In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.
With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.
With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night. All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.
I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.
When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich. He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.
Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.
Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:
Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.
If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.
Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules? Now you understand OUR excitement. As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room. The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”
A Leader to the End:
The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way. He was a leader on the field and off. Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away. Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.
“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”
The Closest Team in the NFL:
Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were. Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.
We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s. I visited them recently.
Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.
“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us. Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”
After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”
a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
My father once said that the hardest part about aging is watching people around you; including family, friends, athletes and celebrities; slowly pass away as the years go by. As NFL fans it’s also hard for us to watch the iconic fans of our youth slowly leave us with the passing of time. Another great one has left us in Ron “The General” Rickard. “Raider Ron” was a cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a fan. His brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.
We all have a story, and Ron’s was one of fun, determination, struggle, pain and joy. That’s why fans from all over the country have been saddened by his death at the tender age of 54 due to liver failure. He had been battling for over 6 years. He was hoping for a liver transplant but it wasn’t to be. He had contracted Hepatitis C which eventually damaged his liver. Sadly the liver that he long waited for came 12 hours after his passing.
What made Ron’s story amazing is that he went to 246 straight games for the Raiders; HOME and AWAY! He even got to go to the game in Wembley to keep the streak alive after winning the Raiders “One Nation, Your Story” contest.
After his 200th game his friends that he competed with (mostly as a leader) at The Bad Boys of BBQ threw him a tailgate party in his honor. “Kingsford” Kirk Bronsord, the leader of the Bad Boys of BBQ stated in an article from the Raiders website, “I’m proud and honored to be able to say that this is a great friend of mine. He has done something that few people get to do. That’s 12 ½ years of never missing a game”.
Ron said of the streak, “one year I told my wife, you know, I want to go to every game and do it just one time. So I did it and everything went pretty smooth so I did it again the next year.”
After his 246th game in 2014, the Raiders honored him, and Lincoln Kennedy interviewed Ron on the field. He was thrilled to be able to light the Al Davis memorial torch.
Ron’s story doesn’t end there by a long shot. He began to create friendships with Raider fans from all over the country. He also created great friendships with fans of other teams. From Tampa Bay, to San Diego to anywhere there was an NFL stadium, people grew to love Rickard. That love was shown when at times fans would help him financially including getting him tickets and other items to keep the streak alive.
Fast friend and a person I enjoyed talking to; Ron’s Fellow Hall of Fame icon Tim Young; (The Famous Tampa Bay Fan known as “The Captain”) said he once came to a game in Oakland knowing no one. “I walked into the parking lot and I told Ron I was looking for a tailgate to adopt me. Ron quickly took me in and added me to the fold. A long friendship ensued”.
Friendship was important to Ron and people reciprocated that feeling. Ron said in an interview, “70 or 80 people; many of them Raider fans; have even offered to serve as living donors for me”. A stranger from Tennessee even paid a house payment for Ron.
Ron grew up in Kentucky. As a kid he would watch the games and he became a huge Raiders fan. He came to California and got into the car wash business. The first Raider game he ever went to he was offered a ticket by someone and they made him a guest of their family. He then created the persona of the General and became an iconic fan of the team he loved.
Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He helped everyone he met and had a goofy, fun side. When he went through hardships he always had a smile to give to whoever needed it.
“He was very smart” Tim exclaimed, “but he never was arrogant and he never name dropped. He was extremely kind and humble. He showed great sportsmanship. Ron and his wife couldn’t have kids but he adored them. He mentored many people showing them the ropes of life, of being a good fan and of being a good person. He always was a positive influence. He did so much for so many”.
Ron and his lovely wife Janet were true soulmates with years of devotion. He was loyal, appreciative, kind and strong. He was given a rotten hand in life, but he smiled and fought hard with all he had to the end. Ron enjoyed being a Raider fan but most of all he enjoyed just being. He created a legacy that will be cherished for a long time.
The Commodores have a song called Heroes and here are some of the lyrics:
Heroes make the sun rise in the mornin’ Heroes make the moon shine bright at night Heroes make our lives a little stronger All our fears go away when he’s around
Whoa, heroes make our lives a little stronger If you look you’ll surely see they’re you and me
I am lucky in life. I had heroes. My mom and dad; my grandparents; uncles and aunts and great friends. Ron was a hero too. And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for others, with dignity and grace.
The best way to honor Ron is to be that hero. To be the one that leads and encourages and inspires. Live with ethics and grace and always do right. Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air.
I have and always will support good fans from all of the NFL teams in their causes, hardships and triumphs. We are not gang members. We are people who are part of one team; the human race; who just want a chance to live a good, fun life in peace. Just like Ron, support one another and let’s never forget to live life to the fullest while never taking ourselves too seriously. Dare to dream and dream big with a positive way about you. And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your teams colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.
In the first blockbuster trade of this year’s NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the #1 pick. In exchange for the top pick, the Titans get the Ram’s 1stpick which is #15; 2 second rounder’s (43 & 45) and a third round selection (76th). The Titans will also get the Ram’s first and third round picks in next year’s draft. The Titans now have 6 of the first 76 draft picks. The Rams get Tennessee’s 4thand 6thround picks next year.
This is why I don’t like trading up.
Why This Move Was Made & Will Backfire:
If you look at most of the teams that have traded up for a player, it almost always benefits the team that gave up the top pick. You give so much for a player and then in reality if they don’t pan out the near future of your team is ruined.
As I’ve said many times, you have to have patience. When most of the Oakland Raider fans wanted Reggie McKenzie’s head the first 2 years he worked, I said that this was a 4 to 5 year plan. Many fans; and for years Al Davis; over estimated how good this team was when it lacked talent. McKenzie cleaned house and built a team on solid drafts and a good signing here and there.
The Rams are making the mistake a lot of teams do. It’s the same mistake Minnesota made in 2013 when they traded up and used New England’s first round pick to get WR Cordarrale Patterson. The Vikings thought they were better than they were and felt they were a player away from being really good. They gave up 4 picks that turned into 3 starters for the Patriots Super Bowl Team for a good return man that is now 5th on their depth chart at WR. Even though Sammy Watkins is a good player, the Bills made the same mistake trading picks to move up to get him when they had several holes to fill.
I think this is a bad move by the Rams. Maybe I’ll be wrong and Carson Wentz or Jarod Goff will be super stars. Most scouts though think they are projects and their upside isn’t as great as others think. But in my mind I’m not giving up so many picks unless John Elway is there. If Wentz or Goff doesn’t pan out, this move will ruin the Rams for at least 2-3 years if not more. It’s a gutsy move but I think a desperate one for a team that is trying to make a splash after moving.
Mock Drafts Change Like The Wind:
What happens every year is that team’s desires change as time goes on; that’s why so many drop and move up in mock drafts over time. Athleticism and the NFL combines shock teams. It’s like they are enamored with athleticism. It’s kind of like the pretty cheerleader in high school. You finally get a chance to date her and then over time you realize she is high maintenance, stuck up and boring. You eventually move on. That’s what happens with NFL teams and players in the draft before they are selected. Athleticism is great but football talent is greater. Get football talent with athleticism and you have a super star.
Let’s now look at how this trade changes the fortunes of some teams.
Wow; what a great trade for them. They have holes to fill and now, with good drafting, they can literally rebuild their team in 2 drafts. It was a great move for a team that is on the rise.
San Francisco 49ers:
This almost assures that Colin Kaepernick is staying in San Francisco. With the Rams and Cleveland almost assuredly taking quarterbacks, this trade hurts. The 49ers really seemed to like Cal Bears QB Jared Goff and it looked like he was going to fall into their laps. Somewhere in Ann Arbor Michigan there is a middle aged college football coach wearing khakis and a blue hat who is smiling ear to ear.
This trade does one thing; it means the 49ers are almost for sure going to take a DL in the first round. The Ravens will take Ohio St. DLJoey Bosaor Oregon DLDeForest Bucknerwith the #6 pick I’m pretty sure, and then the player that is left over will go to SF.
This move is good and bad for Denver. Colin Kaepernick is almost for sure not leaving San Francisco. But if you look at the draft it also allows the Broncos to probably be able to pick Memphis QB Paxton Lynch at #15. I’m not a huge fan of Lynch’s but some really like him. There are rumors of trades with Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor but he’s limited as a QB in my opinion.
Look for Nick Foles (gulp); to possibly be wearing Orange next year in Denver. If they don’t plan on drafting Lynch then it’s almost for sure. The QB position has never been worse in the NFL. Look for Denver’s defense to again have to carry the load for this team.
San Diego Chargers:
The Chargers catch a huge break. Or did they? Most see monster LTLaremy Tunsilout of Mississippi now falling into their laps greatly helping out their offensive line. In most drafts some of the safest picks are OL and this is a great get for them. The Jags and the Cowboys are in front of them and no way are they taking a left tackle. To gain a great pick without doing anything is not bad.
The problem is the Chargers already have two pretty good starting Tackles in Joe Barksdale & King Dunlap. They also signed Chris Hairston for depth. Many feel the Chargers need a center big time but no center warrants that high of a pick. I see the Chargers going defense either with CB Jalen Ramsey, DL Joey Bosa or DL DeForest Buckner. While most online have Tunsil moving to SD, I see them going defense.
Kansas City Chiefs:
This probably won’t affect the Chiefs much. There are a lot of edge rushers in this draft and that’s something that they need. Tamba Hali is going to be 33 and Justin Houston’s injuries are a worry. I see them getting a solid player in this year’s DL heavy ensemble. Kevin Dodd?
Yes Raider Fans; let’s look at what this does to your Raiders.
I said it last year that the 2016 NFL draft is going to be a crap shoot and extremely exciting; maybe the most fun ever watching a draft. No one really knows what teams are going to do and what their evaluations of players are.
As I wrote in my article yesterday, I think right now the Raiders will takeReggie Ragland, MLB out of Alabama for their first pick. He is by far the best MLB in the draft but it’s slim pickings out there for inside linebackers. Some think there isnt’ even a second round MLB that warrants to be picked there. It’s a safe pick.
Three guys that are greatly climbing up the ladder that I spoke about a while back are Clemson DLShaq Lawson, Michigan St. OLJack Conklin, and OLBLeonard Floyd@ Georgia.
I wrote about these guys before and most ripped on me having them so high but now many mock drafts have these guys climbing big time. I have no idea why Kevin Dodd is ahead of Lawson in some peoples’ minds. Lawson was double teamed most of last year and Dodd was helped by that. Dodd also had only one good year at Clemson. I take Lawson all day. There were some games that Lawson played where he was obviously the best football player on the field.
Jack Conklinis a mean physical lineman. Good at pass protecting but great in run blocking. He needs work protecting the QB but I think he can be solid for a long time. Some of the major writers have him going to the Raiders and I think that’s kind of silly with their recent signings.
Sports Illustrated is obsessed with giving the Raiders another wide receiver in the first round but I think there is no way that happens.
The guy that I like a lot is Leonard Floyd. He’s a machine out there who makes plays. The problem with Floyd is he looks like Lawrence Taylor one game and then Rip Taylor the next. He needs maturity and focus.
I admit; Georgia was a dysfunctional wild-west show at times but if you give this guy discipline and he matures, wow. If the Raiders picked him I would not be upset. You can still try to fill in the MLB position later in the draft or with cap casualties that always are cut during training camp, because this guy just jumps off of the page. You know how I love pass rushers and seeing him blitzing behind Mack? Worse things could happen.
I love Clemson CBMackensie Alexandertoo. I think he’s the best DB in this draft. Teams were so intimidated with his skills that they just stopped throwing at him. He gave up 11 passes all year last year and no touchdowns. He has a toughness and swagger that reminds me of George Atkinson. He’s very strong and physical. Scouts don’t like that he’s a legit 5’ 10” but I still like him a lot. If he’s chosen I think it’s great.
If you have Alexander now you haveDavid Amerson,Sean Smithand Alexander as your top 3 cornerbacks, andReggie Nelson,Nate AllenandTJ Carrieas your safeties. Not exactly the Soul Patrol but it is pretty good.
Guys Falling For The Raiders Pick:
The two guys that are falling are Notre Dame OLRonnie Stanleyand Alabama DLAShawn Robinson. There are worries about Stanley’s passion for football and his work ethic. He has not shown much strength at times as well during pre-draft workouts. AShawn Robinson works hard and is a really good player but some say he’s not totally into football as a long term thing. Early retirements are occurring more and more in the NFL and it’s a risk that worries teams.
Ohio St. OLTaylor Decker; (who I originally had Conklin ahead of) was considered a for sure top 15 pick but now he’s not even in the first round in some people’s eyes.
Ohio St. CBEli Appleis raw and is also dropping on some boards. I am not a huge fan of his. I like Alexander a lot better. Again athleticism and the cookie cutter size for each position is popular in the NFL but I want football players.
Many people were also trying to promote Ohio St. OLBDarron Leebut I think that is a bad #1 pick. If you are going to get an MLB later in the draft I’d rather pick Floyd over Lee. Lee’s an athlete playing football. He has literally only played LB for 2 years of his life and he has a lot to learn. He’s also a smallish LB and not a real physically strong one at that.
I see two people on my social media timeline that are promoting Ole Miss DLRobert Nkemdicheabout 5-10 times a day. In reality he only has 7 sacks in 3 years, and in his last 7 games last year he had only 2 tackles a game. You tube videos and reading experts opinions is great, but if you really want to know how good players are you have to watch them play.
I pass big time on Robert and I see in some mock drafts he’s not even in the first round anymore. ESPN’s Todd McShay even got off his bandwagon and dropped him out of the first round. (Finally!) Remember when I warned you about Jets Vernon Gholston in 2008 and Jadeveon Clowney being busts and some of you didn’t listen? Listen to Brother Jim.
I can’t see Ohio St. RB Ezekiel Elliot passing by the Eagles, Bears or the Giants without being chosen.
There you have it; so get the food ready; call in sick to work; the kids are at school; open up a cold one or a glass of wine and take the day to enjoy the NFL Draft. We’ve had a draft party for 16 years and it’s something I look forward to every year.
In 2012 over 5.2 million NFL fans voted in the NFL.com tournament picking the greatest NFL team in history. The winner was the 1976 Oakland Raiders. Little was made of the vote in the media, so I will expand on it.
In my mind it’s hard to pick just one. The Bill Walsh 49ers, the Tom Landry Cowboys, Vince Lombardi’s machines in Green Bay, the great dynasty in Pittsburgh & Miami and so many others. It did make me happy though that fans from all over the country showed respect to a team that is often overlooked for its’ greatness, ESPECIALLY on the east coast. Some east coast media people know little of what happens west of the Mississippi.
Most young fans today seem to only really know things that happen in their own era but usually the smartest people are those that know a lot about history. It’s important for us all to appreciate history, especially in sports. The funniest post I saw lately was a young guy that said he knew a lot about the Raiders and that he had been a long suffering Oakland fan since 2007. Why can’t life have a “slap someone in the back of the head” button?
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens?:
I got into a battle with a Baltimore Raven fan last year who argued that the 2000 Ravens were the greatest team in history. They aren’t even in my top ten. Here is a team that didn’t even win their division and they lost 3 games in a row during the middle of the year. During those three losses, they only scored 15 points in 12 quarters.
The 1970’s teams were so much better than today because of several reasons. They didn’t have to deal with high salaries, guaranteed money or the salary cap. That’s why they were loaded with talent. Many backups could start on other teams.
Many teams had backup quarterbacks that were as good as many of the starters on bad teams. Ken Stabler was a backup until Daryle Lamonica got hurt. Earl Morrall was a backup until HOF QB Bob Greise broke his ankle in week 5, and all Morrall did was lead the Dolphins to the only unbeaten season in NFL history. I don’t see ANY NFL backup today; or most of the starters to be honest; doing anywhere near that any time soon.
Why the 1976 Raiders?:
The 1976 Raiders had 11; YES ELEVEN; future hall of fame players and front office people on it. Add Cliff Branch and Jack Tatum who should both be in it and that’s 13. Name a team in todays’ NFL that has 11 Hall of Famers. In the 1970’s there were many teams with 7-10 future HOF players.
With the passing of Kenny Stabler, many fans, media and ex players began to finally really appreciate just how great this Raiders team was. I’ve been lucky on the last few radio interviews that I’ve done to have followed nationally syndicated sports people who knew their stuff and who ended up saying the same things I was saying in regards to this amazing era of the 1970’s and it’s greatness.
Almost all NFL historians agree that the 1970’s was the greatest era of modern professional football. In that decade the Raiders won more games than any other team. They had the best quarterback, the best offensive line, and the best defensive backfield. Add amazing hall of famers and a defense that could get to the quarterback, and you had an all-time great team.
The 1976 Oakland Raiders are considered to have the greatest offensive line of all time. The line of Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Dave Dalby, George Buehler, and John Vella, was probably the most physical of all time as well. At 6’ 5”, Gene Upshaw talked trash and intimidated from the minute he walked on the field until the game was over. Gene Upshaw is still the only player in NFL history to play in 3 Super Bowls in 3 different decades with the same team. Sporting News ranked Gene Upshaw as the 62nd greatest NFL player of all time.
Art Shell was a quiet giant but a physical specimen at 6’ 5” who decimated defenders. Sporting News voted Shell the 55th greatest football player of all time. Yes they were that good.
Dave Dalby was one of the more beloved Raiders of all time, as well as one of the more unsung ones. He was a rock at Center following the great career of Jim Otto. At 6’ 3”, he was considered the smallest Raider offensive linemen. He never missed a game in 14 years and was voted on the UCLA all century team. He tragically died @ the age of 51 after struggling to adjust to life after football. There are still Christian websites that have stories about how kind and supportive he was to so many people.
George Buehler was a rock at guard for the Raiders. He was another unsung player who shined in the post season. His domination of Vikings defensive tackle Doug Southerland in the Super Bowl is a part of NFL lore.
John Vella was quiet and easy going but had a volatile temper when angered which fit right into the Raiders physical play.
The Soul Patrol:
There is no cooler group of NFL players than the Soul Patrol. I’ve written about them often and I’ve included one of my articles on them below which now is one of the most popular articles on the internet about them.
“Dr. Death” Skip Thomas; The Assassin Jack Tatum; George “Butch” Atkinson and Willie Brown were the greatest of all time. “The 5 yard chuck rule was actually created because of them”, said Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton. “It was almost unfair to try and get off the line with these guys”. In the 1970’s DB’s could pretty much do what they wanted to a wide receiver as long as the ball wasn’t in the air. That’s why people need to give WR of the 1970’s much more credit. The pinball numbers of today doesn’t mean that these WR are great. If you were good against the Soul Patrol then you were great.
The Greatest 2 Minute QB of All Time:
John Madden said that if he had to pick one QB to do one last minute drive he’d pick Ken Stabler. Joe Montana said he emulated his game after him. The Holy Roller, the Sea of Hands, the Ghost to the Post; the game was never over if Ken Stabler was on the field.
I still propose that ALL Hall of Fame voters votes be made public. It’s really a shame to not have Ken enjoy his special day due to petty biases. It’s time to start calling out writers because of their ridiculous biases; but that’s for another day.
Stabler was one of a kind. He wouldn’t see the trainers as long as players were in the locker room; he constantly took blame when his team failed, and spread the credit when they won. He was a great leader, friend and man. He partied like a rock star, but always showed up on game day. He was pure Raider.
When you think of the 1976 Oakland Raiders, you think of Stabler throwing to Casper or Fred Biletnikoff or Cliff Branch. You see Stabler tossing passes to his running backs or hitting Mike Siani in the end zone. But in reality the Raiders were also a power running, physical team. They were consistently a top 10 rushing team in the 1970’s and occasionally was the best running team. In the Playoffs they decimated the Steal Curtain for 157 rushing yards in the AFC Championship game and had an amazing 237 yards against the Purple People Eaters of the Vikings in the Super Bowl.
Mark Van Eeghen was a do it all Fullback. He was the replacement for Marv Hubbard. Mark could block, run, and catch the ball. He rushed for 1012 yards in a 14 game season.
Clarence Davis was the speed half back of the group. Even though he didn’t have great hands, he managed to catch 27 passes and dominated in the post season, especially the Super Bowl. His miracle catch in the Sea Of Hands game is eternally etched in the minds of all football fans.
The Raiders were one of the first teams to use situational players. Running Back Pete Banaszak was their short yardage back and he usually was a leader for the Raiders in rushing touchdowns.
With solid RB’s and a great OL with tight ends that could block, the Raiders ground game was second to none.
Speed & Precision:
Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff may be the greatest WR tandom of all time. In each end zone a “speed kills” sign was always seen in Oakland. As Ken Stabler once said, “Cliff could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”. He was track star fast up until the day he retired. In many of the biggest games, Branch caught key passes. He was an amazing part of the “throw deep” mentality of the Raiders. They could score from any where at any time.
Fred Biletnikoff had the greatest hands of all time. If it was near him, he’d catch it. He was a ballerina on the football field with perfect route running skills. He could position his body perfectly to make sure he had the best chance to catch a ball. He was a true artist on the football field. Add quality backup Mike Siani who could start for many teams; and you had one heck of a WR core.
Then there was HOF Tight End Dave Casper and short yardage & goal line TE Warren Bankston in the mix. They also had the greatest punter of all time in HOF Ray Guy.
Along with the Soul Patrol, you had some of the toughest and craziest players of all time. Some called Oakland the Island of Misfit Toys. Wildman John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk from the University of Mars. Prankster and stud LB Phil Villapiano. The Mad Stork Ted Hendricks who was as crazy as all of them. The Raiders defense straight up dominated in the post season wreaking havoc whenever a quarterback went back to pass.
Coaching & Front Office:
Al Davis was one of the greatest owners of all time. He was a rebel that hated anything that wasn’t silver & black. He took a chance on a linebacker coach named John Madden. A HOF coach who had 3 simple rules; be on time, pay attention, and play like hell when I tell you. Helping call the shots for Al Davis was Hall of Fame player personnel director Ron Wolf; maybe the greatest player evaluator in the modern era.
To top it off you have the Oakland Coliseum; “The House Of Thrills” that was as loud as any stadium in history with some of the most loyal and rowdy fans which created pure magic. And the icing on the cake was Bill King; NFL Films Steve Sabol’s favorite announcer; the greatest radio sports broadcaster of all time, waxing poetically. How he isn’t in at least 2 HOF’s is a miscarriage of sports justice.
So there you have it. A trip down memory lane. What a fun and amazing history. One of the greatest teams of all time……I’m sorry; THE greatest team of all time. Pillaging just for fun.
I love the people of Alabama, Oakland, Southern California and all over the world that support me so kindly! People from over 40 nations have read my articles. Their positive encouragement and support is beyond measure and I’m eternally loyal to you all. You are an inspiration and I am very appreciative and grateful!
I’ve become a big fan of Ryan Fowler and Drew DeArmond. Please support them and listen to them live online.
Here is my interview with the amazing Host Ryan Fowler on 99.1 The Game on why Ken Stabler did NOT get into the NFL Hall of Fame until now.
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This article is for the fans of the AFL especially the AFC West. If you are a fan of these great teams, some of these players may be household names to you. It’s so important that the history of the game is respected, and these great players are not forgotten. This article is in honor of them, and the fans that watched the AFL.
San Diego Chargers:
Many think the Chargers uniforms of the 1960’s and 70’s are the greatest ever made and it’s hard to argue with that. I love the powder blue. What also can’t be argued is their dominating win in the AFL Championship game in 1963 sealing their argument as one of the great teams of the AFL era. Their innovative passing game was nixed for a power running game, and it worked to perfection as the Chargers beat the Boston Patriots 51-10.
Sid Gillman may be the greatest football coach of all time. He is the only coach in history that is in both the NFL and College football Hall of Fame. His coaching tree is the greatest of all time bar none. Bill Walsh, Al Davis, Chuck Knoll, Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, Don Coryell, Joe Gibbs, John Madden, Tom Flores, George Seifert, Dennis Green, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and many others fall under his umbrella of greatness.
The vertical passing game of the Raiders was taken straight from him. Al Davis called him the Einstein of the NFL and he is the father of the modern passing game. There will never be another Sid Gillman. As John Madden recently said, “what some teams are just discovering, Sid Gillman was doing in the 60’s”.
San Diego’s version of Fred Biletnikoff was the great Gary Garrison. Lance Alworth gets all of the publicity but in reality the Chargers had another fine Wide Receiver. His nickname was the ghost. Sid Gillman literally called him an artist in regards to his amazing route running skills. One sports writer said it was like watching a figure skater on a football field; his routes were so precise.
He is 5th and 4th all time on the Chargers reception and yards list respectively. He has more receiving yards than Kellen Winslow and Wes Chandler. He averaged an amazing 18.6 yards a catch which is second all time for San Diego pass catchers with over 120 catches.
Paul Lowe & Keith Lincoln:
With Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln in the backfield, San Diego had one of the greatest 1-2 punches in pro football history. They helped lead the Chargers to their only championship in 1963. Lowe is the 2nd all time leader in rushing yards for the Chargers. He was the 1965 UPI AFL MVP, 2 times AFL All Star, and 2 times All AFL team. He was also voted onto the ALL time AFL team, 2 times comeback player of the year, and he’s the all-time AFL leader in average yards per carry at 4.9. And he still holds the NFL record for 6 straight 100 yard games with 14 or fewer carries.
And oh by the way they had Keith Lincoln. He went to high school in Monrovia California and went to Washington St. Originally he was a QB, and he was so good that he got two awesome nicknames; the Monrovia Meteor and the Moose of the Palouse. He was a 5 time AFL All-Star, 2 time All AFL player, and is in the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.
Paul Lowe can still be seen today at the Chargers games. He is a season ticket holder and a fan favorite.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs have had an amazing history of talented teams with some of the greatest players to ever play football. Buchanon, Dawson, Taylor, Lanier, Culp, Thomas, Holmes; the list goes on and on. When eclectic head coach Hank Stram allowed NFL films to record him during the Super Bowl, he became the first NFL coach to wear a microphone. Stram was innovative and brought in the triple stack defense to hide his linebackers. When he had several WR’s injured against the Raiders powerful pass rush and great DB’s; he used the T formation and ran 60 times for over 300 yards leading KC to a stunning 24-10 victory over Oakland. In that game, Len Dawson completed 3 passes for 16 yards. In the AFL days they lead the AFL in playoff appearances tied with the Raiders. Hank Stram was as great as the players he coached and boy was he fun.
If you would allow me an exception, I wanted to add a player that didn’t play in the AFL days, but someone who isn’t remembered enough. Just the mention of this players name can still bring a smile and a tear to some ex-players, coaches and fans eyes. He was headed for greatness.
His acts of generosity and kindness are still of legend. So are his acts on the football field. A Raider beat writer once said, “There is fast and then there is Joe Delaney fast”. He was a game breaking type of player who could catch the ball and run like the wind. With a strike shortened season and an eye injury, he only played 1 ½ years but he was amazing. He had 196 yards rushing against Houston and ran for 1121 yards his rookie year while getting the Rookie of the Year Award and making the Pro Bowl.
He once ran 75 yards for a touchdown but it was called back. Two plays later he ran for an 82 yard touchdown. Sadly, while trying to save 3 boys that were drowning, Delaney never got out of the water and died. He could not swim but he could not sit by and watch them die and do nothing. Only 1 of the boys made it. Joe received the US Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan and should always be remembered as being a real man, and a person that the NFL and their fans can be proud of.
If you are a big fan of the AFL or a Chiefs fan, you are saying how come Ed’s on this list? Well outside of KC many of today’s fans are clueless to how great of a player Podolak was. His occasional wildness off the field after his playing days gets some publicity at times but in reality Chiefs Running Back Ed Podolak was one heck of a football player. With his hooked bar helmet, he looked like a red bull chasing after people. He could catch, run, return kicks, and block. He was an all purpose back that could do it all.
He is the 5th all-time Chiefs RB in regards to rushing yards, and the 10th leading pass catcher of all time. He was also a quality return man that made many clutch kick returns. His wars against the Raiders and their bulldozer RB Marv Hubbard were must see tv and some of the most physical games ever played.
Nicknamed Thunderfoot, Jerrel Wilson was flat out one of the greatest punters of all time. Often overshadowed in the all time punter conversation due to the greatness of Ray Guy, his booming and towering punts were a thing of beauty. Ray Guy and Wilson transformed the punting game into an offensive weapon in regards to controlling field position.
He was a 3 time pro bowler and on the all AFL team, and in one year avg. 46.1 yards per punt. He also did it in the clutch. To punt when your team isn’t very good or if nothing is at stake is one thing but to do in when it counts is another. His greatness should not be forgotten.
For a 25 year period, the Raiders winning % was far and away better than any professional sports team in the U.S. In their first 20 Monday night football games they were 18-1-1. In the greatest decade of the NFL; the 1970’s; they had the most wins. In the NFL.com fan poll of the greatest teams ever a few years ago, the 1976 Oakland Raiders were voted the greatest team of all time by over 5.5 million NFL fans.
In QB Daryle Lamonica’s first 45 games as a Raider (after a trade from Buffalo) the Raiders were an unreal 40-4-1. His successor; Ken Stabler; was 56-13 in his first 69 games.
For 3 decades 2 teams were almost always on top of the television ratings charts in the NFL. The Cowboys and the Raiders. The 2 teams people loved to hate. For a time the Cowboys were America’s team and the Raiders were the renegades of the NFL with talent to back it up. Those days seem light years away. They moved to Los Angeles which slowly eroded their tough blue collar Oakland persona, and the violence at games along with the small crowds, eroded their mystique. Their style of play changed and they’ve never been the same. It’s sad because few teams in the NFL boast a higher level of talent in their great history. No team in history was more crazy, wild, talented, and colorful as the Oakland Raiders.
(below is the article on the 1976 Raiders chosen as the greatest NFL team of all time)
(please support and follow the AFL Godfather on twitter @NFLMAVERICK I got this video from his public page but I’d really appreciate if you’d support him. He has great stuff from the past! Thank you!)
“The greatest player I ever coached was Warren Wells. I never saw anyone that gifted and that fast”.
Former Raiders Head Coach John Madden
On December 6, 1970, Warren Wells made an unreal catch on the last field play of the game to beat the Jets 14-13. His catch against 2 Jet defenders would make Houdini applaud. Wells was that good.
This is still one of Ronnie Lott’s favorite all-time players. If you talk to any player of the 1960’s, the one player that always amazed them was Warren Wells. For a 3 ½ year period, he struck terror in the eyes of all teams. He unfortunately was one of only 2 NFL players who were drafted and made to go to the Vietnam war in 1965.
He was as fast as lightning and just as gifted. Before the NFL changed the statistic criteria, Warren Wells was the all time leader in yards per catch at an inhuman 23.3 yards a reception. In one year he caught 47 balls for an incredible 27 yards per reception. He and Daryle Lamonica; The Mad Bomber; were the originators of Al Davis’ feared vertical game.
Due to off the field issues and an ankle injury, Wells career was cut short. He straightened up his life after doing prison time during his younger days, and last year was honored by lighting the Al Davis torch at one of the Raiders home games.
He was the anchor of the famous “11 Angry Men” Oakland Raiders defense and was a key player of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Tom Keating was one of the best defensive linemen in AFL history. He was a 2 time AFL all star and on the all time AFL 2nd team member. He played so hard that a story was written about him when the Raiders played the Packers in Super Bowl II. He was a part of the famous 1967 Raiders defense that caused a record 667 yards in losses on 67 sacks. They remain one of the greatest and most unheralded defenses of all time.
He was talented and tough. Off the field he was a fan favorite and very happy go lucky. He was a bay area guy and lived and died here. Many feel that if he didn’t have such bad knees that he was a hall of famer for sure.
There are many that feel Dave Grayson is a Hall of Famer. Dave played for Oakland between 1965-1970. He played for the Dallas Texans/Chiefs before that, and was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys. Grayson was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon. Tom Landry felt he was too small and not physical enough so he was let got and Hank Stram gave him a shot and he stuck.
Al Davis Traded for CB Dave Grayson in 1965 (he traded him for future actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson) from the Chiefs and then traded for Willie Brown from Denver in 1967. This allowed the Raiders to play the physical bump and run style that has been a trademark of the team for years.
When NFL and former Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt was asked who were the 4 best cornerbacks in Dallas history his first 3 were not a shock. Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly & Deion Sanders. “I also include Dave Grayson. He didn’t play with the Cowboys but he’s so good I’m including him.”
A little known fact that may buy you a drink someday if you are a Denver fan is that many of the AFL teams didn’t have much money to start with. The Broncos first uniforms were actually mustard yellow and brown. Why was that you say? The reason they were that color is that the Broncos wanted to save money so they bought the used uniforms off of the University of Wyoming football team and used them for a year. It saved them thousands of dollars. Wyoming were upgrading their uniforms so they were available. They then got a designer to make a new uniform the following season.
One of the many crazy and memorable stories of the AFL is the one about Bronco great Frank Tribucka. Tribucka was the father of Notre Dame and NBA player Kelly Tribucka. Frank was a Notre Dame legend. At 33 years old he had played for several teams in the NFL, Canada, and AFL and he came to the expansion Broncos to be a coach after retiring. During the last pre-season game they asked him to play to sell a few tickets. He then started the next week as the Broncos QB and played for the next 3 years.
In his first year he threw for 34 interceptions (still a Denver Bronco’s record) but also became the first QB in NFL or AFL history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season. Against the Bills he threw for over 447 yards in a game; a Bronco record that stood for over 38 years. Frank had a great personality and was very popular and will always be a part of the AFL lore.
Goose was as tough as nails. In a day and age where the game was so physical, he played in an amazing 61 straight games for the Broncos. He is third all time in the AFL for interceptions with 43 and has the AFL record for most interceptions in a game with 4. Gonsoulin is also still 2nd all time in Denver Broncos history in interceptions only 1 behind leader Steve Foley. He was a 6 time AFL all star and was voted on the AFL’s all time 2nd team.
In his first 6 years with Denver, he had an amazing 43 interceptions, 542 return yards with 2 brought back for touchdowns. A fun loving, true great of the AFL era.
Rich “Tombstone” Jackson:
Another guy that doesn’t get his due is Rich Tombstone Jackson. He was the first real great pass rusher in Denver history. He was very physical and Lyle Alzado of all people called him the toughest man he ever met. Just another of the all time great players that never got his due. He was way before his time and mastered the head slap and many other moves to the dismay of the NFL.
He was a 2x AFL All Star, 2x AFL All Pro and voted second team on the all time AFL team. As with many players of his day before modern knee surgeries, he tore his knee and had to retire early from football. Many believe he was the best pass rusher of that era and that without injury he was heading into the NFL Hall of Fame. While Deacon Jones got all of the publicity, Jackson quietly tormented opponents. It’s sad he’s never mentioned more.
With so many people lacking any knowledge of the past in our social media mentality of today, it’s important for all of us to remember the great players of yesteryear. These are players from the AFC West but obviously the AFL had amazing teams and athletes from New York and Buffalo to San Diego. My father talked to me often about the greatness of the AFL. From the Titans and Texans, to the Bills and Raiders, AFL lore has so many amazing players and stories. I hope that we never forget the greatness of the AFL and more and more groups are created to discuss such amazing memories that we enjoyed with our parents and grandparents.
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.
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.
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 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
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
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
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.