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“A Horrific Tragedy Ends The Life of Another Iconic Raider Fan; Social Media Icon Tim Casto”

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I told several people last December that I had a horrible feeling about 2016.  Personally it’s been a terrible year for me and I know I’m not alone.  Several Raider fans; prominent ones; are now gone.  Add celebrities and many people’s family members and 2016 is a nightmare that can’t end soon enough.

Over the holiday weekend, in one of the saddest stories I’ve heard in a while, we lost another person that touched many lives.

(Please Donate Below)

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

Tim Casto, owner of Oakland Raiders Homeport and founder of Oakland Raiders Rumors, Rants & Reports, lost his battle for life after a horrific fire burned down his home.  He was the only one in the house.  Neighbors said they heard small explosions.  Tim had to be rescued by two firemen who were at a firehouse near by.  His family lost everything they had.  He was taken to a local hospital and was in a coma for days before passing away yesterday after life support was turned off.  Loved ones talked about how grateful they were to the two brave firemen who entered the burning home to try to save him.

http://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Man-rescued-from-burning-home-in-Putnam-County-402462286.html

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Tim’s family; including his wife Karen and daughter Rhianna; were at his bedside praying for a miracle while Tim lay in a West Virginia hospital on life support.  Here was a family who lost every possession they owned now having to deal with even more tragedy.  There were prayer vigils and support coming from all over.  What made it even worse was that during this time, Tim’s wife and daughter had birthdays.  Karen spoke about her husbands deep love and kindness towards her and his daughter.  His daughter posted on Facebook a few days ago asking for people to pray for her dad to wake up.  Sadly he never did.

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Tim (A.K.A. the Captain) was the owner and/or administrator of several of the larger Raider pages on Facebook.  It’s hard to find someone who didn’t have an interaction or a debate with him on one of the sites.  Tim was smart, knew football; especially the history; and was well respected.  I liked him immediately.

He was also very caring often forwarding gofundme pages for people that were going through something.  His sense of humor was seen so often, especially in his crazy avatar’s on Facebook depicting himself as different Captains.  My favorite is still Captain Crunch and he even caused a stir with a Fidel Castro avatar.

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A few years ago when I first got back into writing, I thought I would put an emphasis on the Raiders.  They hadn’t been good for years but I took a chance that things would get better.  I started out young and had written about the Raiders for years on another site and wow, was it painful.  With record setting losing streaks, fans were over the top nasty and as the years went on, less and less fans would be involved with the team.  When I started again, I would sometimes write an article that wasn’t positive towards the Raiders, and some Raider fans would go crazy.  Even though it was based on facts, they didn’t want to hear it. Times had changed and some people wanted to hear only good things about their teams and they didn’t want much truth.  Tim did.

Even though he didn’t know me, he contacted me out of the blue when fans on one of his sites started trashing me.  One mean spirited fan with too much time on their hands even started a Twitter page that was saying all sorts of nasty things about me; and eventually Twitter banned the page and any page associated with it.

Instead of scolding me about the negativity on his page, he told me he loved my writing and asked if I would send him all my articles so he could put them on his sites.  I was reluctant and told him no.  He was really trying to grow his groups and most of the popular people on their were the cheerleader types; some minor social media bullies; and I was a bit turned off by it.  He said he understood.  He still would take some of my articles and forwarded them onto his site anyway.  Tim was persistent.

Tim and I would converse a lot online and it was fun.  I got on him a few times for being a bit too controlling on his sites.  He realized what I was saying and even if someone was way out there, he would let them talk.  It helped make his pages more fun.

If Tim had something on his mind he would try to do anything to prove he was right.  I loved battling with him.  He was the type that had to have the last word so I would mess with him by adding little words to our conversations.  He would laugh knowing what I was doing.  He said, “I love debating with you; you never take it personally and I’m the same way”.  He GOT social media and all the petty and immature grudges were not what he was about.  I liked that.

When Ken Stabler died and I wrote my semi-famous article on Ken, the two people I spoke with that night before writing it were Tim and Mike Yokum.  Mike had petitioned to get Ken in the Hall of Fame for years.  I knew how much they loved Ken and I needed to talk with people who understood what a big loss he was.  I used Mike and Tim’s quotes and takes in the article.  I soon was on various ESPN radio shows and other stations talking about Ken.  Tim and Mike’s insights helped me a lot.

There were some though that liked to take pot shots at Tim but he let it roll off his back.  Social media can show how nasty and mean some people are; especially men; and we talked about having to have a thick skin and not take it personally.  When Tim would bring up his much beloved predictions on who would get traded or cut in the near future, many would attack him.  He was right a lot though and it was fun to see his post reactions to his detractors.

He was also a huge voice during the election sparking controversy with some of his more zealous comments.  I appreciated his passion.

Tim was a great family man from West Virginia who loved his daughter and his wife immensely.  He talked about them at times in a self deprecating manner and you knew he enjoyed his family a lot.  Even his young daughter got in the act starting her own Facebook page showing her love for the Raiders as well.

I looked in my Facebook emails and saw the last time we sent emails to each other.  It was a couple of months ago where Tim had said his family needed prayer.  I sent him a prayer and he told me how much it meant to him and that he really appreciated it.

With the loss of Tim, social media/Facebook for the Oakland Raiders has a huge hole in it.  He was a prominent voice on Facebook for the Raiders and there were few groups that he didn’t have a hand in it’s success.  Personally, he was one of the reasons I didn’t take a writing job with a major company.  He encouraged me to be honest and to keep telling the truth and that I had freedom where others didn’t.  He was also the first person on the fan sites that supported me.  I’ll never forget that.

It’s going to be hard to get up in the morning now and not see Tim’s meme’s or his posts talking about the Raiders.  He was a positive and supportive person online and would help anyone that was going through a hard time.  I’ll miss him; a lot.

I don’t ask much of anyone but his family is dealing with unbearable pain and tragedy. Think of losing a spouse or a dad, and then losing your home and everything you owned. It’s just too much to handle alone.  I know that the best tribute to him would be for Tim to know that the very fans and team that he loved and supported and put so much into, are the very ones that support his wife and daughter during such a painful time.

I’m again leaving a page of support for Tim’s family and even if its just $5 or $10, let’s show Tim that even with his tragic death, he is not forgotten.  For the price of a Starbucks coffee or a pizza, you can show the same passion that Tim showed to Raider and NFL fans all over.  Thank you so much.

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

This loss hurt’s deep and he is already missed.  Thank you Tim for all you did for so many and for sharing yourself with all of us.  Tim proved that you don’t have to be famous to be great.  He was a good man and in today’s world we need more Tim Casto’s.

“Answering Critics of The Oakland Raiders Draft; Why Draft Connor Cook? Grading the Picks.”

 

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Michigan St. DE Shilique Calhoun against Ohio St.

For the first time in my life time, it seemed that most teams did fairly well at the 2016 NFL draft. One of those teams that did really well was the Oakland Raiders.

Many fans though have expressed their displeasure at certain picks, so let’s answer all the questions that people have in regards to these picks.

Value Pick v.s. Karl Joseph:

I got beaten up on Twitter a little bit when I was for the drafting of West Virginia Safety Karl Joseph. Like most people I had him as a top 30 player. My favorite DM on twitter was, “I thought you liked value picks; then how can you defend choosing Joseph?”

The answer to that is this. The Raiders desperately wanted Joseph in the second round. They also wanted Reggie Ragland. With the news coming that Ragland had an enlarged Aorta that would need yearly monitoring, Ragland dropped like a stone in the draft.   There were several teams that wanted Joseph in the late first round and early second round. NO WAY was Joseph falling to the Raiders in the second round.   The Raiders knew that to draft him they had to draft him earlier than expected. The hope was for Ragland to drop to them in the second round and he almost did; Buffalo nabbed him. But looking back Joseph is a really good player; probably a late first round talent that will greatly help your team. It was a risk they took and I would have too.

Emphasizing DL made me very happy. I’ve said it a million times; look at history; the DL is so important to Super Bowl winning teams.

Some say on social media, “where can you watch these players play?   I follow all the experts and I don’t see film on these guys”. The answer is, WATCH THE COLLEGE GAMES! College Football has DOZENS of stations that show games not once; but several times in reruns. Almost all college conferences have tv networks. You DVR the games and watch the players you want to see. If you watch a game and the player plays great or the announcers say he stands out you pay attention to them. If the player never gets mentioned but is drafted you say wow; I didn’t even remember this guy.

Our fathers began taping & recording famous games audio and then when VCR/VHS came out they taped the games. My dad has the Holy Roller on tape; a friend of mine’s dad has Notre Dame’s stunning upset of UCLA to snap their 88 game winning streak on a tape recording; from 1974! I have hundreds of games transferred to DVD in my large library at my home. If you are a sports & history junkie, start your own collection.

For example 2 years ago I taped 3 games with an up and comer in the NFL draft, WR Tre McBride from William & Mary. I fast forwarded and when you get the hang of it you can watch a players plays in 10-15 minutes. There are 128 college teams in Division 1 only, and many more in D II and DIII.   NFL is a passion for people; college football is a religion. Here in silicon Valley you can live stream anything and also don’t have to worry about regional games only being seen. We’re techies and you learn things.

With that being said let’s look at the Jihad Ward and Conner Cook picks below and all of the critic questions should be answered.

1st Round: Karl Joseph S (14, West Virginia)

I’ve already written about Joseph here.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/the-oakland-raiders-mindset-on-day-in-depth-evaluation-of-karl-joseph-lots-of-good-little-bad/

Grade A-

2nd Round Jihad Ward DL (44; Illinois)

He’s more athlete than football player. The after draft comments were interesting. When Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was asked if Ward was raw he snapped that he wasn’t. “The defensive line isn’t like playing QB”. When GM Reggie McKenzie was asked, he stated, “he’s definitely raw but we are not looking at him having a redshirt year. Hopefully if we coach him up he can be ready to contribute something this season”.

I don’t like quoting Pro Football Focus but to the few that defend this pick; PFF comments on Ward, “he had the 69th overall grade of edge defenders”. PFF then went on to say he may end up being a good run defender. Later on they say he may be a good pass rusher.   (see why PFF drives some people crazy?)

I watched Illinois several times and to be honest I barely remembered him. This was a reach at best in my mind. I think the Raiders were shocked too when Austin Johnson; stud DL out of Penn St.; and MLB Reggie Ragland was taken before their pick. With Alabama DL’s AShawn Robinson & Jarran Reed; as well as Clemson CB stud Mackenzie Alexander still on the board; this pick makes no sense in my mind but who knows. He’s a good story and I hope he does well.

GRADE: C

3rd Round: Shalique Calhoun DL (75, Michigan St.)

Michigan St. was in so many featured games even the casual fan saw them often. Calhoun was a stud on a very physical and talented defensive line that at times carried the Spartans and kept them in games. He had 27 sacks for his career and 44 tackles for loss. He’s a playmaking pass rusher that needs to bulk up a bit and improve his run stopping skills. Some scouts say he’s too passive. I don’t think he’ll have a middle ground. Could be a diamond in the rough or struggle. I think the positive greatly outweighs any negative.  Great Pick!

GRADE: A –

4th Round: Connor Cook QB (100, Michigan St.)

The Raiders traded up to get Cook at #100. This one still has Raider nation scratching their heads. Let’s look at the facts.

History again is so important. All of those people guaranteeing the Raiders will move up in the first round every year forget that they’ve never done it in 57 drafts yet every year they predict it. Look at history. Well this pick was ALL about Ron Wolf and his history.

When Reggie was learning under Raider and Green Bay Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, the Packers drafted QB’s all the time. I’ve said it for years. Every team should draft a QB every year in the late round.

Even with Brett Favre as their starter, Ron Wolf and the Packers drafted Mark Brunell (5th round), Aaron Brooks (4th round), and Matt Hasselbeck (6th round). These 3 became key NFL starters for other teams. (In a famous John Madden story, when Al Davis asked his staff about drafting a young Alabama QB with bad knees, Al’s staff said no. He then asked Ron Wolf who said yes; Ken Stabler was then drafted).

Wolf had an amazing eye for QB’s and ALL three of these picks were eventually traded for key draft picks and players who helped create a winning organization keeping talent flowing.

Some have now said trade Carr. Ridiculous; I personally don’t like Cook and don’t think he’s going to be a starting NFL QB; he’s not accurate in the medium and short game. Some teams like him though.  He’s also not exactly a leader type at times as was seen in some of his comments when he was injured and missed the Ohio St. game.   Some experts and teams will disagree with me but that’s my take. Some have said his personality is a turn off and he needs to greatly mature to be a leader in the Pro’s.

This was a Ron Wolf type pick that will eventually be trade bait if he pans out. If not, he can then be a backup.   Matt McGloin will be on trade watch this pre season. In today’s QB world with so little talent, teams are willing to risk money and picks on projects that they think they can make into something special and some will want Cook; maybe badly. If your starting QB goes down though, your team is in trouble.

GRADE B+

5th Round: Deandre Washington RB (143 Texas Tech)

I’m a Big 12 guy and I’d like to thank Deandre Washington for being such a fun player to watch these last 4 years. I hope he does well. Most had Washington either a 6 or 7th rounder; few had him in the 5th round; and a handful even had him going undrafted.

He can catch and run and was a work horse back for the Red Raiders. He returned kicks as a freshman. Many scouts complained that Washington may be a system guy at Texas Tech. The Big 12 is known for bad defense and wild west offenses so some question his numbers.   He’s also only 5’ 8” 205 and many scouts said he will struggle pass blocking. He is not a speed merchant but he’s fast enough and he’s tougher than he looks.

My pick here was Paul Perkins. He was a do it all RB as well at UCLA and he reminded some of a poor man’s Marcus Allen in his style. He’s shifty and quick and broke a lot of ankles with his cuts. I think he’s a better player and the Giants got a straight up steal with him. Many had Perkins going in the 3-5th round. Washington is a bit of a reach but time will tell if he pans out. I think he can be a situational player and a good pass catcher. A tough guy that plays confident with football smarts. Fans will enjoy this guy this pre season.

GRADE B-

6th Round: Cory James LB (194 Colorado St.)

At 6’ 225 lb. James has been a consistent 4 year starter for the Rams.   They moved him to MLB in his senior year but he is too small for that position in the NFL. He was also used as an edge rusher on passing downs and showed speed and athleticism. Some experts have really trashed this pick and I don’t know why. A project who should do well in special teams.

GRADE B

7th Round Vadal Alexander T/G (234 LSU)

My SEC friends are asking how in the heck did this guy make it to the 7th round. Most had him going 3-4 round and this is a great pick. Alexander came to LSU around 370 and even at 6’ 5” he looked too bulky. He’s lost 30 pounds as a 4 year starter and was all SEC last year. He played guard and then later switched to tackle in college. He is a masher in the run game with crazy strength. He lacks athleticism and good foot speed which is why teams dropped him so low. He has inconsistent mechanics and needs work but this guy should be a solid backup and even get a few snaps here and there in time. Huge potential. This is the type of pick that winning teams make. Huge upside. He’ll be projected as a guard in the pro’s for his lack of foot speed but he has the potential to really help this team as a backup. I am shocked he lasted so long.

GRADE A

There you have it; it seems that there is still a need for an MLB but remember that many things can still happen in the off season, pre season and even salary cap cuts before the season starts. Overall I really like this draft. Pick for today and for the future.

OVERALL GRADE:   B+

“After a Blockbuster Trade, Who Will The Raiders, AFC West & Others Pick in The NFL Draft?”

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In the first blockbuster trade of this year’s NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the #1 pick.  In exchange for the top pick, the Titans get the Ram’s 1st pick which is #15; 2 second rounder’s (43 & 45) and a third round selection (76th).  The Titans will also get the Ram’s first and third round picks in next year’s draft.  The Titans now have 6 of the first 76 draft picks.  The Rams get Tennessee’s 4th and 6th round picks next year.

This is why I don’t like trading up.

Why This Move Was Made & Will Backfire:

If you look at most of the teams that have traded up for a player, it almost always benefits the team that gave up the top pick. You give so much for a player and then in reality if they don’t pan out the near future of your team is ruined.

As I’ve said many times, you have to have patience.  When most of the Oakland Raider fans wanted Reggie McKenzie’s head the first 2 years he worked, I said that this was a 4 to 5 year plan.  Many fans; and for years Al Davis; over estimated how good this team was when it lacked talent.  McKenzie cleaned house and built a team on solid drafts and a good signing here and there.

The Rams are making the mistake a lot of teams do.  It’s the same mistake Minnesota made in 2013 when they traded up and used New England’s first round pick to get WR Cordarrale Patterson.  The Vikings thought they were better than they were and felt they were a player away from being really good.  They gave up 4 picks that turned into 3 starters for the Patriots Super Bowl Team for a good return man that is now 5th on their depth chart at WR.  Even though Sammy Watkins is a good player, the Bills made the same mistake trading picks to move up to get him when they had several holes to fill.

I think this is a bad move by the Rams.  Maybe I’ll be wrong and Carson Wentz or Jarod Goff will be super stars.  Most scouts though think they are projects and their upside isn’t as great as others think.  But in my mind I’m not giving up so many picks unless John Elway is there.  If Wentz or Goff doesn’t pan out, this move will ruin the Rams for at least 2-3 years if not more.  It’s a gutsy move but I think a desperate one for a team that is trying to make a splash after moving.

Mock Drafts Change Like The Wind:

What happens every year is that team’s desires change as time goes on; that’s why so many drop and move up in mock drafts over time.  Athleticism and the NFL combines shock teams.  It’s like they are enamored with athleticism.  It’s kind of like the pretty cheerleader in high school.  You finally get a chance to date her and then over time you realize she is high maintenance, stuck up and boring.  You eventually move on.  That’s what happens with NFL teams and players in the draft before they are selected.  Athleticism is great but football talent is greater.  Get football talent with athleticism and you have a super star. 

Let’s now look at how this trade changes the fortunes of some teams.

Tennessee Titans;

Wow; what a great trade for them.  They have holes to fill and now, with good drafting, they can literally rebuild their team in 2 drafts.  It was a great move for a team that is on the rise.

San Francisco 49ers:

This almost assures that Colin Kaepernick is staying in San Francisco.  With the Rams and Cleveland almost assuredly taking quarterbacks, this trade hurts.  The 49ers really seemed to like Cal Bears QB Jared Goff and it looked like he was going to fall into their laps.  Somewhere in Ann Arbor Michigan there is a middle aged college football coach wearing khakis and a blue hat who is smiling ear to ear.

This trade does one thing; it means the 49ers are almost for sure going to take a DL in the first round.  The Ravens will take Ohio St. DL Joey Bosa or Oregon DL DeForest Buckner with the #6 pick I’m pretty sure, and then the player that is left over will go to SF.

Denver Broncos:

This move is good and bad for Denver.  Colin Kaepernick is almost for sure not leaving San Francisco.  But if you look at the draft it also allows the Broncos to probably be able to pick Memphis QB Paxton Lynch at #15.  I’m not a huge fan of Lynch’s but some really like him.  There are rumors of trades with Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor but he’s limited as a QB in my opinion.

Look for Nick Foles (gulp); to possibly be wearing Orange next year in Denver.  If they don’t plan on drafting Lynch then it’s almost for sure.  The QB position has never been worse in the NFL.  Look for Denver’s defense to again have to carry the load for this team.

San Diego Chargers:

The Chargers catch a huge break.  Or did they?  Most see monster LT Laremy Tunsil out of Mississippi now falling into their laps greatly helping out their offensive line.  In most drafts some of the safest picks are OL and this is a great get for them.  The Jags and the Cowboys are in front of them and no way are they taking a left tackle.   To gain a great pick without doing anything is not bad.

The problem is the Chargers already have two pretty good starting Tackles in Joe Barksdale & King Dunlap.  They also signed Chris Hairston for depth.  Many feel the Chargers need a center big time but no center warrants that high of a pick.  I see the Chargers going defense either with CB Jalen Ramsey, DL Joey Bosa or DL DeForest Buckner.  While most online have Tunsil moving to SD, I see them going defense.

Kansas City Chiefs:

This probably won’t affect the Chiefs much.  There are a lot of edge rushers in this draft and that’s something that they need.  Tamba Hali is going to be 33 and Justin Houston’s injuries are a worry.  I see them getting a solid player in this year’s DL heavy ensemble.  Kevin Dodd?

NFL-Draft-compensatory-11-19-15

Oakland Raiders:

Yes Raider Fans; let’s look at what this does to your Raiders.

I said it last year that the 2016 NFL draft is going to be a crap shoot and extremely exciting; maybe the most fun ever watching a draft.  No one really knows what teams are going to do and what their evaluations of players are.

As I wrote in my article yesterday, I think right now the Raiders will take Reggie Ragland, MLB out of Alabama for their first pick.  He is by far the best MLB in the draft but it’s slim pickings out there for inside linebackers.  Some think there isnt’ even a second round MLB that warrants to be picked there.  It’s a safe pick.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/who-will-now-be-the-oakland-raiders-1-draft-pick-after-their-latest-signing/

Three guys that are greatly climbing up the ladder that I spoke about a while back are Clemson DL Shaq Lawson, Michigan St. OL Jack Conklin, and OLB Leonard Floyd @ Georgia.

I wrote about these guys before and most ripped on me having them so high but now many mock drafts have these guys climbing big time.  I have no idea why Kevin Dodd is ahead of Lawson in some peoples’ minds.  Lawson was double teamed most of last year and Dodd was helped by that.  Dodd also had only one good year at Clemson.  I take Lawson all day.  There were some games that Lawson played where he was obviously the best football player on the field.

Jack Conklin is a mean physical lineman.  Good at pass protecting but great in run blocking.  He needs work protecting the QB but I think he can be solid for a long time.  Some of the major writers have him going to the Raiders and I think that’s kind of silly with their recent signings.

Sports Illustrated is obsessed with giving the Raiders another wide receiver in the first round but I think there is no way that happens.

The guy that I like a lot is Leonard Floyd.  He’s a machine out there who makes plays.  The problem with Floyd is he looks like Lawrence Taylor one game and then Rip Taylor the next.  He needs maturity and focus.

I admit; Georgia was a dysfunctional wild-west show at times but if you give this guy discipline and he matures, wow.  If the Raiders picked him I would not be upset.  You can still try to fill in the MLB position later in the draft or with cap casualties that always are cut during training camp, because this guy just jumps off of the page.  You know how I love pass rushers and seeing him blitzing behind Mack?  Worse things could happen.

I love Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander too.  I think he’s the best DB in this draft.  Teams were so intimidated with his skills that they just stopped throwing at him.  He gave up 11 passes all year last year and no touchdowns.  He has a toughness and swagger that reminds me of George Atkinson.  He’s very strong and physical.  Scouts don’t like that he’s a legit 5’ 10” but I still like him a lot.  If he’s chosen I think it’s great.

If you have Alexander now you have David Amerson, Sean Smith and Alexander as your top 3 cornerbacks, and Reggie Nelson, Nate Allen and TJ Carrie as your safeties.  Not exactly the Soul Patrol but it is pretty good.

Guys Falling For The Raiders Pick:

The two guys that are falling are Notre Dame OL Ronnie Stanley and Alabama DL AShawn Robinson.  There are worries about Stanley’s passion for football and his work ethic.  He has not shown much strength at times as well during pre-draft workouts.  AShawn Robinson works hard and is a really good player but some say he’s not totally into football as a long term thing.  Early retirements are occurring more and more in the NFL and it’s a risk that worries teams.

Ohio St. OL Taylor Decker; (who I originally had Conklin ahead of) was considered a for sure top 15 pick but now he’s not even in the first round in some people’s eyes.

Ohio St. CB Eli Apple is raw and is also dropping on some boards.  I am not a huge fan of his.  I like Alexander a lot better.  Again athleticism and the cookie cutter size for each position is popular in the NFL but I want football players.

Many people were also trying to promote Ohio St. OLB Darron Lee but I think that is a bad #1 pick.  If you are going to get an MLB later in the draft I’d rather pick Floyd over Lee.  Lee’s an athlete playing football.  He has literally only played LB for 2 years of his life and he has a lot to learn.  He’s also a smallish LB and not a real physically strong one at that.

I see two people on my social media timeline that are promoting Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche about 5-10 times a day.  In reality he only has 7 sacks in 3 years, and in his last 7 games last year he had only 2 tackles a game.  You tube videos and reading experts opinions is great, but if you really want to know how good players are you have to watch them play.

I pass big time on Robert and I see in some mock drafts he’s not even in the first round anymore.  ESPN’s Todd McShay even got off his bandwagon and dropped him out of the first round.  (Finally!)  Remember when I warned you about Jets Vernon Gholston in 2008 and Jadeveon Clowney being busts and some of you didn’t listen?  Listen to Brother Jim.

I can’t see Ohio St. RB Ezekiel Elliot passing by the Eagles, Bears or the Giants without being chosen.

There you have it; so get the food ready; call in sick to work; the kids are at school; open up a cold one or a glass of wine and take the day to enjoy the NFL Draft.  We’ve had a draft party for 16 years and it’s something I look forward to every year.

 

 

“A Tribute to an Iconic Raider & NFL Fan Azel Grasty Sr.; AKA The Oaktown Pirate”

Azel Grasty kid

“I release this every October in Honor or Azel’s birthday 10/5; RIP”

Today was just one of those days where not much goes right.  Nothing seemed to work and go well. I came home, opened up an ice cold Bass beer and read the news hoping for a story that would make me smile.  I first found out that one of my favorite Hispanic actresses Elizabeth Pena was dead at 55.  What a great career and what a cool lady.  I then got another shocker.  One of the all time iconic Oakland Raider fans had also passed.  I couldn’t relax before writing a little about him.  His name was Azel Grasty Sr., AKA the Oaktown Pirate (Raider).

The Oakland Coliseum; (I’m not calling it that other name) is the most unique environment in the NFL.  I’ve been to other stadiums and what I love about Oakland is the diversity of the fans.  Let’s be real; if you watch a game in places like New England, Denver, and New York; most of the fans are white.  In Oakland, all walks of life are there.  Black, brown, white, red; and with so many that dress up, silver and grey too.

Raider fans are like no other so when one of the iconic fans passes on, I always remember the glory days.  I love history and the Raiders history is of legend, and in those times there was no place like the Oakland Coliseum.  During the fall the overcast gray skies, the fans dressed in black, and the enclosed stadium made it more like a thunderous tomb than somewhere to play football.  Don Shula and the Dolphins players hated everything Raider; the fans, the players, the colors.  Don Shula once called Oakland hell, and Chiefs head coach Hank Stram said he was going to call the governor of California and make him stop allowing inmates from San Quentin to be released on Sundays so that they couldn’t come to any more games.  Steelers coach Chuck Noll hated the Raiders so much in time he refused to mention them.   He felt the Raiders were the criminal element and evil and so were their fans.  He once called John Madden before a game to complain about rats in their dressing room.  Coach Madden laughed and said, “really?  There are some in our dressing room too!”

In the first 11 years at the Oakland Coliseum the Raiders were 66-9-2.  The House of Thrills was not the place to be for opponents.

I remember many years later being on a business trip in Denver and Cincinnati and wearing a Raider sweater and people by the dozens booing me at the mall.  It was so much fun being hated.  Now I know what Ty Cobb meant.  It was wonderful!

Even though I’m a writer trying to be honest and un-biased, my family’s roots are deep in the tradition of Oakland Raider football.  My father as a young man would go to the Raiders games at Candlestick Park and Frank Youell Field and told me stories of how the Raiders front office staff would go to local restaurants and give away tickets just so people would come.  Their fan base was built from the ground up and in time, the waiting list for tickets was in the thousands.  Many of the players didn’t make a lot of money and most had off season jobs and many became friends with the fans and even work with them.  My dad became friends with a few of them and in his dealings as a Teamster; he had the opportunity to get to know them better.  The bond between Oakland Fan and player was as deep rooted as any sports relationship in history.  The “gatherings” among fans and players in Santa Rosa during training camp still would make a truck driver blush.  It was just a special time.  To many fans the Raiders were their team.  In Oakland they were our family.

No place was louder and more intimidating than the Oakland Coliseum.  As the great George Atkinson once said, “you come into our house you better be prepared to fight, and fight all of us”.  No team had a better fan base.

That’s why every year when I hear the news of a great long time Raider fan passing, it really hurts deep.  As the years go by we are losing more and more of them.  Time can be a cruel mistress.

One of those iconic fans was Azel Grasty Sr. who passed away at the age of 57;  much too young of a man to leave us.

Azel was like most Raider fans that dress up; he was unique.  His Raider fan persona was the Oaktown Pirate, dressed up in full silver and black pirate gear.  He even had contacts that made his pupils look different.  Many major news outlets like ESPN and Yahoo sports did stories about him and other fans and showed photos of them.  Azel enjoyed kids, and fans of all ages, and loved having a good time.  Azel donated a lot of his time to others and was very proud of his involvement in youth football.  There is a sweet video on Youtube of Azel meeting some youth football players at the Oakland Coliseum.  I met him a couple of times and he couldn’t have been nicer and funnier.  He really loved people.

I think what is funny too is that the more menacing, evil, and scary some of the Raider fans make themselves up to be, they usually end up being the complete opposite.  Azel was that way too.  When he was dressed up as the Oaktown Pirate, you would think little kids would be scared of him, but every game kids were coming up to give him high fives, or take a picture with him.  His heart was as big as his smile.

There are so many photos of him on Yahoo, ESPN, facebook and Twitter that you could fill a book.  He never took himself too seriously and loved mingling with others.  He was kind, fun, and showed what being a fan is all about.

I was really appreciative of all of the great things people said about Azel on social media.  Even with the frustration, anger and rants of some Raider fans through all of the losing, they still remain some of the kindest, warm hearted and down to earth people you’d ever meet; especially during bad times.  Azel would be touched I’m sure.

One Twitter follower direct messaged me and said that the Coliseum is going to be a little darker with another one of it’s fun bright lights gone. I thought about it and messaged her back and said that she was probably right.  But doesn’t the sky look a little brighter.  Rest in Peace Azel; you were a good Raider fan who made people of all ages smile; but more importantly you were a good man indeed.