It’s New Year’s Eve and there is only one event heralding the onset of the New Year about which I care. New Year’s Eve itself is a very minor holiday in the Hartley Household. We celebrate it by doing absolutely nothing. New Year’s Day is a slightly less minor holiday. But this year, New Year’s Day is on a Sunday, so that means NFL instead of College Bowl Games. And this year, week 17 of the NFL season has the Raiders playing for a playoff spot. That is the only thing happening in the next two days which interests me in the least. And it interests me a great deal.
So, by tomorrow evening, I will either be elated or depressed. (Don’t ask why the Raiders are the one thing in my life which generates immense emotional reaction—I have no idea.) So, I figured I had better use today to review a book I recently read. If things go horribly wrong tomorrow, it will be a long time before I will have the strength to write about the Raiders.
And so, in the wake of the death of Al Davis and the periodic displays of talent the Raiders showed this year, I read Peter Richmond’s new book about the Raiders of the 1970s. These were the Raiders I started watching when I was young. These were the Raiders who won and won and won. Faced with a game like tomorrow, these Raiders would win it. No doubt about it. The subtitle of Richmond’s book summarizes its contents nicely: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders. In it, I could relive the Glory Days.
So how is the book? Well, I mentioned it a month or so ago in passing. The prose made my brain hurt. Truly hurt. It was sheer torture to read. If it was about anything other than the Raiders, there is no way I would have made it through. But, the Raiders are always worth my time. I read endless newspaper articles about the Raiders written in similarly insipid prose. But, reading horrid prose for page after page taxed me. If you do not bleed Silver and Black, don’t even think about reading this book.
If you love all things Raiders (as you should), however, is the book worth it? I don’t know. There were some interesting tales here. But, the gist of most of this material is also in the autobiographies of Madden, Stabler and Tatum which I have read before. (I’ve never read Tooz’s autobiography. I am not sure why.)
What this book did do is remind me of how much football has changed in the years I have been watching it. The game was much simpler back then. (This is largely why Art Shell was such an underachiever as a coach—he never really figured out that the game had changed since he was a (truly great) player. It was impossible to read this book and not have a sense of longing for the day when the Raiders were the biggest, baddest bullies on the block. If they can recover even a bit of that swagger, they will be awesome to behold. Awesome.
Here’s hoping the New Year brings the Playoffs!