Have you noticed that the old icons in sports just aren't holding up the way they once did? The center of things is falling apart. Take the NFL. Take the Irwindale Raiders. How can you persuade your knees to start clattering in anticipation of a team from Irwindale? Sounds like Beaver Cleaver's hometown.
But the unraveling is worse than that. Lately, the Los Angeles (at least for the next two years) Raiders haven't come close to living up to their usual high standards of depravity. The last big off-turf Raider brawl was two years ago when linebacker Matt Millen punched the G.M. of the New England Patriots, Pat Sullivan. You want to know what the most recent real Raideresque flagrancy was? Last summer Mike Ornstein, the team's marketing and promotions director, punched John Herrera, a Raiders senior executive. It's a sorry day when the ribbon clerks are meaner than the guys in the trenches. And who was the last Raider alumnus to turn up on the wrong side of society? Safety Odis McKinney was charged with battery against a peace officer after allegedly refusing to put a leash on his chow in an L.A. park.
But if the bad haven't been all that bad, the good have been downright ugly. Take the Dallas Cowboys, the white hats. Ed Jones, Jeff Rohrer, Eugene Lockhart and Randy White have all been busted on DWIs. Kicker Rafael Septien pleaded guilty to indecency with a child. Mike Hegman passed some bad checks, Tony Dorsett fought with the IRS, and Harvey Martin filed for bankruptcy. Hollywood Henderson, Bob Hayes and John Niland have all done time since 1980. Larry Bethea robbed his mother and then killed himself. These are the Eagle Scout Cowboys? Somebody better start checking some IDs.
So, like everything else these days, pro football doesn't have white hats or black hats so much as a lot of gray hats—and a lot of parity. Does it seem possible that the Raiders:
?Were 8-8 last year, were 2-5 against playoff teams, lost their last four games, lost to
and haven't won a playoff game in three years?
?Are getting so old that one day last year they benched the oldest offensive tackle in the league only to replace him with the second oldest?
?Have lost their last two games in the Seattle Kingdome by a combined score of 70-3?
Do you believe that the Cowboys:
?Went 7-9 last year, lost their last five games and had their quarterback sacked 11 times in one game by San Diego?
?Put nobody in the Pro Bowl for the first time in their history?