In the medical field; and in life; you see so many amazingly brave and kind people battling diseases. Their courage is never seen or talked about. They worry about their families and are selfless in their battle. People in the news also have those battles. Some choose to fight them publicly; some privately.
For Craig Sager he somewhat had no choice. In today’s hyper sensitive society which judges anything that is seen or done; especially on television; Craig Sager was seen all the time. For him though he wanted to show that you can fight things with strength. determination and with a sense of humor. He knew every move he did would be watched but that he would always just be himself. Little did anyone know how much this would touch people.
Craig Sager was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2014 and it was obvious that he was not going to be working the 2014 NBA playoffs. The severity of the disease and the diagnosis hit the NBA and Turner television family hard. Without treatment he had 3 to 6 months to live. Even with treatment this form of cancer was very aggressive and the long term prognosis was not good.
While his father was out, in a moving scene Craig’s son Craig Jr. interviewed the surly coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich. His nastiness to reporters is of legend. During the interview Gregg was very kind and showed a lot of love to Craig Jr. but he added that he would rather have Sr. there instead.
Along the way #sagerstrong began to pop up on Twitter. People would see news stories of Sager in his extremely upbeat battle with the disease. He was positive even through the worst of times. He had an amazing 3 bone marrow transplants and went through chemotherapy along the way.
His daughter Kacy didn’t seem too pleased with her dad at one time on Twitter. In the middle of an 8 day chemotherapy session Craig drove 3 hours to do the Oklahoma Thunder-San Antonio Spurs game after a treatment.
“My dad is in the middle of 8 days of chemo, drove 3.5 hours from HOU to SA to work this game, driving back in the am. Absurd. Meanwhile my roommate called out of work because she feels like crap”
The whole NBA community was pulling for Craig. During the playoffs that he missed, for one day the entire Turner team dressed in crazy suits like Craig. Many even from other networks did it. It was an amazing show of support to a man that was battling so hard.
Charles Barkley had hip replacement surgery and was told he could not fly for a while. When he heard Craig’s wife Stacy had a cold and could no longer be in the room with Craig, Charles hopped on a plane and visited. “Craig Sager is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. You go to visit him to cheer him up and his attitude is so upbeat he cheers you up”.
Craigs shining moment was his story and then speech about fighting cancer at the Espy’s, the annual award ceremony ESPN does. He was given the Jimmy V award in honor of former North Carolina St. coach Jim Valvano who passed away of cancer. The Jimmy V foundation has raised millions for cancer research.
His appreciation to the Turner broadcasting team for helping him to keep working was one of the first things he talked about. In a day when corporations seem to have no morals, character or heart, he appreciated their amazing support.
Craig talked about living with passion and having fun. Fighting it with a great attitude and fire and how that attitude can help the way you act.
When Craig first started he took a lot of ribbing. Some didn’t take him seriously due to his crazy suits. But in time people realized he was real. He was fun, kind, hard working and loyal. He loved life and loved and appreciated people. He took his job seriously and loved the NBA and the whole experience. He loved the hustle and bustle of his job but he never took himself too seriously.
In reality what we loved about Craig Sager is he was how we wanted our athletes and our news people to be. In a day with so many scandals, arrogance, pettiness and dysfunctional actions, we loved that Craig was kind, caring and full of fun. He was vulnerable and humble and kind in a way that made us feel connected to him. An everyman.
Craig was given a terrible sentence and he battled an amazing 2 years. I’m sure the doctors didn’t expect him to last that long but Craig did it in a way that inspired millions. Our family like all of yours, has probably been through the pains of cancer. I’ve sat with patients as they died. I’ve sat with loved ones as they took their last breath. The torturous battle that is sometimes seen in cancer is a battle that so many have endured.
But in the end it’s not how people die that matters; it’s how they lived. How we fight the battles and how we touch others doing it. We’ve seen the tragedies but we’ve also seen the courage and triumph. The passionate battles and the perseverance through treatment and adversity. The amazing human spirit that is seen in people that never get the publicity or the attention during their quiet battles.
To all of you battling, I pray for you deeply and hope that one day they will find better treatments which lead to finding cures. And for loved ones and those with cancer, I say one thing. Stay Sager Strong and live with all you have no matter how long the time.
In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.
With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.
With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night. All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.
I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.
When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich. He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.
Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.
Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:
Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.
If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.
Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules? Now you understand OUR excitement. As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room. The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”
A Leader to the End:
The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way. He was a leader on the field and off. Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away. Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.
“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”
The Closest Team in the NFL:
Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were. Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.
We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s. I visited them recently.
Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.
“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us. Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”
After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”
a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
My father once said that the hardest part about aging is watching people around you; including family, friends, athletes and celebrities; slowly pass away as the years go by. As NFL fans it’s also hard for us to watch the iconic fans of our youth slowly leave us with the passing of time. Another great one has left us in Ron “The General” Rickard. “Raider Ron” was a cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a fan. His brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.
We all have a story, and Ron’s was one of fun, determination, struggle, pain and joy. That’s why fans from all over the country have been saddened by his death at the tender age of 54 due to liver failure. He had been battling for over 6 years. He was hoping for a liver transplant but it wasn’t to be. He had contracted Hepatitis C which eventually damaged his liver. Sadly the liver that he long waited for came 12 hours after his passing.
What made Ron’s story amazing is that he went to 246 straight games for the Raiders; HOME and AWAY! He even got to go to the game in Wembley to keep the streak alive after winning the Raiders “One Nation, Your Story” contest.
After his 200th game his friends that he competed with (mostly as a leader) at The Bad Boys of BBQ threw him a tailgate party in his honor. “Kingsford” Kirk Bronsord, the leader of the Bad Boys of BBQ stated in an article from the Raiders website, “I’m proud and honored to be able to say that this is a great friend of mine. He has done something that few people get to do. That’s 12 ½ years of never missing a game”.
Ron said of the streak, “one year I told my wife, you know, I want to go to every game and do it just one time. So I did it and everything went pretty smooth so I did it again the next year.”
After his 246th game in 2014, the Raiders honored him, and Lincoln Kennedy interviewed Ron on the field. He was thrilled to be able to light the Al Davis memorial torch.
Ron’s story doesn’t end there by a long shot. He began to create friendships with Raider fans from all over the country. He also created great friendships with fans of other teams. From Tampa Bay, to San Diego to anywhere there was an NFL stadium, people grew to love Rickard. That love was shown when at times fans would help him financially including getting him tickets and other items to keep the streak alive.
Fast friend and a person I enjoyed talking to; Ron’s Fellow Hall of Fame icon Tim Young; (The Famous Tampa Bay Fan known as “The Captain”) said he once came to a game in Oakland knowing no one. “I walked into the parking lot and I told Ron I was looking for a tailgate to adopt me. Ron quickly took me in and added me to the fold. A long friendship ensued”.
Friendship was important to Ron and people reciprocated that feeling. Ron said in an interview, “70 or 80 people; many of them Raider fans; have even offered to serve as living donors for me”. A stranger from Tennessee even paid a house payment for Ron.
Ron grew up in Kentucky. As a kid he would watch the games and he became a huge Raiders fan. He came to California and got into the car wash business. The first Raider game he ever went to he was offered a ticket by someone and they made him a guest of their family. He then created the persona of the General and became an iconic fan of the team he loved.
Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He helped everyone he met and had a goofy, fun side. When he went through hardships he always had a smile to give to whoever needed it.
“He was very smart” Tim exclaimed, “but he never was arrogant and he never name dropped. He was extremely kind and humble. He showed great sportsmanship. Ron and his wife couldn’t have kids but he adored them. He mentored many people showing them the ropes of life, of being a good fan and of being a good person. He always was a positive influence. He did so much for so many”.
Ron and his lovely wife Janet were true soulmates with years of devotion. He was loyal, appreciative, kind and strong. He was given a rotten hand in life, but he smiled and fought hard with all he had to the end. Ron enjoyed being a Raider fan but most of all he enjoyed just being. He created a legacy that will be cherished for a long time.
The Commodores have a song called Heroes and here are some of the lyrics:
Heroes make the sun rise in the mornin’ Heroes make the moon shine bright at night Heroes make our lives a little stronger All our fears go away when he’s around
Whoa, heroes make our lives a little stronger If you look you’ll surely see they’re you and me
I am lucky in life. I had heroes. My mom and dad; my grandparents; uncles and aunts and great friends. Ron was a hero too. And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for others, with dignity and grace.
The best way to honor Ron is to be that hero. To be the one that leads and encourages and inspires. Live with ethics and grace and always do right. Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air.
I have and always will support good fans from all of the NFL teams in their causes, hardships and triumphs. We are not gang members. We are people who are part of one team; the human race; who just want a chance to live a good, fun life in peace. Just like Ron, support one another and let’s never forget to live life to the fullest while never taking ourselves too seriously. Dare to dream and dream big with a positive way about you. And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your teams colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.
In the first blockbuster trade of this year’s NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the #1 pick. In exchange for the top pick, the Titans get the Ram’s 1stpick which is #15; 2 second rounder’s (43 & 45) and a third round selection (76th). The Titans will also get the Ram’s first and third round picks in next year’s draft. The Titans now have 6 of the first 76 draft picks. The Rams get Tennessee’s 4thand 6thround picks next year.
This is why I don’t like trading up.
Why This Move Was Made & Will Backfire:
If you look at most of the teams that have traded up for a player, it almost always benefits the team that gave up the top pick. You give so much for a player and then in reality if they don’t pan out the near future of your team is ruined.
As I’ve said many times, you have to have patience. When most of the Oakland Raider fans wanted Reggie McKenzie’s head the first 2 years he worked, I said that this was a 4 to 5 year plan. Many fans; and for years Al Davis; over estimated how good this team was when it lacked talent. McKenzie cleaned house and built a team on solid drafts and a good signing here and there.
The Rams are making the mistake a lot of teams do. It’s the same mistake Minnesota made in 2013 when they traded up and used New England’s first round pick to get WR Cordarrale Patterson. The Vikings thought they were better than they were and felt they were a player away from being really good. They gave up 4 picks that turned into 3 starters for the Patriots Super Bowl Team for a good return man that is now 5th on their depth chart at WR. Even though Sammy Watkins is a good player, the Bills made the same mistake trading picks to move up to get him when they had several holes to fill.
I think this is a bad move by the Rams. Maybe I’ll be wrong and Carson Wentz or Jarod Goff will be super stars. Most scouts though think they are projects and their upside isn’t as great as others think. But in my mind I’m not giving up so many picks unless John Elway is there. If Wentz or Goff doesn’t pan out, this move will ruin the Rams for at least 2-3 years if not more. It’s a gutsy move but I think a desperate one for a team that is trying to make a splash after moving.
Mock Drafts Change Like The Wind:
What happens every year is that team’s desires change as time goes on; that’s why so many drop and move up in mock drafts over time. Athleticism and the NFL combines shock teams. It’s like they are enamored with athleticism. It’s kind of like the pretty cheerleader in high school. You finally get a chance to date her and then over time you realize she is high maintenance, stuck up and boring. You eventually move on. That’s what happens with NFL teams and players in the draft before they are selected. Athleticism is great but football talent is greater. Get football talent with athleticism and you have a super star.
Let’s now look at how this trade changes the fortunes of some teams.
Wow; what a great trade for them. They have holes to fill and now, with good drafting, they can literally rebuild their team in 2 drafts. It was a great move for a team that is on the rise.
San Francisco 49ers:
This almost assures that Colin Kaepernick is staying in San Francisco. With the Rams and Cleveland almost assuredly taking quarterbacks, this trade hurts. The 49ers really seemed to like Cal Bears QB Jared Goff and it looked like he was going to fall into their laps. Somewhere in Ann Arbor Michigan there is a middle aged college football coach wearing khakis and a blue hat who is smiling ear to ear.
This trade does one thing; it means the 49ers are almost for sure going to take a DL in the first round. The Ravens will take Ohio St. DLJoey Bosaor Oregon DLDeForest Bucknerwith the #6 pick I’m pretty sure, and then the player that is left over will go to SF.
This move is good and bad for Denver. Colin Kaepernick is almost for sure not leaving San Francisco. But if you look at the draft it also allows the Broncos to probably be able to pick Memphis QB Paxton Lynch at #15. I’m not a huge fan of Lynch’s but some really like him. There are rumors of trades with Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor but he’s limited as a QB in my opinion.
Look for Nick Foles (gulp); to possibly be wearing Orange next year in Denver. If they don’t plan on drafting Lynch then it’s almost for sure. The QB position has never been worse in the NFL. Look for Denver’s defense to again have to carry the load for this team.
San Diego Chargers:
The Chargers catch a huge break. Or did they? Most see monster LTLaremy Tunsilout of Mississippi now falling into their laps greatly helping out their offensive line. In most drafts some of the safest picks are OL and this is a great get for them. The Jags and the Cowboys are in front of them and no way are they taking a left tackle. To gain a great pick without doing anything is not bad.
The problem is the Chargers already have two pretty good starting Tackles in Joe Barksdale & King Dunlap. They also signed Chris Hairston for depth. Many feel the Chargers need a center big time but no center warrants that high of a pick. I see the Chargers going defense either with CB Jalen Ramsey, DL Joey Bosa or DL DeForest Buckner. While most online have Tunsil moving to SD, I see them going defense.
Kansas City Chiefs:
This probably won’t affect the Chiefs much. There are a lot of edge rushers in this draft and that’s something that they need. Tamba Hali is going to be 33 and Justin Houston’s injuries are a worry. I see them getting a solid player in this year’s DL heavy ensemble. Kevin Dodd?
Yes Raider Fans; let’s look at what this does to your Raiders.
I said it last year that the 2016 NFL draft is going to be a crap shoot and extremely exciting; maybe the most fun ever watching a draft. No one really knows what teams are going to do and what their evaluations of players are.
As I wrote in my article yesterday, I think right now the Raiders will takeReggie Ragland, MLB out of Alabama for their first pick. He is by far the best MLB in the draft but it’s slim pickings out there for inside linebackers. Some think there isnt’ even a second round MLB that warrants to be picked there. It’s a safe pick.
Three guys that are greatly climbing up the ladder that I spoke about a while back are Clemson DLShaq Lawson, Michigan St. OLJack Conklin, and OLBLeonard Floyd@ Georgia.
I wrote about these guys before and most ripped on me having them so high but now many mock drafts have these guys climbing big time. I have no idea why Kevin Dodd is ahead of Lawson in some peoples’ minds. Lawson was double teamed most of last year and Dodd was helped by that. Dodd also had only one good year at Clemson. I take Lawson all day. There were some games that Lawson played where he was obviously the best football player on the field.
Jack Conklinis a mean physical lineman. Good at pass protecting but great in run blocking. He needs work protecting the QB but I think he can be solid for a long time. Some of the major writers have him going to the Raiders and I think that’s kind of silly with their recent signings.
Sports Illustrated is obsessed with giving the Raiders another wide receiver in the first round but I think there is no way that happens.
The guy that I like a lot is Leonard Floyd. He’s a machine out there who makes plays. The problem with Floyd is he looks like Lawrence Taylor one game and then Rip Taylor the next. He needs maturity and focus.
I admit; Georgia was a dysfunctional wild-west show at times but if you give this guy discipline and he matures, wow. If the Raiders picked him I would not be upset. You can still try to fill in the MLB position later in the draft or with cap casualties that always are cut during training camp, because this guy just jumps off of the page. You know how I love pass rushers and seeing him blitzing behind Mack? Worse things could happen.
I love Clemson CBMackensie Alexandertoo. I think he’s the best DB in this draft. Teams were so intimidated with his skills that they just stopped throwing at him. He gave up 11 passes all year last year and no touchdowns. He has a toughness and swagger that reminds me of George Atkinson. He’s very strong and physical. Scouts don’t like that he’s a legit 5’ 10” but I still like him a lot. If he’s chosen I think it’s great.
If you have Alexander now you haveDavid Amerson,Sean Smithand Alexander as your top 3 cornerbacks, andReggie Nelson,Nate AllenandTJ Carrieas your safeties. Not exactly the Soul Patrol but it is pretty good.
Guys Falling For The Raiders Pick:
The two guys that are falling are Notre Dame OLRonnie Stanleyand Alabama DLAShawn Robinson. There are worries about Stanley’s passion for football and his work ethic. He has not shown much strength at times as well during pre-draft workouts. AShawn Robinson works hard and is a really good player but some say he’s not totally into football as a long term thing. Early retirements are occurring more and more in the NFL and it’s a risk that worries teams.
Ohio St. OLTaylor Decker; (who I originally had Conklin ahead of) was considered a for sure top 15 pick but now he’s not even in the first round in some people’s eyes.
Ohio St. CBEli Appleis raw and is also dropping on some boards. I am not a huge fan of his. I like Alexander a lot better. Again athleticism and the cookie cutter size for each position is popular in the NFL but I want football players.
Many people were also trying to promote Ohio St. OLBDarron Leebut I think that is a bad #1 pick. If you are going to get an MLB later in the draft I’d rather pick Floyd over Lee. Lee’s an athlete playing football. He has literally only played LB for 2 years of his life and he has a lot to learn. He’s also a smallish LB and not a real physically strong one at that.
I see two people on my social media timeline that are promoting Ole Miss DLRobert Nkemdicheabout 5-10 times a day. In reality he only has 7 sacks in 3 years, and in his last 7 games last year he had only 2 tackles a game. You tube videos and reading experts opinions is great, but if you really want to know how good players are you have to watch them play.
I pass big time on Robert and I see in some mock drafts he’s not even in the first round anymore. ESPN’s Todd McShay even got off his bandwagon and dropped him out of the first round. (Finally!) Remember when I warned you about Jets Vernon Gholston in 2008 and Jadeveon Clowney being busts and some of you didn’t listen? Listen to Brother Jim.
I can’t see Ohio St. RB Ezekiel Elliot passing by the Eagles, Bears or the Giants without being chosen.
There you have it; so get the food ready; call in sick to work; the kids are at school; open up a cold one or a glass of wine and take the day to enjoy the NFL Draft. We’ve had a draft party for 16 years and it’s something I look forward to every year.
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.
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.
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.
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 capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
The last 2 weeks I read 14 articles from 2015 on Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. They were from professional writers to homer Raider bloggers to ESPN and NFL.com. Only ONE said keep Reggie McKenzie as a GM. Oh how the seasons have changed.
The Ron Wolf Effect:
When most fans and many writers wanted Reggie McKenzie fired, I said to give him time. I ripped on his poor moves as well but I also trust success. The reason I said don’t fire Reggie was NOT because of Reggie McKenzie. It was because of Ron Wolf. Ron Wolf taught and mentored Reggie when he was at Green Bay.
When I wrote an article on the greatest Raider of all time, ¾ of the fans that read it didn’t even know who Ron Wolf was. I remember my dad raving about him when I was a kid and beyond. Wolf was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Tim Brown. Wolf continues to be excited about McKenzie as a GM.
On a frigid day right before Christmas in 1967, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Joe Kuharich was asked about the angry boo’s in the stands after a tough loss. “I pay little attention to the 60,000 assistants in the stands each Sunday. If you listen to the fans, eventually you’ll be sitting with them”.
Reggie didn’t listen to fans and the media when they ripped him and he’s not listening to them now when they are praising him. If you read your own press clippings you’ll start to believe them. He smartly always limited his interaction with everyone just like Ron Wolf did. Something most coaches and athletes should do more.
The Changing Atmosphere Surrounding Him:
We all do it; we are emotional about something and then we write or post something on social media that we later regret. Either it was too harsh or nasty. We didn’t really feel that way but it was just a knee jerk reaction out of disappointment or anger.
It’s funny to see many of the “strongest” we’ll say detractors of Reggie McKenzie now turning the other way. People wonder why most “experts”, “insiders”, mock draft gurus, NFL draft gurus, (and many fans and social media masters for that matter); rarely talk about their past predictions unless it’s the ones they got right. It’s because they don’t want the accountability and they are often wrong. You hear them on radio talk shows, online, and social media. They are often wrong but never in doubt. Again, it’s ok to be wrong sometimes but if you are wrong most of the time; then use your inside voice.
I say this because many of his early detractors forgot that Reggie McKenzie had to fix a train wreck and he’s done pretty well so far. I said it years ago when McKenzie was hired and fans were telling me how good the Raiders were. No they were wrong; this wasn’t a good team for a long time. No,they didn’t have a lot of talent. No, giving these draft picks time was not going to make them good. The Raiders were a mess and I said this would be a 4-5 year process; that’s how bad this organization was and I think the Raiders are right on schedule.
The Al Davis Effect; Reggie Fixes the Mess:
The teams of the 1970’s especially were loaded. In the greatest era of the NFL, the players didn’t make much money. Many had outside ventures. The teams could spend as much money as they wanted and many teams had backups that could start for other teams. Running a team was easier.
With a financial mess, Reggie McKenzie had a very difficult job. In the new era of the NFL, there is the salary cap, partially guaranteed contracts and some players are making a lot of money. Reggie McKenzie had to fix the bad situation the Raiders were in and rebuild. You then have to fight the media and the fans that have no patience. In today’s internet age, patience is waiting for lunch time when it’s 10 a.m. in the morning.
Mr. Davis was overpaying underachieving players, and he drafted very poorly. Al Davis became obsessed with NFL combine numbers and size; especially 40 times; and it destroyed the Raiders. Their list of bad draft picks; ESPECIALLY most of their Defensive Back Picks with the fast 40 times; are of legend. When you don’t watch game films and pass up on the Calvin Johnsons’, Adrian Peterson’s and Aaron Rodgers, you are failing.
McKenzie was not in denial though. He didn’t have Al Davis’ new mentality. Mr. Davis was in denial like some of the fans were every year; “we are really good and we just need 1-2 key players.” In reality for a long time the Raiders were NOT really good and they needed to rebuild. It was like building a house but denying you have a bad foundation. You were constantly adding floors or making over a room to make it look better when in reality it didn’t change a thing. Reggie McKenzie got that you have to destroy the foundation and build a new one. Let’s look at how he has done that in Oakland.
Reggie McKenzie’s Draft History:
Just like his signings, overall his drafts have improved with time. The DJ Hayden pick made no sense especially when DT Star Lotulelei had fallen in their lap. Hayden was another athlete playing football. Some of the “experts” had Hayden as the best CB in the draft. I watched Houston play a few times and was shocked. What were they watching? To see Lotulelei starting for the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl was painful. McKenzie improved with time though and he’s picked up their QB and other key members along the way.
The 2014 draft was the start of the rejuvenating of the Raiders. Five of the draft choices ended up being starters who mostly excelled. Last year’s draft shows a lot of promise as well. It’s a far cry from where the Raiders were in his first 2 years and it’s the core of their success.
Some fans are now going the other way making McKenzie out to be a genius but as I always say, let’s deal with the facts. The bad signings McKenzie has made are in abundance. Matt Schaub, Matt Flynn, LaMarr Woodley, Curtis Lofton, Nate Allen, Shawntae Spencer, Andre Hardy, Antonio Smith, Tarell Brown, Maurice Jones-Drew, Roy Helu Jr., Carlos Rogers, Pat Lee, Mike Brisiel, Kevin Boothe, Ron Bartell, Colin Miller, and Dave Tollefson were just some of the epic fails the Raiders had in free agency.
Even with a couple of good pick-ups, his first 2 years of free agency was a nightmare for Reggie McKenzie. Fast forwarding to 2014 the Raiders had an ok free agent class with more misses than hits. The big miss was Lamar Woodley who much was expected of. Donald Penn though was a key contributor with this class.
In 2015 the Raiders overall did a good job in free agency. Dan Williams and Rodney Hudson were great additions and Lee Smith was a bulldozer as a run blocking tight end that also caught some passes. Malcolm Smith had his first year as a starter go fairly well. He tailed off late in the year especially against the run.
On the bad side, Roy Helu Jr. was never used properly and was a waste of a signing. Curtis Lofton struggled mightily against the pass and Trent Richardson didn’t last long. A lot was given to Nate Allen but he struggled tackling all year; and that was when he wasn’t injured.
The 2016 free agent class is already a very good one and there still are signings that are ahead. This has already been the Raiders best free agent signing period; at least on paper; that they have had since Reggie was hired. The longer Reggie has the job, the better he gets.
How Reggie McKenzie Grew Into a Good GM:
McKenzie is humble; and as a good leader you take the blame and admit your mistakes. Many in sports; and life for that matter; don’t do that. When you admit a mistake you can fix it. His signing of players which are salary cap friendly and dropping them if they don’t work out is often greatly overlooked.
A huge mistake Reggie fixed was that in the early part of his career he would wait way too long to sign players. He would say they weren’t going to be hasty in their signings but sometimes the Raiders got stuck with slim pickings in free agency because they were just too slow to sign players.
He also improved his draft. After talking to Ron Wolf, he went back to getting football players. The defensive line has always been the second most important part of your team behind a QB and they’ve spent lots of money and energy into the DL. The Quarterback must go down, and go down hard was Ron Wolf & Al Davis’ motto.
What’s Next For Reggie and the Raiders:
As Reggie said last month, there is still much work for the Raiders to do and they haven’t won anything yet. The Raiders don’t have the DL or the pass rush to win at a high level in the NFL yet, but the off season is still young. Bruce Irvin has 14 sacks in the last 3 years and Mario Edwards is not a great pass rusher; and that’s if he comes back at all. Aldon Smith is out for most of the year too. It doesn’t matter who your DB’s are if you don’t have a pass rush. I now have trust that McKenzie will not be in denial and the draft will yield another quality DL. I would love to see either AShawn Robinson or Shaq Lawson drafted in the first round. Mock drafts are all over the place so as always, they don’t know what players the teams are going to draft and neither do we. If you get either one of these players, now you have something special. Both have great work ethics and are hard workers.
The Raiders also need a safety and other bits and pieces. They are not done in free agency yet and the NFL draft is also ahead. The salary cap limits how good you can be; that’s the design; to create parity. So the drafts are a key to success.
Overall though as time passes, Reggie McKenzie has improved every year he has been a GM. Reggie McKenzie is definitely old school and as long as he doesn’t change and he keeps being humble and open minded, he will be fine. Not everything works out so admitting mistakes and learning from them are huge keys to his success. The nightmare of 13 straight non-winning seasons may finally be over and success seems to now be a probability and not just a hope.
For Raider, Alabama, and NFL fans that have been crying out for Ken Stabler to be elected into the NFL Hall of Fame, their prayers were answered Saturday night. The NFL announced that Ken Stabler along with Brett Favre, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Kevin Greene, Dick Stanfel and controversial former San Francisco 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo had been newly elected into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame.
My Twitter timeline was blowing up for joy but also with anger due to the huge slight all these years. No negative feeling should diminish the joy everyone feels but it is frustrating. In the annals of life it may not be that big a deal, but in the world of sports it was a miscarriage of justice to say the least and we need to call people out for it.
I thought of John Madden and the Raider players who loved him so much. I thought of older fans who saw him play and those that are no longer here. I thought of his daughter Kendra who knew of her dad’s talent and carried the torch for him for so long. I thought of daughters Marissa and Alexa who must have been awestruck by the devotion and love shown to their dad, and are just learning how great he was on the field. I thought also of his grandkids who he adored. I thought of his sister Carolyn who also has been nothing but gracious and kind through out the years. His nephews, friends, and other family members also have a huge void in their lives.
I thought of Alabama fans and friends of Ken’s that had also fought for him to be recognized. Their devotion is equal to that of Oakland.
And last but not least, I thought of his partner of almost 16 years Kim Ross, who bravely supported him while he quietly battled the side effects of CTE. While we saw the glorified side, she saw the fight that is seen behind the scenes when the crowds no longer cheer and the player walks away. A fight that no longer should be fought alone.
As I announced Ken’s induction to my happy followers, I also thought of all of the people over the years that had fought for Ken’s being in the hall of fame. The people with websites and social media pages. Everyday people who cared so much. People in the media and sportswriters. The NFL players of present and past who had constantly said how Ken deserved to be a part of this group. Many emotions stirred up inside me. Some amazing and some not so pleasant.
The Reality of It All:
If a voting writer thinks that a player does not belong in the HOF due to their play on the field, then they should not vote them in. Believe me I get it; not everyone belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame. But I also get that the grudges and unprofessionalism of NFL HOF voters has to be addressed and called out. We should not give sportswriters/voters a pass when the players they unjustly keep out for biased reasons finally get in. Instead they need to be held accountable.
What Does This Vote Prove?:
Sites that try to hire me (boy are they dumb) and readers always ask me why I write as an independent. The pure reason is so I won’t be censored or edited. My goal in life isn’t to be famous or known, it’s to call out injustices and to tell the truth. Most write what their readers want to hear to be popular and get viewers, and they try to kiss up to teams and the NFL. My readers know that I write because I want to inform them and give people an idea of what is going on; good or bad. I go after the smart reader, and as many of them know, most corporations and governments are not big fans of the truth sometimes.
In saying that, what this vote proves is one thing; Ken Stabler and everyone near him got cheated. I’m not going to rehash old articles or quotes; if you want to find out check out my past writings; but in reality this was just wrong.
Just Saturday, Terrell Owens found this out as well. Even though he has some of the best WR credentials in years, he did not make the HOF. I still remember how crappy he treated writers and other people and how he arrogantly looked his nose down on them; payback is a beatch; ask Barry Bonds.
I don’t like Terrell Owens antics either. In reality though if I was a voter my OPINION on how he treated people should not play into the equation. Even though Owens is a different type of situation than Stabler’s, isn’t this an honor for what people do on the field? On the field he was a HOF player whether I like him or not. For God’s sake OJ Simpson is still in.
Look at the self righteous Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. When MLB saw the money in daily fantasy leagues, they pimped themselves out quicker than a Kardashian in front of a camera. You couldn’t go a minute without commercials about Draft Kings. Unless of course it was their announcement that they would not put Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame because of his ties with…….GAMBLING! I mean this stuff writes itself! Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to major sports leagues.
Or what about Howard Cosell who is shockingly not in the HOF. Frank DeFord, Al Michaels, and so many of the great sports media figures of our time say Howard Cosell may be the most important NFL announcer of all time. That doesn’t count his huge contributions to boxing, baseball, and every other sport he was involved with. He WAS Monday Night Football. He even told the nation when John Lennon was shot and killed. He told it like it is whether it was fun or not. He said something.
Howard Cosell though had a big mouth and the NFL didn’t like it. He spoke for players issues at times. He also talked about how someday networks would only want athletes as announcers because they would be loyal to the networks and the NFL product. He called it “jockocracy”; the dumbing down of announcers. He was right.
He also was a witness in the lawsuit by the USFL against the NFL years ago. Again he told the truth. In 2010 Sports Illustrated listed the reasons why Cosell had indeed been black listed from the NFL HOF. None of the writers will admit it; but no way is Howard getting in which is a joke. This is why it’s so scary. The NFL is so powerful that they control the networks and many of the sportswriters/voters know that to get along you go along.
Bill Simmons; one of the most powerful media people at ESPN (some had him getting $5 million per year) created Grantland; the greatest ESPN publication of all time. Simmons spoke out against Roger Goodell calling him and the NFL liars in the Ray Rice situation. The NFL was furious and let ESPN know it. Even though he was proven right, he was suspended for 3 weeks. This was at the same time when self absorbed ESPN reporter Britt McHenry berated a woman at a towing yard so viciously that it went viral. She was suspended a week. So in ESPN and the NFL world, bullying someone and abusing someone verbally while embarrassing the product is far less a mistake than telling the truth.
Simmons was eventually fired and Grantland was in time, terminated. McHenry still has her job, business as usual. Don’t mess with the NFL.
HOF Voters Biased:
I just saw a 1970’s Sports Illustrated archive on Google books with an interview of Paul Zimmerman or Dr. Z. He was the ESPN NFL guru before Mel Kiper Jr. He was a voting member of the NFL HOF and eventually the senior committee. He admitted in print that for the only time in his career he lobbied AGAINST a player at one of their player voting meetings. That player was Ken Stabler. At that time Zimmerman held a lot of pull and he vowed, “I’ll never vote Stabler into the HOF”. He believed the Bob Padecky story.
The grudge against Stabler was so bad, even Bob Padecky; who still believes the Snake set him up; last week told Ken Stabler’s HOF advocate Frank Cooney that Ken should be in. Frank who is the selector of the NFL HOF Senior Selection Committee; was told by Padecky to tell the other writers that if they think the Snake should be in the HOF that it would be alright with him if they voted him in. Remember this occurrence happened over 35 years ago, and Ken didn’t do it!!!
What needs to happen is that voters need to vote based on their on-field performance and not on petty grudges, invisible or real. If they don’t, they need to be called out on it by players, fans, and the media. They need to be held accountable.
Even with the travesty that has occurred, the parties for Ken Stabler’s induction will be long and hard. I can’t wait to see John Madden and the family, friends, and fans of Ken enjoying their day in the sun. In the back of our minds after it is over and the parties stop, lets not forget the voters all these years that cheated Ken and everyone associated with him into sharing this day together. Remember that when future Raiders come up for a vote every year, to make sure you contact the voting writers directly to show your support of these great players. We can be lazy and complain, or get involved and make sure that their families, friends and fans don’t have to go through what Ken’s did.
Oakland Raider fans are different. They are real. There are white collar and blue collar; black, brown and white; rich and poor with all parts of society represented. The Oakland Raiders are not a team to Oakland fans; they are a family. Other fans look at players like hero’s, but to us Ken was a friend and family member who gave us countless thrills and the adoration we had for him was given back by his kindness and appreciation. He was the key to an innocent and amazing era that created the foundation of a then football dynasty. He and all of the Raiders meant so much to so many.
So when the likes of Cliff Branch, Tom Flores or other players come up for selection into the NFL HOF, let’s not forget the joy they brought to us. And most importantly lets not forget the tolls their play has taken on their bodies. Let’s support and fight for retired players rights, and the health of all present and past players. Let’s also pressure the NFL and HOF to step up to the plate and do all they can to make sure these men live as healthy of lives as possible. And best of all; see you in Canton!
Saturday the Senior Selection Committee of the NFL will vote on whether Raider great Ken Stabler gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Even though it’s not life and death that he get in, it’s kind of a vindication for his family and friends and his fans all over for a career and a player that was never properly appreciated by the very sport he was so great in. For many it’s still something that eats at people for the injustice of it all, however big or small in the scheme of things.
A Year of Grief:
I’ll be blunt; last year sucked. Lots of things happened and it was so draining emotionally and physically for a lot of people. It was a very bad year for me personally as well, a year where you just want to live in a cave and not burden anyone. What didn’t help was all of the losses for the Oakland Raiders. Marv Hubbard, Charlie Sumner, Al LoCasale, Art Powell, just to name a few. And last but not least Ken Stabler. It got to be too much. Great people who helped create a dynasty of winning.
The other night a friend of mine called me and asked if I wanted to meet a friend of his. He was in the national media and he saw some of my writing and asked to meet me. Why anyone would want to meet me still blows me away but when they offered steak, all the Guinness and Bass I could drink and talking about sports, well I’m all in.
My history in the medical field with the east coast isn’t a good one, especially with New York Giants fans.
If you are a friend of mine, yes I will mess with you. I like doing ribs and jokes and sometimes I will go to extreme lengths. Well this was payback. We met at my friends house. My favorite Michael Franks and Earl Klugh tunes in the background, a cold glass of beer and steaks on the grill; life es bueno. The guy we will call “Matt” started asking questions about me and complimenting me on my work. He then asked me, “by the way, being in the Bay Area, isn’t it kind of ridiculous people think Ken Stabler should be in the hall of fame?” I stopped eating mid fork.
Here is my article on WHY Ken deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
I could see my friend trying not to laugh. A wry smile coming over him. I had played a lot of jokes on him over the years and this was a payback. He knew how I felt about Ken and here was someone from the east coast; probably another mainstream media person who is clueless to any sports story west of the Mississippi; asking me a question like that?”
I took a long cold drink of a black and tan and then picked up a glass of good Napa Pinot Noir and said calmly, “yes of course he should be in the HOF”.
I’m half German and half Spanish; two countries that tried to take over the world; so even though I’m not much of a hot head, I also don’t really like to keep quiet about things. I said lets sit down and go over why you think Ken Shouldn’t be in the Hall Of Fame. He pulled no punches & Neither did I.
Before we start for those who wonder, these are my reasons why Ken isn’t in the HOF yet.
Ok this is an east coaster; going below the belt in the first round. What he was talking about was the Bob Padecky story where Bob said that Ken had cocaine planted on his car years ago. Ken vehemently denied it and most felt his friend was the one that did it. The damage was done though. Sportswriters around the country banded together saying they’d never vote Ken in the HOF. Paul Zimmerman, or Dr. Z; the draft guru before Mel Kiper Jr.; one of the most powerful voices in football media in the early days of ESPN, said it on air.
I showed him my story and told him that even though Padecky still believes it, he’s told others to tell writers he would have no problem if Ken Stabler got into the HOF.
For those who want to know, here is my article on the incident with Bob Padecky.
I love it; the guy knows his stuff. In his last 4 years Stabler had 42 touchdowns and 74 interceptions. He played for a Houston team that was not talented and who played the power I. It was conservative and based pretty much on giving Earl Campbell 40 carries a game. (and people wonder why he is in a wheel chair at times). For the Saints the years before Ken got there, they were 41-106; almost all of those years was with media darling Archie Manning. The Saints were the doormat of the NFL. Ken in his second year lead them to their best record ever.
Ken’s first year in Houston was his second best year as a pro leading the Oiler’s to their best record in their history up to then. After Ken left Houston, their record the next 5 years (one is strike shortened) was 16-57. These were 2 terrible teams that Ken made much better with his skill, something no sportswriter ever talks about.
Some of his detractors say Ken wasn’t good long enough, which is a crock. Roger Staubach only had 85 wins in his career. Terry Bradshaw 107. Bob Griese only had 92. Ken was 100-50 but his career was too short? Not long enough? Sure didn’t bother committee voters to vote those players in. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Ken was the fastest QB to get to 100 wins and in his first 62 games he was an inhuman 50-12 as a starter. In their first 20 Monday Night Football games the Raiders were 18-1-1; many with Ken as QB. My only question to my east coast friend when asking why Ken isn’t a HOF is why are we even questioning this? The 1970’s was the greatest era of football and Ken had the most wins as a starter and was the best QB in that era with a Super Bowl win and a league MVP.
Ken remains the ONLY QB in NFL history that lead his team to playing in 5 straight conference championships. He was probably the greatest 2 minute drill QB in history. I don’t even know why I have to say these things really. Even writing this I’m getting frustrated. “I was not the best QB of the 1970’s”, stated Pittsburgh Steeler great and HOF QB Terry Bradshaw. “It was Ken Stabler; Ken was better than I was.”
As most men do when they get into their twilight years, they patch up differences. Frank Cooney; former San Francisco Examiner writer who covered the Raiders during the glory years, is in charge of presenting Ken’s case to the members of the Senior Selection Committee. He said in 2009 that Ken met with Raiders owner Al Davis. They buried the hatchet and Al admitted that he was one of the main reasons Ken was not in the HOF. Al’s venom to players like Ken and Marcus Allen; players he felt crossed him; was of legend and was vile and vicious and Al actually spoke against Ken. In the end, it was a good thing they met with all of the bad blood that they had ever since he traded Ken to the Oilers for overrated but strong armed Dan Pastorini.
The last time Al was at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony, he was interviewed and admitted that one of his big regrets in life was not doing more to get Raider players in the HOF. Many teams actually hired advertising and PR agencies to promote their players. Al admitted they didn’t do anything and it was a wrong that needed to be righted.
Also to their credit, Ken met with Bob Padecky, the sports writer that to this day feels Ken had him set up. They did make up though when Ken was @ Infineon Raceway in Sonoma when Bob covered the event which Bob wrote about years ago. In a recent article, Bob has said he also reached out to Frank Cooney and again said to tell the sportswriters that if they want Ken in the HOF that he was all for it.
Two Minute Drill:
For Ken Stabler’s family and friends this week seems like an eternity. I’m so glad though the younger daughters have seen who Ken was and what he meant to so many. I’m sure they don’t want to build up their hopes up too high. Let’s be honest; the Raiders are the Doc Holiday of pro football and no one ever cries over the bad guy. We don’t need vindication from the NFL HOF to tell us what we already know, but it would be nice.
What fans and loved one’s of Ken’s doesn’t want is charity. We don’t want you to vote Ken in because you feel bad that he’s no longer here. We don’t want sympathy; we want sports justice. Ever since Al Davis was blind sided by the AFL & NFL during the merger, the Raiders have been the pirates of the sports world. As Al Davis, Ron Wolf, John Madden & Ken used to always say; we don’t take what the opponents give us, we take what we want. And what we want is for Ken’s amazing career to finally be rewarded.
As Saturday’s vote is looming, it’s down to the wire. I picture in a video Bill King’s voice booming loud and poetically describing the scene like a piece of art. Ken is giving us one last two minute drill; a miracle drive against the Patriots in the Playoffs. Picture John Madden losing his mind during a time out, while Ken is looking into the crowd seeing who is actually at the game and viewing what the fans are doing. The enclosed Oakland Coliseum as loud as a freight train. While others are anxious with stress Ken is the Snake. Cool as ice.
One more Sea of Hands game; another miracle in San Diego with a Holy Roller; one more last second come from behind drive where no one but Raider fans and players gave them a chance. Ken used to say to his teammates, just leave time on the clock and I’ll take care of the rest. Throw deep.
And as the final vote is tallied maybe it’s right that it goes down to the wire; with so many on pins and needles, I believe they will Vote Ken into the HOF. And as we all celebrate with bittersweet laughter and tears, I picture Ken with a sly smile jogging off the field giving us all a wink. With a southern smile he tells us we had this all along but in reality it doesn’t change any of us or diminish anything that he accomplished, or lessen the relationships that were made.
But in reality the Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters still don’t get it. But we get it in Alabama. We get it in Phoenix Arizona. We get it in Oakland and everywhere else that the average football fan resides. And every peer that he played with or against that is supporting Ken for the highest honor gets it. In reality the HOF pales in comparison to why so many love him and that is something you can never take away. Ken Stabler; Hall of Famer in the greatest game of all; life. How innocent were those times; how rich we are to have known them.
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 made 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Otto Graham, Norm Van Brocklyn, Bobby Layne
Sonny Jurgensen, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas
Ken Stabler, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach
Joe Montana, Dan Fouts
John Elway, Brett Favre
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.
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.
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.
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