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|The Raiders are 1-5, but Raider Nation still loves 'em.|
Imagine if their roll in the hay with lowly Arizona is all they're going to get. They blew their shot to make history with a pristine 16-in-a-row record, all for a cheap, inconsequential trouncing of the Arizona Cardinals?Somewhere in a cliché cloud of insult, injury, misery and company, draft deity Brady Quinn is shaking his head. I flew up to Oak-town on Saturday morning to see for myself what five straight losses for the first time since 1964 feels like. I planned on writing a copious exposition on the epic fall from grace at hand. Ideally, it would have culminated in the first 0-16 season of all time. The drama was deliciously falling into place with a blockbuster cast rivaled only by "The Departed". ("Raiders 2K6," starring Al Davis, Art Shell, Tom Walsh, Randy Moss, Warren Sapp, Jerry Porter, LaMont Jordan and Aaron Brooks). C'mon, that's good theater! But then they went and beat up on the Cardinals. They held a halftime lead. They sent Denny Green home after their bed-and-breakfast offensive buffet. I hope it was worth it. I asked Mike, a Cardinals fan whose lone scarlet jersey caught my eye in the parking lot, how he was feeling after his team's shameful showing. I knew he was legit after he told me he was from Arizona, made the trek all the way from Phoenix, and was off to Green Bay next weekend. As for his bad birds, he said only, "Hey, they're the Cardinals. I'm used to this. You grow to expect it and follow them just because they're your team."
|That poor, poor little girl.|
Completely bemused, I scoured the bars, talked to the tailgaters and walked among the herd of silver and black across the skywalk to the train station. And you know what? A win during a losing season looked and felt a lot like a win during a winning season. I'm willing to bet that Monday in the East Bay, one win and five losses feels a heck of a lot better than, say, Monday in Philly four wins and all. Between his cheers at the back of the bar, I asked big Jose if it's rough walking around town with a huge Raiders tattoo on his forearm when they've only won one game. But Jose was unflappable. "Look, s--- happens," Jose said. "We had some really great years and now we're having some rough ones. I love this team. At least they have a personality."
Quite an interesting approach -- embracing a team's character when accounts of their recent on-field performance are similar to a Jonathan Kozol description of a decaying school system in East St. Louis.
Admired columnist Monte Poole recently wrote in the Oakland Tribune that "the general direction of the organization, along with a putrid offense, continue to undermine any positive steps taken elsewhere. Solvable problems go unattended. Opportunities to upgrade go unheeded. Whether rooted in negligence or denial, the result is organizational paralysis."But even in this season of utter ignominy -- even with the worst record in the league, and even after scoring only 50 points in their first five games -- 60,000-plus Raiders fans continue to pack McAfee to capacity, selling out the Coliseum game after game. Including Sunday's battle of the bums. The Raiders and all associated with the franchise seem to live in a world of their own. They exist in a bubble of Super Bowls and history spun by legends like Madden, Upshaw, Allen and Biletnikoff. They blare the classic NFL Films theme song in their parking lot! Who does that?!
Only the Raiders can do that. They have one win to carry them down the difficult road toward Pittsburgh, Seattle and Denver. But they're not really complaining. They certainly aren't pleased with the uncharacteristic skid, but they've seen too much to make the kind of knee-jerk retorts so many of us are used to.
They're the Raiders. They'll figure it out.
So maybe a win over the league's laughingstock is all they've got right now. Just one win, baby. And even though Art Shell said after the game that the Raiders are not going to let other people define who they are, we all know exactly who they are. They're the Raiders.And if we were the Raiders, we might understand why one win is enough to keep you satisfied for a minute.
Mary Buckheit is a Page 2 columnist and can be reached at MaryBuckheit@hotmail.com.