Oakland Raiders: Al Davis' Favorite Blog

Stewart Upton@@stewartuptonContributor IApril 23, 2009

It’s Sunday, a day off for some NFL beat writers in the off season but on this day, the Oakland Tribune’s Jerry McDonald is making another post to his ‘Inside the Oakland Raiders’ blog.

Headline reads, “Garcia reportedly could be Russell’s backup.”  For this day of the off-season, McDonald’s post generates 689 responses.

Who in the Sports world, let alone the main stream media generates hundreds of responses for each blog post? 

Day in and day out, McDonald’s blog does.

The blog started back in 2005 at the beginning of the team’s training camp that year.

At that time, McDonald’s posts maybe only generated 10 or 20 responses and he shared the site with his fellow Raiders’ beat writer Bill Soliday. 

Back then they also posted McDonald’s photo with each post. 

By looking at him back then, McDonald could pass for a Raider himself with his weathered and rough look, t-shirt and goatee.

These days, the blog is considered his alone with guest authors making posts when McDonald is either away with his kid’s sports team or on week of forced sabbatical due to the current economic times we find ourselves in.

Yet, the only photo you see on the blog now is that of an Oakland Raider running with the ball (wearing the number 52) along with the team’s graphics logo. 

The message: the blog isn’t about its author, it’s about the team.

Rarely a sign of advertisers.  

For those who follow the blog would know, there was a movement that finally won over the management of the Bay Area News Group (East Bay Online sports) at the end of March to start a registration process in order to clean up some of the foul-mouth antics and gibberish you would expect from, well, fans of the Oakland Raiders.

It didn’t appear to slow the Raider Nation from making comments to McDonald’s blog as you can see below from the first week in April.
Day of Week - Title of post - # Comments            

Wed - Raiders are AFC West contenders really - 590
Wed - Boschetti signed, Williams renewed ------ 649
Thu - Raji report complicates matters ------------- 460
Thu - Papa closing in on Scully ---------------------- 295
Fri - How Vick could work with Raiders ------------ 921
Sat - Raiders take Heyward-Bey at No. 7? -------- 334
Sun - Garcia reportedly Russell’s backup --------- 689
Mon - Garcia signing official --------------------------- 098
Mon - Third time a charm for Garcia ----------------- 518
Tue - Garcia: I’m here to help JaMarcus ------------ 203
Tue - Live Chat from 1-2 p.m. PDT --- Chat Q&A + 661
You wouldn’t know ‘Inside the Oakland Raiders’ is the number one blog of the Raider Nation by looking at the overall statistics available. 

Technorati blog rankings has the ‘Inside the Oakland Raiders’ blog ranked at 89,455 overall, but for anyone who follows the Raiders and blogs closely, hundreds of posts every day of the year are probably in the top 100 overall, if not the top 10 of sporting blogs.

Last September was one of the rare times McDonald provided data on the total number of page views.

“…last month (August) a record of 747,103, well past the previous best of 511,812 during April (2008).”

McDonald’s blog has the highest web traffic in the Bay Area News Group.

Commonplace on most blogs is for those leaving comments to challenge or demean the author for his opinion expressed within; yet on McDonald’s blog you find commentary thanking him for his post and moving on to debate the possible future or past actions of the organization amongst themselves.

McDonald is neither fan nor echoing mouthpiece of the Oakland Raider organization talking- points as he alluded to in a blog post last year titled, ‘Jerry’s Mailbag.’

Feb. 13, 2008 -- “The only teams I am a fan of are my son’s youth baseball and basketball teams and my daughter’s soccer team. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this job takes the ‘fan’ out of you. 

I don’t think I’ve had a true rooting interest in any team in more than 20 years. The team you cover is your work place, and like any work place, there are some people you like and some you don’t.”

My dad had Raiders season tickets for a few years when I was in elementary school and my favorite games were a Monday night regular-season game against the Jets and Joe Namath in 1972 and the ‘Sea of Hands’ playoff game against Miami.”

Later in that same ‘Mailbag’ post, McDonald described what he knew of owner Al Davis’ opinion of him.

“There were a couple of years where he (Davis) didn’t seem all that happy with me _ I was told by a former employee it had to do with an assigned trip to Orlando, Fla., to do some Raiders-Bucs stories in anticipation of a Week 3 meeting in the regular season (2004).”

Gone are those days as McDonald’s posts no doubt included in the stack of press clips provided to Mr. Davis by the Raider’s Public Relations department.

Members of the Raiders organization have been documented in blog posts as having contacted McDonald after they took issue with a blog post.

For example, McDonald made the following comments in his blog post of Aug. 18, 2008 titled, ‘Kiff’s big stand.’

“I’ve covered the Raiders for 13 years and one thing has remained constant. If you’re from a local newspaper, particularly one with an “Oakland” affiliation, and write something about the coach that puts him in a bad spot with the owner, there is a follow-up phone call from the P.R. department, an administrative assistant or even the coach himself.

…It doesn’t happen some of the time. It happens every time. The Raiders are sensitive to how Davis is portrayed and believe, with some justification; he too often takes an unnecessary beating in the media.”

Largely un-named by the mainstream sports reporters or interviewed with frequency on ESPN, McDonald, gets little, if any acknowledgement of his blog as a source of in-depth information on the Oakland Raiders.

A dedicated reporter for the Oakland Raiders, more days than not he will make multiple blog posts in addition to writing a more in-depth column on the Raiders for the Oakland Tribune from time to time.

Last June, the readers of McDonald’s blog know that he went through the loss of his father. 

In a June 21st blog-post titled, “Thanks, Dad,” McDonald shared with the Raider Nation that his father was the reason why he became a sports writer along with an experience they had together at a Raider game back on Dec. 21, 1974.

“The ‘Sea of Hands’ win over Miami remains the most exciting game I ever attended. When the Raiders got the ball for the last time, my dad got up from our seats in the second deck behind the south end zone. I looked at him like he had lost his mind. Surely, we’re not leaving now.

Nope. Instead, we’d follow the Raiders all the way down the field along the concourse, and be standing in the north end zone when they scored the winning touchdown. Which is exactly what happened, with Clarence Davis clutching Stabler’s stumble-forward duck.”

It is clear from his blog posts and articles over the years that while McDonald is a trusted reporter for the Raiders but he is not a member of the Raider organization.

He follows the team when it plays away from home, has off the record conversations with the owner from time to time (which he honors) and has the confidential trust of the players.

In his April 2nd blog post he described a typical encounter with Raider players out on the town during road trips.

“You going to write about this?,” they’ll sometimes ask.

My answer? Not unless you wind up on a police blotter. Then I’ve got no choice.”

The greatest attribute of a good reporter is not only being somewhat of a friend to those being sourced or reported on when you have a ‘beat’ to cover, but having the ability to get them to talk about mistakes or controversy when they know their actions have warranted such reporting.

McDonald throws no cheap shots and he’s not a gossip reporter trying to break news even at the risk it could be wrong just to be the first to report it.

He even provided a soap opera warning last season when the continued drama of the Lane Kiffin firing went on and on (and on) and while he felt required to report on it, it did not equate to him that the readers of his blog needed to read it as well.

When I went searching for a blog to follow the Oakland Raiders a couple of years ago I tried blogs like ‘Darth Raider’ or ‘Inside the Black Hole,’ or something like that anyway.

I felt I needed some tough name for the blog because that would be where the Raider Nation hung out and frequented.

Yet time and time again I would find that McDonald’s blog would have the inside and in-depth coverage on the team as well as being a place where many of the Raider Nation hung out.

Last Saturday McDonald made a post titled, “Gone too soon II.”

McDonald reported (or blogged) on the untimely death of Allison Long, wife of former Raiders P.R. man Craig Long, had died at age 34 after a brief illness.

“You want to make sense of things, look somewhere else.”

Craig had passed away in Feb. of 2007; now with Allison’s passing, their two young kids, ages 1, and 5 survived them.

You may be wondering what this last blog post has to do with the current Oakland Raider players, the organization or the NFL.

Yet, all you have to do is look at the title of the blog…because if McDonald is reporting on it, it’s because that’s what’s going on Inside the Oakland Raiders.



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