Today the Raiders return to Houston to play the Texans for the first time since October 9, 2011- the day after Mr. Davis passed away.
I woke up on October 8, 2011 all super stoked to go down the hill and drink a 40 or two while webcasting a Pete Rock vs. DJ Spinna set. Then I hopped out the shower to be greeted by the worst texts ever. Mr. Davis hadn't been looking so hot during his last few public appearances, which I believe were the press conference to announce the Hue Jackson hiring and his sit-down with Ice Cube for the excellent 30 For 30, Straight Outta L.A. But this still came from out of nowhere for us. Probably a good day to have something on the agenda to keep me busy. I played records for shit though.
The following Sunday was one of two that season I couldn't get off from the day job. And in retrospect I'm not mad, because I don't know if would have been able to handle watching either of the games I missed- this one, and the Raiders choking a game away to fucking Tebow in the second half. That is something I am glad has never stained my eyeballs. And after Schaub made 3rd and 23 to get inside the Raiders five yard line with seconds to play, I'm not sure I could have brought myself to watch whatever came next. Instead I was losing my shit in the back of the shop, debating the pros and cons of taking a header through the table saw after our inevitable choke. The players lined up for the last play while I had my head in my hands, and the thought going through my mind was "This is your life. This one play." If the Raiders had lost that game, I would have questioned everything. Was I actually wrong? Was Mr. Davis possibly not the greatest human being of all time? Where do I go from here after wasting the previous 37 years of my life?
Thankfully those questions went unexamined, and my cartilage was not strewn about the shop. To seal what was unquestionably the most nerve-wracking, emotional sporting event of my life, Michael Huff picked off Schaub in the end zone. And it wasn't until a day or two later that somebody noticed the Raiders only had ten men on the field for the final play. "The Missing Man formation." Absolutely unreal. This game came up amongst mai boys when we went to the Redskins game this year- briefly. It's long been in the books, but apparently there is still a piece of all of us that seriously wonders how we would have been able to keep on keeping on had that game turned out differently.
Listening to the game on the radio turned out to be the thing to do anyway. Greg Papa and Tom Flores were both breaking down in tears. I would not trade hearing their call for anything. Hue Jackson's display of emotion, however... a fair amount of people immediately called bullshit on him. As a man with a noted bullshit detector, I couldn't bring myself to disagree too strongly. My take was that yeah he laid it on extra thick, but it was more in an effort to be a leader of men than to draw attention to himself. As far as iffy things football coaches have done to inspire a team go, it's not much of an offense. That's still my take, even after Hue has played himself with the respectful "Mr. Davis" consistently replaced by "Al" in his vocabulary since he left the team.
That evening after work I caught the highlights and was finally able to let my emotions go. The first thing they showed on the NFL channel highlight package was a group of cheering Raider fans at the game in Texas holding up a sign paying their respects to Mr. Davis and representing Sanger, CA. You have never heard of Sanger, CA, because there is no reason for you to have. But that is the tiny hamlet outside of Fresno where my deceased Armenian grandparents lived. OK, guess I'm just going to have to cry like a baby now. The wife was home so I went into the bathroom and pretended to take a dump when the highlights were over so she wouldn't see the tears. THAT'S HOW A REAL RAIDERS FAN HANDLES EMOTION. FAKE POOPING.
Today I expect it to feel somewhat surreal to see these two teams on the field again. And we may have yet another new beginning for the franchise, as undrafted rookie Matt McGloin gets his first start at QB. Officially, Pryor is out due to a knee injury, but this is something that was in the cards anyway due to Pryor's declining play. McGloin now gets the opportunity to show us why we shouldn't draft a QB in the first round next May (of course they move the draft back from April the first year we have realistically high hopes in forever). The scouting reports emphasize his toughness, smarts and every other positive attribute people attach to QBs who aren't very good. But people smarter than me say he's a legit prospect, and with Pryor regressing as a drop-back QB and wins being ultimately counterproductive at this point, yeah, shit, let's see what we got here. Lord knows we've gone into Houston before and seen crazier. RIP Mr. Davis. Go Raiders (and Saints, he he).