“How Emme Lentino Pursued Her Dreams On the World Stage”
Emme Lentino has stamps on her passport and a big heart for people. The singer-songwriter, actress and model has made a lifetime of hitting the road and taking big leaps of faith.
You might say she has “road trip magic,” to borrow a line from “Drive All Night,” a track from her latest, available on iTunes and Amazon Music. The release of “summer this, summer that” is a triumph – a mix of upbeat and soulful tunes for your next adventure. The pursuit of her artistic dreams has taken her across the United States, and even overseas to New Zealand.
She was born to an artistic and supportive family in Salem, Oregon. She started performing at the age of six and composing songs when she was only 10 years old.
The artist is always looking for a stage to inspire others.
Setting the Stage: The Early Years
As a performer, Lentino has many influences, from classic rock to modern pop. The Beatles, Norah Jones and Ed Sheeran all shaped her taste in music. She writes and sings straight from the heart. However, more than other artistic influences, her time spent in the theatre formed her artistic style. She performed across 30 states for the Missoula Children’s Theatre. Her first big leap of faith came with a move to New York City, where she played Lucille Ball in an off-Broadway production.
“I learned early on to use my imagination, says Lentino. “My mind was opened to another world through these stories and plays and characters I portrayed. My songwriting style I believe is partly inspired by my theatre background.”
Her creative talent flourished under the bright lights of New York. She collaborated with talented individuals across music and TV, going back and forth between New York and California. In addition to playing Lucille Ball, her songs were used on ABC’s One Life to Live and All My Children.
However, it hasn’t always been an easy road.
The artist spent time living out of her car in San Diego. She is grateful for the experience, looking back on it.
“I met many kind and generous people,” says Lentino. “I also met many who were struggling much more than I who didn’t have the comfort of a car to stay in… that really humbled me.”
A Leap of Faith: New Zealand
After the move to New York, Lentino was no stranger to leaps of faith. She would make another after meeting her late husband Tony – moving to New Zealand with him. The move to New Zealand is an important marker for the artist.
The cultures of New York and New Zealand could not be more different. She went from taking the subway to being surrounded by beautiful scenery.
She adjusted by being of service and teaching music to young children. Lentino has been working with youth since she was a teenager herself, and her lyrics show a passion for making a difference in the lives of young people.
Lentino’s story is one of loss, inspiration and finding yourself again. She tragically lost her husband to cancer in 2016. Her single “Seasons of Life,” written after her husband’s passing, is an anthem for anyone going through difficult times.
She credits her faith with helping her heal after tragedy.
“My faith and my music in combination have gotten me through many tough times,” says Lentino. “It is also because I have always believed that things get better.”
The singer-songwriter is currently signed with the Robert Bruce Agency and a featured artist for the Heart of Indie Radio, which celebrates unsigned artists. The music education platform provides opportunities for aspiring musicians with the help of partners such as Stax Music Academy in Memphis, TN.
The project is a subsidiary of Hands of Grace – Rae of Light, and supports Texas Children’s Hospital, Shriner’s Hospital for Children and suicide prevention programs.
As the co-host of the Eddie and Emme Show, Lentino interviews talented musicians eager to share their message with the world. She is excited about the opportunity to help young artists promote their music.
The artist likes to refer to her Twitter, Facebook & Instagram followers as a global family. Always on the move, she spends her time traveling from London to New Zealand, and back again.
What is next for Lentino? She expects new music to be released in 2020 and is collaborating with people all over the world.
The global traveler offered words of encouragement to young artists looking to follow in her footsteps.
“My advice is to know your core values,” says Lentino. “Write them down. Make a dream board, write down your goals. Surround yourself with friends and family who can nourish your soul. Be adventurous! If the opportunity to move for a job or project comes up – be open. Ask the right questions; and listen to your heart. You just never know what tomorrow may bring – that in itself is truly exciting!”
With the passing of Buffalo Bills superfan Ezra Castro AKA Pancho Billa, the NFL fandom was reminded just how fragile life can be. Fans and players of all teams came together to mourn a man that loved his team, family, & everyone that came in contact with him.
Thirty nine years is not enough for most people, but in those years Ezra gave a lifetime worth of kindness and love. After every kind act shown to him, Ezra was shocked & often humbled at the kindness that people gave him. He never got that people thought he was a big deal and downplayed his importance. In a social media world where the need for attention and self importance is the norm, Ezra was a regular guy and a breath of fresh air.
When Greg Dresko and I did our podcast with Ezra, it was obvious he did not feel good but he rarely cancelled anything. Even on his bad days he would do interviews with a smile. After our podcast I created a prayer night for him that Greg & I promoted. Literally thousands of people got involved praying for Pancho and all of those battling cancer. We did a second one not too long ago that was also greatly supported. People really cared and it was inspiring.
Buffalo was the perfect team for Ezra. It is a team that is set back in the time of the old AFL. A team that has not yet been ruined by the greed of NFL owners who’s only loyalty is to the money they can make. They have an old stadium, the second lowest ticket prices in the NFL, and a raucous loyal fan base. While everyone else changed, Buffalo didn’t. It is a special place.
With fancy, expensive stadiums pricing out many fans, the Bills are stuck in a wonderful time warp that allows for a foundation that continues to come to the games year after year. A loyal following that braves bitter cold and wind to support their Bills. From Jack Kemp to Joe Ferguson, to Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, the Bills rich tradition is steeped in a blue collar us against the world mentality. What an amazing place.
I don’t think any fan base or team other than Buffalo could have survived losing 4 Super Bowls while still coming back with dignity and grace. Through all of the jokes and taunting, winning 4 conference championships is still among one of the greatest achievements in NFL history & they are very proud of it.
Ezra & the Spirit of Buffalo:
In true Buffalo Bill spirit, Pancho Billa battled until the end. Just like Steve Tasker making an amazing play in a Super Bowl that had long been lost, Ezra never gave up. Adversity was what Ezra faced each day after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Even in his darkest days he would show a positive, caring spirit that inspired so many. We DM’d each other on Twitter and his last message to me was a smiling emoji with a halo over his head. He knew. He also though remained positive asking people to never quit praying for a miracle. Giving up was never an option.
In reality the biggest gift Pancho Billa gave to people was the way he handled his illness. Even with social media bringing out the worst in people, he showed a spirit of pride and kindness that touched so many. He remained positive at the worst of times inspiring us all to not take ourselves too seriously. In a world where many get angry at the drop of a hat, he showed a calm passion and compassion for others during his fight.
The Power of NFL Fans:
Ezra reminded NFL fans everywhere that we are not gang members or part of a football militia that should hate anything not affiliated with our teams. He showed that in reality we are all on the same team of life and that football is a fun outlet & family to belong to. Happiness, health & supporting each other during the best and worst of times is what life is about. We all saw how our hearts are more powerful than any owners money or new stadium. It’s about the fans and the amazing relationships that we create from being fans. The simplest of things.
How I’ll Remember Ezra & You:
What I’ll remember most about Ezra, was how he brought everyone together. For a moment in time fans in New England and Oakland were on the same team. Dallas and Philly fans prayed for a miracle together and people began to realize all of the petty arguments and hate was not what being a fan was about. It’s a willingness to help when hope is hard to find, and being there to support and love someone during great times as well as their darkest hour.
Many of you have really touched me with your sincerity and compassion and I’m very proud of everyone. Your kindness touched Ezra and helped him and his family get through such an unspeakable tragedy. As much of a gift people felt Pancho was, he felt the same about you. He brought out the best in all of us and it sure felt good.
How to Keep His Legacy Alive:
If you really want to keep his legacy alive, lets be like him. Give as much as you can to others and show kindness with a calm spirit. As Ezra once said, “don’t bring flowers to my funeral. I hate flowers. Bring backpacks full of school supplies for kids”. Think of others first, and show love and appreciation and support to one another. Most of all do it without judgement or opinion. Love completely without complete understanding. What an amazing legacy that would be. And nothing would be more pleasing to the great Pancho Billa.
In the beautiful seaside city of Southport in Merseyside, England, a scared 13-year-old girl first became aware of a monster that was literally attacking her. After begging her parents to take her home, she stayed in the hospital for days. At a time when Olivia; or Livvy as her friends and family call her; should have been thinking about cute boys and spending time with her friends, she now realized that she was in for the fight of her life.
Livvy found out she had Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits a person’s ability to breath. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, sticky buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. Year’s ago it was a death sentence with many passing away in their teens, but now the lifespan has been increased to 50 y/o with research increasing that number every year. In the U.S., famous former NFL Quarterback Boomer Esiason started a CF foundation that has raised millions for research after his 2-year-old son Gunnar was diagnosed with the disease. Gunnar is now 26 and is an advocate for CF with a fantastic website. Below are both websites to these highly regarded advocates.
“I grew up an only child,” Livvy explains. “And that was mainly because my parents were afraid they’d have another child with CF. The kids at school never teased me but I was in the hospital every 3 months, which made it hard to make close friends. When people tried to get me to tell them what was wrong with me, I’d always tell them I had an asthma condition”.
When you have CF, it is a constant stress in dealing with the people around you as well. “I got my first boyfriend at 16 and even though he understood my disease, he kept it away from his parents fearing they would no longer allow him to see me. When he would visit me in the hospital he would have to lie about my condition. I’m 29 now and I have an understanding boyfriend but I still feel a pressure from his family thinking I’m not good for him because I can’t have any kids”.
Not only do patients have to fight the stigmatism of having a terrible disease, but they also have to endure a daily ritual of medications and treatments. Few diseases take this much effort to keep oneself healthy. Another characteristic of CF is low body weight and depressed growth. Many with CF look much younger than they are due to this factor.
The Daily Battle:
The daily routine for a CF patient is a grind that can’t be compromised. “I wake up hopefully after a good night’s sleep” Livvy says. “A good night for me is waking up twice to cough up mucus off of my chest. A bad night is when I wake up every hour, or not being able to sleep at all due to the coughing”.
Treatment starts right after she wakes up as she takes 2 medications through a nebulizer called an eflow, which delivers the medications rapidly. This takes half an hour. She then has to try and do breathing exercises to bring out more mucous which seems never ending. She then takes another type of inhaler and tries to get a bite to eat. “I also have CF related diabetes which makes eating consistently really important”. After breakfast she takes more medications, which includes prednisone, which helps her breathing, but it can worsen her diabetes and thin her bones.
Something Livvy has discovered is that being physical fit and going to the gym for an hour a day is essential for improving her health. “I have to go every single day or my lungs suffer because of the mucous buildup. When the mucous starts to build up it’s just like I’m drowning. I do mostly cardio on a treadmill, an incline, or a rowing machine, as well as lift weights. When I return home I eat a high caloric lunch to keep my weight up and drink an Ensure supplement”.
The rest of Livvy’s day is an interval of taking medications to keep her lungs open and to eliminate the mucous, which makes breathing easier. In between these treatments it’s also important to continue to eat enough calories to keep her weight up, and then checking her insulin to make sure it’s at a normal level.
”I hate going into the hospital for a 2 week course of IV therapy, which mentally can wear me out. Even though I am lucky enough to be able to drive home between treatments, I do have to sleep there. That leaves a lot of time by myself as we all have our own rooms on the CF ward”.
Whenever profits are placed over patients, the patients always lose. Such is the case for the latest CF drug that has not been released in the UK yet because the drug company and the governmental agencies are fighting over a price. The patients that need the medications wait and can only hope of getting a drug that could greatly help their condition while rich people in suits push papers and look at dollar signs. The drug companies obviously want to get every pound or dollar that they can out of the selling of the drug, and the governmental agency wants to pay as little as possible. “All I hope is that I don’t die before the drug is finally approved” says Livvy. “On bad days my lungs are bordering on now needing a transplant and I get frustrated. It’s ok to have a bad day and to feel bad, but you have to rebound. I can quit or just keep working hard to keep as healthy as possibble and try to be positive. I choose the latter”.
(below is a video of a day in the life of a CF Patient)
Livvy, like so many CF patients, is an inspiration. Their positive outlook against a terrible foe touches and motivates many around them. She has a growing Instagram and Twitter page as well as a positive and fun blog where she shares her life and her story. “If you have CF”, encourages Livvy,”then PLEASE exercise and work out every day. Also you need to have dreams. I want to get a house with my boyfriend and work on the side part time, or even volunteer. CF patients find it very hard to work full time but right now I’m working on being as healthy as I can be”. Presently Livvy gets the UK version of what we call disability in the U.S. She is close to her family and looks to grow her online fingerprint while improving her health.
Livvy’s health sometimes can wear her out physically and mentally. “I’ve struggled at times and it is hard to do so much to just keep my health at a stable level. Sometimes I worry if I will ever get to use the new medication that I know would help me. What I am going to do though is keep fighting, and keep doing what my doctors tell me to do. I want to be a warrior, and not a worrier”.
About 16 years ago a young 13-year-old girl first saw the monster that was attacking her. Through perseverance, hard work, and great determination, she now is a lovely adult woman looking ahead to the future. It’s definitely not easy at times but she fights for every breath and every moment. With her family and friend’s support and the help of her medical team, my money is on Livvy. She is proving to be a small package of heart and spirit who is taming her goliath with a positive energy and a smile, while inspiring others along the way. A CF Warrior indeed.
With the death of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain by suicide, another soul is lost to the wasteland of depression. It shows that what we are doing now is not working, and it has to change.
What bothers me so much is when a celebrity commits suicide people give an 800 number for suicide prevention and say get some help if you need it. What would be great is if the medical field and society got the person some help before their tragic end. It’s also strange that we accept so many on medications as a treatment, until a person commits suicide and then we say they should talk to someone.
I’m not naive; depression has been around forever and no culture will probably ever get rid of it. In some cases though a patient may be helped with proper medical counseling. If needed, medications can also be used. On the other hand what is going on in the U.S. is a HUGE fail when it comes to our suicide problem. Handing patients powerful meds and saying good luck doesn’t work.
HMO’s and Drug Companies Team Up to Market Medications:
One service that health insurance organizations found was killing their revenues was counseling. Over the years they found out that counseling was expensive, time consuming, and some patients needed it for years. It didn’t matter that it could work on many people; what mattered was that it was costly. What to do about the problem? Give a drug. It’s easy, takes up little to no time, and it’s profitable for both the insurance company and the drug company. And before laws changed, the perks and gifts that doctors got to push these drugs were of legend. I’m stopping here before I get into trouble.
Over the years drug companies went on a huge advertising campaign to get people to use their medications, and it’s unreal how intense it has become. The other day I watched network television for the first time in a while and I was shocked. I used the DVR and counted 14 commercials and EIGHT of them were drug commercials.
With the help of insurance companies and physicians, the drug companies created a society of drug addicts. Slowly, counseling became a thing of the past and giving medications became the rage. Insurance companies profits sky rocketed and drug companies made more money than they knew what to do with while patients suffered. One medication can make billions of dollars per year. Now millions of patients are on powerful medications with little to no counseling. Some of these meds are so powerful it makes heroine seem like candy. Many people are getting addicted.
With opiates alone, some will have phantom pain when they try to get off of them creating more of an addiction. People pop these dangerous pills like tic tacs but they often still struggle because their problems are not fixed, just medicated. Instead of a professional helping them through their issues and how to handle situations better, they are drugged and unprepared. Patients at times are also part of the problem. We want fixes fast, easy, and with no fuss. Popping a pill to fix everything is just the ticket for our lackadaisical society.
Now thousands die from prescription drug overdoses without an end in site. Our society accepts it even though there were almost 45,000 suicides in 2016 in the U.S. And those are only the recorded ones. Since 1999, the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased a whopping 24%. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.
AMAZINGLY 250,000 INFANTS are now on psychotropic medications in the U.S. That is CRIMINAL! Are you kidding me? Now infants are depressed? OMG. Please Americans; stop the insanity. What is scary is these are only the confirmed cases listed by the Center of Disease Control.
How to Help the Situation:
First off, we need to teach our society that needing therapy is NOT a weakness. Counseling can and does greatly help people.
Second, there is no 100% easy fix. Sadly, some are overcome by the pain in their lives or the hopelessness that they feel. Some do have mental illnesses that need medications but for various reasons, they don’t survive. Some get addicted to drugs and alcohol and refuse to be helped. It’s not cut and dry. People usually commit suicide not to die, but to stop hurting. That’s why therapy is so, so, important. Giving someone medications doesn’t make the hurt go away, it numbs it.
I feel citizens must demand that Congress create a code of ethics and a procedure for fighting depression. Counseling HAS to be a key element of this. Insurance companies are not going to do counseling again unless they are made to. Obviously for some, medications are needed to cope with their mental illness but surely not a majority of depressed people need them long term.
They need to understand what is going on with themselves and how to cope with the pain they are feeling. So many have abuses or childhood trauma’s that create immense pain. Some will say, well I have a chemical imbalance. Alright, what chemical? Let’s balance it. These generic phrases to justify going on medications doesn’t cut it anymore.
I’ve dated and known some people that crumble at the sign of any stress or difficult situations and I’ve encouraged them to get help. One friend thank God reached out for help and has greatly improved. She went to a good therapist for months. She said it changed her life. She now takes no meds and has the coping skills and techniques to handle situations that were created by emotional abuse. I also agree with many that not all therapists are good. Her first one told her to get on dating sites and date men to find companionship to make her happy. The opposite happened.
Now that she’s doing so well she loves the fact that she’s off all medications when before getting help, she said she was on 7 of them. Another friend after 9 months of counseling is getting off her meds and also feels like a million bucks. We must make counseling a paid service as a part of our health plans that is pushed by the doctors. Again, needing therapy is not a weakness and people should encourage others to get help. Sometimes going through counseling, drug therapy helps as well.
Parents Can Help the Situation:
Good parenting also plays a role. Teach your kids to respect everyone because you don’t know who is struggling. On the other hand talk to them and belong to every social media site they are on and check it regularly. Many kids will not come forward so you have to take the initiative.
If you do not learn how to handle stress, disappointment, tragedy or difficult people when you are young, you sure in the heck aren’t going to magically handle it when you are an adult. It’s important not to handle every tiny thing for our kids. They even have ridiculous seminars now on how to handle young adult workers so you will make them happy and you won’t upset them. It’s shocking how emotionally handicapped an entire generation has become due to people spoiling so many.
Let’s All Listen:
I hate when I hear some people say, I don’t really like to talk, I text. Well sorry, so do robots. Put down your phone and communicate with me.
I often look into a restaurant or even a bar and see people that are sitting together not talking with each other and looking at their stupid phones with their mouths open like zombies. When I go somewhere with someone, the first thing I say is “excuse me, I’m sorry. Let me turn off/silent my cell phone”. EVERY TIME the person or people with me will silence or turn off their phones. What I’m telling these people is that I’m going to listen to them. You will be amazed at how much better your interaction will be.
The only way to learn about something or someone is to listen. With social media and cell phones taking over, now many are self important and feel they are curing cancer when they open their mouths and say something. Now everyone is an expert. Truly listening to someone is one of the kindest things you can do for them.
Stop The Negativity & the Hate:
Stop the stupid political hate and social media nastiness. Fun fact; one party is as screwed up as the other so blindly following either is pretty ridiculous in my book. If people would show as much loyalty to their loved ones and friends as they do to their stupid political party affiliation, the U.S. would be a lot nicer place to be. And a lot smarter. Racism, sexism and anger cloud the mind. They do not create peace, or contentment, thus do not associate with it. So much murder and chaos on television. Reality shows with scripted fighting and drama. Social media nonsense. Political fighting like little kids. Rarely is there anything positive or happy anymore.
We all get depressed and down sometimes. I remember I’ve been really low at times thinking there was no hope. Those are the times though I rely on the things that get me through the day until I can see light. I was taught how to deal with hardships from my parents and the lessons I learned as a child help me today. Even if you have those skills sometimes we still need some help.
For others, they may not have those tools, or are just really struggling. They have to get that help in the form of talking with professionals and getting a plan on how to beat the struggles that are faced. Loving friends and family to discuss things help a ton as well.
Some people have chronic mental illness. Some have emotional pain that has never been dealt with. Some have money or tax issues or relationship/family problems. Unless it’s a true mental illness though, you have to deal with the foundational problem and not just mask it with medications for the rest of their lives. For some, medications have to be used but for many, they just need support.
As a society let’s not wait until someone is on the ledge of a mountain before we give them an 800 number to call to get help. Let’s give these people support and someone to talk to in the valley before they climb up the cliff.
Anthony Bourdain was not a culinary genius or the greatest of chefs, but what made him popular was he was real. He was a quality chef who was honest about his talents and his thoughts. He was one of us traveling the world enjoying food without political correctness or limitations. We saw the inner belly of societies that many in the U.S. never get to see, with an open mind and an open heart. Non-judgemental in a way that brings people together.
Suicide is so raw and painful to those left behind. The way I will remember Anthony though is from the end of the episode of his first series “A Cooks Tour”, Childhood Flavors. He and his brother Chris went to Arcachon, France where his father grew up and where they spent many vacations. He said that maybe he and Chris were actually emotionally looking for their dad.
At the end of the episode after throwing firecrackers in old Nazi bunkhouses that sat on the beach, Anthony and Chris looked back thinking about how much their father would have loved it. He talked about the pure joy on his father’s face when they were on the beach at Cap Ferret as kids. A family having fun, eating baguettes, cheese, and sausage, with a glass of cheap red wine in hand. A sense of true contentment.
With this sad act, I hope Anthony has found peace. I somehow see Anthony meeting with his father again at the beach. Anthony’s greatest food adventure ever, that we all know he took far too soon.
Friends used to ask who do you want on a podcast or even to just have a beer with. The 4 people remain the same. Ken Stabler, Bill King, John Madden, and Phil Villapiano. Today I’m writing about one of the most popular Raider players of all time, and one of my dad’s favorites in Phil Villapiano. “Foo” was a Raider from the start.
From Day One:
When Phil Villapiano was drafted, most teams had him going in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders drafted him in the 2nd round out of Bowling Green which was a surprise to some. Many teams had Villapiano listed at only 210 pounds, being too small to play linebacker. Back then there was no NFL combines or official weigh ins, so most teams would share information with each other to save money and time. The Raiders refused to share information.
What the Raiders knew about Villapiano was that he was legitimately 225 pounds. He was an instinctive player who loved to hit. His speed laterally was excellent and a big part of his game. He could play every down and had great feel in pass coverage. In the same draft Oakland selected Jack Tatum, Clarence Davis, and backup tight end Bob Moore. With Tatum and Villapiano, they had 2 hard hitters to go with another that loved contact in George Atkinson. The Raiders added Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas in the following draft and their back 7 was as physical and skilled as any in the history of the game.
The Raiders offenses were awesome but most forget that in 3 Super Bowl wins the Raiders only gave up 33 points and had three great QB’s in Fran Tarkenton, Ron Jaworski & Joe Theismann running for their lives most of the time. In fact all 4 teams in last years AFC and NFC Championship games were in the top 5 scoring defenses in the entire NFL. It isn’t sexy but defense still wins championships.
Phil’s Coming Out Party:
In week 3 of the 1971 season, rookie Villapiano was thrown into the fire and he had to start due to injuries at linebacker. Phil had an amazing game on national television against the Browns in front of 84,000 screaming Cleveland fans. To the dismay of every fan outside of Oakland, Howard Cosell raved about Phil during the Raiders 34-20 win, making him a household name over night and announce another weapon for the hated Oakland Raiders.
A Key Member of the Raiders Defense:
Phil soon became a mainstay in the Raiders physical style of play. He could cover all parts of the field, and his violent play was just what the Raiders wanted. In front of the famous “Soul Patrol” and behind an aggressive and relentless defensive line, Monte Johnson, Ted Hendricks, Willie Hall, and Villapiano manned one of the more underrated LB crews and defenses in the NFL. Al Davis and Ron Wolf’s motto for their defense was one thing; the QB must go down, and go down hard. Raider fans loved seeing Villapiano slowly and methodically hitting his arm pad on the line of scrimmage letting opponents know that he was coming and he was going to hit somebody.
(A video showing the brutality of the Raiders defense and Phil Villapiano’s team “activities”)
The renegade Raiders were by far the king of bay area sports and they capped off their success in 1976 with a dominating performance in Super Bowl 11 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. There were some sweaty palms at the start of the game though. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went down the field but kicker Errol Mann missed a 29 yard field goal. Later in the 1st, Viking great Fred McNeil blocked a Ray Guy punt for Guy’s first blocked punt in his career. Minnesota recovered it on the Raiders 3 yard line and Raider fans began to worry. On third down, Villapiano forced a fumble from RB Brent McClanahan which fellow LB Willie Hall recovered and the Raiders went on a long drive for a short FG. Phil’s key play changed the momentum of the game.
(Phil is even clutch during a fun time at the 2009 Biletnikoff Celebrity Golf Tournament)
The Wild Days In Oakland:
Along with their amazing winning ways, Oakland also lead the league in having fun. The Raiders off the field craziness was unequalled, with Phil Villapiano being the unofficial ring leader of all of the antics. The stories of the Raiders training camp days in Santa Rosa are of legend. So many fans enjoyed spending time with players at North Bay hotspots and one of their favorites to party with was Villapiano and Ken Stabler.
(Phil’s interview on his foundation to save the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy)
He would set up activities and games to break the monotony of training camp. And as many players have said, cheating was not only encouraged but a necessity. Players drank with fans, outcasts, and anyone else that was considered part of the Raider family. Hells Angels and the Black Panthers would befriend some Raiders, and even a few shady figures would emerge. While most celebrities loved glamorous teams like the Cowboys, actors like James Garner became friends with the Raiders of the 70’s along with owner Al Davis.
From paying a woman to run naked across the practice field, to setting a small fire to stop the monotony of training camp, the pranks were wild and Phil was usually the instigator. Phil once even helped put on a wedding at one of the restaurants with some of the Raiders helping with the direction and officiating of the nuptials. After passing the hat around they helped the couple go on a honeymoon. Of course the wedding was bogus, and to this day no one knew if the couple ever found out they really weren’t married.
Phil & the Raiders Legacy:
I fought with some old time NFL fans and writers last year who tried to downplay how good the Raiders were. We all know how I love facts so I was loaded for bear. Daryle Lamonica was 38-4-1 in his first 43 starts for Oakland. Ken Stabler was 50-11-1 in his first 62 starts and the Raiders were 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night football games. No offense, but if Derek Carr and the Raiders had those stats today, with the fervor of social media, they would be erecting statues for them.
The Facts About The Raiders & the 1970’s:
The Raiders won more games than any other team in the NFL in the 1970’s, the greatest decade in NFL history. During the 1970-75 dynasty of the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders were 4-2 against the mighty Dolphins including 2-1 in the playoffs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s, the Raiders were the only team with success owning a 6-5 record. They were 2-3 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs but one of those wins was the Immaculate Reception, and another was the 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh, where “somehow” outside the hash-marks the field had become completely frozen after the Steelers groundskeepers allegedly watered it down in the frigid cold of a Pennsylvania winter day. One of the few players Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Mel Blount struggled with was Cliff Branch. Al Davis got in an argument, yelling at Pete Rozelle before the game on the field saying how this now limited Cliff Branch’s speed. And they say the Raiders cheated!
In an online contest created by the NFL on their website, the 1976 Raiders were voted the greatest team in NFL history by over 5.2 million fans.
Phil was a big part of all this success. In fact most felt the Raiders were better in 1977 but Phil and OL John Vella had season ending injuries. The beat up Raiders were never healthy for the rest of the decade. Eventually he was traded to Buffalo not long after he made comments that the Raiders needed to stay in Oakland. He said that he never felt those comments got Al Davis mad, but Phil is a nicer guy than I am and I’m not so sure.
Phil is Just as Good Off the Field:
First off, congratulations to Phil who just won the Jersey Shore’s greatest Sports Personality in the last 50 years! We hope that this is not the last HOF he gets into. Again, please go to his Facebook page to support his Hall of Fame run.
When I first worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in honor of my cousin Celestina, I was so happy to see Phil Villapiano being such a huge contributor for them. Phil has lent himself to many charities and he is beloved by fans and organizations alike. Phil is in various Hall of Fames and his other charities include saving the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy and MDA & ALS.
He also has bravely offered his brain to CTE research as well. Players like Jim Plunkett and George Atkinson have discussed the issue and the struggles they are having, and Phil also has done several interviews on the effects that football has had on his body.
Phil joins the ranks of so many special Raider players. Their love of life, football and their fellow man is both inspiring and endearing. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised in Asbury Park, Phil has left his mark on many hearts around the country. He has seen pain and tragedy but through it all he lives life with joy and a smile. Graduating from Bowling Green and making a name on the national scene in Oakland, he is more than a college icon, former NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 time all NFL player, or 5 time all AFC player. A lot more.
I was once asked on a podcast why the Raiders players relationship with the fans was so special because they said they just didn’t understand it. I said, “Most people look at the players as celebrity athletes. It’s their team. Even though I was too little to understand anything, in Oakland the Raiders were not celebrities but they were considered family. The players were underpaid so many worked, played and were socially active with the fans. They also genuinely enjoyed and cared for each other, and the players were a part of the community. From Al Davis who the NFL and most owners hated; to the great Bill King who the networks and the Warriors took off of tv for looking like the Devil; neither they, the players or the fans really fit in anywhere. Except in Oakland”.
“They worked hard and played hard and loved their families. They were outcasts and throw aways that made sense to no one. The players were always too old, wild, or too slow or not big enough. Al Davis would see their heart and take them in. Then you put them all together with an East Bay attitude under an overcast, grey sky in Oakland on a crisp fall day, and together they all made sense. They won and they dominated. The pride; the winning; the diversity in race and religion; it was the best relationship in sports. No stadium was louder, no bond stronger”.
From New Jersey to California, Phil has never lost who he was and who was there for the ride. His loyalty and love for fans and family is contagious. And anyone that could put a smile on my mom and dad’s face has my loyalty.
(The Amazing run of the Raiders; The Rebels of Oakland)
They say never meet your heroes, and when I first started my medical business in the bay area, I was able to meet some A-List athletes and celebrities that I admired. Most were ok, but a couple turned out to be arrogant, self absorbed and just plain strange and it hurt. Raider fans are lucky because for the most part they are never disappointed. Meet Lester Hayes or Jim Otto or Phil Villapiano, and they will have you leaving with a smile. Phil is a fan favorite due to his whit, love of life, and passionate heart. He’s never really received the credit he deserved on the field, but let’s be real, many Raiders haven’t. People forget the east coast media dominated sports at the time. I’m sorry but waiting this long for Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano is unacceptable and I’ve told the NFL writers as such. (Don’t get me started on Ken Stabler). Phil is already in our HOF and I hope Phil truly knows just how special he is to the bay area.
So if you are having a rough day, open your favorite adult beverage and go on youtube and enjoy the Super Bowl and championship games all over again. Check out Phil’s interviews that will leave you inspired and always laughing. Reminisce about the players and friends and family that you shared these amazing times with. Remember loved ones that are no longer with us that you shared so much with and who started your journey as a Raider fan. The Sea of Hands; The Holy Roller; the Ghost to the Post; the Heidi Game; and all that winning. For me, every time I watch these videos and see the feelings of joy in the fans and the players, it’s as exciting as the Klondike, flying over the Atlantic, or the story of the White Whale.
How innocent were those days….how rich we are to have known them.
On a cool winter bay area night after a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Derek Carr grasps hands with players from both teams on the field. He leads them in prayer thanking God for all that they have been given in life and for their continued safety. His disappointment though is obvious. Carr had fumbled out of bounds in the end zone on the Raiders last play of the game for a touchback. With that, a bad season officially got worse. Less things have to happen to make Justin Bieber win an Oscar than for the Raiders to make the playoffs. And in reality they don’t deserve it.
As he walks off the field Carr hears the manic responses that are so prevalent after an NFL game, win or lose. Some fans are cussing, and there is the occasional you suck, mixed in with a supportive word. As he leaves the field, two young fans ask for his autograph and he obliges instantly with a grin. Just like the times when he visits children in hospitals or does some of his charity work, he always does it with a smile. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.
History of Domination:
It was a history lesson for some and a reminder for others. Two of the most storied franchises in history were meeting in Oakland. It wasn’t Stabler v.s. Staubach but it still meant something extra.
The network showed that for 2 ½ decades, the Raiders and the Cowboys were NFL royalty. They always topped the NFL in tv ratings and they were must see TV. The goody America’s team with the cheerleaders and the too much makeup Texas look, against the bad boy Raiders and the cheerleaders who looked like the girls your mom warned you about. The NFL world stopped when the Raiders or the Cowboys played. When it looked like the Raiders and Cowboys were destined to play in the Super Bowl in 1978, the Raiders were derailed by several key injuries and a little event called the Rob Lytle fumble in Denver in the AFC Championship game. When the Broncos won, the network and the nation groaned. They wanted to see Oakland v.s. Dallas. The Cowboys dominated Denver 27-10 in a boring Super Bowl. What might have been.
(below are the condensed highlights. Click on the YouTube Icon on the bottom or double click on the video. The NFL will only allow viewers to watch it on YouTube)
What Do the Raiders Have in Derek Carr:
Four years ago some of us said the truth about Derek Carr. He’s got a good arm, is accurate when not rushed, and is a good leader. He also has limitations that may not improve with time. Even the melodramatic Chris Collinsworth said the same thing. He showed a shocking statistic that Carr’s QB rating was a whopping 60% less when he was rushed. He’s been that way since his Fresno St. days. I remember him literally imploding against USC. His psyche is a little fragile at times and he has to become more Brett Favre and Ken Stabler and less Bert Jones and Alex Smith. He needs to be a little more confident and borderline cocky but that isn’t in his makeup.
Even with the rules making breathing around a WR a penalty, the QB situation in the NFL is at an all time low. With this in mind, the Raiders are lucky to have Carr but they also have to realize he has limitations. Just look at the over-hyped Dak Prescott. He was the media darling last year but rarely did the game fall upon his shoulders. When they won though, he got the credit often. Cowboy fans fought with me online when I said how overrated he was. Well, with Ezekiel Elliott out for 6 weeks, the games were put on his shoulders and he failed. Even when they won, he struggled. People don’t think he’s elite anymore. It shows the Carr’s of the NFL world are very valuable. When you ask people who want to get rid of Carr what their choice is to replace him, many shrug and say I don’t know. One guy said just keep looking. This is why “geniuses” in the social media world will never run an NFL team.
If I were the head coach or GM, I would go back to the Daryl Lamonica tapes and show Carr and the Raiders who they should be. The more things change the more they stay the same. This zone blocking scheme was created for a quick, fast OL and needs to be trashed yesterday. The Raiders ran for 122 yards last night with 47 of them coming from Carr’s scrambles. The Raiders are not a zone blocking team.
What they are is a huge, physical, bruising OL and they need to go back to being that. Collinsworth pointed out something I’ve been writing about all year. They have no offensive identity.
They need to go back to being a physical power rushing team that throws deep. During their glory days, often the Raiders would throw deep on their first offensive play of the game just to let teams know that Warren Wells, or a Cliff Branch or a Tim Brown was going to beat them some time that day and they better not forget it. You send a message that you will throw deep at any time and from anywhere. In one year the Raiders were in the top 5 for rushing and passing. That’s balance.
Oakland needs that identity. With a solid running game they now can use the play action pass and look downfield. Carr can excel in that type of offense. Carr is a solid B to B+ quarterback and in today’s game, those are getting harder to find.
I’d also tell Carr I could care less if you throw 4 interceptions. Stop worrying about reactions on social media, in the media itself, as well as perceptions and stupid stats. I want that ball going deep. Use those speedy WR talents to the limits. No one respects the Raiders deep throws anymore and it’s obvious Carr is playing not to make a mistake. Carr has been lucky the last 3 weeks. He’s thrown 6 passes literally right in the hands of defenders who just dropped the balls. He did it again last night with 2 more passes that defenders dropped which were thrown right at them.
It’s comical to have 3 super fast WR and not throw deep. And stop blaming everything on OC Todd Downing. I agree he’s not the answer but Carr wanted this guy as OC and the Raiders did it for Carr.
In regards to play calling, Carr can change the play any time he wants. Even an average fan can see when the two safeties are crowding the line that you don’t go with a run play; you throw the ball. Unfortunately on a few occasions last night, again no audible was called. The QB is the coach on the field and Carr needs to be that. Right now sometimes he’s not. Carr is the highest paid player in the NFL and the excuses have to stop and he needs to get to the next level.
Do you think John Elway, Brett Favre, or Ken Stabler ever worried about an interception or would ever let a play happen if they didn’t like it? Gunslingers in the NFL have one thing; a short memory; and a whole lot of wins. They are control freaks who play the game like they are playing chess. Carr needs to have that mentality. When he gets flustered he looks like Alex Smith at times, hoping something bad doesn’t happen. Carr works hard and he’s a good NFL QB but if he wants to be very good he has to improve his control of games.
Were the Raiders a One Hit Wonder?:
No, but they also weren’t as good as their record last year. At 12-4 the Raiders played the second easiest schedule in the NFL; and 7 of those wins were last minute or even last second games. They beat a lot of bad teams, with a lot of effort. This year they have the 2nd or third hardest schedule and it shows. You can’t just get by against good teams. You have to beat them. The Raiders had improved last year but no where near as much as their record said they did.
Teams have adjusted to the Raiders and now they have to adjust. OC Todd Downing will almost certainly be gone but Carr still has to evolve and improve. As Marshall Faulk said, you want the big boy money then you have to play like a big boy. Next year Carr will be 27 and in the prime of his career. Many teams would love Carr but due to his huge salary and guaranteed money, he’s their quarterback for the present no matter what. John Elway often had little talent around him and even without a consistent run game, he was one of the all time greats. Derek Carr is not going to be at that level. What he is though is a solid QB who struggles against a rush. Not an uncommon problem but it means that a good running game is imperative to his success.
In reality the Raiders have a long way to go. They still need a lot of help on defense and their drafts outside of the 2014 draft have been borderline train wrecks. Until they have a consistent pass rush and can stop the run on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter who plays in the defensive backfield. And on offense the Raiders have to be tougher. Carr has to have more of a killer instinct and just let the ball go. It’s hard to see that happen though with his personality. He needs to know you can be a good guy off the field but a different one on it.
As Carr answers the last of the mundane and never ending questions of the media last night, he leaves with an obvious disappointment on his face. He looks forward to seeing his wife and kids I’m sure. And when they are fast asleep he will still be awake and fumble over and over all night long in his head with the outcome always being the same. And with the next game being against a tough Philadelphia team in cold weather and a slight chance of snow on Christmas day, he’s gone to bed with better thoughts. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.
While people were trying to figure out why the Raiders were 2-4 in the early season, I and others took a simple approach and looked at the x’s and o’s. Teams had adjusted to the short passes of the Raiders passing game and we’re forcing them to throw deep and they were failing. I’ve been screaming for three weeks for the Raiders do to two things; open up the offense and throw downfield; and blitz often. They did both and pulled out a win at home against Kansas City and looked like a different team.
Even with the trying season and the need to talk fans off the ledge due to week to week reaction, in reality the Raiders have more of a chance than people think to get into the playoffs and possibly even win the division.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. No, the Raiders don’t have amazing talent on defense and no they are not going to be good on that side of the ball this year. They may have some moments but for the most part they are not able to get it done. The offense is going to have to carry them and if they don’t play well, the Raiders are toast. Next year the Raiders HAVE to fix the defensive front 7 or they are going to turn into the Miami Dolphins of the 80’s and 90’s; all offense, little defense. Ask Dan Marino how many Super Bowl trophies he has.
No, Derek Carr isn’t the greatest QB in Raiders history and yes, he struggles big time if he’s rushed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year he has had just ok protection and he’s struggled for the most part. In the KC game he was never sacked and had great protection and threw for over 400 yards. NOT a coincidence.
After admitting these facts, we can now look at the 4 teams and how they may fare for the rest of the season.
Los Angeles Chargers:
As wrestling star Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner used to say, pass rushing star Melvin Ingram is “legit”. While future star Joey Bosa gets most of the publicity, Ingram has turned into a one man wrecking crew with his fast and physical style. The Chargers DL is the real deal.
I like what is happening on the defensive side of the ball in Los Angeles for both teams. The formula in the wins for this team is simple; keep it close or get a lead, and then let the pass rush and pass defense take over. In the last 3 weeks that formula has worked.
The Chargers have been on their biggest high in a very long time. They have won their last 3 games beating the Giants and the Raiders on the road in close games, and then last week they shut out the punch-less Denver Broncos 21-0 in Los Angeles.
Their defense has been a key to their wins, especially in the red zone, not allowing a red zone touchdown in 3 weeks. They are 5th against the pass but are 31st against the run.
We will find out just how good the Chargers are this weekend when they visit New England. At 3-4 they still have a long way to go to take the division and their offense hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. They are still very one dimensional being 8th in the NFL in passing yardage per game, and even with Melvin Gordon they are 31st in the run game.
Can They Win The AFC West:
The Chargers have some brutal road games ahead at New England, Jacksonville, Dallas and at Kansas City. They also have home games with Washington and Oakland ahead.
They will go as far as their offense takes them which I don’t think is far enough. Even with all of the publicity Phillip Rivers gets, earlier this year they broke a 24 game streak of not scoring a TD in the last two minutes of the half or at the end of a game. Could you imagine Tom Brady, Joe Montana or Ken Stabler having that streak? I don’t trust Phillip Rivers who to me is more of a stat stuffer than a winning QB at the end of games. A good guy, good QB but not great. The new rules are making legends out of average to good Qb’s because their stats are extremely hyper-inflated due to the rule changes the past 6 years. Look at the ridiculous illegal use of the hands call against KC on the play when Derek Carr fumbled. He literally didn’t touch the WR after 5 yards and barely patted him within 5 yards. In the 70’s-90’s that would have been considered a hand shake. That changed the game and it was a call you don’t see in flag football. The rules have gone overboard, but that is for another day.
The Chargers lack of a running game also continues to limit their offense. I don’t see them winning the division but a possible .500 record isn’t a crazy idea.
Kansas City Chiefs:
I’ve never been a huge Andy Reid fan but I’m really not getting what is going on in KC. I just read where Justin Houston; the Chiefs all star stud pass rusher; is now being asked to fall back into pass coverage 25% of the time. That is the third highest % of any edge rusher in the NFL. Here is a guy that can take over a game by himself and he’s in coverage 1/4th of the time? Wow.
The Chiefs defense used to carry them, and now it hinders them and they continue to struggle on defense. They are 25th against the run and 28th against the pass. Their pass rush when only rushing 4 players, hasn’t been good at all. They have only 15 sacks in 7 games and that is not KC football. The offense continues to shine being a top 5 offense. They did fail on their last drive against Oakland though when they could have iced the game.
The Chiefs offense is still on a roll and they have a key game at home with Denver next. With Denver struggling so much on offense this looks like a Chiefs win right? This is the NFL folks.
Can They Win the Division?:
Right now they are in the drivers seat, and if they beat Denver they are in great shape. With the easiest schedule ahead of all of the 4 teams, it will be hard to beat the Chiefs for the division. KC is the odds on favorite right now but anything can happen.
I don’t care about all the love that Tony Romo and all of the other announcers give to Bronco QB Trevor Siemian; I think it’s become illegal for announcers to tell the truth anymore about NFL QB’S; he is a bad NFL QB.
With a lack of accuracy and vision to make the right throw, the Denver offense is hamstrung at QB. In their 3 losses this year, Denver has scored a total of 26 points. And to be shut out on the road against the Chargers 31st ranked run defense, is a bad sign. Bill Musgrave is Denver’s QB coach and he seemed a lot better coach when he had Derek Carr didn’t he? For all of you that want coaches fired after every loss, isn’t that crazy how that works out? Better players make coaches look better? Insane, I know. (highly sarcastic comment)
To be fair the Broncos left side of their offensive line has struggled all year and that hasn’t helped. Denver is 24th in scoring offense and is middle of the road in many offensive categories, but where they fail is in the red zone. They are 29th in scoring TD’s in the red zone and in their last 3 games they scored a TD in only 11% of their times in the red zone. On the road for the year their % is an abysmal 25% TD rate in the red zone. I don’t think this trend ends any time soon either. Siemian is a very limited QB and they will struggle in the red zone all year. What is scarier is how come Paxton Lynch cant’ beat him out when he was healthy?
Defensively Denver is 6th against the pass and 2nd against the run but they are 13th in sacks with 18 for the year. Their defense is still really good, but just not as dominating as in the past.
Can They Win The Division:
Denver will always be in the hunt because of their defense, but their offense is a hindrance. It’s hard seeing Denver taking this division unless Siemian improves, especially in the red zone. Don’t be surprised if you have a Brock Osweiller sighting soon. Osweiller was re-signed in the first week in September. Looking at the QB situation in Denver, it’s like I’m a sick child and the doctor asks if I want castor oil or a shot. With Paxton Lynch’s constant injury issues, the QB situation is as bad as it gets in the mile high city.
In regards to their schedule, Denver also has to play away games in Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia and Washington, along with home games with New England and Kansas City. With that schedule the odds of winning the division is shrinking. They are on the outside looking in if they lose to Kansas City in their next game.
After 4 straight losses with some Raider fans getting ready to throw everyone off the plank including the cheerleaders and announcers, the Raiders saved the season from going under with a big win against Kansas City at home. Even with this win there is a lot to do.
With the signing of Navorro Bowman, the Raiders now have a quality LB that is better than anyone they presently have on the roster. He’s no where near the same player that was one of the best in the NFL, but he definitely can still produce. Even with Bowman the Chiefs were 8-15 on third down and had 425 totally yards of offense. I’ve talked at length about the defense in past articles, so let’s just say that Oakland’s defense is not good, and it’s not going to be good for the rest of the season. He’s not going to help much in coverage but he does make the defense a little better.
For the Raiders to win, their offense will have to carry them like they did in the previous game. I was against the signing of Marshawn Lynch from the start and I really like the Raiders stable of RB’s. It will be interesting to see how they do against the stout defense of the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders have a nice match-up against a Buffalo team that has a solid defense but not much of an offense outside of LeSean McCoy. Tyrod Taylor is very limited at QB and a close Raiders win is probable but nothing is for sure.
The problem is down the road. After playing in Buffalo, they play a night game against Miami which I think they can do well in. Then it gets interesting. The Raiders go to Mexico to play New England, and have home games against Denver, Dallas & the NY Giants. Add road games in Kansas City, Philadelphia and against the Chargers and the Raiders second half schedule is as tough as anyone’s. The Chiefs and Eagles (on Christmas Day) games will be at least cold if not snowy. California teams don’t exactly thrive in the snow. As a lifelong northern Californian, I personally don’t even like to open the freezer let alone be in the cold midwest or east.
Will The Raiders Win the Division?
There are two huge games that will help in determining if the Raiders can win the division. One will be the Denver game in Kansas City this weekend. If KC wins that game, they regain control. Another game is the Chiefs hosting the Raiders in December. If the Raiders lose that game it’s hard to impossible to see them winning the division. As viewers it’s always fun to look ahead but in reality every week is like the playoffs and you can’t take anyone lightly anymore in the salary cap era. Every team has issues and it all changes week to week, especially with injuries.
The Bills game should be a tough, grinding game for Oakland. With temperatures in the 40’s with a 70% chance of rain expected, the road starts out as a tough one in upstate New York for the Silver and Black. The road to the AFC West crown will be a wild one for each team.