Sports is a microcosm of life. An old coach of mine once told us, as eager teenagers thinking that everything in life lay ahead of us, the greatness of life was that, like in sports, you live to fight another day; the key was to never give up.
That message stayed with me throughout the rest of my life, and it applied to everything in my life—my career, my marriage, my family. Through good and bad, fighting on, not just hoping but believing that things would ultimately get better.
However, in times when economic stability is an illusion, our country is torn apart by ideologues that are rampantly trying to divide us, and there is a loss of traditional values in a country I love, it almost seems petty that I'm focusing on the Oakland Raiders. Their success—or lack thereof—has nothing to do with whether I will have enough money to put food on the table for my kids, or if we'll have a roof over my head next month.
But if football was simply a "distraction," a casual pastime, I doubt I would have the initiative to sit here writing about something that in actuality is very personal and long been a part of my life.
I've been following the Raiders since I was five years old; I'm 31 now, so do the math. I'm not saying that its a justification or vindication that I'm an "expert" on the Raiders, because I'm not. I'm just saying I grew up as a Raider fan.
Year after year, from Marc Wilson, to Marinovich, to Schroeder and Gannon. Stomaching the 51-3 thrashing at the hands of the Bills, or watching the Raiders smack the Broncos 42-24 at the Coliseum in '93.
Good or bad, it wasn't a dilemma whether I was going to watch/listen to the games; there was a sense of pride in being a Raider fan. The Raiders had their ups and downs, but, through it all—even through their Mike White days or the Joe Bugel disaster—there was mediocrity, but it always felt like it was circumstantial. It never felt like it was a way of life in Oakland.
The Gruden days have been my only true peek at what it must have been like to have been around as a Raider fan during the Lamonica days. The days when "commitment to excellence" meant something. Back to a time when players came to the Raiders because of the honor of being a Raider.
I don't need to rehash the details of what's gone wrong with the Raiders in the last six years—the consistent loses, the poor managerial decisions, the wasted talent...it's all there for anyone that really takes a good hard look at it.
I'm just tired. Tired of watching the team I grew up idolizing turn into a permanent circus with no real end in sight. Call me a pessimist,
I have to admire the blind conviction some have; some guy wrote an article about how we have to give JaMarcus Russell and Tom Cable time to sort things out and develop into a winning team.
I understand the guy's need to grasp onto something, to keep hope; after all, if you don't support the Raiders, then you're not really a fan, right? But everyone has their limit.
I stood by as Al Davis passed on Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Adrian Peterson, and Joe Flacco, just to name a few. As he signed DeAngelo Hall and then let him go, or signed Javon Walker, drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey at the seventh slot, hiring a coach that has heart but no brains right after firing one that had no heart or brain.
In the last six years, despite the coaching changes, the rotating roster, the one consistent is Davis. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the clump of hair is clogging your sink.
As long as Davis runs the team, things will be done his way. He'll draft the fastest guy in the draft or the strongest arm. He'll continue to hire coaches that will work for him because no one else will hire them. Or continue to keep players around because he believes in loyalty, even if that loyalty is only to him and not necessarily to the team.
I can't continue to invest my time, my money, my energy into a team I no longer believe in. Even last year when the team went 5-11, I was looking forward to the draft, hoping that maybe—just maybe—Darren McFadden would finally come into form, Russell would finally get his first full season, and the Raiders would draft a significant player.
I remember watching Lombardi during pre-draft analysis, and he predicted that the Raiders would take Heyward-Bey at the seventh pot.
I can still feel that anger I felt, thinking that the mainstream media has a bias against the Raiders and that there was no way that Davis would draft this guy just because he ran a sizzling 40. With so much talent available, I felt that the pundits gave Davis no credit and pegged him with the same old stereotype.
When they called Heyward-Bey for the Raiders at No. 7, for me that was the beginning of the end...
I used to hold on to hope that even if we had a lousy season, we'd at least get a really good pick. But after six years of great slots at the draft and walking away with NOTHING...it's not even worth stomaching this season when I know next year, when other teams snap up Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Taylor Mays, the Raiders will sign the fastest player or strongest arm, regardless of whether it's warranted or not. What Al wants, Al gets.
Don't get me wrong. As I said before, he has every right to do what he wants—pick the players he wants, hire the personnel he chooses...I'm just one fan, a simple speck in the vast (albeit dwindling) Raider nation.
I'm just saying that, after 26 years of following the Raiders, it pains me to say I just don't have the stomach for this anymore. Maybe it's an age thing, or maybe it's having to choose whether I'll spend the $200 to go to a game or buy my daughter winter clothes or a new pair of shoes. Or it could be deciding whether to spend Sunday morning watching the Raider game when I could be spending quality time with my family.
Being a fan—a real fan—requires sacrifice, investing time and money. Ask yourself: Is the time and money that you're putting into this team under this direction really worth it? A lot of us keep doing it out of loyalty—a blind loyalty that, sooner or later, the Raiders will turn it around, and when they do, I won't feel like those millions of waggoners that jump the shark when the water is warm.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not bailing because we're losing; I've been a fan since '83, I've lived through my share of losing seasons, bad picks, incompetent management, and still I've been a fan. It's more than that. It's the complete destruction of this franchise, both in its reputation and in its history, and nothing on the horizon that inspires any hope anymore.
As long as Davis keeps making his profits, he'll do what he wants. I'm not advocating a boycott or implying that you stop watching altogether; I'm just sharing my personal point of view.
Some fans will stay with Davis to the end, and that's their right; I just wanted to share a perspective from a fan who's been there for a long time but can't do it anymore. Not like this.