Latest posts by Beerguyrob (see all)
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Naval Air Station Alameda: Oakland, CA
A once-functioning naval base, NAS Alameda was now being used as a storage facility for an organization on its last legs in the region where it operated. Being conveniently down the road from the team’s current, dilapidated stadium aided the franchise in disposing of its more toxic elements, since the former base is still a superfund cleanup site, and the government doesn’t bother to catalog whether contaminated product comes from the site or is imported onto it. At least not since Scott Pruitt took over the EPA.
Ever since the Parking Authority had raised prices based on the size of vehicle entering the O.co parking lot, fans had taken to tailgating down the road at the old base. It was here that the pain of the impending move was most apparent, and the decision to bring back Jon Gruden was its most craven.
Jerry McDonald was a beat reporter covering the Raiders for the “San Jose Mercury-News” since 1995. He had insight that didn’t come from team-approved sources.
All kinds of crap lined the road—suitcases, boxes, even pieces of expensive furniture. I saw a grand piano, I’m not kidding, just smashed like it was thrown off the top of a truck. There appeared, on first glance, to be a lot of abandoned cars. Some had been pushed over, some were stripped, some looked burned out. A closer look actually showed they were all working cars, driven to the Raiderville by fans who clearly cared more about their sports team than proper vehicle maintenance.
I saw a lot of people on foot, walking across the old tarmac or alongside the road. Some were knocking on the windows of the parked motorhomes,
holding up all kinds of stuff. A few women were exposing themselves. They must have been looking to trade, probably for tickets. They couldn’t have been looking for makeup, since most of the gathered fans were more painted up than the cheapest of whores.
This was the I-880, a strip of highway between Oakland and San Jose, eventually linking up to the main Interstate that ran across country from San Francisco to New Jersey. Both places were heavily infested, as well as all those little towns in between, with people who couldn’t see beyond the end of their fandom, let alone the Bud Light tall boy in their hand. What did they think they were doing? Who were these people who thought they’d have any influence over whether a trust-fund baby like Mark Davis would keep his team in Oakland over move them to wherever would build him a nice shiny new box to play in?
You ever hear about that experiment an American journalist did in Moscow in the 1970s? He just lined up at some building, nothing special about it, just a random door. Sure enough, someone got in line behind him, then a couple more, and before you knew it, they were backed up around the block. No one asked what the line was for. They just assumed it was worth it. I can’t say if that story was true. Maybe it’s an urban legend, or a cold war myth. Who knows? But I do know this: the Raiders are leaving, yet the fans are still coming.
Greg Papa is the radio voice of the Raiders, and has been since 1999. He has opinions about why the Raiders would make such a desperate move, especially considering that, but for one poorly-timed slide, the Raiders could have been major players in the 2016 playoffs.
We didn’t know that there was going to be a Great Panic. We were completely isolated. About a month before it began, about the same time as those pricks at ESPN broke the story, all news from the Raiders was placed on indefinite communication blackout. All the televisions were removed from the offices, all the personal radios and cell phones, too. I had one of those cheap disposable types with five prepaid minutes. It was all I could afford, given the peanuts I’m paid. I was supposed to use it to call my family on my birthday, my first birthday away from home.
We were stationed in Las Vegas, at the preview center. Our official duty was “location scouting.” In reality, we were doing promotion for the upcoming season-ticket campaign in Vegas, to encourage the whales to buck-up for the PSLs. But we were recalled to the head office in Oakland. A matter of “team security” they called it. (The news of the hiring appeared to catch him by surprise.) They wanted everyone in one place, so they could identify the “true patriots” who bled Silver & Black.
Who were “they”?
Everyone: our Board officers, the team security, even a plain-clothed civilian who just seemed to appear out of nowhere. He was a mean little bastard, with a thin, rat face. That’s what we called him: “Rat Face.”
When did you discover it was Mark Davis in a “Ratatouille” mask?
I knew it was him right away, but you have to play along. The Old Man used to make everyone call him “Boss”. Mark doesn’t have that instinct. You’ve seen him – he’s a boy trapped in a man’s body, and that man has Lloyd Christmas’ haircut.
Every week there’s some different quirk that comes out. When he was alive, the Old Man was able to keep a lid on the eccentricities, but without the spectre of Al hanging around there’s no restraint on the tendencies. For a while, he even wanted us to call him “Mittens”. Luckily, he still believes in ghosts, because if he didn’t think the Old Man was still haunting the place, watching his every move, there’s no telling what he’d try and do.
You learn not to question things like that anymore; otherwise, you end up working minor league baseball in Utah & lusted after for your diverse bloodline.
So, why do you think they got rid of Jack Del Rio?
He wouldn’t call Mark “Mittens”. Said he was here to coach, not – what was the phrase… – “‘mollycoddle'” some trust-fund punk with delusions of grandeur”. Going into the last week of the season, he was essentially a zombie – going through the motions like he had a thousand times before, but with no real emotion behind it. When the end came, he almost seemed relieved.
So, he was fired for calling out the owner’s perceived deficiencies?
No. He was fired for using words Mark didn’t understand. “Mollycoddle”… “delusions”… “grandeur”; Mark was chanting “Illuminati” all afternoon. Reggie had to let Jack go just so Mark wouldn’t burn the place down trying to get rid of witches.
Was that the Decimation?
No, that was the beginning. With Jack gone, Mark felt he needed to punch upwards in order to allay investor concerns in Vegas and try to impress the ghost of his father. He kept talking about “the old days”. No one took him seriously, because usually when Mark talks to himself it involves going to Costco and buying a gallon of salad dressing.
We only heard rumors prior to Christmas. Mark was running around the office, yelling at his assistant Kristi (Bailey) that he had one more Christmas card for her to mail, for “John” the “Doll Man”.
I thought Mark had decided that his father’s spirit had inhabited his favorite Cabbage Patch Kid – the one John Matuszak had given him years ago. It’s always difficult to anticipate where Mark is going; all I know is that I wish they’d keep sugar-free candy around the office. If that man eats any more M&Ms, he’s going to try and kill Harvey Milk.
Naturally, we all figured Mark was sending a card to John, because he’d forgotten that he’d been given the doll back in the 1980s just before John’s untimely death. Say what you will about Marcus Allen, but if you were a former player not named Marcus, Al Davis never forgot about you, and that was at least one positive trait he imbued into his son before passing. “Football is Family” might have been some pithy NFL ad campaign from a few years back, but it really does mean something here in Oakland. I’m just glad Al died before that campaign began; otherwise, he would have sued for copyright violations & a percentage of the profits.
And then, just after New Year’s, once the season ended, the awful truth began to emerge. I don’t remember when the reporters appeared, but suddenly they were all around us, beating us down, demanding that we tell them when we first suspected something. Some officials from the League office came by, one of them stepping on my chest so hard I thought I was going to die right then and there. They gave a speech about duty and responsibility, about our sworn oath to protect the integrity of the League, and how we had betrayed that oath with our selfish treachery and individual cowardice.
I’d never heard words like that before. “Duty?” “Responsibility?” “Rooney Rule?” The Raiders, my Raiders, were nothing but an apolitical mess, run by a man-child who’d never heard the word “no”. We worked in chaos and corruption, we were just trying to get through the day. Even the media booth was no bastion of patriotism; it was a place to learn a trade, get food and a bed, and maybe even a little money to send home when the front office decided it was convenient to pay its employees. “Oath to protect The Shield?” Those weren’t the words of my generation. That was what you’d hear from old veterans, the kind of broken, demented geezers who routinely besiege the NFL Network with their tattered banners and pictures of their rows and rows of trophies mounted next to their faded, moth-eaten uniforms.
You know the ones.
Duty to the Raiders was a joke. Mark laughed every time he said that word, because he was secretly saying “doody” and none of us were supposed to know. But I wasn’t laughing. I knew the firings were coming. The armed men surrounding us, the men in the guard towers, I was ready, every muscle in my body was tensing for the shot. And then I heard those words…
The Autumn Wind is a Raider,
Pillaging just for fun.
He’ll knock you ’round and upside down,
And laugh when he’s conquered and won.
To “decimate”…I used to think it meant just to wipe out, cause horrible damage, destroy…it actually means to reduce by a percentage of ten, one out of every ten must go…and that’s exactly what they did. All to placate a new regime. We could have said no, could have refused to accept the new regime and been fired ourselves, but we didn’t. We went right along with it. We all made a conscious choice and because that choice carried such a high price, I don’t think anyone ever wanted to make another one again. We knew whom they were bringing in, and the terrible price the organization would pay. But we were powerless to stand in its way; we were dinosaurs looking up at the sky and wondering what that big rock was going to do to us – not the League, us. We relinquished our freedom that day, and we were more than happy to see it go. From that moment on we lived in true freedom, the freedom to point to someone else and say “Hey, I didn’t bring him in!”
The freedom, God help us, to say “I was trying to save myself. I was only trying to save my job.”