A Fan's Tribulation: Why Do You Love or Hate the Oakland Raiders?
I must preface this article with a few seemingly unrelated points, but they accentuate the purpose of this article
This is a question that has been bubbling (or effervescing) in my mind for quite some time, especially after a derogatory blog from an "unbiased" reporter at ESPN named Jay Mariotti.
I have made quite a stink about ESPN ever since then, but not solely for that reason. I had been hard-charging that ESPN has been selling the sizzle of racial bias (i.e. Pacman Jones) without selling the steak—to use a maxim from the sales industry.
Nada Nada Limonada
Simply put, that maxim means to sell what the product does, not what it is. You can sell a car made from "40 bucks of steel" for $10,000, so long as the buyer wants the car badly enough.
Just as you can sell the "greatness" of a player (lemons) with arbitrary and manipulatable things such as statistics, which can be manipulated with PEDs and even the rulebook.
Before you get confused, I like sports stats as much as the next sabermatrician, because I think stats are a good way to evaluate a player. Nevertheless, the stats don't always match the spatial (what you will see), or even the story (how the player got there, which affects his or her desire to be there and care about winning).
Before I started blogging, I worked primarily in sales (namely in selling credit cards).
In many ways, I use The Bleacher Report to educate (or at least try to) people on how they are being manipulated to want something that is not worth what they are told it is worth, or what they think it is worth. The first rule of mental conditioning is this: Make the person think that it was their decision the whole time.
Problem is that people often think that manipulation of others will make you a genius. At that point, people convince themselves that it won't happen to them.
Frankly, I think manipulation just makes you an ass, destructive, and a time-waster. More precisely, it makes you a sociopath—see the fork-tongued blog, "Cable Should be Suspended, Al Davis Should Vanish" by Mariotti as an example.
I thought I'd explain "nada nada limonada." It's a joke told in Mexico that roughly means, "nothing nothing, lemonade," and is meant to say that there is not much substance.
Make It Global
For those of you wondering why I have referenced Mariotti, it is central to this article, because Mariotti is a prime example of how sociopaths in the media will use fans and viewers as "whipping boys" (such as Raider fans) to compensate for their many flaws and insecurities, so rather than take ownership of their demons - they berate fans for, "terrorizing the enemy."
Frankly, I think people like that are just afraid of themselves, but it's easy to project that fear on the "crazies and rowdies" in the Black Hole (or otherwise).
I should add that there is more reason to call Mariotti a sociopath than just that blog. Google his name to research the fact that he was a destructive influence in the workplace at the Chicago Sun-Times, and his less than amicable departure from the Sun-Times.
As it is said in many workplaces, "make it global." The problem is not solely with the one culprit, it is a problem with every person that has done the same thing. I guarantee like Joe Namath that Mariotti is not alone in his narcissism and incompetence.
Yet, the sheep in the audience have been trained to kowtow to narcissism and incompetence, because "everybody" wants to a cushy job of narcissism and incompetence. No wonder the economy has gone to crap—no one cares about the integrity of their job, because they'd rather be some dope on the corporate dole.
That is because Narcissism and incompetence tend to be a common theme in the mainstream media. But don't get me wrong. I think there are exceptions whom I won't name, because I think they know who they are. I will say however that about 90 percent of what comes from the mainstream media is total crap needed to finance the other 10 percent.
Don't Be a Cash Cow
I though, find it unbearable when people revere the 90%, because "everybody else does." Before you think I'm just castigating the mainstream media, I'm not. I think of my criticism as 360 degrees, in that, everybody should evaluate themselves, but at some point, someone has to speak up.
Simply put, the sports media caters to oblivious fans to the detriment of other fans, while those fans need to get a clue. Perhaps then, the sports media would change, in order to cater to a different—dare I say more enlightened—audience. Enlightenment must come from the audience, because the media just caters to whatever you happen to be thinking even if it's wrong, because it is easy and lucrative.
In other words, you are the media's slut. You're easy.
As I like to say: Pyschology is about understanding what and why a person wants something. Politics is about giving to someone what that person wants. And psychiatry is about getting someone to want something else, because perhaps, what you want is destructive...yet there are people that will enable that desire because it is profitable.
So don't be a cash cow.
(Blank) Sells and You're Buying
There is a cross-section between sports and generic marketing. Many principles of marketing have become univesal, such as "sex sells."
When you start to dig more deeply however, you start to realize that marketing and sales is about catering to the most divisive aspects of the human condition such as sex, bias, fear/drama. I like to use "drama" because it creates a funny acronym of, "SBD," (for those of you that like an occasional fart joke).
For many years, Raider fans have claimed that the mainstream media is biased against the Raiders. Fans of other teams have also claimed that the sports media is biased against their team. Mariotti's blog amongst other things though, was the final nail in the coffin.
I have asserted in past articles that the mainstream media, namely the East Coast media, is biased because, well, East Coast teams tend to be more marketable and thus profitable.
The simple reason why is that New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and DC are more populous cities, and thus, have a larger market that garners higher ratings. More importantly, the fans in those cities tend to be more rabid and will watch anything and everything related to their team.
There is however a flaw to that.
The Oakland metropolitan area is in fact more populous than the state of Massachusetts, where of course, the city of Boston is located.
Yet, Oakland has been called a, "small market," and Boston a, "large market." Moreover, according to Census data, the state of Massachusetts has been much slower in population growth than states such as California.
Thus, I must wonder if East coast teams garner higher ratings, merely because the mainstream media tends to cater to what those fans want to hear and see. Those fans are embraced and affirmed, while everyone else gets a kick in the teeth.
So why would they watch?
Why Do You Love or Hate the Oakland Raiders?
Finally and at long last, the question at hand. I think that if any Raider fan is being honest, they would say that the period from 2003-2009 has been a tribulation to say the least.
We have given much slack to Al Davis, because he has won in the past by taking the blows and doing it his way. Yet, the abysmal record ("abysmal" is relative to what Raider fans have come to expect), has made many Raider fans question their loyalty to the team and an NFL legend that has been transformed into a caricature.
Lately, Mr. Davis has started to remind me of Shylock the Jew from Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice (see "Tuck Rule Game").
Impatient fans have since clamored for Mr. Davis to conform to the ways of others and the NFL era, when he had succeeded for many years at taking the road less travelled.
Many have succumb to the idea that Mr. Davis no longer "gets it" when it comes to the Draft, after he had many successes in the Draft (see, JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, and Darrius Heyward-Bey). As vaunted as the 1983 NFL Draft is in NFL lore, one of the untold stories about that Draft is how well the Raiders did from top to bottom.
What keeps you coming back for more?
If you look at a team like the New England Patriots, you will see many similarities between the Patriots of today and the Raiders of the 1970s: gutsy play-calling, a cavalier attitude to the rules (some of which has been justifiable), an emphasis on special teams, defense, timely offense, and an emphasis on just winning (as a team) rather than individual stats.
If anything, Mr. Davis was the first "team first" owner in the NFL, because he didn't care about race, behavior, and other things, so long as the team won, because if the team wins, then that would imply that the players have done their job.
For those who don't know, the NFL had been a deeply biased league for many decades until the American Football League came along and turned those biases on their head, because it turned out that many fans would watch AFL games (aka, "The Freedom League"), regardless of whether the players were black, white, or none of the above.
Remember what I said about enlightenment needing to come from the audience?
Until then, the NFL just treated players as "numbers not names" to paraphrase many country musicians (i.e. Hank Williams, Roger Miller), and would not print names on jerseys. So for those of you wearing the jersey of your favorite football player, you have people like Al Davis to thank for that.
The analogy between the Raiders and Patriots is a deliberate one.
I do believe that the best opinion is a combination of objectivity and subjectivity, because if you don't have a personal stake in the opinion, then why have it? At the same time, you must be careful to not carelessly disregard valid points made by others.
I say that, because for some time now, I have seen an inextricable link between the fortunes of the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots.
For you Pat fans out there, I don't blame the Patriots for the woes of the Raiders. I don't think you can deny however that the "Tuck Rule Game" symbolizes a point in NFL history where the fortunes of two clubs went in paradoxical directions.
Before then, the Patriots had been a mediocre team that had been seen as a push over, while the Raiders had long been feared and hated (sometimes irrationally) by the rest of the league. Now, it's vice versa.
Ask not have you forgotten, ask what can be remembered
Everyone has a personal story related to their sports passion and here is mine.
In September of 2001, I travelled to New England to visit relatives. In retrospect, I think it is funny that I asked my great uncle what he thought of the Patriots, and well, he didn't have choice words to say.
Ironically (at least in my mind), the Patriots would win the Super Bowl that year, in a season that of course included the, "Tuck Rule Game."
That September of course was when the Trade Towers and Pentagon were attacked. At the age of 18, I like many others had to contemplate the purpose of what we choose to do and how important it truly is.
I had wanted to move to New York and be a writer and comedian. Instead, I have spent many years since either babbling and brainstorming, sometimes desperately and sometimes to the chagrin of the other person.
Well, I'm selling myself short. But that's what I do, because I try to inform or enlighten without making it all about me. I self-deprecate, because I aim to embolden the other person with some confidence to think for themselves.
When you're a teen, youth tends to empower you with the meaning of life. Not to sound conceited, but I had that sense on the meaning of life dramatically altered on and after September 11, 2001.
I think I was forced to "get old" when I was still 18. It was easy to get caught in a loop of being jaded by life.
By the way, I spun the JFK qote, "Ask not..." just to give my take on it and apply it to the recent times, not to take away from what it means to someone else.
The Price of Loyalty
Until then, I had been a passive football fan (at best).
I grew up in the Bay Area, so if you weren't at least a fair-weather fan of the 49ers...then you were a Cowboys fan. I didn't know any Raider fans for many years. Ironically, that included my dad. He had been a fan of Joe Montana, which led to a brief period of being a Chiefs fan (I have photographic evidence of that).
I should add however that, he had been a fan of Montana from the beginning. After the 49ers finished 6-10 in 1980 and the Niners loaded up on d-backs in the Draft, my dad convinced my uncle to buy season tickets together.
So they waited all night one night to buy season tickets. It even showed-up in the San Jose Mercury. Turned out, my uncle used his credit card to buy the tickets and then turned around and stiffed my dad, because my uncle started dating.
So think about that for a second. My dad was one of the few that believed in the 49ers in 1980 (which did not include my uncle). Instead of being able to see "The Catch" that year, he was forced to endure the bragging about how much money my uncle was making by selling season, postseason, and Super Bowl tickets.
For about 15 years.
The first I really learned of the fact that my dad had been a lifelong Raider fan was 1997 when I was 14—you know, the 4-12 season of Joe Bugel.
Not an easy time to be a Raider fan.
One of the things that seemed to keep him loyal was seeing the Raiders beat the Broncos, which the Raiders did that year. That is also one of the things that keeps my going: Seeing the Raiders beat the Broncos.
I should say however that until the year 2000, even I had been intimidated by the appearance of the Black Hole. I had even made jokes along with the hosts of the KDON morning show about the Raiders and a Raider fan who called once called in to claim, "They might not be there, but they're gonna be there!"
Back then, it was easy to be consumed by fear.
I was a freshman in high school and decided to leave for home-schooling, because I had been afraid of some poser that made many threats against me for wearing blue shirts. Moreover, the school environment was a hostile one to say the least, where the detonation of explosives was a daily occurrence.
There would also be a bomb threat near the end of that school year.
I had felt justified in my fear in March of 1998 after the Jonesboro school shooting in Arkansas, and of course, the Columbine school shooting in April of 1999. I later learned that much of my fear was just false perception, instilled by some wannabe gang-banger.
It is easy however to feel justified by fear by what you see on the news.
The theme here however is that fear is mostly perception. I had been intimidated by the appearance of the Black Hole, because I was just projecting fear. I think that is at least a small lesson to learn after the events of September 11, 2001.
"The only thing you have to fear is fear itself." I had been jaded by life, until what's this? A group of veterans that had been written off as decrepit were defying the perceptions.
Of course, I'm referring to Rich Gannon, Tim Brown, and Jerry Rice.
I know that Gannon's reputation amongst Raider fans is sketchy at best, but you can't deny the resilience he had to bounce around from team to team for years. Tim Brown had wallowed in obscurity for years as the main weapon for a wayward club, yet never acted like Terrell Owens would in later years. Jerry Rice refused to quit, even though he could have easily retired with much contentment on his career.
So what was my excuse to be in a funk?
Remember what I said about how psychiatry is a matter of getting someone to want something else that is not destructive?
Back then, I do believe that I wanted to be afraid. The world made more sense, because fear is "arithmetic" not "geometric,"—to steal by re-purposing an idea I boosted from The Daily Show .
The ability to react to fear, strangely instills a person with meaning. When there is a clear and present danger, then that means an opportunity to be a hero, or to wallow in self-pity and drama.
Thus, I had to replace the fear with something else, otherwise the feeling of emptiness would take over, and I would be right back to where I started.
What could I replace fear with that would be constructive? Took a note from George Constanza and used reverse psychology on myself. At that point, I realized that for many years I had disliked love songs, and in some cases, mocked them.
To be as trite as I can possibly be, all I needed was love. And the one song that stood out as "real" without being too sappy was "Better Days," by Bruce Springsteen.
Believe it or Not
To rewind a bit, I had had an online encounter in December of 2001, in which I was messaged by someone who wanted to know about the joke behind the name "HAL" in 2001: A Space Odyssey , because I had listed that movie as a favorite on an AOL profile.
I didn't know that at the time, but it kicked off an online relationship that has lasted ever since, even though we've never met in person. Here's the kicker: she is a Patriots fan.
Oh, cruel and paradoxical fate!
I have claimed many reasons for why I became interested in blogging, and why I think there is a greater good to it. But remember what I said about objectivity and subjectivity?
In a year vaunted as symbolic of the future and human potential (or lack thereof) and yet everything seemed uncertain, one thing became certain.
Some would probably call me a rabble-rouser and an attention whore. I would say that that is not entirely accurate.
Though I have made some controversial claims, I would only do so if I truly believed it. With that said however, I would hope for the added benefit that it would come to the attention of someone with the power to elevate me to where I could gain her love. That somehow, someone would take a little pity on my perceived plight and allow me to ascend to that which I most wanted.
To leave you then with a haunting and humorous cliff-hanger.
She's now a news editor for a Warren Buffet company in the New York media.
Oh, cruel and paradoxical fate!
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