Suffice it to say, it was a good Sunday. And not just because my 6-9 high school junior scored 27 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and blocked 9 shots in a basketball showcase.
Rather because Dick Vermeil showed what it takes to give an average team the opportunity to become a great one. Guts. Faith. The will not to tie, but to win.
Such a decision doesn't come easily, perhaps because to be meaningful there must be some risk attached. In this case the danger was clear – that of losing any shot at a successful season.
So Vermeil did what he had to do. And would have done it even if the spirit of Trent Green's dear departed dad hadn't been at his side egging him on. He went for it. Won. And, in the process, sent a bunch of black and white wannabe misfits back to their day jobs with a big case of whine.
One of the so-called "perks" of living in Los Angeles is we get Raider Nation Radio. I suppose that's because King Al and his minions briefly occupied our city and laid siege too the legitimate, sane, decent football fans left over from the Rams debacle. Regardless, since this was our last local NFL franchise, it left a detritus of supporters. You know, like the soap-scum remaining on Santa Monica Beach after the retreat of a wave? Enough, evidently, to keep the Randy Moss And the Raiders in a local radio contract, even though they're currently 370 miles away, pillaging Oakland instead.
Hey, it was the Oakland public school system that created "Ebonics." You get what you deserve, folks.
Listening to Raider radio when the team was Super Bowl caliber was impossible. You've never heard a bigger bunch of self-impressed blowhards in your life. All toeing the King Al party line, by the way. You know, the "Commitment to Excellence," "Greatness of the Raidahs," "Just Win, Baby" baloney.
But when the RMATR stink, as they've done since their last visit to the Big Game, tuning in is pure pleasure; especially to the post-game show.
It's call-in, hosted by longtime Southern California sports radio guy Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton. I say ‘Southern California' because Hacksaw was first heard here for many years out of San Diego on XTRA 690, which actually transmits from Tijuana, Mexico.
(By the way, this station carries its own memories. As a 12 year-old summer camp kid in the Sierras, I could get Wolfman Jack on XTRA in the middle of the night using my transistor radio. Word was that they broadcast on a special illegal frequency which had power far beyond that allowed by U.S. law. It was all very exciting. If you don't believe me, take another look at the movie "American Graffiti").
Anyway, maybe due to this special Mexican power, but probably because it carried a new sports personality called Jim Rome, XTRA became quite popular in L.A. So popular, in fact, that before too long, it was merged with 1150 in Los Angeles and for most of the day both stations carried identical programming. For varying periods, the stations were the flagships for UCLA, USC, the Randy Moss-less Raiders and the Chargers.
Eventually, it was all tied together on L.A.'s 710, which used to be Gene Autry's KMPC. It's been quite confusing, but Hacksaw was one guy who kept things somewhat consistent. His call-in show stayed pretty much the same as it had for years and years. He was stolid, gruff, grumpy and a homer. For example, when he was the Chargers' broadcaster for a time, he would tell call-in Raider fans things like, "Aw, go shoot yourself in the head."
Now, of course, he's a RMATR guy himself. I don't know exactly which fans he'd like to see commit suicide these days, but following the Chiefs dramatic win, it was Hacksaw who let all of us listeners know who really won that game. Not LJ. Not Vermeil. Not the eardrum-busting Arrowhead fans.
The refs. That's right. Because there's no way that was tripping! The man was blocked into Green! Without that horrible call, the best Kansas City could have done was a tying field goal, and probably not even that! Why does this happen every time to the Silver and Black?! The league has always had it out for us!
Needless to say, Hacksaw's callers were quick to agree. In fact, one of the first gave the quintessential Southern California assessment of what had transpired, "That was so not a trip!"
Hey, listen, I understand. It's not easy seeing your team, which once bragged loudly and often that it was the "most successful franchise in professional sports history," fall on its monochromatic face. To see the most combative, if also the most inhuman, owner in the NFL not only bury the last of his lawsuits against the league and every city he'd ever visited but begin to look like a cadaver himself. To have had the opportunity, as the RMATR announcers loudly pronounced, to beat the Chiefs and have the Chargers lose to the Jets and for the RMATRs to find themselves in second place in the division suddenly yanked from under them in two nightmare finishes.
So the mood among the silver and black faithful wasn't good. I mean, at least their play-by-play guys had had the class to congratulate Vermeil on his gutsy call at the end and admit that they wouldn't have gone for it themselves. But the callers were positively red-faced (sorry RMATR fans, that's probably not a good choice of words – how about "apoplectic"?) in trying to find some way to prove their guys hadn't actually lost the game.
Which was when Hacksaw, mindful perhaps of being rightfully seen as a homer, tried a second tack. To not totally blame it on the refs, certainly not on the superior coaching of the Chiefs (where it rightfully belonged) but rather on – get this – Randy Moss!
Wow. That didn't take long! I mean, Randy Moss was the perfect choice for Oakland, right? The franchise of Lyle Alzado, Ted Henderson, Ben Davidson, John Matuszak, Sebastian Janikowski? This isn't a football team, it's an outlaw hide-out. Yet it always seemed, somehow, that each one of these clowns – on the field, at least – suddenly found that Commitment to Excellence. In other words, no matter the paranoia, the barroom fights the screaming at reporters. As long as you put out on the field, all was forgiven.
Which was exactly Hacksaw's point.
Apparently, the TV announcers had been complaining about Moss' dogging it, running at less than full speed whenever the called play wasn't designed with him as the primary target.
Um, hello? Ask Minnesota. There hasn't been a bigger combination of talent, egocentrism and self-serving slovenliness since Michael Moore. Well, it all didn't get Moore an Oscar last year – not even a nomination. And it will never get Moss a ring either, unless he has one made for himself.
Which, I'm happy to report, the despondent RMATR fans seemed to grudgingly acknowledge. Oh, yeah, Moss was injured. At least, that was the party line. Yet one could sense clearly that even the black and white fanatics were having trouble buying that one. It was as warming as a Christmas Hot Toddy to think that things have reached the point were not only did King Al give up on Gruden, Shanahan and Marcus Allen, but he's now hung his future on Turner and Moss.
The Chiefs have swept the Raiders three years running. And with the Raider Royalty losing it more every day, the good times promise to continue. Long live King Al!
And that huge win was so not the refs' fault.
This is the ninth in a season-long series chronicling a Los Angeles native and lifelong sports follower's mission to become a Chiefs fan. After all, he doesn't have a football team of his own, does he? Richard Clayman may be contacted at email@example.com
CLAYMAN'S CORNER: Turning Raiders to Whine
WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories
Three Backfields With Question MarksEvery week, Fantasy Football Expert Mark Morales-Smith examines the most turbulent backfields in the NFL to help decipher whether or not there are any Fantasy stars in the making..…
Chiefs Put Justin Houston on PUP ListWith roster cuts looming, the Kansas City Chiefs have placed All Pro linebacker Justin Houston on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, meaning he won’t be able to return to…
Schwartz Brothers in Kansas City Makes SenseOn Tuesday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs will complete their first roster purge of the week. In order to get down to the league limit of 75 players, the Chiefs who cut eight…
Berry Signs as Chiefs Begin Roster CutsOn Sunday All Pro Safety Eric Berry, signed his one-year tender. That means today the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff will get their first on field glimpse of their starting…