I wrote this with Marcus when the NFL season was new and I had Raiders Super Bowl hopes dancing in my head. Now I don’t think we can beat one of the league’s worst teams this Sunday (v. NYG). Here it is in its original form.
With Sunday’s game on the horizon, my good friend Kelen Conley wanted to wax poetic on the days he grew up a Raiders fan. He is the host of the World’s #1 podcast, Hyphen Nation (I last appeared on his show to talk about the brilliance of the last Jay-Z album; check it out here) and he runs the very cool BHyphen.com [Editor’s note: fka as BHYPHEN.COM]. If you like sports, music, comics and wrestling, he’s the man to turn. Enjoy this trip down memory lane.
Kelen: The Washington Football Club (1-1) and the Oakland Raiders (2-0) are facing each other this Sunday night at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. While this might seem like a normal match up to the casual fan, I, for one, am super excited to see my Raiders in prime time (we went through a bit of a dry spell) and to see them facing off against one of our biggest rivals.
You can read it again: rivals. Sure, the Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers are despised because we play them twice a season in the AFC West but I still hold ill will against the Seahawks even though they’ve been in the NFC for years now. I guess the Jets, too, if people are still sore over the Heidi Game (or last Sunday). We had wars with the Steelers in the 1970s and the bad blood still hasn’t faded. The 49ers because of the Bay Area proximity but neither team have been good at the same time to really make those games important as of late. And the Washington team.
The Raiders were one of the most successful franchises in the NFL until the early 90’s, where they played .500 ball until coach Jon Gruden righted the ship by the 2000s. For the uninitiated, the Raiders then sold Gruden to the Buccaneers, who promptly spanked us in Super Bowl XXXVII. Then, we fell off a cliff until about 3 years ago.
To be completely honest with you, the R’s are one of the most annoying franchises in the NFL, especially when I was coming up. By the time I understood the concept of the NFL, Washington had just won their third Super Bowl by trouncing the Bills in Minneapolis in January 1992. I lived in Winchester, VA at the time and everyone bled burgundy and gold. I hated Mark Rypien, I hated their success, I hated Joe Gibbs’ stupid hat; I just wasn’t a fan. Meanwhile, the (then) Los Angeles Raiders went from 13-3 in 1990 to Todd Marinovich as our starting quarterback in 1992 and a 6-9 record heading into our last game of the season. And where did we finish our season? On December 26, 1992, across the country against the 9-6 Washington team at RFK Stadium.
Going a little further back a bit, I turned one year old the last time the Raiders won the Super Bowl, way back on January 22, 1984. Who did the Raiders beat to win their third championship? Why the R’s of course! Not only the R’s; the defending champion R’s, who had used John Riggins to run all over the Dolphins in the Super Bowl a year before (a strike shortened season, but I digress). I always felt like that gave us bragging rights over Washington (it still does) but with each passing season that success gets buried by the next Super Bowl winner. So, as a kid surrounded by Washington fans in my family and at school, all I heard about was how terrible the Raiders were compared to them. When I moved to West Virginia, this trend continued. By 1992, the Cowboys were on their way to their first Super Bowl win in a decade and even though fair weather Washington fan allegiances were shifting (or to be fair, those kids who were learning about the NFL just like me), I still hated the R’s with a passion.
Back to December 26, 1992. I was at my grandma’s house in West Virginia with a house of mostly Washington fans; I was the only Raider fan around. Since she got the local DC TV channels, the R’s were on the television and I was watching my football cards come to life. Nick Bell, Jay Schroeder (who was pulled for 37 year old quarterback Vince Evans), Tim Brown, Marcus Allen, Art Monk, the despised Rypien and Gibbs. I was entranced. It was a close game; one that came down to the final possession. Vince Evans hit Tim Brown in the endzone to seal a 21-20 win in DC. This loss a down note for a Washington team heading into the playoffs. Though the Raiders were headed back to LA and not the playoffs, they still made one little fan super happy that his favorite team had beaten his most hated.
Sunday night’s game is important for both squads with the Raiders trying to establish early season dominance and Washington wanting to remain in the early season NFC East race. I’m pumped for the game because I can watch it but… I’m also excited to see the Washington Pigskin Party on the field too.
What happened to me?
Marc Rob: I’m not sure, I think you love the DC Fighting Snyders now.
I agree that the upcoming game is important for both teams. As a kid, the greatest claim to fame for the LA Raiders were those beautiful black and silver Starter jackets and the aura of Bo Jackson. I say the aura of Bo because I never truly got to witness him at his peak firsthand; only through Nike campaigns and the unstoppable force that he was in Tecmo Bowl. So, I didn’t really care about LA/Oakland football until 1/2 of the Gruden Boys coached them in the early aughts. Fun fact: me and Tim Brown share the same birthday, July 22 (shoutout to all the Cancers).
We both share similar sentiments with the recent history with our favorite franchises: with a revolving door of head coaches, coordinators and starting quarterbacks, the teams floats somewhere between laughing stock (remember when the R*dsk*ns went to London and tied with the Bengals?) and blah. Since Washington’s Super Bowl season in 1991-92, the DC Grudens have fallen into complete mediocrity and downright despair, a far cry from their superiority during the ’70’s and ’80’s. This season, this team is at a crossroads: either continue with coach Jay Gruden and starting quarterback Kirk Kissin’ Cousins or both have to go. At this point, I don’t see how the franchise can continue with one and not the other. While the Rams game was a good effort by the R’s, this week’s match is a better test.
I haven’t watched any Raiders games this year, but I still follow the team at a distance. (I’ve barely watch a Raider’s snap but I sure have watched President Marshawn Lynch dance a 1000 times over.) While I’m not sure if Washington will win the game, they can still find ways to make it interesting. This season, our defense has been able to get good pressure on quarterbacks and our secondary looks spry. If the Raiders can force our linebackers to do more pass coverage and less blitzing, then Derek Carr will find big success. While I do see that Marshawn and Jalen Richard have been a good running back tandem this season, Washington’s run defense has been effective. It’ll be interesting to see what Oakland’s lush offense can do against the R’s improved defense.