Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tribute to Mr. Raider

Brown helped Raiders grow up | From

By Monte Poole

THERE ARE NO snapshots of him in handcuffs in a squad car, no photos of him wearing a silly mask on the sideline, no tales of him walking a lion, holding a cobra or swinging a switchblade.

He did not drink, smoke, cuss or dive headlong into the nocturnal pursuits.

He didn't even wear shades indoors.

How on earth did Tim Brown manage to stay a Raider long enough to challenge Al Davis as the team's reigning icon?

Maybe it's because Brown was the mainstay, producing at a high level for a long time. Or because he spoke softly, thoughtfully and almost always with a purpose. Or because there was a dignity to his carriage.

In any case, it is profoundly appropriate that when Brown announces his retirement this month, he will do so as a Raider.

Not to be lost here, though, is the acknowledgment that Tim was a leader in the movement to get the Raiders to grow up.

The Raiders built a reputation during the 1960s and '70s by doing and saying things that create images. They partied as hard as they played. They were mean and nasty and they'd kick your butt all over the field, laughing at the sight of blood — theirs and yours.

Ted Hendricks and Tom Keating, on the field and off, were wild men. Gene Upshaw's nickname, Uppy, was in lights above a Jack London Square nightclub. Fred Biletnikoff waspart-owner of a bar-restaurant off Hegenberger Road. Ken Stabler prowled pubs from San Jose to Santa Rosa.

Dare we mention the treacherous exploits of John Matuszak and Warren Wells?

The Raiders were a motorcycle club in shoulder pads, defined by swagger, villainy, night life and an assortment of free spirits.

And along came Brown to slowly strip away this Animal House of ill repute.

The kid from Notre Dame wasn't alone; he had help from devout teammates like Steve Wisniewski and Jeff Hostetler. Of the three, though, Brown was the first to wear the uniform, donned it the longest and maintained the highest visibility.

Drafted on the first round in 1988, while the Raiders were in Los Angeles, Brown entered a place annexed from hell. The players openly disrespected first-year coach Mike , mocking him until Davis stepped in and replaced with Art Shell.

Brown, the polite and devout fellow from Notre Dame, observed the madness and took note. As he grew into his career, he presided over a locker room with its share of clowns — none of whom lasted very long.

By the time the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, they were barely recognizable. There was a distinct shortage of influential characters. They were a football team, nothing more, seeking respect in a new NFL.

Brown, by then 29 years old and a four-time participant in the Pro Bowl, was the epitome.

He was the team's primary spokesman, in baseball cap and uniform before practice and always — always — in a suit and tie after games. He generally was about as open and honest as good judgment would allow, whether offering an assessment of Davis or administering a

velvet-hammered lashing to the broad backside of wayward kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

Immaturity or inattention among his teammates was an affront to Tim's sensibilities.

Unless there was a specific inquiry, Brown made no more than veiled references to his Christianity. He's the guy who once reminded former teammate Napoleon Kaufman that it's fine to read the Bible, but he also had an obligation to study the playbook.

Don't get me wrong. Even if by established Raiders' standards Brown was downright saintly, he was not perfect.

Though he could twist cornerbacks into the turf with his footwork, he also could drop the easiest of passes. Like many stars, he could be transparently self-centered. He also could be sensitive to slights; we've had numerous discussions over some of the more critical content of my columns.

And though he deserves induction into the Hall of Fame, Brown never got his elusive championship ring.

Almost never, though, did Brown drop his core professionalism. Guys like Brown and Wisniewski made the Raiders a more palatable destination for dedicated pros like Lincoln Kennedy, Rich Gannon and Jerry Rice.

An old Raiders slogan refers to "pride and poise." No Raider ever symbolized these virtues to a greater degree than Brown.

He was not, however, the Ultimate Raider. He was his own man, conceivably the first and most enduring of the great anti-Raiders.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It happened over a week ago and I'm still sore

Agony of defeat September 18, 2005

Oh the pain the pain. Here it is less than an hour after watching my Raiders lose to those hated Kansas City Chiefs and I can’t shake the agony. The grief in me is like a hunger pang that makes one bend over and hold their stomach in agony. The reason the pain is so agonizing is not because we lost but how we lost. Many share in the blame for this one. The Refs, Raider coaches, quarterback Kerry Collins and maybe a few too many dumb penalties at the most devastating time.

As much as I want to focus on the positives of our performance at this hurting moment I cannot. My attention is being held hostage by a grueling agonizing pain that keeps kicking me in the stomach causing me to exhale exasperatingly.

How close were we you may ask? How about first and ten at the KC thirteen yard line with two time outs and one minute fifty eight seconds to work that Raider magic. The good field position being a gift from our highly challenged and exhausted young defense. They bent all night but never completely broke. A few cracks in their dented and dinged Silver and Black armor maybe but when it called for a big play they delivered by creating and recovering a KC fumble with minutes left in the game.

With the Coliseum on edge our unproven leader, QB Kerry Collins, runs three offensive plays and we find ourselves in a fourth down and six to make a first down, eleven for the touchdown. Every single Raider fan had the jitters as our fearless unproven leader lined up the offense for what would be a do or die play. A part of us wanted to believe that our destiny to win was written in that pearly white full moon lounging over the thinly clouded east bay hills like a London streetlamp piercing through fog. Others probably felt that we were due some luck this one time tonight after having two touchdowns called back due to questionable penalties on our offense. Either way, every Raider fan foresaw prematurely that we’d be hollering in ecstasy after the success on this upcoming fourth down. How else are fans of one of the winningest franchises in sports history supposed to think?

After we took a timeout our team huddled up and planned what could turnout to be their final battle cry. Probably an all for one and one for all type huddle hype. Many of us fans paced in our aisle and nobody was sitting. A few glances at one another spoke what none of us were truly willing to say out loud. We were scared! Scared that our yet unproven leader may not be ready to display proof of leadership skills in the clutch. All night we’d been coming close in the clutch and all night we came up just inches short of our goal. Sure there were big plays made and points scored but KC seemed to be just a step ahead of us in all categories including that all important edge, Lucky Breaks.

When the Raiders Offense breaks the huddle and walks up to the line of scrimmage you can hear a group inhale from the crowd, a crowd I estimate to be around 58,000 plus a few stuffed life-size KC dolls for fan stress relief. Our fearless leader lines up behind center and begins yelling out signals. I realize the gum I’ve been chewing for hours is stuck on my upper palate due to loss of saliva, the dryness being a result of tension. I dare not wedge it free and lose focus of the play. My body, along with all the inhabitants of upper deck section 322, tensed simultaneously as the ball is snapped. Immediate yelling from everyone began as it was evident we were running a pass play. Notice I say “we.” At that moment of spontaneous yelling, everyone felt that they were the quarterback and knew just where the ball should be thrown. With the defensive pass rush being held at bay QB Kerry Collins has ample time to make the right choice and complete his throw.

What felt like minutes lasted no more than ten seconds? I’d pretty much lost all analytical offensive coordinator skills and was in prayer mode by now, hoping and praying that we’d score or be angelically granted a first-down. In the next instant we would know whether God and his angels were smiling with us or crying silver and black tears for us all. It never even crossed our minds that KC may also have a direct line to God for divine intervention. To us KC was child to the anti-Christ and we’d surmised that any luck granted on their side was conjured up by no other than Satan himself. Proof being the gruesome blood red color in their uniforms signifying their commitment to Hell.

In the moments it took for Collins to spot WR Jerry Porter streaking across the back of the end-zone and to throw the football those eleven plus yards, us fans had dreamed up a lifetime of winning scenarios for this game. We all peered towards the end zone as Porter, covered shrewdly by a KC defender, reached back and got his fingers on the short thrown ball. Flashes of that juggled short yardage completion to Porter earlier in the drive ran through my memory bank, but I didn’t let it spoil my hope for the moment nor my imagined dream.

Seeing Porter falling while the pass defender swatted at his outstretched hands and snatched the ball was a lesson in time and space warp illusion. I swear it looked like the play was in slow motion and my screaming along with the 58,000 other sellout paid fans was echoing thickly in the coliseum void. Like trying to run toward or away from something in a dream. Or watching a glass of milk as it’s knocked off a table and your reaction impulse is triggered as you watch the slow descent of the glass falling, falling, and falling. A moment in time encapsulated in our memory banks and on video to be replayed over and over if we so choose. Chris Berman style maybe.

But what would have, could have and should have been just wasn’t to be. Not for those 58K watching with their 116K puppy dog eyeballs glued to Porter lying on the turf without the pigskin. Half of us didn’t even notice that the KC defender had intercepted the ball and was sprinting across the end zone in celebration before taking a knee. Our Silver and Black prayers and hopes for the day died there on the cool evening turf along with the hopes of a dejected number 84 Jerry Porter.

This moment frozen in time ended for me when that gritty hunger pang I mentioned earlier started gnawing at my insides. I choked back the pain, stuck my chest out and lifted up my chin doing as I’d been taught to do when adversity strikes. But a person knows when he’s lying outwardly to himself. All it takes is that quiver of pain to remind us that we may fool others but we can’t fool ourselves nor cheat the devil. For all the festive energy invested in a Raider Nation day, the moment of truth had finally come and we wept internally for our fallen team and our crushed dreams of grandeur. I guess someone has to pay the piper for the party that began at sunrise.

Our team had fought back from their earlier foibles and came up just eleven yards short of their goal today. But the loss cannot take away the love and pride we all demonstrated for out team on this day. A day of recaptured pride and poise for our team’s first home game of the 2005 season. And our Silver and Black Soldiers looked every bit as much committed to achieving excellence through their battling effort today.

Old friendships were reunited and new ones were made on this beautifully bright day in the Northern California sunshine. With food being grilled for gobbling and suds soaking the smiles of many, it was a day of Raider Nation Glory. Though we’d all drag ourselves out of the coliseum in a state of shock and awe on this ESPN taped Sunday evening, we’ll relive this day of fun in the sun and a night highlighted by a Randy Moss 64 yard TD for years to come. The Moss grab was a thing of beauty and I myself felt I got my money’s worth after seeing his spectacular jump, catch and run at our end of the field. Pure Beauty Homey!

So I’m back home trying to put a smile on a face that’s had a permanent scowl since the loss. I’ve been at it writing out my pain for about an hour and though I still have light pangs I know tomorrow’s another day if I can make it until then. I’m sure things could be worse.

There, I’m actually feeling better about the future of my team. Maybe I’ll volunteer some of my time for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts tomorrow. But right now I still want to sulk for just a little longer. Damn we were so close to pulling off a win tonight, so close. And it aches so because I invested all my heart and emotions today. So excuse this man for being such a sore loser for this one evening. I can draw no lessons from this loss. To some it’s only a game, but to me at this moment it’s like losing a world that you spent a day creating. Tomorrow’s will be a new creation and with it a new promise.

Monday, September 26, 2005

This would never ever happen at a Raiders home game!

We Raider fans are loyal and committed to the silver and black. We live and breathe that Raider mystique that so many write and talk about. And though some of us truly hate those whiners across the bay, most of us just feel sympathy for the fair weather fans that follow the team. I myself am neutral when it comes to the whiners and their fans. Those Montana days were special and I'll admit I watched in awe the magic that team displayed, even if they questionably minipulated the salary cap. But that was before the Raiders return. Before Chucky grimaced and sneered on the Coliseum sidelines. Before the Raiders return to the Glory of Divisional and Conference Championship wins.

So when I read in the newspaper today about the tough losses both teams endured over the weekend I felt anger for my Raiders of course, but for that other team across the bay I felt pity after reading what took place at Candlestick Park. My team may be 0-3 as of this Monday, but never will you see anything in print about a Raiders home game like you saw today in the demoralizing article that reflects whiner fan loyalty. I feel for those players in red and gold and I wonder just what went through their psyche when their offense had to scrap the shotgun formation because of the Dallas Fans zealous screaming in the stadium, The stadium that Joe built. Joe would be ashamed.

Thus here's a portion of the article by chronicle staff writers Kevin Lynch and John Crumacker:


When the 49ers were driving Sunday for a possible game-winning touchdown or game-tying field goal, it was unclear whether the team was playing in San Francisco or Texas. Fans clad in Cowboys blue and silver were in such full throat that 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay had to abandon the shotgun formation and go under center because his teamates couldn't hear the signals.

Defensive tackle Anthony Adams admitted it was strange to see so many Cowboys fans at Candlestick, and 49ers coach Mike Nolan even made an appeal to fans before leaving his post game news conference.

"I would like 49ers fans to keep their tickets," Nolan said. "That would be nice."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Canine Morning Glory

Lexi Lisa and Linus
September 25, 2005

Sunday morning greetings between two canines and a dark eyed lady

Lexi has taken her owner Lisa for a walk in the park this beautifully bright Sunday morning. There are meditative exercises being performed by a group of early rising seniors. The la terrazzo style fountain is gushing volcanic-like with sparkling clear water. The sound of splashing water gives a feeling of serenity to the morning setting.

Lexi is a small white puffy haired dog with a pink collar and a reserved attitude. She’s curious about her surroundings and loves initiating conversation with other pedigrees. She’ll tire quickly of her newly found friends and seems to always be in a search and discover mode.

A small pug looking canine was the first to witness Lexi’s cunning self-serving ways. Lexi’s owner Lisa spied the little pug as he eyed Lexi from across the plaza past the fountain. The pug, whose name is CornNut, strolled confidently over and introduced himself to Lexi. After much sniffing and canine communicating the two frolicked underneath the bench that Lisa sat on. The male owner of CornNut conversed with Lisa for a bit as we all enjoyed watching the two canines interplay.

While in the middle of playing with CornNut and appearing to tire of his macho ways Lexi senses another male canine eager to communicate and give attentions to her feminine fur. It’s obvious that Lexi has already tired of CornNut and is giving this new plaid sweater wearing male interest her undivided attentions.

Though he’s not as masculine as CornNut he’s got the spunk and spirit that turns Lexi into a trotting fairy princess. His owner, an older Asian lady with animal doctoring skills, begins sharing with us the history of this playful miniature chihuahua named Linus.

Linus was a rescue from the south bay animal shelter. He came very close to being euthanized upon his arrival at the shelter. Doctors at the shelter believed that Linus had been ill treated or neglected by a former owner or possibly dropped by careless kids. The prior treatment of Linus had left him handicapped in his front legs. Doctors told Linus new owner that it was his lively spirit that told them Linus had a good chance of survival, and so they nursed his wounds and let nature’s way heal the rest. Linus may not be able to walk more than half a block at a time, but he can play within a given range for hours.

As Lexi became the trophy of Linus’s affections CornNut was left to wait and wonder just how a small brown taco bell looking Chihuahua could steal his newfound love interest away with such ease. Once CornNut’s owner saw that the competition had a stronghold on Lexi’s attention he kindly wished everyone a good day and urged CornNut homeward. CornNut didn’t seem to mind leaving and probably would thank his owner later for the dignity saving departure.

So with CornNut out of the picture Linus had a clear unobstructed path to Lexi’s cuddling character. But just as quickly as Lexi turned her attentions away from CornNut she abandoned her play with Linus to seek other canine mysteries. Linus was persistent and wouldn’t let Lexi off the hook so easily.

In the meantime Linus owner continued to narrate the trials and tribulations of poor Linus. For it was only a week ago that a larger dog of cocker spaniel breed snatched up small Linus and tried to eat him like he was an afternoon puppy dog snack. Linus was left with a puncture near his eye and nightmares of his early years abuse. The incident triggered a relapse of Linus’s fear of males both canine and human. But Linus rebounding spirit allowed him to overcome the trauma and bounce back to his loving and trusting ways.

Linus not only displayed his affections toward Lexi but also acknowledged the human hands that reached to pet and scratch at his shorthaired brown body. With Lexi beginning to show a mood of wanting to be left alone, Lisa her owner picks her up and sets Lexi on the bench with her. We believe Lexi was a bit jealous of Linus receiving all the human attention, but whose to say what feelings cross the conscious of such a calculating character as we find in Lexi. Lexi has the cunningness of a cat and the slyness of a snake. But she’s loveable as Lisa attests to when she cuddles her upon Linus’s departure.

A dog lover at heart, Lexi brings a caring parental smile to Lisa that’s proof of their inseparable bond. And so with a kind heart and caring voice Lisa wishes me well as she and Lexi stroll away toward a day of pampering one another. I believe it won’t be the last I see of Lisa and Lexi. When blessings come in ways such as these the recipient of its gift can only look forward to the next encounter and give thanks for being in the right place at a most delightful time.

Lisa being a native of Rhode Island brought a familiar kinship to our morning conversation. After talks of yoga, eastern philosophies and the beauty of San Francisco, we found ourselves partners in receiving the morning magic. Maybe it was her Italian look and traits that produced images of home in my mind. Either way I’ll keep an eye out for Lisa when I stroll around the Italian la terrazzo plaza in mornings to come. For home is where the heart is and where friendships are discovered. But that’s a different story reserved for human relations. Today’s stage was set for canine performers and they delivered to their audience in a glorious way.

An Ugly Raider Loss

Philadelphia beats Raiders with a lousy kick in the final seconds of a 23 to 20 loss for the Raiders. Lousy because the kicker (David Ackers), hobbled by a leg injury sustained earlier, barely got the ball over the crossbars as he crumpled down in pain and part jubilation following the kick.

I said it last week and I'm yelling it this week. How can the Raiders expect to win when they continue to incur penalties at the most inopportune time? Again, we beat ourselves. Again, we couldn't come up with a big play on defense to stop a drive. Instead it seems we have a very bad habit of keeping the opponents drives marching on 3rd downs with stupid penalties.

But I can't completely blame the defense for those penalties as a cause for losing the game. They continued to bend and not break even though their pass rushing of the quarterback was atrocious. Give any quarterback the time they gave McNabb to throw the ball and he'll eventually find someone open. The defensive play of the game was the Warren Sapp interception. Sapp looked better than ever as a Raider today. I must admit, there were times where we brought the pressure but those times were too few. Our offense went flat at times but was able to make the big plays when needed. Our young Robert Gallery had one of his less than stellar performances today when he was called no less than three times for off sides penalties.

Sea Bass is definitely the goat of this game for the Raiders. Missing two field goals that he should have, being sea bass, made. The fifty yarder that hit the upright had the leg strength but not the aim. Makes you wonder if Sea Bass has gone back to his old partying ways while nobody's watching.

Our leader at the helm did a much better job this week in spreading the ball around. Collins had more muscle in his throws and not as many of them floated high as did last week. The pass protection was there against a tough pass rush and blitz. But maybe we should've abandoned the running game earlier. It wasn't working and It seemed we kept finding ourselves in 3rd down and long. That along with the penalties left us in passing mode for most of the day. Suprising no interceptions.

Moss wasn't much of a factor but was great going over the middle. Porter, Whitted and Gabriel all peformed well and Tight End Courtney Anderson was finally involved in the offense after a week's disappearance from the plan. Also, Lamont Jordan was better at the catch and run with a few screens that could have been for more yardage.

So the solution to our losing problems is obvious. Must stop the penalties period. Must get better pressure on the quarterback period. Must keep Lamont Jordan involved in the offense period. Must keep Randy Moss involved and continue taking those shots. Moss was close today to making yet another big play, keep'em coming to Moss. Sebastian Janokowski may be costing us games. Someone talk with Sea Bass quick.

Special teams was a wash. Carr continues to prove he belongs.

I believe we can still compete with the best this year. I believe we can run off a string of wins and be a force come December. We need our team and our coaches to come together and try getting us over the hump with our first win. We need to know that we can win a game be it close or a blowout. It's only been three games. We're probably the best 0-3 team you've ever seen. Let's dwarf those three losses with a string of wins and shock the world.

There's only one nation that can beat the odds and rise from a heap of losses.
The Raider Nation
Let's Win Baby!