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“Over 5.2 Million NFL Fans Vote The 1976 Oakland Raiders the Best Team Of All Time”

davis madden

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.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d827fc2d9/article/1976-raiders-edge-2000-ravens-for-title-of-greatest-team-ever

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.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/13842/best-raiders-team-ever-1976

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.

Offensive Line:

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.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/the-greatest-defensive-backfield-of-all-time-the-oakland-raiders-soul-patrol/

“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.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/

Ground and Pound:

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.

The Defense:

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 Vilipiano.  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.

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“Ken Stabler Leading Teammates in CTE Fight Even After His Passing; Should Kids Play Football?”

 

stabler
Ken Stabler Being Helped off the Field During Game

Friday it was released that several former Oakland Raiders had agreed to have their brains studied upon their death.  They did this through the encouragement of Ken’s longtime partner, Kim Ross-Bush.  They wanted to follow him in helping to further the study of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in the hopes of helping future players.  Still today, Ken still is the leader of the dynasty that was the 1970’s Oakland Raiders.

The Stabler Family Tells Their Story:

Kim Ross-Bush, the partner of Ken Stabler for over 16 years; tells the story of how Ken deteriorated over time.  His daughter Marissa also talks about the changes in her father.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines is a great show and I really enjoyed the piece it did a while back on Ken and his struggles with CTE.

You are already seeing players starting to retire at earlier ages in fear of the long term damage football may have on them.

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/14703416/outside-lines-nfl-great-ken-stabler-diagnosed-cte-death

Eliminate Tackling in Practice:

In a groundbreaking move, the Ivy League coaches voted to eliminate tackling in practices.  Instead they use tackling dummies, bags, and even use tackling robots.  Coaches from around the country are limiting contact in College football.  What’s interesting is the Ivy league now says their tackling techniques are much better and more fundamentally sound and the list of injuries have dropped dramatically.

http://www.ncaa.com/news/football/article/2016-03-04/college-football-ivy-league-limits-tackling-football-practices

My Experience With CTE:

I remember in 2009 being asked to do a house call to check up on a patient who was really struggling with his sleep equipment and his quality of sleep.  I immediately remembered the name.  I’m a huge history guy and I did a check and found out it was the former NFL player that I thought it was.

When I walked into their house his wife was as kind as could be.  She offered me a piece of cake and coffee and I loved it.  Her husband was a little shocked I knew so much about him and it obviously made him feel good.  When I left his wife walked me out.  At the door she gave me a bottle of wine and was near tears.  “Thank you so much; you made him smile and that hasn’t happened much.  Please come visit again soon”.  I told her I would be by next week.

A week later I showed up and it was like a light turned off.  He sat in a somewhat dark room looking out a window; something he did for hours sometimes.  He was rude, irritable and he couldn’t remember a thing we discussed.  I laughed at the start because I thought he was teasing me but he wasn’t.  He talked about his headaches and his sleep being so intermittent that he would be exhausted all the time.  It was hinted he knew he was damaged and he didn’t want to know the truth.  CTE was barely known publicly in 2009.

His wife explained this was their life.  A tornado of emotions with little joy and hope at times.  I tried calling them once but their number had changed & was unlisted, so I never heard from them again and found out they moved. Even today the picture of him sitting in a darkened room alone can bring me to tears.

Owners Still Don’t Get It:

Jerry Jones was quoted last week that he was not convinced there was a link between CTE and concussions.  I’m sure many owners have their doubts especially when it may cost them money to take care of the problem.  Jerry Jones needs to read research and stop acting like a fool.  Another “my opinion is greater than facts” guy.  Money doesn’t make you smart.  It’s the same callousness the NFL showed during the 2009 concussion hearings at Congress.

In the 2014 settlement against the NFL, in a rare action, the Judge was so appalled at the NFL’s offer that he overturned it.  The NFL said to trust their math.  Most of what the NFL has done, they were made to do.

What Has the NFL Done to Help With CTE’s:

Many say I’m too hard on the NFL.  They bring up the 88 plan championed by CTE legend Gay Culverhouse, former President of Tampa Bay.  It’s true; it gives $130,000 a year to players that qualify but read the fine print because I did; the one disorder it DOESN’T cover?  CTE.

The Alumni Association is also working with corporations to set up retirement places catered to NFL players.  In the medical field the dirty secret is that many feel this is going to be a huge money maker in the future with so many NFL players having to deal with brain issues.  Soccer players are now having issues with CTE.  Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain as well.

The owners have given money for research and also changed the rules protecting players more.  It has changed the game drastically allowing for huge numbers by quarterbacks and wide receivers but it had to be done.

The NFL also has adopted a much stricter concussion protocol but it’s already seen failures.  Rams QB Case Keenum hit his head on the turf against Baltimore last year and staggered off the field.  After talking to the trainer, he was shockingly let back in the game to finish it.  Afterwards he was diagnosed with a concussion.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to his credit admitted they made a mistake.  Damage done though.

I remember watching film of the 1976 Raiders year in review.  In week 9 the Raiders played at Chicago.  The astroturf there was like cement especially when it was cold.  Ken Stabler got a concussion and wobbled off the field.  Eventually he came back into the game leading the Raiders to victory.  You wonder how many times since he was a kid did that happen to Ken.

Breakthrough in CTE Testing?

The problem with CTE is that you can’t diagnose it while the player is alive.  When UCLA lead researcher Dr. Julian Bailes said they had a test that could diagnose CTE in living people, many questioned his findings.  The problem with anything in medicine is greed.  If this is true, they stand to make millions.  Some say that within 3-5 years it will be able to be done. The controversy continues but when they can test players, it can give them a better option into getting out of the game or staying in it.

Should Kid’s Play Football:

One of the key factors with CTE is the duration you take hits.  Usually the longer you play, the worse it is.  Ken Stabler; like many NFL athletes; played as a kid.  You have to limit the length, and the severity of the damage.  Some think teaching good fundamental tackling is the answer but it’s not.  When you hit the ground or get hit; good tackle or not; your head is going to jar.  Its’ like having a minor car accident several times a day.

I think that kids should not play organized tackle football until they are 13 years old.  I also believe that at the most, teams need to have only 1 contact day of practice per week; or 90 minutes.

The State of Texas that brought you “Friday Night Lights” and built a 60 million dollar stadium in the city of Allen, is surprisingly the leader in protecting players.  In 2013, the University Interscholastic League in Texas; the group that makes the rules for high school football; voted to limit contact in practices to 90 minutes a week.  Some said this would ruin Texas football but it hasn’t changed their dominance in any way.

Between 2005 and 2014, 92 high school football players died.  Some by direct contact, and others by things associated with football.  What’s shocking though is that almost ALL states have NO medical regulations mandating high school football teams to have ANY trained medical staff on the field at any time.  Some parents have sued school districts for having their kids lying on a field waiting long periods of time for qualified people to help their kids.  That HAS to change.  They don’t have to have an ambulance on staff, or a doctor or EMT’s or professional trainers.  Epic fail.  This has to change.

I remember in football crazy Napa, California where I grew up, (who ESPN voted had the #2 high school stadium in the country 6 years ago) they always had an ambulance in one of the end zones at Memorial Stadium and EMT professionals at the games.  It helped save one of my friends who actually broke his neck during a game.  He wasn’t paralyzed but he fractured his neck and the quality care on the field saved him.  I hope they still have that same support there now.

Final Thoughts:

The sad part is, we need to have a sure way of diagnosing players while they are alive, and we need to know how better to protect them.  Even if helmets evolved, the jarring of the brain from the hits and hitting the ground are still going to cause damage so it’s a difficult thing to fix.

What also is scary, is that ALS; or Lou Gehrigs disease has also been linked to long term head trauma seen in sports like football.  University of Alabama player Kevin Turner just passed away at the age of 46; of ALS.  He played 8 years in the NFL.

CTE is the scary ghost hiding in the closet that players and their families fear.  Fans and the media need to get involved.  Some didn’t support the cheerleaders fight to get minimum wage.  Many fans didn’t support referees wanting better training and to be full time employees.  The NFL said both were too expensive.  Add the lack of support to retired players by some as well.  In my mind it’s disrespecting the game and those that are associated with it by not respecting everyone that was in it.

All fans and media people associated with the NFL who really care about this wonderful game and the people in it need to act.  Some in the NFL media won’t because they feel backlash from their networks.  We need the NFL to know the lack of support is unacceptable.  The 88 plan needs to include CTE.  Support research and retired players rights.  Show compassion and kindness instead of saying, “well if they don’t want to die early then don’t play”.  The players gave their all; now we need to give ours.

The NFL has shown they will NOT do the right thing unless they are made to.  It’s time that fans now become the voices of the voiceless.  Ken Stabler and all of the players that suffered in silence; along with their families that experienced it; deserve our support.  No more Dave Duerson stories.  A man that texted family to let them know he wanted his brain studied after he shot himself in the chest.  He didn’t want others to go through the torment he did.  No more retired players holding their heads in pain or looking out windows in darkened rooms wondering in sadness what was happening to them.  We can’t expect the NFL to do the right thing to these fathers, son’s, grandfathers and brothers, if we don’t.  The NFL has shown it will listen but we have to speak.

“The Wait Will Be Over; 5 Reasons Why Ken Stabler Will Get Into the Hall of Fame in 2016”

“The Wait Will Be Over; 5 Reasons Why Ken Stabler Will Get Into the Hall of Fame in 2016”

Ken Stabler warming up pre-game.
Ken Stabler warming up pre-game.

Please sign Mike Yokum’s petition to get Ken Stabler into the NFL Hall of Fame

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/541/199/738/petition-to-induct-ken-stabler-into-the-pro-football-hall-of-fame/

My achilles heel in life has always been injustice. Unfortunately in my business life especially, I’ve seen a lot of it. Whenever I read the dozen or so news and sports publications every morning, it’s full of stories where some people walked over others to either hurt them, or make money off of them.   It eats at me like acid.

In the sports world most of the injustice is not life or death but it is still wrong. There are good people that don’t get their full justice in sports because of petty squabbles, ridiculous biases or pure old man stubbornness. Sports writers for the most part are one of the leaders in regards to injustice. Injustice is what has happened to Oakland Raider great Ken Stabler.

I still have not heard one person in the media say Ken Stabler is not a hall of famer.  That means something else is going on and that’s why I wrote this article to expose the truth on why the Snake isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/part-csi-part-breaking-bad-the-real-reasons-why-ken-stabler-is-not-in-the-hall-of-fame/

I’ll never forget one Sunday after the Raiders won a rare game with Jamarcus Russell at the helm. Russell had an ok game but the hype machine began. First the ESPN panel raved about all the talent Russell had. Chris Berman said Russell was the most talented QB the Raiders ever had. Raider fans were ripping me to shreds after I said what a bust Russell would be, saying, “see I told you he was going to be good”.

I read people pretty well and I remember watching Denver Broncos great Tom Jackson just listening to all this. His disgust was visible but he didn’t say a word. Finally in between cliches, Chris Berman noticed Jackson wasn’t happy. “You look like you have something to say Tom”.

“Let’s get this straight”, Jackson angrily said.  “Ken Stabler is the most talented Raider QB in their history. He’s their greatest QB and it’s not even close so let’s get that right. You guys are getting way too carried away”. The panel was kind of stunned at Tom being upset but he was right.   And this was from a very vocal rival of the Raiders.

Let me say for a second that writing about athletes and celebrities is hard and fun at the same time.  I have a large twitter and social media following so you know that celebrities, athletes and their families read my articles and they communicate with me often.  Most celebrities and their families and friends have told me they appreciate my honesty and sensitivity and that means a lot.  A few have said they didn’t like what I wrote but they understood.  They realize I’m not into the attention, and that I just want to inform my readers of the truth.

I agree some athletes have serious moral issues.  But some like Ken, are amazing, kind people.  Famous people’s families grieve and hurt just like everyone else and sometimes when we post online we forget that. It’s at night or the times when no one is around that grief captures our spirits like a heavy fog. Most of us know this feeling all too well.  Fan’s are still upset that Kenny is gone so just imagine how Ken Stabler’s family and friends feel.

(My article on the passing of Ken Stabler)

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/

I’m not a celebrity guy, but the last 2 years through my writing I’ve appreciated my interactions with celebrities, athletes and their families and even though the content wasn’t fun to read on occassion; (or write); I hope it reminds us all on how we should be mindful of what we post online and we are all in this thing called life together.

Getting back to the story, Ken Stabler and his family were too kind and private to complain publicly about the Hall of Fame’s actions. I respect that; but I will complain.

Part of me will always be bitter at the sports writers and the Hall of Fame for letting their petty biases stop Ken from enjoying the HOF while he was alive.   They were wrong and didn’t do the right thing and they should be ashamed at their closed minded arrogance. I wish that they would judge themselves with the same moral compass that some of them seem to use towards players that they don’t vote for.

The NFL and the government hounded Ken for years and they could not find anything on him. When they couldn’t find anything, they took justice into their own hands by not voting Ken into the Hall of Fame. Yes, I said it even though no one else will.  I’m a writer first but the Raider fan in me knows no other way.

I think Ken wasn’t angry about it, but I’m sure he just didn’t get it.   The hypocrisy of sports knows no bounds though. Major League baseball is getting very heavy into the fantasy baseball gambling sites that they support, but Pete Rose still can’t get into the hall of fame…..FOR GAMBLING.

Before I start getting too upset and rant, lets look at the facts which I’m always a big fan of. These are the 5 reasons why Ken Stabler will get into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016.

  1. Outrage:

Not ONE media person, former player or former coach said Ken Stabler was NOT a HOF player. The HOF voters were not ready for the backlash that was seen through out the NFL family on Ken Stabler not being elected into the HOF. From basic news services to social media, fans and football alumni went crazy with negative publicity showing how wrong the voters were. None of the voters said a word.

  1. The Negative Reaction From Other Hall of Famers:

You have to remember that NFL Hall of Famer’s rarely if ever talk so vehemently about players that should be in the Hall of Fame. Rarely do you see some of the greats question the Hall of Fame to this level, but after Ken’s passing, dozens of them complained.

“In the sports world it’s a miscarriage of justice to not have Ken Stabler in the NFL Hall of Fame”.

ESPN analyst & Denver Broncos Great Tom Jackson

“Of course Ken Stabler is a Hall of Famer”

Viking great Fran Tarkenton

“For years the Cowboys and Raiders were the most watched teams in the NFL. Once when we played a practice game that didn’t count during training camp, 31,000 people showed up at our facility when we played the Raiders. Ken Stabler and the Raiders carved us up and beat us and we were a Super Bowl caliber team. It was amazing how good he was. From then on I was a fan and followed Ken’s career. Ken’s a Hall of Fame player for sure”.

Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys

“If Ken Stabler played in New York he would have been in the Hall of Fame 10 years ago.”

Tom Flores, Former Raider Coach and QB

“There are several Raiders that need to be in the Hall of Fame.   Ken Stabler, Cliff Branch and Lester Hayes”.

Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf

Add the fact that at the John Stallworth Foundation Golf tournament in Alabama this past June, ALL of the former Pittsburgh Steelers raved about Ken Stabler and the Raiders. All of them said he needs to be in the Hall of Fame. The Raiders and Steelers rivalry was the best in history.

  1. Ken Stabler May be the Best Quarterback In the Best Era (history of the all decade team):

Pretty much anyone associated with the NFL says the 1970’s was the greatest era in NFL history. The Steel Curtain, the Doomsday Defense, Purple People Eaters, Orange Crush, The No Name Defense; is just a part of NFL lore in the 1970’s. And those were just the defenses. In an era where defenders could do anything and everything, offenses had to be great to score. The NFL had a huge amount of good quarterbacks and ultra talented teams.   In this era, many feel Stabler was the best quarterback of the 1970’s.

The wars between the Raiders and the Steelers were must see television.   The hitting was like 2 rams banging on each other it was so violent. Amazingly in a Raiders v.s. Steelers game in 1974 (Raiders shut out the future Super Bowl champ Steelers 17-0 in Pittsburgh) there were 24; TWENTY FOUR; future Hall of Fame coaches, players and front office people who were a part of the game. There was no salary cap and teams were beyond talented.   There also wasn’t a 5 yard bump rule.

“They changed the 5 yard bump rule in 1979 because of Raider greats Jack Tatum and George Atkinson”, explained Fran Tarkenton.   “They were so physical and dominating that in 1979 the NFL made a rule that you couldn’t physically touch a receiver after 5 yards. Being a quarterback was so hard during the 1970’s and Ken did it better than anyone”.

NFL All Decade Teams: Quarterbacks

1950’s:

Otto Graham, Norm Van Brocklyn, Bobby Layne

1960’s:

Sonny Jurgensen, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas

1970’s:

Ken Stabler, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach

1980’s:

Joe Montana, Dan Fouts

1990’s:

John Elway, Brett Favre

2000’s:

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning

Stabler is the only eligible all decade quarterback that is NOT in the HOF.   Terry Bradshaw has recently stated that Ken Stabler was better than he was. Staubach said that the Snake was one of the great quarterbacks of all time.

  1. Stats:

I’m not going to give you stats that have been repeated a million times, but Ken’s stat’s rival any quarterback of the 1970’s that is in the HOF. Add the fact that in his first 69 games he was 53 and 16, and that the Raiders were 18-1-1 in the first 20 Monday Night games that they played in; many were lead by the Snake. The Raiders won more games than any other team in the 1970’s and this was considered the greatest era in history with some of the greatest defenses and teams in history. The rules made passing very difficult.

For decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were the most popular teams in the NFL. America’s team against the Outlaws.   They had the highest television ratings of any teams in the NFL for years. The Raiders helped make the NFL very popular by their personality, swagger, flair and success. Ken was the Captain of that ship.

  1. The History of HOF Voting by the Senior Selection Committee:

After 5 years of the Senior Selection Committee not nominating the Snake, they now have nominated him for the HOF. In the last 29 times they have nominated a selection, only 3 did not make the HOF. Most feel this is his year.   Kind of ridiculous that he couldn’t even be nominated for 5 years but eventually they did the right thing.

Hall of Fame Induction:

Yes I think in 2016 Ken Stabler will finally find his rightful place in Canton Ohio among the all time greats in the NFL. In Oakland, Alabama and around the country there will be huge smiles with some bitter sweet tears mixed in. Original Raider fans especially are not going away. They will continue to shout out the kindness, greatness, and amazing accomplishments of Raider greats from the past.  They won’t let people forget the great dynasty that was created, and those that were the foundation.   There is a bond that no other professional fan base can understand.  They will do it until they take their last breath. Raider fans passion will be their memory. And the loudest voices of all will be for the great Ken Stabler.

“Part CSI, Part Breaking Bad. The Real Reasons Why Ken Stabler is NOT in the Hall of Fame; “

ken-stabler-was-a-country-music-lyric_8862482a_m

Please sign this petition to get Ken Stabler into the Hall of Fame.  Thank you!

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/541/199/738/petition-to-induct-ken-stabler-into-the-pro-football-hall-of-fame/

Rod Serling would love this story.  Pull up a chair, get a drink and sit back.  This is a complicated one.

In the annals of sports, the behind the scenes power and bias of sportswriters is of legend. In baseball it’s out in the open, but in the NFL it’s a little harder to see.

From the Oakland A’s Mike Norris not getting a Cy Young award to the great Cris Carter not being voted into the hall of fame 5 times; writers have a way of getting the last laugh.

Enter the legendary story of Bob Padecky.

A California Thing:
Bob Padecky was an award winning writer for the Sacramento Bee. He was covering the Raiders during the 70’s and 80’s and he wanted to talk to Ken Stabler. After the 1978 season, Ken was coming off what would be his worst year in Oakland. The Raiders were 9-7 that year which was a near tragedy at that time for the team that ended the 1970’s with the most regular season wins. Ken was frustrated and said that he would talk after the season was over.

Bob said he went to the 1979 New Years day Sugarbowl between Penn St. and Alabama. He decided that since New Orleans was not far from Alabama, that he would just drive over there. For some reason he just went.

We Californians are “open books” and many will spill their most intimate details of life to anyone that will listen.  The South is a different world. They are respectful of privacy and trust means a lot to them. It must be earned and isn’t given away.

Ken wasn’t happy when Bob showed up. He said he did not want to talk. Bob then said I’m going to go to Foley and Gulf Shores and talk to people. “I wish you wouldn’t do that Bob and if you are, just talk to me”. Bob said nope, and he left.  Didn’t he go to talk to Stabler & not get dirt?

Padecky came back and did a three part story on Ken’s issues; mostly what he said was how Stabler was partying too much and wasn’t in shape. Bob felt it wasn’t all that bad (writers never do) but Ken and his friends were not amused. Bob also said others made remarks about Ken and his private life and how he should marry the woman he was with. It may be tame for today’s standards, but at the time it was not taken lightly.

The Cocaine Bust:

Stabler called Padecky during Super Bowl week and said he wanted to spill his guts. He wanted to confront some of the things he was going through with Al Davis including Al blaming many of the failures on him and not wanting to pay him.

Padecky flew over the day after the Super Bowl to meet with Snake. They met at Lefty’s; a restaurant Stabler partially owned; and eventually ended up at the Silver Dollar Lounge.

When they finally sat down, Kenny was not happy. With Ken was Kenny Walker; a 250 pound ex Alabama Center and Randall Watson; a convicted bank robber in 1971 who had recently plead guilty to trying to extort $75,000 from an Alabama telephone executive.

He asked him why he was out to get him. “I never met anyone like you”, Ken said. “Why are you coming to my home town trying to dig up dirt?”.

During the conversation Bob had the tape recorder rolling without asking Ken if he could tape it. I didn’t think this was cool and I always thought reporters would ask the people they interviewed if it was ok to tape the conversation. Ken got mad again cussing occasionally and then took another call. He said I’m sorry I have to go and told him to meet him at a different restaurant.

http://www.si.com/vault/1979/04/23/823571/the-key-to-the-case-is-missing-even-now-no-one-can-say-whether-kenny-stabler-was-involved-when-cocaine-in-a-key-case-was-used-to-set-up-a-sportswriter-for-a-drug-bust

Stabler left and Bob got up and walked outside to his rental car. As he did, officers were there and arrested him. When asked what for, they told him that an anonymous caller said that he was carrying cocaine. People forget that in the 70’s, some were doing prison time for having small amounts of pot, so cocaine was the big time. An officer looked under one of the wheel wells of the car and found a magnetic key holder with cocaine in it. Bob was taken to the police department to be booked.

The Nightmare As Bob Padecky Tells It:

He implied they did a full cavity search and threatened him saying that they were going to ask for the hardest sentence the judge could hand down. He called the Sac Bee Managing Editor Frank McCulloch and went into his cell. Another cop, Cotton Long came up and said I think you were set up. They escorted him to his hotel where he talked more with Police Chief Jimmy Maples who had a .357 magnum in his hand. In future investigations, no arrest record was found.

Maples called out several cars to stake out the area and protect them. Officer Long came into the room and said that rumors were swirling Padecky’s life might be in danger and that he has to leave immediately. They offered a police escort to the airport and he took it. Padecky said Maples then got a sub machine gun and (insert pun now) rode shot gun and told him to move away if someone pulled up beside him so he could shoot them if they tried anything.

They drove him to the tarmac of the plane and he left. Padecky immediately began writing the story which broke to shock and outrage. Sportswriters everywhere blamed this on the Snake and were angered that someone would do this to one of their own. Kenny to his last days denied any involvement or knowledge of the situation.

Sportswriters Including Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Were Outraged:

ESPN NFL draft guru (he was the NFL draft guru that made it popular to watch the draft before Mel Kiper had thick hair) Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman was especially outraged. He vented his displeasure to anyone that would listen and at that time ESPN was the only voice in Sports.  At the time Dr. Z held a lot of weight and he was quoted as saying I will never vote for Stabler to get into the hall of fame as long as I live.  Many writers supported Bod Padecky and Dr. Z, and a deep resentment began.  They felt Stabler bullied Padecky.  I saw quotes from Dr. Z in the Google archives from an old Sports Illustrated article and he stated that the only player he ever lobbied against was Ken Stabler.

Again, Stabler immediately denied he had a part in any of it. The writers didn’t see it that way. Here is a recent podcast of Bob’s on local radio. I like his writing but his personality rubbed me the wrong way especially when he started calling the Alabama cops “bubba’s”.  (I downloaded it here)

http://media.957thegame.com/a/107400103/bob-padecky.htm?q=padecky

With cocaine involved; The FBI, State of Alabama and the NFL launched what was called “routine” investigations but nothing could be proven. The cocaine was tested; it had been diluted or “cut” a lot and on the streets it was worth $100. Problem was being in possession of any cocaine in Alabama carried a 2-15 year sentence depending on the circumstance.

On February 13th, Alabama Attorney General said that Ken’s friend, Randall Watson was seen having a waitress buy a magnetic key holder for him that looked exactly like the one that was found. He stated that at the time they could not find Mr. Watson and wanted to talk to him. Eventually Watson was investigated for planting the cocaine but due to a lack of evidence they could not try him for anything.

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1817&dat=19790213&id=KjAdAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2J4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6732,2540036&hl=en

What is very interesting is that I got the original article from a gulf shores throwback site. At the time, many in the police including Police Chief Maples said Padecky embellished the story.

http://www.gulfcoastnewstoday.com/people/history/article_25922712-6fde-11e2-b04d-001a4bcf887a.html

The Aftermath:

The press went crazy. Police Chief Maples said he got calls from all over the country for stories including Penthouse magazine. They started calling the Gulf Shores area the Redneck Riviera. Local reporters laughed because every southern stereotype was being written about by the national media.

The lies told were of legend including how everyone there now hated Ken for what happened which was a literal lie. It got so bad that country music singer Madison “Shine” Powell wrote the song Redneck Riviera.

Stabler Linked to Gamblers, Radicals:
This is as bizarre as the Bob Padecky story and is rarely known or talked about. For about a 4 year period in the late 70’s and early 80’s, different agencies investigated Ken for his friendship with a long time New Jersey gambling figure Nicholas Dudich. Dudich was also an associate of the Simone DeCavalcante organized crime family.  The Feds in the past have been relentless in hounding the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Martil Luther King Jr. looking for any type of dirt.  They did that to Kenny as well.

Due to the extreme hate from owners and commissioner Pete Rozelle towards Al Davis and the Raiders (The late 70’s was the start of the 10 year lawsuit and war between Davis and the NFL), many wanted to see them go down. Davis had heard that several rivals had contacted the NFL and other agencies about Stabler’s association with Dudich.

Different Law enforcement agencies including the FBI admitted to putting Stabler under surveillance without a shred of negative evidence against him ever being found. Much to the chagrin of the media and the NFL, after the 4 years, nothing wrong was ever reported on Ken Stabler.

In the NFL constitution it does state players can’t associate with known gamblers or penalties including termination can result. There have been suspensions and threats like in the cases of Paul Hornung, Alex Karras and Joe Namath, so this was a serious issue for the league.  Again, Stabler was found to be not guilty to anything but the damage and resentment had been done.

Remember the Ray Rice situation? In true NFL form, when Pete Rozelle was asked about the situation between Stabler and Dudich in 1981, Pete Rozelle said he had never heard of Dudich and that the league was never told about any investigation or problems with the Snake and his possible association with Dudich. Pete seemed to be the only person in the country not knowing about the situation. Even the Raiders said they were giving regular reports to the NFL via executive assistant Al LoCosale.  TMZ was not around to help.

When Stabler was traded for Houston quarterback Dan Pastorini, the Oilers ownership didn’t think there was a problem and were very happy to go along with the trade. The FBI in Houston still tailed him.

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/08/30/sports/pro-football-s-ken-stabler-is-linked-to-a-gambler.html?pagewanted=1
Many writers also bristled at Ken’s association with other people. He was seen having beers with Huey Newton of the radical Black Panther movement and he played pool with Sonny Barger, the founder of the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angel’s.
Here’s the Deal; What Really Happened:
I get Ken Stabler. I have friends of all colors, sexual orientations and backgrounds too. Not everyone approves of them. Not all of them have been church folks.  My former pastor did 5 years for manslaughter; but I know one thing; they are always there when I need them.  They don’t hurt me and they are loyal to the end so I give them the same love. The only one’s that have ever screwed me over wore nice clothes, drove great cars and were well thought of due to their looks, money or charm.

Ken Stabler was a loyal and good friend. If you were good to him, he was good to you. He was a fun person who wanted to have a good time and didn’t care who you were.  He didn’t gamble and he didn’t plant cocaine.

As far as Dudich? Yes, he was Kenny’s friend, and no Stabler didn’t do anything wrong. Four years of investigations proved that.

As far as the Bob Padecky drama, of course drugs were planted. After listening to people that knew Kenny, of course he wasn’t involved. The Snake was a straight shooter who was definitely not shy to tell you how he felt and this wasn’t his style.  I’m sure someone close to Ken without his knowledge planted the cocaine to send a message and to get him off of Stabler’s back.

Will Ken Stabler be Elected Into the Hall of Fame?:
Yes. After years of investigation he was never seen doing anything wrong. Many have had crimes linked to them including Lawrence Taylor and others but it’s all good for the Hall of Fame. Baseball never forgets; football at least moves on, and close minded and biased writers fade away.

Padecky & Stabler Meet Again:
In 2009 here at the Sonoma Raceway, Bob saw Kenny for the last time. In a press conference during race week, he asked a question on how he was doing and as always, Kenny talked about enjoying his 3 daughters and family and friends. He had adjusted to life and was very happy. Afterwards, the two men met and shook hands and after each did a little small talk, they walked away. As with most men, time and age soften old wounds, mellow out spirits, and pain is better left in the past.

To Bob’s credit, he wrote an article on how he will miss Ken Stabler and that he was the most enjoyable quarterback to watch along with Joe Montana.

I hope that the Hall of Fame Voters will do the right thing and vote Kenny Stabler into the Hall of Fame; something they have failed to do for the last 25 years. His adoring fans in Oakland and Alabama; and especially his family and friends; deserve no less.

Colombia & Soccer Rises Above Violence, Pain, & the loss of Andres Escobar For Redemption.

andres escobar

 

“Life doesn’t end here”.  

Andres Escobar, Colombia footballer

It still hurts today.

When you say the name Andres Escobar to a longtime soccer fan, immediately the smile will come off of their faces and a sadness will be seen.  The pain is still there for the memory of the murder of Colombian soccer star Andres Escobar even 20 years later.

In the 1994 World Cup held in the U.S., there was one team that everyone wanted to see and that was Colombia.  They were like rock stars with the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Carlos Rincon, Andres Escobar and so many others.  From the famous scorpion kick from their goalie, to the fun and amazing way they played, Colombia was definitely the team to watch.  Defensive star Andres Escobar at the age of 26 was ready to sign a large contract after the World Cup with famous Italian team AC Milan.  His dream of marrying his Fiance Pamela Cascardo and living in Italy to play soccer was coming true.

In an amazing 26 international game stretch before the World Cup, Colombia lost ONLY one game.  In the World Cup qualifying matches they gave up an unreal, 2 goals.  They were on fire dominating the World Soccer scene.

To qualify for the World Cup in 1993, they needed to tie Argentina.  Instead they gave what I believe is the worst loss for Argentina in Argentina, 5-0.  What was amazing is video shows as a sign of respect, the Buenos Aires fans giving rounds of applause to the Colombians after the game.  It placed Colombia for the first time on the world stage of soccer.  Pele and many others announced that Colombia would win the World Cup in the U.S.  The country Colombia partied like rock stars and their passion was amazing.  For once they would shed the reputation of being a violent and out of control country, and gain the respect they wanted.

At that time the rise to prominence for Colombian soccer was linked mainly to one thing; drug cartel money.  Colombia had never been a world power.  The three biggest drug Cartels, owned teams in the Colombian soccer league.  Soccer was the perfect way to launder money that they had gained illegally.  With that money they now could afford the great fields and players that were needed to make them a world class power in soccer.  One of the drug Cartel leaders was Pablo Escobar.  He was so powerful and rich that Forbes Magazine had him as one of the richest men on earth.

A house is only as good as it’s foundation and when you have a foundation built on drug money, only pain and violence will follow.  That’s what happened to Colombian soccer.  Colombia was a mess in general with more murders being committed per capita there, than anywhere else in the world.  Public officials and politicians were bought off, and like many players said, you couldn’t trust anyone.

Pablo Escobar ran for office to avoid extradition to the U.S. for his drug running; and he won!  He and the other cartel leaders used Soccer to launder the money by lying about players salaries and bonuses and also about gate receipts and ticket sales.  Pablo Escobar did a lot for the poor, building housing and soccer fields and helping out the little guy. He also had public officials murdered and after one match where he didn’t like a referees call, he had the soccer referee gunned down in a parking lot after a game.  Much like Al Capone did in Chicago, it created a love for him like a modern Robin Hood to cover up for the violence and pain that he created.  Eventually though Escobar was killed and even a few of his family members were slaughtered; in front of their wives and kids in some cases; right before the World Cup would start.  After he was killed Colombia was in a violent chaos.  No more order in the underworld.

The stress on the Colombian players was now overwhelming.  Andres Escobars’ great friend and teammate Chonto Herrera was told the day before their World Cup match that his brother was murdered.  They began to worry about their own families safety.  Some players began saying they now had to win or wonder what would happen back home.  Andres shy smile was now gone.  In an interview he said he finds peace by trying to read at least a little bit from the Bible every day.  He found comfort in having a picture of his late mother and his fiance Pamela Cascardo in his Bible.

Andres was unlike any 26 year old you’d ever know.  While many were party animals, his faith was a foundation in his life.  He also loved his country and the poor.  His family talked about him going to stores and buying toys and driving through the city giving them away in poor neighborhoods.  Even before he signed a big contract, he set up scholarships for poor and needy kids.  His father was a banker and he set up foundations to help the needy.  His whole family had hearts of gold and his heart was no different.  He was handsome, kind, humble and felt for those in need.  Everyone loved him.

In the first game of the World Cup the joy was out of the faces of the players of Colombia.  In a stunning match, Romania beat Colombia 3-1.  The World was shocked.  Their next game was against the U.S. who they had never lost to and who had never been a world power in soccer.  Unfortunately the violence at home was getting worse and so was the stress of playing.  Also there were rumors that the Colombian cartels had lost millions in bets that were placed for Colombia to beat Romania and many were not happy.  There were rumors abound and you could see the fear and the pain in the players faces.

Against the Americans the impossible happened.  On a simple cross by John Harkes of the U.S., Andres tried to stop the ball and he accidentally kicked it into his own goal.  It was a dreaded moment that I will never forget.  I told my friends right then and there, they are going to kill him.  My friend said it’s just a soccer game and I was dumb to think that.  Even when I was a kid I loved history and cultures and I just knew growing up what some cultures could and would do.  A chill goes up my spine right now even writing this.  I still feel the pain of that moment.  I see Andres face on the field knowing what he had done and the possible ramifications.  One of his teammates commented that you could see the fear and the pain in Andres eyes after that moment.  In irony, Andres sister said that the second Andres did the mistake, her 8 year old son became upset and said that they are going to kill Andres.  She said that people loved Andres and that he would be safe.  Young people know more than what adults think.

Andres own goal made it U.S. 1 Colombia 0.  Another goal followed and after a late goal by Colombia the U.S. had stunned the world and beaten them 2-1.  Colombia beat the Swiss 2-0 in their third game but with Romania beating the U.S., it meant Colombia would go home.

There are conflicting reports but there was supposed to be a trip with Andres and his family where they would visit parts of the U.S. Andres didn’t go and he came home.  Friends and teammates say that he was crushed by his mistake but he answered all of the media’s questions.  In time the people of Medellin; his home city; were very supportive and caring.  He began to feel better.

On one night Andres was asked to go to a club.  Many of his teammates begged him not to go but he said he didn’t want to hide and that he would be alright.  In a club in Medillin, the Gallon brothers; notorious Colombian cartel members; began to mock Andres relentlessly. This upset Andres greatly saying he just made a mistake and he was sorry for it.  After a heated argument Andres left the club.  In a chilling video in the parking lot, Andres was gunned down by cartel bodyguard Humberto Castro Munoz with a .38 caliber gun.  His friends saw the shooting and rushed Andres to the hospital where he died 45 minutes later.  Andres girlfriend said that the murderer was laughing and yelling goooooooooaaaaaal when he shot Andres.  The World Cup was still going on and the soccer world was angered and outraged.  Colombia was in turmoil.

Andres death was too much for the country to take.  The grief now was unconsolable.  One famous Colombian writer said, “for the first time in my life, I’m ashamed to be Colombian”.  The country gave bodyguards to players with some having up to 40-50 of them to protect them and their families.  One players child was kidnapped.  The entire country was in pain and hope was hard to find.

The soccer team would never be the same.  Many retired or just played abroad.  Most vowing that they would never play for Colombia ever again for what happened to them and Andres.  It was rumored that after days in jail, the Gallon brothers paid off the courts with 3 million dollars in cash and were set free.  Murderer Humberto Munoz was the fall person and he did only 11 years of his 40 year sentence.  He was let out for being a model prisoner.  Andres Fiance and family were outraged.

Colombian soccer began to fall off the map.  For years it struggled.  Fans stopped coming; the pain was too great.  In 2010 at the owners meeting for the Colombian soccer federation, 14 of the 18 teams were now near bankruptcy.

Fast forward to the last 4 years where there has been a form of redemption.  The Colombian soccer team is now back at the World cup.  With a talented squad, they are now trying to prove again that their reputation for being a violent country based on drug money is wrong.  Their past haunts them.  I have some Colombian friends and they are a very kind and passionate people with great pride.  They long for people and other countries not to judge them and to get to know them.  They are also honest about their past and hopeful for their future.

A statue of Andres is now at a park named after him where soccer fields are.  Andres always dreamed of having soccer fields all over for every kid to enjoy.

Andres’ last written words were published in newspapers everywhere.  They were, “life doesn’t end here”.

Even with the loss of his physical life, Andres is still touching people today.  I hope through his memory, along with the soccer fields and parks made in his honor, that more people will support Colombia’s attempt at becoming the peaceful nation that Andres dreamed of.  I know that for millions of soccer fans in Colombia and all over the world, no one will ever forget the great Andres Escobar.

 

 

“In 3 Minutes the Two Most Famous Goals in World Cup History Shocked the Soccer World”

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While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi rule the soccer world today, if you were to ask historians who the greatest soccer player of all time is, you would probably get two answers.  For many, the majestic and magical Pele’ may be their answer. To others though it would be the great Diego Maradona.  While in today’s soccer world athleticism and speed is a huge tool for players like Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, Pele’ and Maradona used their ball handling skills and imagination to delight the world of soccer. They were more than soccer greats, they were artists.

The 1986 World Cup quarterfinal in Mexico between Argentina and England had a deep rooted meaning of anger and bitterness. In 1982 the Falkland War between Argentina and the UK had begun.   It was a 3 month war that created extreme friction between the two countries. This game meant so much to both teams.

Maradona had electrified crowds with his vision, cunning, and amazing ball handling and playmaking skills.   Listed at 5′ 7″ tall, in reality he was only 5′ 5″ tall but he had a strong, stocky build with muscular legs. He led Argentina into the quarterfinals with dominating expertise on the pitch.

The talented England squad had a lot of expectations. They had their only World Cup win in 1966 when they were the host country. England and Argentina were both soccer crazy countries and if you add the Falkland War into the mix, this game meant much more than a World Cup semi final birth.

On June 22, 1986, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City was magical. The place was rocking with an amazing 105,000 people jammed into the stadium. Chants, songs, and every noise device known on earth were in full effect from the fans. On a warm, sunny day the electricity in the crowd along with all the beautiful colors would create a once in a lifetime experience.   Half Wizard of Oz, half religious experience, this game would be one for the ages.

The first half was a feeling out period for the most part. Both sides being wary of the scoring talents of the other. England’s star Gary Lineker was watched closely by Argentina. Lineker would later win the Golden Shoe award for the highest scorer in the World Cup.

In the second half Argentina came out more aggressive. In the 51st minute, Maradona went on one of his patented drives.   As he entered the goal box, he attempted a give and go move to his teammate. The English defender intercepted the pass but kicked the ball toward the English goalie. Maradona; who had kept going in the hopes of getting a return pass; jumped up in front of the goalie and hit the ball. GOAL!   But was it? The England team protested wildly saying that he had hit the ball with his hand. The referee said he did not see that and allowed the goal.

Later when he was interviewed and asked about the goal, the Argentine star said that the goal was scored, “A bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God”. From then on in sports lore, this goal was known as the “Hand of God” goal.

Diego Maradona had just started. Three minutes later he took a simple pass on Argentina’s side of the field. Maradona then took off like a jet and dribbled through 5 English defenders and went the length of the field. English goal keeper Peter Shilton could do nothing as a rocket shot went past him. The Argentina crowd went crazy and the stadium was electrified. Famous Spanish Speaking announcer from Argentina, Victor Hugo Morales, was going nuts actually thanking God for seeing such a goal. Immediately people knew they had seen something special. In 2002 FIFA and the soccer world voted this goal as the goal of the century and the greatest goal ever scored.

Argentina was up 2-0 now but England was not going to go away quietly. At the 70th minute England substituted in John Barnes.   Immediately his energy and passing skills changed everything. Barnes began to pound the goal area with crosses. England looked like a different team and in the 81st minute a cross was put in the goal by Lineker. It wasn’t over yet. At the 87th minute with the crowd on their feet, another great Barnes cross was sent over the middle to an open Lineker but it was inches out of his reach. A few minutes later the crowd roared when the three whistles of the referee marked the end of the game. The game meant so much that many in Argentina felt this was partial revenge for the bitter military conflict between the two countries.

After the game the media and the soccer world was buzzing. People knew they had seen something special, and the charismatic Maradona fueled that fire on and off the field.

To this day Maradona is celebrated by most fans, especially in Argentina where he has icon status. For Americans to understand what a star Maradona is; especially during his heyday; think Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth; COMBINED. And that isn’t an overstatement.

Some fans though are also disappointed and embarrassed by his lifestyle and mistakes.   He was suspended for 15 months in the Italian league in 1991 when he tested positive for cocaine and he was also sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. for testing positive for stimulants. He owes millions in back taxes in Italy and has had more than a few run ins with the law, the press, and even soccer officials in his own country.

For all the turmoil Maradona has created in his life, the 1986 World Cup will always be his shining moment.  To this day just the sound of his name brings back great memories to Argentina and the soccer world. And in a 3 minute span, he created sports history that will be talked about forever.