Gotta flaunt whatcha got

Updated: December 2, 2003, 9:24 AM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

Nobody sloganeers quite like the Oakland Raiders ... well, with the possible exception of the Communist Party of North Korea.

You know, "Pride And Poise," and "Just Win, Baby," and "Commitment To Excellence," and "The Greatness Of The Raiders Is In Its Future." Stuff like that.

But with the newest addition to the Raider phrasebook, Bill Callahan's instantly memorable "We've Got To Be The Dumbest Team In America In Terms Of Playing The Game," comes a whole new series of marketing opportunities for a team in serious need of it.

Callahan's declaration came after the Raiders' latest hideous outpouring of crypto-football, Sunday's 22-8 loss to Denver, and has been the talk of Northern California ever since.

Now you all know what talk leads to ... T-shirts! Bumper stickers! Stadium banners! Airplane trailers! It's the American way unchained!

All it takes is an entrepreneur with access to a novelty outlet, an impish nature, and a casual disregard for copyright laws, and before you know it ... instant fortune!

I mean, who wouldn't want a black hooded sweatshirt that reads, "Dumbest Team In America"? A T-shirt with an arrow pointing to the side beneath the legend, "I'm With The Dumbest Team In America"?

The possibilities are endless, at least until the Raiders unlock the kennel door and send out the heat-seeking lawyers.

In fact, Callahan himself hinted at the possibility of a side business when he said in his Monday post-post-mortem, "We have pride; we don't have poise right now."

And the next thing you know, splashed across the back of the next SUV you see, "Pride, Hold The Poise," or its more graphic corollary, "Pride And Poise," with a strategically placed red diagonal slash through the "poise" part.

Callahan's outburst lies at the outer edge of great postgame interviews, well short of those from Lee Elia and Tom Lasorda, and even a hair short of Jim Mora's Greatest Hits.

But you have to remember that Callahan is not a natural orator, nor has he had a lot of experience in excoriating the troops. Last year, after all, he was a budding genius, and as such well-versed in the art of saying as little as possible while his players were marching boldly toward the Super Bowl.

Thus, when he got on a roll Sunday, he didn't fully realize how many people he might be inadvertently enriching, or what could be done with his most often-repeated remark from Monday, "It's Not The Players, It's The Plays."

Slap that around some phonied-up coat of arms, sew it to the breast pocket of a black blazer, and you've got evening wear, Jack. Just the thing to wear in the smoking room over a snifter, or a goldfish bowl, of Captain Morgan, while rehashing the events of the day with Lord Smedley, Count Montmorency, and Ol' Buck.

The Raider merchandising wing, after all, is fairly short on original items. The menu has been the same for years now because independent thought is not encouraged by NFL Marketing.

But not everything has to have the NFL Merchandise stamp of approval, and not everything needs to be cleared through Control. So why not a silver lam´ nightie with "It's Not The Players, It's The Plays" across the bodice? School supplies that read "The Greatness Of The Raiders Is, Err, Uhh ..." A windshield decal with the Raider logo, crossed swords and all, behind an empty helmet?

How about just the disembodied cardboard likeness of Eli Manning on a wooden stick?

These are opportunities that scream out, "Try Me! Order A Thousand! Retire At 30!" You can be the rage of the Oakland parking lot, the fashion maven of the Eyepatch And Swords set, the absolute envy of an audience that believes that there are only two colors in the rainbow -- silver and black.

Or you can pass on this once-in-a-lifetime chance, and curse yourself for decades to come, while someone else cashes in.

Then you can be an army of one, a proud member of The Dumbest Team In America Auxiliary.

Maybe you can buy a hat.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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