loved that Raiders-Patriots playoff game in 2002. And I loved their Super Bowl tank job. And I have thoroughly luxuriated in their recent spate of impotence. It’s been some very gleeful times.
So now Davis is dead. Now what?
I am now free to love the Raiders again, but I have since become a huge Chicago Bears fan. Hell, I even know the words to the Bears fight song.
Plus if the Raiders do move back down to L.A. and I am privileged enough to cover them, I have to put my fan card away again.
So I don’t quite know what to do. I’ll see how things are tomorrow and take it week by week.