Today is a day to celebrate our fathers. There has been one constant in my relationship with my dad and that is our mutual love of the Oakland Raiders. Even during the times over the years that our relationship was strained by various factors, we could always talk about the Raiders. The following is the story of a young child evolving into a Raiders fan and sharing moments with Dad.
Memories are a funny thing. Not an Airplane! belly laugh funny, but more like a Pulp Fiction series of seemingly random bizarre moments that make no sense until you look at the whole thing and realize, "Oh that's why those two yahoos in the diner had something to do with anything" type of funny combined with a Clerks this is real but almost surreal kind of funny. There is no through plot to life, so how can their be any rhyme or reason when it comes to memories. Some moments get frozen in photo quality, whilst others are so out of focus and pixilated they closely resemble a collaboration between Pablo Picasso and Peter Max, but somehow these moments, as well as the unseen spots trapped in the deepest shadow come together to form a photo-mosaic that is the story of life gone by.
This tapestry weaves numerous memories, some printed on top quality archival paper, others have become faded polariods, a few reside in a mental reel of scratchy super 8 movie film. His influence on me colors the motif of the mosaic of moments, which stand tribute to the shared and the love of a father and son. No singular moment dwarfs the others like the Silver and Black TransAm he didn't buy me for my sixteenth birthday, or he never rented me a hooker as a youngster to get that first experience before the zits came. Instead, of these would be focal points, the warmth between a father and son shown in the fleeting moments that follow shed some insight on how I ended up a Raider fan, like my father before me.
The red and whites of the kitchen of my childhood frame this faded mental film. It would make the story better if Silver and Black colors dominated the scene, but red and white was the color scheme of the kitchen I grew up in. Other than the wood veneer of the cabinets, every thing was red or white or both. The white butterflies on red felt adorned the walls and the curtains were red and white stripes. It was daylight outside, and dad told me he was taking me to a Raider game. The year is unknown, but Jimmy Carter was in the white house and people were upset that gas had gone over ONE DOLLAR a gallon. Whilst the year, the opponent, and the final score have long faded to the sands of time I want to say Denver was the opponent, but am so far from certain that I won't. Somewhere in the tapestry there is a Bronco game, but no telling if it was this game. I do remember him saying, "This is a Raider game, so you have to be loud."
Same kitchen. Once again, it was daylight. It may have been the same year or it may have been the following year, I can't be certain. It was before my folks got divorced, I know that much or it would not have been in that kitchen. Once again, dad told me he was taking me to a Raider game. This time his words of wisdom were different, yet the same. "This is a special game, this is a Monday Night Football game so its shown all over the country, so you have to be extra loud." The opponent was the Miami Dolphins, I can't tell you how I remember that, but as sure as I am here typing I KNOW that. Fortunately, with a little research, I can say for certain that this game took place on October 8, 1979 and the Raiders won 13-3. I remember seeing all the TV trucks around the Coliseum and the white and aqua uniforms of the ‘Fins.
Maybe it was from one of these games, or maybe it was another one that would come later that isn't related to those two moments. This could even be the missing Denver Bronco game. I remember getting a poster that had a drawing of Mark Van Eeghen and Gene Upshaw with the headline "Moving Van on Highway 63″ and asking dad what that meant. If it was from 79, I was six. I didn't know about uniform numbers, and the only highway I knew was Highway 17, which ran from our house in Hayward to the Coliseum. (It has since been redesignated Interstate 880.)
Flash forward to 1980. My folks had divorced and the memories of my dad move to a living room in a townhouse. There was the win over the Chargers to go to Super Bowl XV. The details of the game are fuzzy in my memory, although I could easily look them up, but the key was watching that game on TV with dad. The jubilation of a Raider victory shared between father and son.
Super Bowl XV stands out as a clear point as opposed to the fuzzy moments before. Dad took me to a Super Bowl party with some of his friends from work. Not a big affair, but several Raider fans and a lonely Eagle fan who was a friend of someone or other. (Many years later, the Eagle fan drown in a diving incident.) The memories of the actual game are fuzzy, other than having rewatched the America's Game special on it several times, but the euphoria of a Raider championship shared is a moment that lives in on in all my Thoughts from the Dark Side.
He took me to a game in 81. This time against the Chiefs, and the Raiders lost. The Raiders did a lot of that in 81 including being shut out three games in a row. That is the reason why I hate the Chiefs more than any other team. Little did I know at the time that would be the last Raider game that Dad and I would attend before the Raiders left town and broke my eight year old heart.
With the Raiders gone, there are several other live sports memories with Dad. He got tickets to Super Bowl XIX. Montana was sure on fire that day. There were other Niner games, along the way regular season and playoffs. (Dad got tickets for about everything through work.) There were more Oakland A's games than I could even try to remember. The non-Raider highlight was being in Windlestick park with Dad for game 4 of the 1989 World Series and seeing the Oakland A's reach the pinnacle of the Baseball world.
The remaining Raider memories become a blur of games on TV. The Super Bowl XVIII win over the Washington Redskins. Marcus Allen rushing for over 100 yards in a game against the Jets. (No clue why that one stands out.) I remember trying to believe in a comeback after halftime in the blowout loss to the Bills in the AFC Championship game. My stepbrother being a Bozworth fan and believing the Seahawks would stop the Raiders. (It wasn't that famous Monday Night game where Bo turned Boz into roadkill, so the outcome I can't recall.)
Then there was one year. I have no clue what year it was, but I remember seeing a Marcus Allen jersey that I wanted and I kept asking him for it for Christmas, or maybe it was my birthday. I didn't get the exact one, but I did get an Allen jersey for one of those days.
By the time the Raiders returned home to Northern California, my dad had moved out of state. We have not watched a game together in close to two decades. However, whenever I am watching the Raiders whether at the HoT or on TV his words echo in the recesses of my head. The Oakland Raiders will always be a connection with Dad. Thank you Dad, for showing me that "Real Men Wear Black" and that "Commitment to Excellence" really means something. Hopefully, you can journey back to California for a visit during the season so we can go to a game. I promise to be loud.
I love you, Dad! Happy Father's Day!
Wishing a happy Father's Day to all fathers of the Raider Nation