Hunter S. Thompson once admiringly wrote, “The massive Raider Nation is beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and wackos ever assembled.” Thompson, no doubt, was including himself.
I consider myself a “thug.” I want my teams dirty and mean. In the heyday of Al Davis’s Raiders, in the 70s and 80s when the team won their three Super Bowls, Jack Tatum was the “Assassin,” Skip Thomas “Doctor Death,” and Ken Stabler “Snake.” These brutal fighters hit hard and ran fast every game and embodied American football the way it was meant to be played.
The appeal of these players and the Raiders organization in general is that they’re choc-full of characters. As a writer, I’m always looking for characters to write about, great minds to look into, characters with tough shells to crack. Attitude and demeanor are everything to a story. These types are intriguing. They drive stories forward and engage readers whether they’re moved to admiration or digust.
Take Al Davis: you can love him or hate him but you can’t deny the man’s got personality. His life’s work is every "L" or "W" that shows up on the team’s stats sheets. If you get on his good side you have a friend for life. Look at Jim Otto, whose entire career was dedicated to the Raiders. Now in his old age Otto’s not doing so hot. But rumors have it Davis is willing to go to extra lengths—be it personal or financial—to care for his former player.
Then there’s Michael Shanahan, one of Al’s arch enemies. Shanahan sued Davis for refusing to pay Mike’s contract balance for the 1989 season. Even though Shanahan had him beat, it was to no avail. To this day, Al hasn’t paid him a cent and the two constantly bicker behind each other’s backs at media conferences.
The Raiders’s tradition for being a badass is clearly seen in its following. Thousands upon thousands dawn themselves in chain metal, paint shameless nakedness in black and silver, carry around silver skulls. Their energy and devotion is infectious. So much so that it landed on my doorstep. Have I made the conversion to a Raider Nation citizen? As long as there’s silver paint to go around I guess so.