The Raiders were 3-5 at the Coliseum last fall. "I remember when teams used to hate to play us in Oakland," says the ultimate Raider, Lester Hayes. "It was the old silver-and-black mystique of intimidation. Now teams actually like to play us in L.A."
Sure, the Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII after moving to Los Angeles, but they still trained in northern California. You remember those Raiders. On Super Bowl Sunday, the ornery Mr. Ornstein kicked CBS broadcaster Irv Cross off the field while Cross was on the air.
"I remember," says Raider Howie Long, "coming off that field in Tampa and saying to myself, We've got such great talent. We're going to be back here every year."
However, it hasn't happened that way and nobody is exactly sure why. Maybe all of this political punting and deposition-giving has taken a little bit of Davis's heart out of his team. Or maybe the team has lost too much Oakland and gained too much Melrose Avenue. But one thing is a lock. The old black eye-patch image has gone phhhhhht.
Mystique: The Raiders take whatever they want. Mistake: Last year opponents generally took whatever they wanted from the Raiders, especially the leather object. The Raiders had more fumbles (24) than any other team in the league.
Mystique: The Raiders fall somewhere between Ozzy Ozbourne and a pit bull. Mistake: There are no more Ted Hendrickses, Dave Dalbys, Lyle Alzados or John Matuszaks. "No more bizarre characters," says one player. "No guys you just want to say, 'Damn. This guy makes things fun. I want to win for him.' " Independent, yes. Todd Christensen may be the only tight end in the league whose camp library contains, left to right, James, Dostoyevsky, Joyce and Davis. But demented, desperate, delightful types? No.
Long is delightful—but definitely not desperate. He's famous for Campbell Soup ads, eight-page Nike spreads and making the cover of GQ. Can you see Hendricks on the cover of GQ? "The Mad Stork Talks about the Tie He Once Wore." "I remember," says Alzado, "I'd start a fight in the game to get something to happen, kick someone in the face, something to get something going.... Now, I don't think they have that guy that will do anything, anytime, anywhere to make the momentum change."
Mystique: The Raiders may sput and chug for most of the game, but when it comes down to Winning Time, the defense, which was No. 1 in the AFC last year, will come through. Mistake: No. 1 or not, with the playoffs on the line last season, the Raiders suffered their first four-game losing streak since 1964 by forking over 33 points to Philly, 37 to Seattle, 20 to Kansas City and 30 to Indianapolis.
Mystique: The Raiders own the fourth quarter. Mistake: In fourth quarters last year the Raiders were outscored 80-43.
Mystique: From the way they dress to the way they think, the Raiders are unlike any other team in the league. Mistake: Thanks to the NFL, it's not true anymore. The league has announced that it is cracking down on the sartorially sloppy this year, a move that Hayes sees as Raider-bashing. "Sunday is like a war day," Hayes told reporters. "You go to war. It's not like you're going to the Beverly Hilton for a function. You don't want to wear a tuxedo and look all neat and clean. You want to look nasty and vicious, like the Oakland Raiders. The Oakland Raiders used to have half jerseys, slobbering, spitting, scratching, fighting. That was silver-and-black football.... This team is definitely going L.A. now."