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“Pancho Billa Mourned by Fans & Players Alike, Bringing The NFL Together Like Few Could”

 

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Pancho Billa reminded us all.

With the passing of Buffalo Bills superfan Ezra Castro AKA Pancho Billa, the NFL fandom was reminded just how fragile life can be. Fans and players of all teams came together to mourn a man that loved his team, family, & everyone that came in contact with him.

Thirty nine years is not enough for most people, but in those years Ezra gave a lifetime worth of kindness and love. After every kind act shown to him, Ezra was shocked & often humbled at the kindness that people gave him. He never got that people thought he was a big deal and downplayed his importance. In a social media world where the need for attention and self importance is the norm, Ezra was a regular guy and a breath of fresh air.

When Greg Dresko and I did our podcast with Ezra, it was obvious he did not feel good but he rarely cancelled anything. Even on his bad days he would do interviews with a smile. After our podcast I created a prayer night for him that Greg & I promoted. Literally thousands of people got involved praying for Pancho and all of those battling cancer. We did a second one not too long ago that was also greatly supported. People really cared and it was inspiring.

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A Special Family Called Buffalo:

Buffalo was the perfect team for Ezra. It is a team that is set back in the time of the old AFL. A team that has not yet been ruined by the greed of NFL owners who’s only loyalty is to the money they can make.  They have an old stadium, the second lowest ticket prices in the NFL, and a raucous loyal fan base.   While everyone else changed, Buffalo didn’t.  It is a special place.

With fancy, expensive stadiums pricing out many fans, the Bills are stuck in a wonderful time warp that allows for a foundation that continues to come to the games year after year. A loyal following that braves bitter cold and wind to support their Bills. From Jack Kemp to Joe Ferguson, to Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, the Bills rich tradition is steeped in a blue collar us against the world mentality. What an amazing place.

I don’t think any fan base or team other than Buffalo could have survived losing 4 Super Bowls while still coming back with dignity and grace.   Through all of the jokes and taunting, winning 4 conference championships is still among one of the greatest achievements in NFL history & they are very proud of it.

rip pancho
Ezra Castro with girlfriend Veronica Borjon & their kids Lourdes & Ginoboli

Ezra & the Spirit of Buffalo:

In true Buffalo Bill spirit, Pancho Billa battled until the end.   Just like Steve Tasker making an amazing play in a Super Bowl that had long been lost, Ezra never gave up.   Adversity was what Ezra faced each day after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Even in his darkest days he would show a positive, caring spirit that inspired so many. We DM’d each other on Twitter and his last message to me was a smiling emoji with a halo over his head. He knew. He also though remained positive asking people to never quit praying for a miracle. Giving up was never an option.

In reality the biggest gift Pancho Billa gave to people was the way he handled his illness. Even with social media bringing out the worst in people, he showed a spirit of pride and kindness that touched so many. He remained positive at the worst of times inspiring us all to not take ourselves too seriously. In a world where many get angry at the drop of a hat, he showed a calm passion and compassion for others during his fight.

The Power of NFL Fans:

Ezra reminded NFL fans everywhere that we are not gang members or part of a football militia that should hate anything not affiliated with our teams. He showed that in reality we are all on the same team of life and that football is a fun outlet & family to belong to. Happiness, health & supporting each other during the best and worst of times is what life is about. We all saw how our hearts are more powerful than any owners money or new stadium.   It’s about the fans and the amazing relationships that we create from being fans. The simplest of things.

pancho billa suit

How I’ll Remember Ezra & You:

What I’ll remember most about Ezra, was how he brought everyone together. For a moment in time fans in New England and Oakland were on the same team. Dallas and Philly fans prayed for a miracle together and people began to realize all of the petty arguments and hate was not what being a fan was about.   It’s a willingness to help when hope is hard to find, and being there to support and love someone during great times as well as their darkest hour.

Many of you have really touched me with your sincerity and compassion and I’m very proud of everyone. Your kindness touched Ezra and helped him and his family get through such an unspeakable tragedy. As much of a gift people felt Pancho was, he felt the same about you. He brought out the best in all of us and it sure felt good.

How to Keep His Legacy Alive:

If you really want to keep his legacy alive, lets be like him. Give as much as you can to others and show kindness with a calm spirit. As Ezra once said, “don’t bring flowers to my funeral. I hate flowers. Bring backpacks full of school supplies for kids”. Think of others first, and show love and appreciation and support to one another. Most of all do it without judgement or opinion. Love completely without complete understanding. What an amazing legacy that would be. And nothing would be more pleasing to the great Pancho Billa.

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“From Coaches to Players; Why Are the Raiders 3-5 & How & When Can They Fix It”

jack del rio hc

With so many expectations, the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5 half way through the 2017-18 NFL Season. Let’s look at why this has happened, and how and when it can be fixed.

Reggie McKenzie:
You heard a whole lot of Raider fans using the expression, “In Reggie We Trust” this off season. Many are now looking for him to either be fired or put on the hot seat.

I’ve written about McKenzie in the past. He’s done some good things but he’s also had some really bad signings and drafts. For every Derek Carr & Khalil Mack, there are the DJ Hayden’s, Jihad Ward’s and Clive Walford’s. Reggie has missed on several high picks and it’s hurt the Raiders.

The Raiders philosophy of trying to fix the defense with DB’s is wrong. They’ve been doing it for years. The Raiders need to stop pouring money and high draft picks into DB’s, and start building a dominating front 7. If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t stop teams in today’s NFL.

Fix:
Khalil Mack’s contract is now up and Oakland must pay him. This will make things even harder for the Raiders and they can’t have so many misses in their signings and their draft picks.
The Raiders need a physical front 7 that can stop the run and get to the passer. They need to draft and sign players to fix this part of the defense. McKenzie has to dump many of the contracts that are coming off the books in the off season including Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith, and David Amerson. They need to get tougher as well.

I’d love to see the Rams disgruntled stud DT Aaron Donald on the Raiders. He may be the most dominating player in the NFL today. A pass rushing DT would be my first priority. If I’m GM the teams defensive identity would be a physical one that gets to the QB. On offense I’d run a power running game with an emphasis on throwing deep. With their financial belt tightened you better be right on who you sign and draft.

Jack Del Rio:
Another popular phrase this off-season was in “Jack we trust”. Now many are questioning whether he is a winner and if he’s a good enough leader.

When Jack was hired, I was of the few that really wasn’t into this signing. Del Rio is a very popular coach with the owners and players. He’s likeable, says the right things, and makes sure the guys writing his checks are happy. He also has limited success. In 12 years of coaching Oakland and the Jags he has only 4 winning seasons and one playoff win. At Jacksonville things got worse the longer he coached. In his last 4 years coaching the Jaguars he was 23-36 and was let go during his last season with them.

Del Rio is usually very loyal to his players and coaches and is not one to throw anyone under the bus. That is a good trait, but he’s also not good in press conferences during bad times. His “I don’t know what happened” comment in press conferences have a bad look to it and fans of the Raiders like it as much as Jacksonville’s fans did before.

Fix:
The Raiders have to get an identity and stick to it and that is Jack Del Rio’s job. Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott has built an image in Buffalo that is equal to his. He’s also gotten rid of players that didn’t buy into his philosophy. The Bills are now tough, physical on defense, and have a good running game. Buffalo does not have a good QB and they are last in the NFL in passing offense but are 5-2 and they straight up believe.

Are the Raiders a pass happy team that doesn’t care about the run? Do they want to be a power running team that can throw deep? Do they want to be a physical defense that gets to the QB? Choose an identity and follow it.

Del Rio also has to be more authoritative and take control. Saying it’s my fault or saying we have to work on a better scheme is a lot better than shrugging your shoulders and saying I don’t know what happened. Some in the media have said he’s played a big role in the defense and it hasn’t helped. If the Raiders struggle for the next season and a half, his job won’t be his anymore.

Offense:
Even some in the media are now saying Derek Carr might be overrated. That’s way too simple. The truth is Carr is a good but not great NFL QB. He’s also a QB that gets rattled under a pass rush. Carr’s interceptions have got to him mentally. He’s now throwing to the check down receiver much more than in the past, and he’s trying to pinpoint passes in between defenders instead of airing it out and throwing deep. Some have said the Raiders threw deep more than anyone last year and that’s not true. The Raiders were 11th in completed passes past 20 yards and 12th over 40 yards.

There were more than a few bad passes yesterday that were caused by the pressure Buffalo was putting on Carr. He looked like he did when he was a rookie at times. He anticipated the rush instead of feeling it and it showed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year the OL has struggled and so has he. NOT a coincidence.

Raiders OC Todd Downing is also getting trashed by many and he deserves some of the heat. He’s made few changes to the offensive scheme and the rest of the league has changed a lot to defend the Raiders. For instance on the turnovers yesterday, each play Buffalo played in the face of the Raiders WR. Instead of airing it out, Carr nervously went for the check down passes or tried to pinpoint the ball in between defenders.

Marshawn Lynch struggled his last year with Seattle, and he’s still struggling. He looks like a 31 year old RB and RB’s usually don’t get better or faster with age. He’s taken a lot of punishment over the years.

The Raiders have solid RB’s that can run, block and catch the ball but the Raiders have to run more. Some fans tried to say after yesterdays game, “see; look how bad the Raiders RB’s are”. Well they ran only 14 times all game with DeAndre Washington leading the way with 6 carries for 26 yards. The Raiders are an amazing 26th in the NFL for the number of rushing attempts so far this year. Last year they ended the year with the 11th most rushing attempts.

Fix:
Unless Downing steps up, a new coordinator is needed. They also need to back to the power blocking scheme and run the ball down teams throats. Marshawn Lynch enjoys the zone blocking scheme for his OL but it hasn’t worked. The identity of the offense should be a power running game and then use the deep ball with the play action pass. You can’t blame Todd Downing with poor play calling and not get on Carr. Carr is the coach on the field and he’s got to audible more. He has the final say on what play will be called. Part of being a QB is calling a great game and he was fooled a couple of times when the Bills showed blitz but didn’t.

Defense:
Where do we start. At the start of the year some publications said that the Raiders had the worst LB’ s in the NFL. The Raiders still have 17.5 million guaranteed until next year with CB’s David Amerson and Sean Smith. Reggie Nelson’s 4.25 million will be off the books too. Amerson struggles guarding the deep ball and Smith has struggled with everything. Reggie Nelson is on his last legs and Karl Joseph still struggles defending the passing game. Gareon Conley’s rookie year is pretty much not going to amount to much and that’s another round 1 pick that didn’t help much their first year.

The Raiders defensive line still can’t create a pass rush or stop the run. Khalil Mack had only 2 tackles yesterday with no sacks and was kept out for a small part of the game without any injury. The team has only 12 sacks in 8 games and it’s the same old story, different day.

Fans posting that the Raiders have this amazing amount of talent on defense and all they need is good coaching are ridiculous. They need talent big time on defense. Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio may not be the answer to fix the defense, but until they improve the talent, NOTHING is going to change.

Fix:
Blow it up. Get an experienced, quality coordinator. The Raiders want to win now. Mario Edwards Jr. has his moments but he’s not the answer so far. Jihad Ward was a bad pick. Keep Navorro Bowman but they need more help at LB. Let Amerson, Nelson and Smith walk. They have to get a DT that can put pressure on the QB and stop the run adequately. The Raiders have been fooling themselves on the defensive side of the ball for years. What they’ve done for 15 years hasn’t worked. It needs to be fixed yesterday.

Jim’s Jamz:
Most feel it will take 10 wins to ensure a playoff spot this year. If that is true, Oakland will have to go 7-1 the rest of the way. The Raiders have games left at home with Dallas, Denver, and the Giants and have to play Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia on the road. In regards to the struggles the Raiders had with the weather in rainy Buffalo, that is a beach party compared to playing in Kansas City and Philadelphia in December. This doesn’t include a game in Mexico with the Patriots right after the bye week.

Next week the Raiders play at Miami which is always a tough game for them. Realistically they will have to play amazing football the rest of the season to get to the playoffs. The offense can be improved to a point this year with some adjustments but the defense needs a lot more help that must be addressed in the off-season.

The Raiders players have a good attitude saying that they are going to work hard and stay committed. They are sticking together and not throwing blame to each other. They also can’t think about playoffs but they do need to think about the next opponent.

The Raiders will have to play amazing football the last 2 months to make the playoffs. The off season darlings of the NFL are in trouble. The castle that looked so sturdy is now having it’s foundation checked for damage. Time will tell how much work will need to be done to fix the team and if they do it right.

“Oakland Raiders Defensive Players Who Should/Shouldn’t be in the NFL Hall Of Fame”

 

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Yesterday we looked at Bill King, Tom Flores, and the Raiders offensive players that might or might not be placed in the Hall of Fame.  Today we will look at players on the defensive end who have been overlooked.

I was really happy to see so many eyes opened on social media yesterday and so many discussions on some of the players I put in my article.  It’s great and fun to discuss and many put some very intelligent thoughts into their responses.

 Eye Opening: 

I’ve tried to do my part of showing people about grudges and biases that writers and voters to the HOF may have had on some players who could possibly be inducted.  I never really understood totally just how vicious and deep some biases were, especially with east coast writers.  It was eye opening.

For the last year and a half I’ve researched the stories of Raider players that might get into the hall and seen how clueless or how vengeful writers are to some of them; especially Raiders.  Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum went through hell with them, and others have been black listed and will never see the HOF even though they deserve it.

Let’s also remember too, if a west coast team plays at night, usually east coast writers won’t even see them play.  They read about the game or look at highlights.  They are in bed sleeping.  They won’t admit that but let’s be real.

Without further ado, let’s look into some of these players credentials and make the argument for or against their inductions.

 

 

HALL OF FAME COACHES
Jack Tatum from Ohio State attends the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame class of 2004 induction dinner in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2004. (AP Photo/John Marshall Mantel)

Jack Tatum:

When Chris Berman and Chris Collinsworth were talking about players that should be in the HOF a couple of years ago, they both said one guy; Jack Tatum.  And Chris Collinsworth looked like he saw the Headless Horseman while saying it.

The running joke in the NFL in the 1970’s for NFL fans was that when you looked in your closet at night you don’t look for the boogeyman; you look for Jack Tatum.  Just like Dick Butkus, Jack Tatum revolutionized his position.  He was 225 pounds of educated, tough muscle from Woody Hayes University, Ohio St.  He never said much on the field; said less off of it; but wow did he change football and every safety want’s to be him.

“Jack was my guy”, said a proud Ronnie Lott.  “Everything I did I tried to copy from him.  He was the man”.

NFL Bad Boy Conrad Dobler was amazed at Tatum.  “Jack hit people so hard.  It was like when he hit them they would not be hurt but they would be buried”.  Running mate and trash talker of the Soul Patrol George Atkinson said, “Even I could not believe the force he hit people with.  It sounded like a car wreck when he hit someone. His angles and his timing were perfect.  No one wanted to come over the middle because it was like being hit by a truck.  I’ve never seen anything like it”.

Tatum could take on Tackles and stop the run, or eliminate a WR so that they would never want to catch a ball over the middle again.  He was so tough that if he was on the other side of the field and knew he wouldn’t make the play, he would go after anyone in his area just to hit them.  Iconic Dolphins WR Paul Warfield once said, “if you didn’t have your head on a swivel against the Raiders, you would not finish the game.  They were that scary.”

In his famous hit in the Super Bowl against the Vikings, people could not believe Sammy White caught the ball.  Viking great Fran Tarkenton explained the play.  “I was watching this helmet fly by me.  For a split second I literally thought Sammy’s head was in it.  I never heard a harder hit.  How he caught that is beyond me”.

Sadly in a meaningless exhibition game he hit Patriots WR Darryl Stingley in a very legal hit.  In fact the NFL and even the Patriots coaching staff went over the film dozens of times and admitted Tatum did nothing wrong.  Stingley was paralyzed and his family was very angry at Tatum.  Tatum said he tried to reach out to the family but they refused him.  John Madden actually visited Stingley instead and said Jack never got over it.  The east coast media; especially Boston; shredded Tatum in the papers for years and vowed he’d never be in the HOF.  He sadly died at the age of 61.

Deserves to be in the HOF: YES YES YES

Will be Voted into HOF: No

 

lyle alzado

Lyle Alzado:

Lyle Alzado roamed the field like a volcano ready to erupt.  His Raider teammates called him “Three Mile Lyle” after the explosion of the nuclear plant Three Mile Island.  No one knew when he’d blow up.

He grew up with an abusive father.  Once when a sibling was getting beaten, Lyle at the age of 15 protected them and hit his father and broke his jaw.  Lyle’s father called the police and pressed charges; assault.  He was arrested.  The scars on his soul were deep and unexpressed.

His life was one big tornado.  In an amazing career, this great pass rusher ended with 97 sacks.  Lyle is a hall of famer through and through but there is a saying if you work for or work with the NFL; Protect the Shield.

Just like with police and politicians, they feel you keep your mouth closed and Lyle didn’t.  While he was dying of brain cancer and losing over 100 pounds, he did interviews talking about his immense use of steroids.  Players hated him for it because it tarnished them; the NFL hated him for it because it embarrassed them.  A year after his death, the NFL started testing for steroids, many say due to the backlash of Lyle’s speaking out.

He sadly died at the age of 43.  Many said he was always looking for happiness and peace, but never really found it.  I hope he finally has.

Deserves to be in the HOF: For Sure

Will He be Voted into HOF:  No

Rod-Martin-Dominic-DiSaia-ESPN

Rod Martin:

I remember talking to an east coast writer and asking him what he thought about Rod Martin maybe going into the hall of fame.  His answer?  “Who is Rod Martin”.  See what I’m telling you?

Don’t get me started on how clueless some Americans are in our history. Sports is included.  Why sports fans don’t educate their kids on the history of their teams is beyond me.  We should have more of an appreciation of the foundation of a team and not just live life like we’re 15 year old girls. For the most part as a nation we are clueless if it happened before 1990.  (Rant over).

Rod Martin had a long and illustrious career as linebacker of the Oakland Raiders.  He had the greatest defensive Super Bowl of all time with 3 interceptions against the Eagles.  People also forget he played a key role in the Washington win in the Super Bowl too with many key plays including stopping John Riggins on a 3rd and 4th and short, once near the goal line.  He also batted down key passes and picked up a fumble.

He was AFC defensive player of the year one time and a pro bowler twice.  He was a mainstay for the Raiders and in the biggest games he played his best.  One of the forgotten Raiders who should be better remembered.

Deserves to be in the HOF: Yes

Will be Voted into HOF: No

john matuszak

John Matuszak:

He once overdosed when he was with Kansas City being taken to the hospital while his coach gave him chest compressions on the way to the hospital.  Raider staff members had to sleep in front of his hotel room to make sure he wouldn’t leave at night and party.  Fans saw him as a big ton of fun, but at times players saw him as a big pain.  A nice guy off of drugs, but a whirlwind while on them.

Matt Millen wrote in his book at what a pain John was at times.  He used drugs often.  Qaaludes, Valium, pot, cocaine, pain killers, alcohol.  Nothing was off limits when the Tooz was around.  His partying was of legend.  The night before the Raiders played the Eagles in the Super Bowl he said he would patrol Bourbon Street to make sure Raider players were in at a decent hour.  He ended up partying until 3 a.m. and was fined $1000.  Disciplined Dick Vermeil told the national media, “if that were an Eagle, his ass would be on a plane home by now”.

In the 1970’s the strong man competitions on ABC were extremely popular.  Most trained over 6 months for the events.  Just to pass time, Matuszak entered into one competition; without a day of training.  Most of the competitors kind of laughed at such arrogance.  After the smoke cleared, he placed in the top 10 at 9th.  “He’s super human”, said one competitor.  “I really never saw anything like him”.

Once when the Tooz was arrested, Ken Stabler had to bail him out.  When he got to the Police Station Stabler said, “Drunk, cowboy hat, cowboy boots and no clothes.  Yep, that’s my roomie; I’d know him anywhere”.

On the field John was a great player one minute, and a disappearing act the next.  He was a good guy when sober and he played well, but it was hard to get him when he wasn’t high off the field.  He was an inconsistent but solid player.  No telling how good this 6′ 8″ giant could have been.  Sadly at the age of 38 he died of an accidental overdose of pain killers.  A small amount of cocaine was found in his system.  Sadly 2 years later one of his sisters Dawn passed away suddenly.  Their family went through a lot of pain.

For many he will forever be fondly known as Sloth in the movies Goonies.  The stories of his kindness are of legend.  It took 4-5 hours to put on his makeup.  The kids in the movie adored the Tooz and they constantly played pranks on him.  He never said a word and just laughed.  He said once, “How can you get mad at kids who are just having the time of their lives”.  One of the kids said, “I saw him play football on television and he looked so mean.  But with us he was just our Giant friend; he was Sloth to us”.  He had several acting accomplishments including a memorable scene in North Dallas Forty.  He was well liked by a lot of people on the sets who still talk of him fondly.

Deserves to be in the HOF: No

Will be Voted into HOF: No

 

lester hayes

Lester Hayes:

When Hayes came out of college, many said he wasn’t very smart.  What the Raiders found out is that he had a stuttering problem.  Now Hayes will speak to anyone that will listen while showing a great personality.

Hayes was a pro bowler 5 times; all pro once; AFC player of the year once; single season record for interceptions in a year (13), and named to the prestigious all decade team for 1980.

It’s not even worth talking about; just like Branch and Tatum, of course Lester should be in.  I feel embarrassed to even defend it.  Eventually he will be but again, it’s a joke for him to wait so long.

Deserves to be in the HOF: Yes

Will be Voted into HOF: Eventually

 

“FROM KEN STABLER TO CHARLIE SUMNER; A YEAR OF LOSS FOR THE OAKLAND RAIDERS & REMEMBERING THEM DURING THE HOLIDAYS”

 

ken stabler gene upshaw
Gene Upshaw showing some love to Ken Stabler

Pastor: I promise James, in time the pain will lessen and it will get easier.

Me: With all due respect Pastor, that is crap. The pain never gets better. Time just makes it a little easier to deal with.

If you want to know how important history is, just look at the half time ceremony when the Packers put Brett Favre’s name in their ring of honor at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night. An 81 year old 5 time Champion Bart Starr worked hard for 3 months during extremely poor health just to make the trip to welcome Brett Favre on his special night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium; including Brett Favre’s; when Bart Starr walked up and hugged him. The emotions linked generations of fans who stood up proudly as one.  Brett Favre said, “No offense to anyone, but I was so happy to see Bart Starr and in a way the night was also for him. I was more excited seeing him smiling and happy than what I was there for”.

The Christmas holidays are my favorite time of year. People are nicer and there is much more of a kind spirit of good will floating around. Unfortunately all of us have lost people that we love and it can also be a time of great internal pain and longing. I get that because our family has known a lot of tragedy. This year has been grinding and hard. It’s also been that way for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have lost many that were linked to their greatness.

I could see it in his eyes. Upon the passing of the great Ken Stabler, George Atkinson seemed inconsolable.   “It seems that every month we lose someone close to the Raiders. There are fewer of us and it’s very difficult to hear of the passing of Kenny.”

My dad once said that getting older isn’t the hard part. He said the hard part is watching family members that were once strong and vital getting old and passing away. It’s also hard to see athletes who you grew up watching, doing the same.

I think one of the nicest things ever said to me was after I wrote an article for a paid Philadelphia Eagles site. I wrote about a couple of the Eagles who had passed. One Philly fan thanked me for the article and said, “You are the keeper of their memory. You made me remember how great of players these were and how they touched the community. I’ll now never forget them and I was touched like they were my own. Thank you.”

History is a huge deal in our family. It’s always been instilled in us by my parents and relatives, to keep people’s memories alive. We should never forget people and appreciate their talents and their input in people’s lives. Our society has become much more shallow than in the past, with us being obsessed with youthful looks, being cool and in, and keeping in the know with the latest. We forget so easily. The word great is handed out like Halloween candy and our memory is short.   For me, I will never be that way and for those that read me, they will always see a sense of appreciation of those from the past along with their families.

The Raiders have lost some key people from their past this year. Let us remember them.

art powellOakland Raider great WR Art Powell

Art Powell:

Wide Receiver Art Powell was one of the first and great stars of the AFL.   He was big and fast and was known for some amazing catches. He was a 4 time AFL all star and was voted onto the all time AFL team. He amazingly had 81 touchdown passes during a time when defensive backs could do whatever they wanted to WR.

People forget that it was his character that shined the most. Powell, along with teammates Bo Roberson, Clem Daniels and Fred Williamson, refused to play in an exhibition game against his old team the New York Jets because of segregated seating in Mobile Alabama’s Ladd Stadium.

al loCasale
Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and Executive Assistant Al LoCasale

Al LoCasale:

“I first started working for the Raiders in 1985. I complained about a bad call in the press box and one of the NFL officials heard me. He angrily went up to Al LoCasale to complain about me. Mr. LoCasale got angry and ripped the stadium credentials from his shirt. It was then that I knew I was a Raider and what loyalty meant. He backed me just because I was a Raider.”

Former Raider Executive Amy Trask.

He was called a pitbull, a hitman, a thug, and many other things that I can’t write. For 3 decades Al LoCasale was the Executive Assistant and loyal heavy for Mr. Al Davis.   If Mr. Davis felt someone wronged the Raiders, LoCasale was the one you had to answer to. He was gruff and had a Napoleonic mentality about him. He demanded respect, loyalty and excellence.   He loved the Raiders and Al Davis.   He was the main figure that helped NFL films capture the Raiders great moments and he insisted on as many Raider players being mentioned as possible. He respected everyone; from the star players to the practice players.   You can’t say Oakland Raiders without saying Al LoCaSale.

dick romanski raider equipment manager
Oakland Raider equipment manager Dick Romanski

Dick Romanski, Equipment Manager:

The Raiders have only had 2 equipment managers in their history.   Dick Romanski and his son Bob.

Dick was an army buddy of Al Davis and a good athlete. He actually coached on Davis military teams. He had been with the Raiders for over 50 years until his son took over. There are stories that Dick was the one that came up with the shield logo of the Raiders.

Dick also was important because he was the one that introduced stickum to the Raiders. He said he got the idea from hitters in major league baseball.

Beloved by players and executives alike, even after retiring he would show up to help on Raider home games. One of the staples of the Raiders lore.

 

charlie sumner
Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator Charlie Sumner having a fun moment with Ken Stabler

Charlie Sumner:

“Charlie took me out of the game and I was pissed. I came off the field screaming at him. He put in backup Jack Squirek and told him to “not drop” the pass. I was out of my mind. Then I saw Squirek intercept Joe Theisman’s pass and score. I picked Charlie up and was going crazy. I had immense joy and almost killed him in the process. What a great coach.”

Raiders MLB Matt Millen

Some Raider players thanked him at their Hall of Fame speeches. Charlie Sumner was the greatest defensive coach in the history of the Oakland Raiders and it’s not close. He was the defensive coordinator for 2 Super Bowl wins. He was also a coach that helped create the famous Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh and he was the one that created the great defenses of the Patriots in the mid to late 70’s that almost lead them to a Super Bowl. The Raider offenses got all the credit but if you look at the Super Bowl wins, it was the defenses that dominated.

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Oakland Raider great Fullback Marv Hubbard

Marv Hubbard:

“Some players like to be physical but no one was as tough as Marv.   I’ve never seen a player that would go out of their way to hit people. He also demanded to play special teams because he liked the collisions.”

John Madden

Take it to the cupboard Hubbard was one of the catch phrases of the 1970’s for the Oakland Raiders. In both end zones posters with that saying was the norm. He was all pro 3 times and helped lead the Raiders to 4 consecutive Western Division Championships. He ranks 4th all time in yards per carry as a fullback (4.8 yards) and is 13th overall in NFL history.

Hubbard was a fan favorite and lived in Northern California. He got into music and released 2 albums. He was a scratch golfer and was an entrepreneur and CEO of his own company and he was often seen around town driving his beloved muscle cars which he would restore. Like most Raiders, he lived life to the fullest.

Ken Stabler:

The death of Ken Stabler sent a shockwave around the country and to be honest the world. I remember writing about Ken’s passing and the article was read by people in over 26 countries. I received many messages from people who said they don’t really like the Raiders but that they loved Ken Stabler. I’ve written a lot about Ken and you can check it out here along with Ken’s family website where you can donate to his XOXO Foundation.

http://kenstabler.com/

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How to Deal With Loss:

First off there is no formula. The key is to talk to people you respect and love and let the pain out.   Cry, scream or get mad. Pain like that is like poison and if you don’t get rid of it, it can eat you alive.

The holidays can be really hard so keep busy. Kid’s and young people always help when they are around due to their great personalities and wonder around the holidays. Remember that there will be times that the pain will come over you in waves and you just need to let yourself get rid of it. If you are a person of faith, rely on it often.   Personally, without my faith I would have not come through things very well.

The most important thing is to remember that the people that are gone would be heartbroken to see you in pain. This poem is a great one to remember that:

“Remember me with smiles and laughter because that’s how I will remember you. If you can only remember me with tears and sorrow, then don’t remember me at all.”

May all of the friends and families of these great people; as well as the fans of the Raiders; find a healing peace and joy this Christmas season.   I pray that they will never be lost in history and that their memories will be passed on to the children of NFL and Raider fans everywhere. And as long as I have breath, I will never let people forget them either.

“The Greatest Defensive Backfield of all time! The Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol”

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There will never be a defensive backfield like the Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol of the 1970’s ever again.  They were the most intimidating and greatest group of all time.

The 70’s will always be remembered as the greatest era for the NFL.  It’s the era when there were many great teams and great quarterbacks.  Without a salary cap some backups on the great teams could start elsewhere.  Defenses could do as they please with little to no protection for QB’s and WR’s.  Television helped make the Superbowl become a must see event.  Teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Dolphins, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings made this a decade of excellence.  The Steel Curtain, the No Name Defense, Doomsday, and the Purple People Eaters are all revered names in NFL lore.  When the Steelers met the Raiders in the mid 70’s, there were no less than 22 hall of fame coaches, owners, and players on the field at one time.  That will never happen again.

“There was nothing like them”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton about the Soul Patrol in a KNBR radio interview.  “In 1979 the NFL created the 5 yard chuck rule because of Atkinson, Tatum, Brown, Thomas and the Raiders.  Wide Receivers could not get off the line of scrimmage against them.  Atkinson and Tatum and the rest of the gang were so physical and strong that I’d have to wait and hope my guys could get open before I got killed”.

The wide receivers of the 70’s never get their due because their numbers weren’t the pinball numbers of today.  In today’s NFL, if you exhale near a receiver it is a penalty.  In the 1970’s it was literally survival of the fittest.  They had to worry about the great physical play of the era and you could not be a wide receiver unless you could go over the middle. I’ve seen pass interference penalties in today’s game where a defensive back literally brushed by a player.  The rules are so comical now that records are being broken almost weekly.  The 70’s on the other hand was an extremely brutal and tough era, and the most talented and toughest defensive backfield of them all was the Soul Patrol in Oakland.

Oakland the King of Professional Sports:

The center of the sporting world in the 70’s was Oakland California.  In 1975 a team lead by superstar Rick Barry silenced all the east coast and their writers by sweeping the Washington Bullets for the NBA title after writers practically laughed at their chances.  The Oakland A’s dynasty had an amazing 3 straight World Series Championships beating national league royalty in the Dodgers, Reds, and NY Mets.  And then oh by the way, for a 25 year stretch the Raiders were the winningest team in all of US sports with several division titles, and 3 superbowl wins.  No city ever had so many titles in such a short time.

The Soul Patrol embodied what the Oakland Raiders were all about.  They were tough, borderline dirty, intimidating and extremely confident.  Each member played their role in a defense that still today is revered.

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George Atkinson Jr.:  (“Butch” 6’ 0”; 180 lbs.)

There may have never been a tougher Raider than George Atkinson.  Listed as 6 feet 1 inch tall, many say it was more like 5’ 11” but no one had the guts to tell him that.

Atkinson was an intimidator that roamed the field like a lion ready to pounce.  He was the trash talker of the group often seen taunting and intimidating players that were much bigger than he was.  He once broke Russ Francis nose with a vicious forearm hit, and his hits against Lynn Swann of the Steelers are a part of NFL history.  He had blazing speed and in fact still holds the single game record for punt return yardage for the Raiders at 205 yards.

Atkinson took it very personally when someone tried to block him low.  He learned from Tatum to go after a Wide Receiver if they tried to hit their knees or ankles.  In some films you can actually see Raiders defensive backs going towards blockers to actually hit them after they tried to hit them low.  All time great Paul Warfield once said when you went over the middle against Oakland and didn’t account for Tatum and Atkinson, you would not be in the game long without being carried off the field.  Against the run, he could go through blockers and make amazingly hard tackles.  If you ran wide against the Raiders, their DB’s would make you pay.  Atkinson loved to make players pay.

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Willie Brown:  (6’ 1”; 195 lbs.)

Amazingly Hall of Famer Willie Brown was never drafted when he graduated from Grambling St.  He was signed by the Buffalo Bills who cut him and then he was picked up by the Denver Broncos.  He soon became an all star but was traded to the Raiders in 1967 where he played for the rest of his career.  Unlike the other 3 members of the soul patrol, Brown was fast, graceful and laid back.  He wasn’t a talker but a great defender who was a shut down corner. He had good size and played the run very well, but he was a master of the bump and run man to man game that the Raiders loved so much.  His famous interception in the Superbowl with the great announcer Bill King’s call of old man Willie is as famous as any highlight NFL films has.

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Skip Thomas CB (Dr. Death; 6’ 1”; 205 lb.):

In a day when cornerbacks were just as important in attacking the run as they did the pass, Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas role was to make everyone that came near him remember that he hit them.  What is funny is he was nicknamed Dr. Death by Raiders great Bob Brown who said Skip Thomas looked like the cartoon character Dr. Death.

Skip Thomas was a vicious tackler who was the king of the clothesline tackle.  Many times his padded arm was seen knocking the ball out of wide receivers hands.  When he hit people, sometimes he would actually launch his whole body and his arm swung like a Russian sickle.  It was intimidating, violent and sent the message to not come his way.  He had a two year stretch of 6 interceptions per year.  Due to the great talent of Willie Brown, teams would try to pick on Skip Thomas and usually the results were not good.

People forget that in the Super Bowl, Minnesota moved their fine wide receiver Sammy White around so that Thomas mostly guarded him in the first half.  White didn’t  catch a pass in the first half and Thomas was on him like glue.  As the great Raiders announcer Bill King once said, “the Raiders have 3 safeties when Dr. Death was playing cornerback”.

Sadly and ironically he passed away too soon in 2011 also at the age of 61, but he will always be remembered for his talent, toughness and personality as one of the great members of the Soul Patrol.

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Jack Tatum Safety (Assassin; 5’ 10”, 205 lb.):

If Atkinson was the voice of the Soul Patrol, Tatum was the heart.  Ronnie Lott called him his inspiration and the standard bearer for all NFL safeties.  John Clayton said there was never a harder hitting safety in the NFL.  Once during the Super Bowl break, the NFL Show with Cris Collinsworth and Chris Berman were discussing players that should be in the Hall of Fame, and to a man they all said the same name; Jack Tatum.

He may have been the most intimidating force in NFL history this side of Dick Butkus. John Madden said many times he was mentally saddled with the hit on Darryl Stingley which paralyzed Stingley for the rest of his life.  Many close to Tatum said he really never got over it up to his death in 2010 at the age of 61 due to complications from diabetes.

Earl Campbell said no one ever hit him harder than his touchdown run where he and Tatum hit head on.  Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton said he thought Tatum knocked Sammy White’s head off in the Superbowl hit that Tatum laid on him when the Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings.  Even his counterpart George Atkinson said once, “he hit a tough Denver TE Riley Odoms so hard it sounded like a gun shot.  Odoms was in agony and his eyes rolled back.  I thought he had killed him”.

I remember a story that Ahmad Rashad told.  He said that days before the Vikings were to play the Raiders in the Superbowl, Tatum had walked into a room where the Vikings were relaxing and playing cards.  Tatum walked into the room and into the closet and just stood there for a couple of minutes.  He then walked out of the closet and left.  Rashad said that not one Viking laughed or said a word until they saw Tatum walking out of the building.  Rashad said that it was a mind game of intimidation and he said it worked.  He said, “we laughed; we just made sure Tatum couldn’t hear us”.

Tatum was a linebacker playing safety.  He also was dominating against the run and would take on guards and tackles at any given notice.  Many game films show Tatum chasing blockers trying to hit them before the blockers would try to block him.  Tatum was vicious, fearless and ready to hit anyone.  He epitomized the great physical play of the day, and what the Raiders defense always tried to do; stop the run and make the quarterback go down, and go down hard. With a good pass rush, the Raiders defense was hard to beat as was seen in their dominance.  I would like to do an in depth article just on Jack alone in the future.

Jim’s Jamz:

With today’s rules there will never be hits and aggressive play like the Soul Patrol did.  Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers pretty much do as they please and the Soul Patrol would not be allowed to do what they did best; intimidate, make plays, and be legends.  In the most physical era, the Soul Patrol was like a pack of wolves ready to take down any sized prey.  They remain the greatest defensive backfield of all time.

“Bob Wilkins Blazed Trails and Helped Introduce Anime to the U.S. He Made Creature Features an Institution”

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“Bob Wilkins Blazed Trails and Helped Introduce Anime to the U.S. and Made Creature Features an Institution”

I write this in memory of the great Bob Wilkins who was the host of a Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area television institution, Creature Features.  Most areas in the country had shows like this but none were as influential as the great Bob Wilkins version.  He had a massive following which included fans like Tom Hanks, George Lucas, & Vincent Price who he would occasionally interview.  It was shown on Saturday nights after the news.

Creature Features was created by Bob and it was originally shown in Sacramento KCRA television, until he was wooed over to Oakland’s KTVU in 1971.  KTVU was a hip station that liked to try new and different things and the match was made in heaven.  Every 70’s and 80’s kid loved it and creature feature reruns were very popular in the 80’s and 90’s.

Bob Wilkins Interview with William Shatner

Creature Features on KTVU regularly had higher ratings in the bay area than the wildly popular Saturday Night Live which was in its heyday.  In time, Mr. Wilkins was credited with introducing Anime to the US television and movie viewer, showing things like Ultraman and other Japanese productions.  He was famous for his Godzilla and monster movie genre that he liked to show as well, along with Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robots.

The other networks laughed when Bob started showing the Original Flash Gordon series from the 1930’s in between the movies and he even showed the first Batman Series from the 1920’s called the Bat-Man or Dark Knight which was actually silent.  From Ed Wood movies to campy horror films, Bob would fearlessly show them all and his eager audience gobbled it up like freshly buttered movie popcorn.

Bob’s famous saying was, “Watch Horror films; keep America Strong!”  The funny thing was every nutcase would call Bob.  Many people claiming to be zombies, witches, warlocks and even a vampire would contact Bob.

A man claiming to be a real life Vampire once called him at the station and asked if he could be interviewed.  Bob agreed and told him to meet him at the studio the next day at 2 pm.  The vampire agreed.  Bob said, “Aha!  I’m not going to interview you.  How is it that you are a vampire and you want to meet in the middle of the day?”

Bob also would “warn” his fans if there was a bad movie.  In the promo’s for some of the bad movies he showed, he would literally say, “get some sleep tonight and don’t stay up late and watch our movie.  We have a real schlocker (bad) of a movie tonight with Billy the Kid versus Dracula.”  He would hold up signs showing the ratings of the bad movies with the letters PU.  Of course the more he ripped on the movie, the more viewers had to watch.  After the end of Jessie James meets Frankenstein’s daughter, he wiped tears from his eyes saying, “There isn’t a dry eye in the studio; that was a real tear jerker; or the worst movie ever seen on television!”

Bob’s sarcasm was way before it’s time, and he would show films that no station in their right mind would run.  Classics like Ed Wood’s Planet 9 From Outer Space and the Japanese cult classic, Attack of the Mushroom People were fan favorites.  Attack of the Mushroom people was barely released in the U.S. and he gained many Japanese movie fans for showing it.

Bob once said the movies were getting so bad that he was going to quit and start an ant farm which had more of a future.  He would also threaten to quit unless people stopped watching.  Of course the ratings went through the roof.

Bob was soon at every convention and gathering and was adored by his fans.  His big cigar and soft spoken, humble nature made him even more loved.  His wit was dry and he was always the coolest guy in the room.

Creature Features also had great movies in between the “schlockers”.  The amazing Planet of the Apes movies, Night of the Living Dead, The Fog, Vincent Price’s House of Wax and so many others were great films.  Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts was a huge hit as well.  He was the first person to give Trekkie news before it was a term and the fans listened intensely with Spock ears fully opened.

If you get a chance, look him up on Youtube.  He was a great interviewer and people called it a badge of honor to sit with Bob on Saturday nights.  He interviewed the likes of Vincent Price, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ray Harryhausen, and Christopher Lee just to name a few.

Wilkins was so popular that the 10 o’clock news on KTVU begged him to be their weatherman.  He did so but quit after 2 years saying he was kind of bored of it and it didn’t give him the freedom he wanted.  He did win an Emmy though due to a stunt he did when he was bored.

He did a ski report from South Lake Tahoe and put in footage of James Bonds skiing scene from the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service without telling management. The newscasters could not stop laughing and the station couldn’t keep up with the phone calls of people saying how much they loved it.  The news at that time was very dry and straight forward on other networks but it was never a dull moment with him around.

Creature Features was the first television show to ever show the original movie “Night of the Living Dead” and John Carpenter’s classic “The Fog” on television.  KTVU got clearance to show Night of the Living Dead at the delight of the loyal bay area audience.  It was actually filmed in the bay area and it used regular people as extra’s. The movie is a total classic.  It had come out in theaters 3 years earlier and it was unheard of to have a movie shown on television that quickly.

Bob was a loyal guy to the local sports teams and KTVU had a real bias towards the Oakland Raiders.  He also wouldn’t be above giving a jab or two or ripping on a Raider opponent when the Raiders won, which was most of the time.

Bob’s last bay area Creature Features show was in 1987 when he came back to show The Fog.  It was like old times when Wilkins was given a piece of paper in the middle of the show saying that President Reagan had a really important message to give to the people of America and that it was directly from the White House.  Of course it was about 12:30 am in the morning and Reagan was probably either sleeping or on vacation somewhere.

It ended up being a commercial Reagan did years ago for Boraxo hand cleaner.  It was during the Iran Contra scandal, and after Reagan washed his hands and the commercial ended, Wilkins thanked the president for this important message commenting that it was the first time President Reagan had come clean about anything all year!

Bob also did a daytime show called Captain Cosmic geared towards kids and the Star Wars craze.  He dressed up in a space suit type outfit with his trusty side kick robot 2T2.

Bob launched even more Anime productions with the hugely popular Ultraman series, and in the end, some of the highest rated segments were the 103’s Flash Gordon episode.  He liked to show Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.  After two years he ended the show because he literally did everything he wanted to do.

Sadly on January 7, 2009 it was announced that at the age of 76, Bob Wilkins had passed away quietly in Reno, NV from complications of Alzheimer’s.  It ended the life of one of the most beloved men in bay area entertainment history.

Thank you Bob for all you did.  My dad worked hard and he used to work nights and it was a Saturday night ritual to mingle with him while he got ready for work during the start of Creature Features.

My mom and I had great memories of staying up late watching the good and bad movies late on Saturday nights right before he left.  A snack, Creature Features and Bob Wilkins was a guilty pleasure that even today makes me smile.  Rest in Peace my friend.  The joy you gave others will never be forgotten, and always be treasured.

“Andy Kaufman: He Would Have Broken The Internet: From Wrestling to Hoaxes”

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Andy Kaufman was not a comedian.

When you ask a comedian what their goal is they will say to make people laugh. Andy Kaufman was different. His goal was to make himself laugh and to make you wonder if what he was doing was real or not. His goal was to watch people squirm in the realm of wonder.

Many people have said that Andy was a trail blazer for comedian’s, but I disagree. When it came to comedy, he saw the darkest and deepest path and took it.   No one then or since has ever followed him and taken that same path.

Andy once said he felt more like a song and dance man, but in reality he was so much more. From the beginning of his career you knew you were watching something unique. I’ve talked to a few people that saw Andy in clubs and the words they use to describe the shows are funny, uncomfortable, and thought provoking,

He stirred the pot and he wanted to mess with your mind by making you wonder if what you were seeing was reality or not. Life was a big prank to him and he would go to any lengths to make it seem real. Andy wanted to make himself laugh and to create a world where nothing was for sure. How many times did he do a routine where he was down and out with a hard luck story and when the crowd laughed he would smirk and say, “you shouldn’t be laughing because I’m being serious”. The crowd would then be quiet and you could feel how uncomfortable they were. Of course he wasn’t serious, and of course Andy loved it.

Some people felt disappointed when he did the television show Taxi, but he did that on the coaxing of his manager George Shapiro. Even though he hated sitcoms, it gave Andy the money and the fame to do what he wanted to do. In an interview with Tony Danza that is online, Danza said that Andy rarely came to the set during weekly rehearsals and that he stayed private. The cast of Taxi was a friendly environment and it brought an heir of animosity when Kaufman would just show up to the final reading, and then the day of tapings. What made the cast even more angry is that Andy never made a mistake.

Andy’s most famous antics to this day are still being debated. In one of his earliest appearances on David Letterman, he showed up saying he was financially strapped and needed help. David asked him what he was working on and Andy said nothing.   Letterman then asked about his bookings and Andy said he had none. He was unshaven and disheveled and had large amounts of mucous under his nose.   Letterman gave him tissue before Kaufman pleaded with the crowd to give him money to help him out. He walked out into the crowd and people started to give him money before security sent him away. Letterman wasn’t laughing.

The character Tony Clifton was pure genius. Andy created a character that was a lounge singer who was below the belt nasty with little to no talent.   In his contract, Andy actually had it written in that Tony was do to a handful of Taxi episodes. Clifton would show up each time to the Taxi set with a hooker on each arm, both being at least 6 feet tall. He then stated that the hookers would now be a part of the show.   Clifton was fired but he would not leave the set. The media; which Andy called; had a field day when Clifton was made to leave.

One of the all time epic storylines in wrestling history was the famous Andy Kaufman v.s. Jerry Lawler feud. Andy had spent months on Saturday Night Live wrestling women and began calling himself the inter gender champion.   Kaufman said that women were superior in cleaning, washing potatoes and carrots and scrubbing floors. People were incensed.  He also would get into the ring to teach the “redneck” people of Memphis, TN how to use soap and wash themselves.  The crowd went nuts!

Andy contacted Vince McMahon Sr. to see if he could get involved in the New York wrestling scene. Mr. McMahon Sr. was very sensitive to bringing anything fake into the wrestling world; the term sports entertainment hadn’t been invented yet; so he declined thinking it would ruin wrestling. Andy had a wrestling photographer friend in Bill Aptos, and he had Andy call Jerry Lawler in Memphis wrestling.

Lawler being a great showman knew this was a huge opportunity. He and Andy conspired to fool the world. Over time Lawler would coach a female wrestler to wrestle Andy. When Andy won, Lawler then challenged Andy.   In the famous first match Lawler did 2 pile drivers; a hold that powers your head into the mat; and Andy looked like he was dead but was only slightly hurt.

In a funny story, after the 2nd pile driver, Andy lay motionless on the mat. His partner in crime, writer and producer and sometimes Tony Clifton character Bob Zmuda, asked Andy if he was ok. Bob was actually the referee during the match. With the crowd roaring their approval, Andy quietly told Bob to call an ambulance. Bob then walked over to Lawler and told Jerry what Andy wanted to do. Lawler who is known for being frugal, said no way because it would cost $300. Zmuda walked over to check on Andy and told him what Lawler said. Andy whispered, “I’ll pay for it”. When Zmuda told him Andy would pay for it, Lawler said go get an ambulance.

Andy also did some very short lived television shows that were not overly supported by the networks due to his unpredictability. In one show Andy actually had the network mess up the vertical hold on the program.   This would make viewers at home think something was wrong with their tv’s.

Andy’s dream was to do a show at Carnegie Hall which he did in 1979. Saturday night live actually did a small story about it on their program that was very touching.

In a tender moment he brought out his “grandmother” who sat on the side of the stage to watch the show. She took a bow. At the end of the show his grandmother got up and clapped and then took off her mask. It was none other than his friend, fellow comedian Robin Williams.

Andy also had an elderly woman die on stage only to have him come back out as an Indian. He did a dance to revive her after the doctors pronounced her dead.  At the end of the show he wanted to thank the crowd and he had 24 busses take them out for milk and cookies and invited anyone who wanted to meet him to come to the Staten Island Ferry the next morning. He did some more bits and met his adoring fans.

Within six months of being diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, Andy Kaufman sadly died on May 16, 1984.   His friend Jerry Lawler was in attendance at his funeral fighting back tears. Even then, tabloids, fans and the media wondered if this wasn’t another huge hoax. He had talked about faking his own death for years, but unfortunately this was not a hoax.

He was before my time but he always fascinated me and I loved learning about him. And with so many nominally talented people being famous for sex tapes, being sleazy or vulgar; or for just being attractive; you wonder what a talented person like Andy would have done to the social media world of today.

Could you imagine all of the twitter discussions or the YouTube videos proving or disproving things he said or did?  With social media he would have reached millions in a blink of an eye in a way no comedian ever could.  He would have had the world scratching it’s head but laughing all the way.  And in true form, nothing would have been more pleasing to the great Andy Kaufman.