There are many great dynasties in sports. The Raiders - of Oakland and also Los Angeles - are one of them. While they may not be the greatest of all pro football dynasties, it is difficult to argue that any other franchise has ever been as exciting or as colorful.
What marks the Raiders, aside from their three Super Bowl championships, are an eclectic group of athletes whose dynamism on and off the field define the team's history. These disparate personalities have all had one thing in common: they played and coached for, and therefore reflected the personality of, the team's legendary owner, Al Davis.
Davis himself is an enigma. Growing up in Brooklyn, he never played football, but he studied it. AT VMI he was a student assistant, but fudged his resume to make it look like he was an assistant coach! This led to a low-level job on Don Clark's staff at USC. Davis parlayed three years at USC to somehow talking a group of investors into putting him in charge of the new AFL franchise in Oakland.
The league succeeded, in large part because of the vision of Davis and a group of maverick owners. In the same town that founded the Hell's Angels, during the time the Hell's Angels grew - the 1960s - the silver-and-black became the Hell's Angels of football.
They defined the new style of the pro game, marked by the "bomb," long passes eschewed by conservative coaching philosophies of past decades. Quarterback Daryl Lamonica and coach John Madden developed the Raiders into the winningest team in pro football by the early 1970s. As great as they were, the Raiders were known for two things: they lost the "big game" and were wild off the field.
Year after year, Oakland lost in the AFL and then the AFC championship games. Some questioned their off-field activities. During pre-season training camp in Santa Rosa, the Raiders partied wildly at the team's hotel. Women came from all points to make themselves available. Long-haired behemoths and playboys - John Matuszak, Ken Stabler, Fred Bilitnikof, Lyle Alzado - played hard and lived hard.
During the season, the party was transferred to an airport hotel near the Oakland Coliseum. Davis never complained about the partying, declaring that he simply wanted them to "just win, baby."
Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson arrived and wrote a telling piece about the "Hell's Angels" of football, further cementing their renegade reputation.
In 1976, the team finally broke through to win the Super Bowl. Over the next 10 years, the team won two more and established themselves as the best team in the game. Over time, the Raiders changed coaches and players, moderating their off-field behavior in accordance with changing times. This occurred in confluence with the strangest 12-year period in the franchises history - the L.A. years. In Los Angeles the team won their third Super Bowl, but a strange thuggishness pervaded the team through the gang affiliation of their fans at the L.A. Coliseum.
When the team moved back to Oakland in 1995, the Raider Nation was defined by their fans' unique behavior, embodied by their "Black Hole" behavior. The history of the team has not always been defined by champions, but it has always been defined by passions unlike any other franchise. No team has more passionate fans, more dynamic leadership, or more colorful personalities.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism