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“Remembering Three Young Raiders, Gone Too Soon”

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History is so important.  The smartest people I know have great knowledge of history.  We need to never forget and remember that our history lays the foundation for us all, and that we should learn about it and learn from it.  I thought about that today.  Today marks the 20th anniversary of the great Tejano singing star Selena’s passing.  She touched millions with her spirit and her amazing heart and talent.

What does that have to do with football?  Well it reminded me of the great loss that is felt when someone in their prime passes away.  Unfortunately death has been a cruel mistress in our large family, and in reality the pain never goes away, it just gets a little easier to tolerate. The Oakland Raiders have known pain; a great deal of it.

I wanted to write about three young lives that were lost to the Oakland Raiders far too soon.  I hope that all Raider fans; young and old; will remember and appreciate their lives and their part in creating the history of the Oakland Raiders. Eric Turner

Eric Turner, CB.  9/28/1968 to 5/28/2000

Charles Woodsen would look at Eric Turners photo before he would go on the field.  Ray Lewis as a young linebacker said that he loved watching Eric Turner play. Eric Turner was a Southern California legend.  A great player and leader.  He starred at Ventura High School and UCLA.  He was a hard hitting playmaking safety that at times seemed to be everywhere. E-Rock was the second overall pick in the 1991 draft going to the Cleveland Browns.  Still the highest draft pick for a defensive back in the modern era of the NFL.

He soon became an all pro for Cleveland and for the Baltimore Ravens when they moved. The Raiders picked up Turner later in his career and he still played well, but he was not the same Eric Turner.

When Turner played though the Raiders winning % was shockingly near 80% and he became a fan favorite.  He could still make plays.  He complained about an ulcer to many but towards the end of his life he lost a lot of weight.  When he took a leave of absence in 1999, he would not disclose his illness to his friends or the press.  Like some selfless people, he just didn’t want to be a burden.

In May of 2000 many people were worried about him but he stated in the press that he was not gravely ill.  Two weeks later, a stunned NFL world heard the news that Turner was gone.  He was only 31 years old.  It sent a shockwave throughout the NFL.

To have someone so young and physical to be gone so quickly.  Rumors swirled but in the end, he died of intestinal cancer that was just found too late.  Many believed he played with cancer during the last part of his career.  It remains a sad ending for a good man and a great player.  His leadership and his selfless mentoring will never be forgotten by those who played with him.

leon bender

Leon Bender, DL;  8/8/1975 to 5/30/1998;

Leon Bender’s family were Raider fans so they were thrilled when he was chosen by the Raiders in the 2nd round of the 1998 NFL draft.  Along with first round choice Charles Woodsen, the Raiders felt they had immediately upgraded their defense.  He was the type of player Jon Gruden loved;   passionate, athletic, and always hard working.  He had a great attitude and was constantly trying to please his coaches.  He was fun loving and always had a smile on his face. Leon was still somewhat raw but most scouts said the same thing; the sky is the limit.  In regards to Bender, at worst he would be a good NFL player for 7-10 years.  At best?  Who knows.

The Raiders were looking forward to Bender teaming up with USC’s Darrell Russell on the defensive line.  He was big, athletic and had a big motor.  It wasn’t meant to be though.  Bender died before playing for the Raiders and Russell was soon out of the league due to failed drug tests. Bender was one of the key contributors to the resurgence of the Washington St. Cougars football team.  He helped them reach the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years, with quarterback Ryan Leaf leading the way.  The excitement in the Palouse had never been higher.

The Raiders were very excited to add Leon to their roster but sadly he died of an epileptic disorder at the friend of his agents house.  He was found in the bathroom.  An ambulance was called and efforts to revive him failed.  He was 22 years old.  No alcohol or drugs were found in his system and no foul play was suspected.  Bender had been treated for epilepsy since childhood but it had been under control for the most part for years.

Benders lifestyle reminds me of the present Raiders QB Derek Carr.  Bender was married with a child and had a loving spiritual family.  He volunteered at times at a drug rehab wanting to help others.  Two weeks before his death, the Raiders paid Bender his 1.2 million dollar signing bonus which his family got.

His mother Antoinette and his cousin Brantley attended the AFC championship game against the Tennessee Titans in Oakland.  When the public address announcer called the starting line-ups, they sobbed uncontrollably.  On Super Bowl Sunday, Antoinette didn’t watch the game of her Raiders; instead she visited Leon’s grave to say how proud she was of him.

stacey toran

Stacey Toran, Safety;  10/11/1961 to 8/5/1989;

Stacey Toran was a long shot to make the NFL.  He was a 6th round pick for the Raiders in the 1984 draft.  Al Davis saw in him though a great deal of toughness and athleticism and was excited to get him at that low of a draft choice.  He would be a project that would soon pay dividends and Al Davis called him the steal of the draft.

Toran started out slow but after 3-4 years he started to show a grit and toughness that was needed in the Raiders defensive backfield. The Raiders were changing their scheme to an attacking style of defense and that suited the physical Toran just fine.  He was now entrenched as a starter and big things were expected of him.

Toran was an amazing athlete and a born leader.  He had great size for a safety too; 6’ 2” 205.  He was a high school basketball and football all American and in the semi finals of the state basketball championship at Broad Ripple High School, he hit a 57 foot shot to win the game at the buzzer, eventually leading them to the title. He was the captain of both his high school football and basketball team.  He soon went to Notre Dame and was a tough, hard nosed player that greatly improved the Notre Dame defense.  At Notre Dame he was the co-captain of the team and an All American.  The NFL combines felt he wasn’t fast enough to play in the NFL but Al Davis didn’t agree.  People were excited about what the future held for Stacey.

At approximately 11:30 pm on the night of Saturday, August 5th, 1989, Toran lost control of his 1984 BMW on Glencoe Avenue near Marina del Rey; a block from his home. An officer at the scene said the car jumped a curb and struck a tree, flipping over several times. Toran was ejected from the vehicle, struck his body and head on the pavement and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Later it was found out that his blood alcohol level was .32.  Stacey Toran was only 27 years old. Al Davis was devastated.  He said that Stacey was going to be a major part of their defensive scheme that year and he called him a friend and a great Raider.

Below is a list of prominent Raiders that are no longer with us in body, but always in spirit.  I hope that Raider fans of all ages never forget the contributions that these men made to the greatness that is the Oakland Raiders, and that they will keep their families and friends always in their thoughts and prayers.

Once a Raider, always a Raider. Rest in peace.

Thomas Howard, linebacker, 2006-10: Died November 18, 2013, age 30 (auto accident).

Todd Christensen, tight end, 1979-88: Died November 13, 2013, age 57 (liver surgery complications).

Errol Mann, kicker, 1976-78: Died April 11, 2013, age 71 (unknown).

Demetrius Davis, tight end, 1990 draft pick: Died December 15, 2012, age 45 (heart attack).

Tom Keating, defensive tackle, 1966-1972: Died August 31, 2012, age 69 (prostate cancer).

Ben Davidson, defensive end, 1964-1971: Died July 2, 2012, age 72 (prostate cancer).

Chester McGlockton, defensive tackle, 1992-1997: Died November 30, 2011, age 42 (heart attack).

Al Davis, coach/owner, 1963-2011: Died October 8, 2011, age 82 (natural causes).

Charles “Bubba” Smith, defensive end, 1973-74: Died August 3, 2011, age 66 (natural causes).

Alonzo “Skip” Thomas, cornerback, 1972-77: Died July 24, 2011, age 61 (heart attack).

George Blanda, quarterback/kicker, 1967-1975: Died September 27, 2010, age 83 (unknown/natural causes).

Jack Tatum, safety, 1971-1979: Died July 27, 2010, age 61 (heart attack).

Elijah Alexander, linebacker, 2000-2001: Died March 24, 2010, age 39 (bone marrow cancer).

Marquis Cooper, linebacker, 2008: Lost at sea March 1, 2009, and presumed dead March 6, 2009, age 26 (boating accident).

Brad Van Pelt, linebacker, 1984-1985: Died Feb. 17, 2009, age 57 (heart attack).

Gene Upshaw, guard, 1967-1981: Died Aug. 20, 2008, age 63 (pancreatic cancer).

Curtis Whitley, center, 1997: Died May 11, 2008, age 39 (unknown/natural causes).

Jimmy Warren, cornerback, 1970-74, 1977: Died August 9, 2006, age 67 (unknown).

Darrell Russell, defensive tackle, 1997-2001: Died Dec. 15, 2005, age 29 (auto accident).

Scott Whittaker, offensive tackle, 1997: Died Dec. 2, 2003, age 29 (auto accident).

Dave Dalby, center, 1972-1985: Died Aug. 30, 2002, age 51 (auto accident).

Dwayne O’Steen, defensive back, 1980-1981: Died Sept. 15, 2001, age 46 (heart attack).

Neal Colzie, defensive back, 1975-1978: Died Aug. 19, 2001, age 47 (heart attack).

Bo Roberson, wide receiver, 1962-1965: Died April 19, 2001, age 65 (unknown).

Dan Turk, center, 1989-1996: Died Dec. 23, 2000, age 38 (testicular cancer).

Eric Turner, safety, 1997-1999: Died May 28, 2000, age 31 (abdominal cancer).

Eldridge Dickey, quarterback/wide receiver, 1968-1971: Died May 22, 2000, age 54 (stroke).

Tim Hall, running back, 1996-1997: Died Sept. 30, 1998, age 24 (drive-by shooting).

Leon Bender, defensive tackle, 1998 draft pick: Died May 30, 1998, age 22 (epileptic incident).

Bob Chandler, wide receiver, 1980-1982: Died Jan. 15, 1995, age 45 (lung cancer).

Dave Waymer, safety, 1992: Died April 30, 1993, age 34 (drug-related heart attack).

Mike Wise, defensive lineman, 1986-1990: Died Aug. 22, 1992, age 28 (suicide).

Lyle Alzado, defensive lineman, 1982-1985: Died May 14, 1992, age 43 (brain cancer).

Stacey Toran, safety, 1984-1988: Died Aug. 5, 1989, age 27 (auto accident).

John Matuszak, defensive lineman, 1976-1982: Died June 17, 1989, age 38 (heart failure).

Roger Hagberg, fullback/tight end, 1965-1969: Died April 15, 1970, age 31 (auto accident)

Thank you to the Silver and Black Report for the Memorial Wall.  You can follow them here @ http://oak.scout.com/

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“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

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“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

The Oakland Raiders yesterday added ex Jack Del Rio hire and Jacksonville Jaguar Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave as their new Offensive Coordinator.  It was a surprise hire to many people.

Local fans may remember Bill Musgrave as a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and a few other teams.  After his playing days, the Raiders hired him in 1997 as a quarterbacks coach.  He had 4 really good years as a quarterback at the University of Oregon.

Musgrave is a journeyman coach who has never stayed at one place very long.  He has been the OC of 5 teams in 17 years and in between that he’s been quarterbacks coach or an assistant.

As offensive coordinator with those 5 teams, he has had very mild success.  His best year was in 2013 when the Vikings offense was 13th in total yards and 14th in scoring.  As an OC, his offenses have never been in the top 12, and most have struggled.  Before his job at Minnesota, he had never had a top 21 offense.  He has had some good moments though and he’s a well respected and hard working guy.  He’s also very well liked which definitely doesn’t hurt.

To his credit; even though it’s hard to give QB coaches all the credit; he did also have some nice years as quarterbacks coach.  He was QB coach when Matt Ryan first started out and did well.  Byron Leftwich was never great but his best year was when Musgrave was at Jacksonville.

Some like to give him a moderate amount of credit for Mark Sanchez having his best QB rating in his career in 2014 when Musgrave was QB coach of the Eagles.  If you do that though, then you also have to give him the blame for Nick Foles who played half of the year before he got hurt.  Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and had only 2 INTs in 2013 before Musgrave arrived.  Last year in half a season with Musgrave as QB coach, Foles threw 13 TD’s with 10 interceptions and looked lost at times.  Foles now is a question mark for the Eagles and they are debating whether to give him a big money long term contract.

As offensive coordinator it’s a much clearer picture with shaky results.  He was no longer allowed to call the plays after only 4 games when he was the OC at Carolina in 2000.  He was also let go by Jack Del Rio at Jacksonville after only 2 years of being an OC with near the worst offense in the NFL.  In his defense he has never had great quarterbacks as a coordinator, but his style is pretty clear.  He’s always had a conservative style of running the ball and running it often with a WR heavy passing game.

He did have some west coast influence with Mike Shanahan but he’s never truly instilled it into his offenses.

When he was first hired at Minnesota, the Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper did two articles on him asking him about his philosophy.  Most of it was just vague answers saying that he liked to mix up things and do a little bit of everything. He liked to talk about making communication between QB and play callers more simplified.

At Minnesota the offense was very straight forward.  Run Adrian Peterson on first and second down, and then pass on third down if needed.  The offense was a little more conservative than the approach at Kansas City with Alex Smith.  With Adrian Peterson as your running back, there are worse options.  Chris Ponder was the quarterback for most of the time, and he never grew into a good player.

Is he the right fit for Oakland?:

I think if the Raiders hired him as a quarterbacks coach, that this would have been a good hire.  I think he’s solid and even with some fails he’s had some success too, and he’s a hard worker.  The hopes are that he can help David Carr grow into a pocket quarterback that can command an offense.  If he can do that alone, this will be a good hire.  For those that cringed every time they saw Greg Olsen call a play, this is an upgrade by subtraction.

As an offensive coordinator this seems to obviously be a Jacksonville reunion with Mike Tice and Bill Musgrave working with head coach Jack Del Rio in the past.  It’s hard to think Del Rio wasn’t the reason for the Musgrave hire.  Musgrave struggled a lot though so it’s a surprise.

As an offensive coordinator, he was a nightmare in his first 4 jobs and his teams have mildly improved as he has gotten more experience.  He’s never had a top 12 offense and to think that all of a sudden the Raiders are going to turn into juggernauts is hopeful at best.  Let’s face it; it’s a league of talent though and if you have the talent, success will follow.

I think the love for some fans with Mark Trestman was strange.  Trestman never called the plays or made the game plans when Jon Gruden was here; Gruden admitted he did.  Trestman was supposed to fix the Bears and his lack of leadership and passive demeanor was ripped apart by both fans and the press alike in Chicago.  Epic fail.  Trestman wanted the Raider OC job; he said so in the press; but the Raiders obviously didn’t want him and it was a good move not to hire him.

This is another head scratcher in a long decade of head scratching hires by the Raiders.  I like Mike Tice but this one is puzzling. Del Rio obviously feels comfortable with him and hopes that he can help David Carr grow.

I think Jack Del Rio is an upgrade at head coach.  Even though they are a train wreck right now and 3-4 years away from being good, it’s hard to watch the Chicago Bears hire John Fox and DC Vic Fangio; two coaches with Super Bowl experience and who have had a ton of success; and then watch the Raiders hire Bill Musgrave; well, as they say, it is what it is.  The hope is that somehow with the Raiders rebuilding their talent pool on offense, this will work out in Oakland and Carr and the offense will grow with Musgrave at the helm.  I think he may do well for a while and be a stepping stone, but it’s hard to think of Bill Musgrave taking them to the highest level and raising Super Bowl trophies any time soon.

“Raiders Win The Battle of the Bay Again; Jack Del Rio is a Solid, but Not Great Hire as Oakland Raiders Coach”

jack del rio

I know that not one Super Bowl was ever won in an opening press conference of a newly hired coach. Even taking that into account it was uncomfortable to watch the 49ers brass hire Jim Tomsula. The 49ers presser was like seeing two elitist, arrogant rich guys hovering over a good solid lifer coach who was scared to death to say anything wrong. The Raiders showed them up big time.

Owner Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie were professional and seemed on the same page. It was good to see the media also focused on the Raiders coaches over their obsession with Davis love of Hooters and PF Changs. Lot’s of men are breast and lettuce wrap guys but it’s time to get down to business. Davis and McKenzie were relaxed and didn’t go crazy with wild predictions of Super Bowls, the greatness of the Raiders, and future glory like the 49ers stumbled through. There was definitely a unified feel in the room. Jack Del Rio is good on the microphone and most knew he’d be very well received and he did a good job as was expected.

With the hiring of Jack Del Rio as Oakland Raiders coach, the Raiders picked a solid football man who has integrity but he has very limited success. As every fan and media person loves to bring up, Jack grew up in the bay area and he and his family have long been Raider fans. As head coach, that means nothing, but it’s kind of the full circle story that makes good headlines and you also feel good for him because he obviously loves the Raiders. Personally I thought there were better candidates but he’s a solid, safe choice but one that I question.

Positives:

I like Del Rio’s defensive philosophy. He mixes things up with different coverage’s and formations. He likes to move players around; especially pass rushers; and at times takes chances. He also loves physical play and brings toughness to a team that desperately needs it. He has the philosophy to win in the NFL; stop the run, and rush the passer with 4 players. Last year the Raiders could not stop opponents running game and they were a dismal 31st in sacks. If the Raiders can shore up the DL, I see better things ahead for the Raiders defense.

Jacksonville linebackers raved about Del Rio’s support of them, and his hands on philosophy. They were a key focus at Jacksonville. The Raiders for too long have lost site of what makes a good defense; stopping the run and rushing the passer. It needs to be a mantra. You do that by having a stud front 7 on defense and not drafting defensive backs with good 40 times. You can have the best defensive backs in the league, but if you can’t rush the passer they are toast.

Jack Del Rio is also a players coach. He’s a fair person and is direct. As a coach at Jacksonville for 9 years, his defenses were good, not being lower than 12th in total yards allowed. Of course he had a good defensive coordinator as well in Mike Smith which helped.

Del Rio is well respected around the league and defensive free agents will be willing to come to Oakland more freely now that he is a coach. Denver is loaded with talent so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few players come over from the Broncos to play for the Raiders, but don’t expect a mass exodus. The Broncos still have a ton of talent and that is hard to leave.  The fans will enjoy Del Rio’s interactions with the media as well. He knows how to get people excited and is very likeable.

Negatives:

Del Rio has a bad history with coaches.  During his time as the Jaguars coach, he went through 19 of them during his tenure.  That’s a lot of them.  Some of the hires in the first place were questionable.  Some complained he was too controlling and others hinted Jack wasn’t exactly first in line when it was time to take responsibility for failures.

The lack of success bothers me too.  I personally want a coach that has a track record of success, even as an assistant. Del Rio has never been a consistent winner as a head coach. In 9 years at Jacksonville, he never won a division title. He also had only 3 winning seasons and only 2 playoff years. Del Rio is 1-2 as a playoff coach. He built up the team after Tom Coughlin left and then it crashed again while he was coach.

Two fans yesterday were posting wherever they could that Del Rio’s first 9 years were as good as Jon Gruden’s first 9 years. They were extremely popular posts among the Raider nation. Those stupid facts get in the way though. In his first 9 years Gruden was 10 games over .500 at 77-67; had 4 division titles; played in one AFC championship game and had a Super Bowl title. Del Rio has no division titles and one playoff win in 9 years and was 68-71. It’s not even close who had more success. Even with talent at Jacksonville, the defense held it’s own but offensively the Jag’s seemed to struggle for consistency under Del Rio.

What Del Rio Will Need to Succeed:

Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis will have to hire good assistants as does any NFL team. Mike Smith’s name has been thrown about and he would work well with Del Rio due to their long history together. If the Raiders hire Mark Trestman I guarantee issues. Trestman never had any pull or control when Jon Gruden coached the team but he got a lot of credit. Gruden was in control of the game plans and called the plays. Trestman used Gruden’s success to land the Bears job and his goal was to fix Jay Cutler and the Bears offense. The Chicago press grinded him to dust for his apathetic demeanor and poor leadership skills. Twice there was physical fighting in the post game locker room and they were out of control. Trestman isn’t the answer and they need a coordinator that will bring a toughness on offense and create an identity.

Speaking of Identity; the Raiders need one and they need one badly. The coaches at times seemed to have no clue on what direction the team should go. Don’t expect Sporano to get any head coaching job offers any time soon. If you are a power running team then you need to run the ball.

The play calling though still needs to have imagination. Derek Carr has to learn to call audibles’ as well. If there are 9 defenders in the box and a running play is called and the quarterback doesn’t audible to a passing play, don’t blame the offensive line for the lack of a running game or the coaches play calling. The Raiders were predictable and helpless to run the ball at times especially on the road. In the last 4 road games the Raiders averaged 8 points a game. It remains to be seen what role Del Rio will play to fix that.

My Take on the Hiring of Del Rio:

I don’t mind the hiring of Del Rio but I think there were better coaches out there and I would not have picked him.  Maybe they’ll win a Super Bowl in 3 years and I could be wrong, but I just didn’t like his tenure at Jacksonville.

The Raiders need to stop all this talk of winning Super Bowls and build a foundation. I think Del Rio can do that. He will bring toughness and a sense of discipline which is really lacking in Oakland.  As for long term I have my doubts and though unpopular, I don’t think he’s the long term answer.  To think that a coach of a good team who never won a division title in 9 years and only made the playoffs twice, is all of a sudden going to start hoisting up Super Bowl trophies, is wishful thinking.  I do think though he will get them to a level that hasn’t been seen here in 12 years and that is definitely a great start that would please Oakland fans craving success.

“The Truth About Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49er Fan Violence”

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“The Truth About Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49er Fan Violence”

In 2011 the Raiders played the 49ers in an exhibition game at Candlestick Park.  It was one of the most violent football games in a long time.  Not from player violence, but from fan violence.  There were shootings, stabbings and several arrests.  The violence was so shocking that the NFL talked about ending the Raiders/49ers pre season games.

Let me see if I can put this delicately.  First off, ANY fan that goes to any sporting event and fights is a TOTAL loser.  You should be jailed, and your kids, parents and grand parents should have to see video of what a drunken idiot you are.  You should have to work at a homeless shelter for 1000 hours and that is after your jail time.  You should have to wear a sign that says, “I’m a violent tool that can’t control themselves”.  Was that nice enough?

Second of all I’m sick of the San Francisco media including the SF Gate, the San Francisco Chronicle, and KNBR acting like the 49er fans are these artsy laid back pot smoking hippies that wouldn’t hurt a fly.  You get more real news from Youtube than you get from the San Francisco media who have made hiding Giants and 49ers violence an art form.  If I hear Gary Radnich of KNBR call the San Francisco fans sophisticated one more time I’ll throw up.  Some of the most violent and slimy people that have ever fought at a football game are 49er fans.  Youtube should have their own channel for them.

Local NBC bay area did a great story on the truth about fan violence in the bay area.  Even with a higher socioeconomic type of fan base at Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara police department reported that there were 25 arrests per game at Levi’s stadium in the first part of the season.  In contrast, the Oakland Raiders were reported to have only 12 arrests per game.

Now I’m not a mindless homer, and I’m not naive.  Some Raider fans are far from angels.  The Raider fans violence really took off in the days in Los Angeles.  The fights among L.A. Raider fans and opponents were of legend.  So many pathetic idiots committed violent assaults because someone didn’t like their team.  There were stabbings in the Los Angeles Coliseum and @ San Diego games as well as occasional shootings outside the stadium.  In Oakland before the move, the Raider fans could be nasty but they weren’t this violent.  You didn’t see fights every game or craziness.  The fans were loud, abrasive, and vulgar, but they weren’t Mike Tyson on roid rage.

What bothers me even more is what cowards these fighters are.  ALL of the videos that I saw online; and I watched about 30 of them; had one side outnumber or outsize the other one.  Most punches were thrown by losers hitting people from behind or the side or in situations where they outnumber the people they were fighting.  Wow, that kind of “courage” is pathetic.  And these people have or will have kids?  This type of parental guidance we don’t need.  No wonder America is so screwed up.

Our society is a mess right now.  Violence and vulgarity is the norm and many think it’s cool.  I just watched a 10 minute video of about 10 female 49er fans fighting 2 female Raider fans.  Stay classy.

Whenever I think of sporting fan violence I think of Bryan Stow who had his life ruined because of 2 thugs looking for trouble at Dodger stadium.  Or what about the 49er fan who was beaten by two pathetic losers in a bathroom because of a nudge?  His injuries are permanent.  His life is changed forever because of two nobody thugs.  There are dozens more experiences out there that are forgotten about quickly.

We are violent and out of control and right and wrong has little meaning anymore to many.  Social media has exposed our society as shallow, insecure, hyper sensitive and ready to rip on someone or attack someone in a second.  People don’t care about truth anymore, they care about their biased opinion and perspective.

The same people that are committing violence are also the same ones that I’m sure rip on Ray Rice and are outraged by Ferguson.  Their standards for the players and others are much higher than themselves.

This IS A GAME PEOPLE.  People are dying of deadly diseases.  Children are suffering from terrible cancers.  Big business corruption is running rampant.  Colleges are getting rich off of raising tuitions to ridiculous levels while lining their pockets.  There are school and mass shootings, sexual assaults and rapes, and so many other tragic things to be outraged about.  Yet some fans feel passionate enough about their team to get sloppy drunk and fight? Lol wow.  Use that passion and buy some toys for a children’s hospital or donate to a homeless shelter instead.

I’m so sick of fans bragging about how awesome of fans they are.  Insulting people or fighting isn’t what being a good fan is.  This isn’t high school.  There are lots of good fans but please stop being so naive.  If you were broke and needed your bills paid, none of the players or owners would help you.  They wouldn’t cross the street to shake your hand and if you were sick they wouldn’t be making you soup and getting you medicine while you are whining about how you don’t feel good.  This is a game.  Be passionate about your team and have fun with it but stop acting like your life depends on it.

To all fans that can’t hold your liquor and get into fights and bully people, I wish terrible evil karma on you.  To any fan that witnesses these types of situations; call security and make sure these scumbags go to jail.  It’s time to make a change.

“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.

willie brown

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.

skip thomas

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.

jack tatum

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.

“The Suspension of Bill Simmons Shows That we Can’t Trust ESPN & the Media”

bill simmons

Jockocracy:  all announcers, analysts, and sports reporters will some day all be ex players and coaches and no one will be honest anymore.  They will say nothing controversial because they all will have connections and ties to the teams, players and leagues they report on. 

Howard Cosell

The suspension of Bill Simmons by ESPN for calling Roger Goodell a liar in the Ray Rice case, lets the cat out of the bag for the rest of America that doesn’t already know that we should never trust the media.

The tax free money machine called the NFL runs ESPN.  With the suspension of sports reporter Bill Simmons, THE sports leader made it clear to all of their reporters; whatever you think or whatever your opinion is, leave your brain at the door.  The shield of the NFL makes too much money for anyone to tell the truth.  Let’s face it, big business money runs everything including the media.

Yes it’s true; ESPN and sports television analyst Bill Simmons did the dirty.  He stated in a recording that he felt NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lied about not seeing the video in the Ray Rice saga.  It didn’t matter that the rest of the country pretty much thinks the same thing; Simmons was suspended.

When the video was first released on TMZ showing Ray Rice fighting with his present wife in the elevator, TMZ website founder Harvey Levin was angered when the NFL and Roger Goodell stated that they never had seen the video.  When asked by media outlets how TMZ got it, Levin said, “We asked for it”.

After the video was released to TMZ by the casino, the NFL stated that they were not allowed by police to see it.  Levin’s beady little eyes and smile looked like the Grinch getting ready to rip off the Who’s in Whoville.  He told media outlets that he was releasing a bombshell the next day on TMZ.

Sure enough, TMZ had proof that a video was sent to an NFL representative.  Roger Goodell and the NFL have been doing damage control ever since.

To all of you good people that aren’t as cynical as the rest of us; I hope you now get that you can’t trust ESPN or big time media.  Fox news caters to right wingers who see only good with Republicans and only bad with Democrats.  Other news outlets cater to liberals.  That isn’t news and information; that’s propaganda.

When it comes to sports, ESPN is the poster child for being biased and obsessed with certain players and teams.  For a while I thought ESPN was going to do stories on Lebron James views of the Ukraine or how many licks he thought it took to get to the center of a tootsie pop.  Johnny Manziel was the next love child with ESPN reporting on his eating and sleeping habits along with his view points on current events.  It got weird.

The NFL is the golden child for ESPN and it was greatly seen during the Ray Rice scandal.  All of the ex players and announcers said the same thing; “Roger Goodell is an honest person and I find it hard to believe he knew about or saw the elevator video”.

The problem is, ESPN’s bread is buttered by the hype of sports stars, and huge television contracts that are paid by the various sports, especially the cash cow NFL.  I remember the soft core reporting by ESPN during the NFL concussion hearings.

The NFL was so over the top arrogant about the whole proceedings that it was hard to watch.  Until Representative Maxine Waters threatened a criminal investigation into the NFL’s denial on the dangers of concussions, the NFL refuted every study.  After her threat, the NFL paid off the head NFL doctor and made him take the sword for the shield.  He was blamed for everything and he resigned.

When there are labor issues, rarely does an ex player or reporter on television side with a player trying to renegotiate a contract.  People love to say, “A player signed a contract so he should honor it”.  It’s funny though that 75% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams.  Many players are cut or told to take a pay cut or they will be let go.  I’ve yet to hear a fan, ex player or television analyst state that the team should honor that contract.

They can’t “afford” lifetime healthcare for their players, or minimum wage for cheerleaders or full time pay for referees but they can charge $150 to park a car at a Super Bowl.

I’m being honest when I don’t agree with Bill Simmons at times, and some times I think he’s out there.  But I also admit he makes you think and he’s entertaining.  He has a sort of a wiseguy quality at times.  He’s a smart guy and he has lots of opinions and that creates a following.  I love people that have opinions based on facts and I think he’s right on with the NFL story.

Howard Cosell years ago warned us.  He said that ex players would be the announcers and reporters and because of their ties to the networks, players and the NFL, rarely would real reporting ever be heard again.  He called it the “jockocracy” of sports.  Bill Simmons is a rare throwback that says what he feels and that is rare in today’s media.

The question unfortunately is, how can we find out the truth about sports stories and the people that are in them.  Many news outlets don’t rely on facts, they rely on being biased, or what side their bread is buttered on.  More than a few large news outlets don’t report anymore, but they are very good surfing TMZ, Deadspin, or BBC’s websites on the internet.

The answer to finding the truth unfortunately is not a pretty one.  With lawyers, money, political correctness and reaction to the public and social media being the main focus when a story is released, it’s impossible to really know what is actually happening or has actually happened.

As fan’s we must be responsible.  We must teach ourselves and the youth of America to respect and appreciate athletes talents on the field, but that’s mostly about it.  We still can love the game and the great things about sports that inspire us.  Fans need to be real though.  Many people in America sadly look up to people only because they are good looking, talented, or rich and famous.

In reality though we should not look up to them.  We need to look up to those that love us and who have good character that we know about and who touch our every day lives.  And sadly; when all else fails when searching for the truth about sports and news stories;  Deadspin or Harvey Levin at TMZ is just an internet search away.  Somewhere I hear Homer Simpson sadly saying doh.  Walter Cronkite and Howard Cosell where are you.