Monthly Archives: May 2012

Snake by Ken Stabler, 1986 PART ONE

ImageThe monotony of camp was so oppressive that without the diversions of whiskey and women, those of us who were wired for activity and no more than six hours sleep a night might have gone berserk. I was fortunate to have four let’s-party-hearty roommates to pal with most of my years in Oakland. The roomies were halfback Pete Banaszak, wide receiver Freddy Biletnikoff, defensive end Tony Cline, and middle linebacker Dan Conners. We lived for the weekly football games and the football-player nights in between. I liked to think of us as “The Santa Rosa Five.”

Oakland Raider Ken Stabler #12 under center

John Madden knew he was coaching a gang of distinctive individuals. Characters, some called us. Others called us ruffians, mavericks, renegades, oddballs, intimidators… and there’s no point in mentioning the curse words.  But all the labels were fair enough.  And I think John decided with the types of people we had that it was necessary to give us a certain amount of room to roam. We had more characters than any other team and John realized that we didn’t care for a lot of restrictions, were happier without them, and as a result played better. John handled individuals very well, and I feel that was a prime reason why the Raiders had the best won-lost record in pro football while he was coaching the team.

Most of the Raider players who were not married drank hard and chased women harder. It relieved the monotony of training camp and the pressure of the games. And, goddamn, it was fun. I was married twice while a Raider, but I never felt like a husband. Perhaps because both of the women I married were more like sparring partners than wives. Obviously, the fault was not all theirs. But I was never deterred from the endless game of prowl-and-party.

“The Circuit” consisted of hitting at least five bars before we had to be back for the 11:00 PM curfew. The Circuit started each night at Melendy’s the nearest bar, and we never missed stopping at The Music Box, where the best looking women usually hung out. Every year during training camp the women of Santa Rosa turned out in droves to greet the Raiders, may bearing dance cards that just had to be filled in. At each stop on The Circuit we’d check out the women who appeared to be what we called “players.” As we had to be in by curfew, all cars parked, dates would be set for eleven-thirty. The experienced female players knew the routine. They would drive to the El Rancho, pick you up, and haul you to their place or to another motel. There were a few tireless spirits who would attend to all five of us, they were known as “The OT Girls”.

Many nights we’d go right back out after curfew, and many times I didn’t return until just before breakfast. We left and returned the same way—through a back door and a hedgerow of bushes rimming the driveway. IF I had a midnight date, she would pull in, turn off the headlights, then slowly circle the driveway. Meanwhile I’d creep through the bushes in a crouch and look up the driveway for her—and usually see about fifteen other veterans hunched down waiting for pickups.

Oakland Raiders #83

The collecting of female undergarments became an annual rite of training camp for many of the Raiders. Someone called us the “Fredericks of Santa Rosa.” I liked to tack my collection up on the walls, drape the bras and panties on the mirrors, lamps, wherever. Over the years we came to judge our preseason success not by how many passes were completed or receptions caught, or by how much yardage was gained. The bottom line was: How much lingerie did we collect?

One night we suffered a terrible disappointment. The two girls were so cute I about felt my eyeballs sweat. Both girls were wearing white short-shorts that did little to disguise their real selves. They were also unencumbered by bras and walked into our doorway like players of the first rank. But when the redhead opened her mouth, it was like we were two TD’s down to the Steelers with thirty seconds left to play.

“Are you guys serious?” she said with sarcasm you could chew on. Her eyes scanned the room. “Did you really think we’d be a couple more of your playthings?” If looks could melt, all of the gadgets and lingerie would have gone up in smoke. “Well, you’re not hanging these up there,” Red said. She hooked a finger under the lower edge of her panties, tugged it down on the side of her thigh, and let is snap back. Her girlfriend turned, bent, and mooned us through her shorts, saying, “Enjoy yourselves.” Then they were gone.

“”Win some, lose some,” I thought. But within ten minutes we were out on the prowl again. No way we could stay in after that simmering short-short show.

At the Cross: The Napoleon Kaufman Story 2001

At the Cross: The Napoleon Kaufman Story by Jimmie Hand as Told by Napoleon Kaufman

On April 23, 1995 the bay area newspaper headlines read like this:
“Raiders pick Kaufman at number 18, ignore Heisman winner. ”
On draft day he was quoted in Mike Taylor’s column as saying, “I can’t explain how excited I am. Being from California and growing up watching the Raiders every weekend. This definitely means a lot to me, and I”m ready to play. This is great! The Raiders are perfect situation for me.”
His Rookie year of 1995 saw Napoleon see action in all sixteen games as a reserve running back. He also performed well as a kick off return specialist breaking an 84 – yard run for a touchdown against the Colts.
In 1997 he began where he left off the year before, again leading the Raiders in rushing with 1294 yards, second highest single season total in Oakland history on 272 carries. He added an additional 403 yards receiving, placing him sixth best in total yards from scrimmage with 1697 yards in the NFL.
His 4.8 yards per carry tied for best in the AFC among running backs. He had six 100 yard games and scored eight touchdowns> He accounted for nine plays of 40 yards or more.
It was this season that he broke Bo Jackson’s single game rushing record by going for 227 yards on 28 carries (8.7 yards per carry) against the Denver Broncos. In that same game he had a career-long run of 83 yards for a touchdown. That was the longest run in the NFL in 1997.
Everything on the football field was going about as well as it could but what was happening off the field was even more exciting to Napoleon. Being ordained to preach found him traveling all over to spread the gospel. This was what he was born to do.
A glimpse at Napoleon’s Heart:
1999 was the first year that Tyrone Wheatly came to the Raiders and it was also about that time that God started to deal with me about being selfish. I’m telling you, God really dealt with me!
I had always been the number one guy and here all of a sudden I’m Tyrone’s backup. That took some getting used to. It was a tough year in football with the injuries and all, but in my Christian life things were moving along wonderfully.As I gave it to the Lord I began to see the lesson that He had for me. It was not only for my growth as a Christian, but it somehow brought Tyrone and me closer together and I was able to see God working in his life. Praise God!
I appreciate Mr. Al Davis, managing general partner of the Raiders for all the support he gave me over the years that I was with the team. I continued to play for the entire year of 2000 but was starting to feel that the days were numbered.
Then it happened. I woke up, wide awake about five o’clock in the morning and I felt that God was telling me to retire. …In the morning the Raiders had an organized team activity… so I went down and practiced with the team and had a wonderful time with the guys. Then when Jon Gruden got up and started writing the X’s and O’s on the blackboard, I just knew for sure! My time was near. I went out and had a great day of practice, and my knee felt really good.. but my heart was just not in the game anymore.

Just Win, Baby: Al Davis and His Raiders

Just Win, Baby: Al Davis and His Raiders by Glenn Dickey, 1991

Wayne Valley knew why Davis wouldn’t come back to coaching. “He doesn’t have the guts to stay on the sideline,” Valley told me at the time. “The great ones, like George Halas and Vince Lombardi, have gone out there year after year and let people take their shots. ‘The Genius’ can’t do that.”

If he had returned to coaching, how successful would Davis have been? Hank Stram, who coached the Chiefs against him, thinks that Davis would have ranked at the very top.  “He had good vision,” Stram told me. “He has always had a clear idea of what he wanted, and he believes in it strongly.”

The rivalry between the Raiders and the Chiefs in the 1960’s, when Davis was coach and afterward, is a fascinating story. “Al always geared his season to beating the Chiefs and the Chargers,” Tom Keating said.”When he beat either of those teams he was really happy. I remember, in my first season with the team, we beat the Chargers in an exhibition game, and he just went nuts. An exhibition game!”

Oakland Raiders Al Davis

The Chargers were the AFL’s best team early on, but as their top players faded the Chiefs became the team Davis had to beat. And, though his team was not the physical equal of the Chiefs in Davis’s three coaching years, the Raiders split their six games against Kansas City.

Davis and Stram looked for the same kind of player – size in the line, speed everywhere else—and even coveted some of the same players. By the time he came back as general partner, Davis knew he had to build a team that could beat Kansas City if the Raiders were to win a championship.  “He drafted Gene Upshaw to block Buck Buchanan,” Stram noted. “Because we always had great kickers, he upgraded his kicking game by drafting Ray Guy as a punter. In fact, I almost drafted Guy just to keep him away from the Raiders.”

AFC Championship Kansas City VS Oakland

“He had a great capacity for using players,” Stram said, “They believed in him. And he was always very good at utilizing players in particular roles. He told me one time that they’d picked up a guy who could only play fifteen plays a game, but they’d be fifteen good plays.  He was talking about what we now call situation substitution. Another time, he told me he’d traded for an offensive tackle because this guy could block a defensive end they’d be seeing in the playoffs. Now, who else would be thinking ahead like that?”

Virtually the only early coverage of the Raiders was in the Tribune, but when Davis, in his first year turned the sad-sack Raiders into a 10-4 team that twice beat the Chargers, the AFL Champion that year, the Raiders suddenly became big news.

Davis had a mania for secrecy. At the time the Raiders practiced at Bushrod Park in Oakland, which was next to a large apartment building. Davis was so certain that spies from other teams were watching the practice that he had his players wear numbers different from their game-uniform numbers, and on occasion he ran plays with twelve players on the offense to totally confuse anyone watching.

Raiders Versus Chiefs

On the field, the Chiefs and Raiders were night and day. Davis’s Raiders were a bombs-away group, always going for the jugular on both offense and defense. Stram’s Chiefs, despite their offensive talent, played conservatively, content to let their defense control the game.

The Raiders had won seven of their last eight games with the Chiefs, but the statistic was misleading. In 1969 there was almost no physical difference between the teams; the two Raider wins had come by scores of 27-24 and 10-6. The score of the second game showed what was happening: the teams had come to know each others tendencies so well that it was becoming almost impossible for either offense to move the ball.