Butch Davis, after an inspired thrashing of the Steelers in Pittsburgh, commented that the game was won earlier in the week, when the players decided to win. One week later, the upcoming clash against an aging and sinking Raiders squad was won the Tuesday before the game, when Browns owner Carmen Policy decided to honor his opponents by thoughtfully sending Raiders center Barrett Robbins three bottles of Pepe Lopez tequila and a couple round trip bus tickets to Tijuana.
Four days later, private investigators unearth Robbins and his teammate Sebastian Janikowski in the southern reaches of the Baja peninsula, in a squalid prison cell in the city of Lapaz, Mexico. Al Davis' agents stage a daring helicopter rescue, flying as far north as Allende, Mexico, before ditching the chopper. The crack team then smuggles an unconscious Seabass and a wildly hallucinating Robbins across an unguarded portion of the U.S.-Mexico border in a beat up truck full of live chickens.
Davis' agents are able to elude the Lapaz police, the Mexican military, and the United States Border Patrol. But the crack team can't get past Mayor Campbell's finest on Sunday morning in the Muni parking lot. Cleveland police cite Janikowski for an open container and resisting arrest--he kicks a cop so hard in the groin that the officer requires six hours of reconstructive surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Janikowski misses the rest of the season when Cleveland police "accidentally" drop him across the Canadian border and border patrol agents refuse to let the troubled native of Poland to return to U.S. soil.
Al Davis is an unhappy man, and not just because his track suit is all clingy in the unseasonably warm weather. His star kicker is cooling his heels in a Canadian pen. His center is having a Hunter S. Thompson moment on the 40 yard line. And the rest of the roster is so old it looks like the Team Geritol® All-Stars. The wheels come off when Tim Brown falls and breaks his hip while walking along the sidelines. Ever the alert veteran, Brown activates his Med-Alert pendant, giving coaches enough time to put Alvis Whitted into the game.
That proves a disastrous mistake. At 29 years old, Whitted is the youngest guy on the entire Raiders team. Teammates call him "baby". When Whitted stupidly fumbles the ball after an easy first down reception in the first quarter, Al Davis makes a fateful decision. He needs more veteran savvy on this ballclub. And he needs it now.
Coach Bill Callahan stands on the sidelines with a wry smile as Al Davis works the phones. Six minutes later, he's re-signed former Raider QB and kicker George Blanda, who hops a private jet in Chicago and arrives in Cleveland less than an hour later. Blanda is 76 years old, but Davis explains at halftime that he plays like a young 72. On the day, Blanda misses three field goals, throws two interceptions, and fumbles four times.
Not to be outdone, Callahan urges Davis to bring more veteran experience on board. Over the next 15 minutes, Davis goes on a geriatric spending spree. He signs former Raiders Jim Otto, Otis Sistrunk, and Pete Banaszak. He pushes hard to ink Kenny Stabler, only to learn that Stabler was last seen with Robbins and Janikowski in the Lapaz jail cell. By the time Davis is done working his magic, the average age of the Raider team hovers just north of 64 years. Half the team is drawing social security. Only Jerry Rice, doing his best Dick Clark imitation, is able to challenge the stout Cleveland defense.
It isn't nearly enough. The Oakland Raiders have twice knocked the Cleveland Browns out of the NFL playoffs. More than 20 years later, Red Right 88 remains branded in the collective consciousness of the city. So when the Browns jump to an early 28 point lead on a quartet of long touchdown passes from Tim Couch, the fans and players want more. Much more.
William Green has a career day. He runs through the aged Raider line looking like George Costanza knocking over old women and children while fleeing a wastebasket fire. Green rambles for 655 yards and 8 touchdowns on 32 carries, including one play where he carries Raider cornerback Charles Woodson 89 yards on his back. The epic play gets so much air time on ESPN that Green earns the nickname ‘Sherpa', after the sturdy Tibetan natives who have famously guided so many teams up Mt. Everest.
Green finally leaves the game midway through the third quarter suffering from exhaustion. Jamel White comes in to ring up another 250 yards and 3 TDs, as the Browns tally more than half a mile of offense on the ground. By the time the fourth quarter rolls around, the entire Raider defense is decimated. The backfield consists of four guys on walkers, whose only hope is to distract the Browns receivers by pulling out their dentures just before the snap. The Dawg Pound is going bananas, littering the field with thousands of Metamucil packets and those huge, boxy wraparound sunglasses favored by the AARP set.
That's when it happens. Al Davis storms the field, swinging a nine iron and threatening to cave in Raiders head coach Bill Callahan's head. Callahan laughs as defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan and wide receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff grab the Raiders owner. Davis thrashes around desperately a moment, then goes suddenly quiet. He realizes with utter horror that he's been had. Callahan, Bresnahan, and Biletnikoff aren't coaches at all. They're actually Beau Bridges, Gary Busey, and James Cromwell—a trio of aging Hollywood actors incensed by Davis' decision to move the club out of L.A.
Davis takes one look at the threesome and gives a shriekish laugh. "It's not my goddamn planet, you understand monkey boy!"
Just as so many NFL fans had suspected, Al Davis isn't human at all. In fact, the Raiders owner bears an uncanny resemblance to the evil race of Red Lectroids, of Buckaroo Banzai fame.
Davis whispers something guttural into the pendant around his neck, and moments later a shadow falls over Cleveland Browns Stadium. Incredibly, what hovers in the air above is nothing other than the new Chicago Soldier Field stadium. The architectural trainwreck that Chicagoans had so bitterly complained looked like a flying saucer was, in fact, just that.
By the time Al Davis' space craft can leave Earth orbit, the league has stepped in and stopped the game.
And that's the way I see it. - GMD