As a sports fan, we are taught that if you are a real fan of a team you stick with them through thick and thin. I’ve had more than my fair share of good times rooting for the LA Lakers. They’ve won nine of their 15 championships in my lifetime and have only missed the playoffs twice during that time.
Although its been over 20 years since the Dodgers last tasted October glory, they have made several playoff appearances to at least wet the palette.
This brings me to the other side of my sports fan spectrum. When it comes to the ice, I am life long LA Kings fan. Outside of the Wayne Gretzky era from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s when they were in the playoffs every season including a run all the way to the finals in 1993, there have been a lot of lean years to suffer through.
The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2002 and that’s saying something when over half the teams make the playoffs in the NHL. What keeps me coming back to drink from the Kings trough in recent years is it seems they have a plan in place and are sticking to it and with young talent like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty their future is definitely a bright one.
The second team in my life who rears their head on the “bad” side of my sports fan spectrum is the Oakland Raiders. Anyone who’s familiar with the history of the league knows the Raiders were once a proud franchise. From the beginning of the Super Bowl era to the end of the 80’s they had the best winning percentage in all of football, were the only team to make a Super Bowl appearance in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s winning three championships in that time and were a trend setter by hiring the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores and the first African-American head coach in Art Shell.
Growing up in southern California in the mid 80’s there were two teams playing in the LA/Orange County area and the Rams did nothing for me. As a boy, I loved the silver & black, bad boy image the Raiders offered. They most certainly had an outlaw feel to them and most importantly were winning games.
Since 1990 when Bo Jackson played his last NFL game, the Raiders have only four double digit win seasons. In the 1990’s they were at least competitive finishing with eight wins or more seven times. Since their Super Bowl run to complete the 2002 season the Raiders have finished with double digit losses every year. That’s six straight years with 10 or more losses, which unfortunately for fans of the silver and black, is a NFL record.
Just when I think it can’t get any worse as a Raider fan, signings and trades that turn out to be abject failures rear their ugly head. DeAngelo Hall and Randy Moss anyone? Hall was a pro bowler with Atlanta. Moss a perennial all-pro with both Minnesota and New England.
The following draft picks in this decade have come nowhere close to fulfilling their potential: Derrick Gibson, Phillip Buchanon (as a return man I will give him credit), Robert Gallery (yes he starts but is nowhere near the franchise type offensive lineman he was projected to be), Fabian Washington, Michael Huff. These were all first round draft picks. I just don’t understand how a team can miss the boat that many times.
As all of us know, everything with the Raiders points to one person, Al Davis. Historically, he has been a maverick owner who has done a lot of good for the game and that’s proven by the fact he is in the hall of fame. Three Super Bowls wins (albeit the last one came 25 years ago) is something that any owner would love to have on their resume.
All that said, the game has passed him by. Because he runs the Raiders like a dictator along with the fact he employs no one who is in charge of player personnel means the end of gloomy days is not expected to come anytime soon. I’m sorry fellow Raider fans but the “Raider way” has gotten old and tiresome. The only time the Raiders enjoyed a nice string of success was during the four years Jon Gruden was the head coach. Guess what? He didn’t do things the Raider way. Gruden’s tenure was the only time I can remember the Raiders not being amongst the league leaders in penalties. Much like the first round draft picks of this decade, trading Gruden to Tampa Bay for draft picks was a mistake.
The bottom line for me is that I’m ok with suffering through some lean years if I feel there’s some kind of plan in place. If there was one, the Raiders wouldn’t be one of the jokes of the league for six years running. The NFL is the ultimate parody league. Every year it seems as though a team goes from missing the playoffs the previous year to playing in the postseason the next. For a team to be this bad in today’s NFL is inexcusable.
I’ve always contended that the most successful teams are where the owners get out-of-the-way and let the people they hired do their jobs. Jerry Buss of the Lakers and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots are two owners who are shining examples of this.
In the end, I don’t see the Raiders having any type of success let alone being able to win a Super Bowl as long as Al Davis is running the team in a dictator like fashion. Until he hands over the reigns the team will always be stuck in the past, failing to catch up to the present. The only way I see that happening is when Davis’ time on earth here is done.
Never in my life have I thought about jumping ship from a team I consider myself a fan of but with the Raiders I’m closer than I ever have been. As fans of any team I think we need to ask ourselves how long can we take an owner continuing to make one poor decision after another thus creating a losing product on the field year after year.
All I ask for from my teams is to have some kind of a plan in place. I understand sports is very cyclical and it’s unrealistic to expect my team to be on top every year but if there’s no clear vision on the future, a team will be on the bottom for a longer period of time than they should. Even though we might be in the middle of a storm, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to see the sun off in the distance.
The Raiders are operating with no plan and because of that I don’t know how much longer they’ll be in mine.