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Little did I know how the Oakland Raiders would affect my love life, but they did. It happened back in 1980, when I was living with Red. Her name was Robin, but she had red hair, so naturally I called her Red. I loved Red a lot, but not enough to marry her, which was a problem because I didn't want to lose her. It wasn't that I didn't want to marry her. I just didn't want to get married, period. Red was pretty as could be, loyal, affectionate, sexy, funny and, best of all, she adored sports. Pro football mostly, which I also loved with a passion. So from August through January, when I was glued to the television set, Red never complained. In fact, she was glued, too. Sometimes she watched long after I gave up. What she did complain about was my not marrying her.
Not that I didn't think about it now and then. In fact, I proposed twice; once in a rowboat in the middle of Newport Harbor in California, dodging enormous yachts as I mumbled something about desiring her hand in marriage; and once on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills, while waiting for a traffic light to change. That kept her quiet for a while, but not for long.
Eventually there were rumbles that she might leave me if all I did was propose and never follow through. Something about her not getting any younger. A few digs about women get old, men just get older. That sort of thing. It was during this period that I caught her gazing a bit longer then I liked at good-looking guys—real jerks by my standards—sitting at restaurant tables, or in our section at the Forum at Laker games. It was very annoying. Not that Red was a flirt. She never saw the point in that. It was more as if Red was saying to herself: Maybe I'd better start checking out other pastures. (I'll explain what all of this has to do with the Raiders in a moment.)
Anyway, I realized that the time had come to do something a trifle more significant. I suggested that Red and I make an appointment with Dr. Bob and take our premarital blood tests. I promised—with my right hand raised toward heaven—that within the 30 days of the tests' validity, we'd be married. I was serious this time. Red was delighted. We went to see Dr. Bob.
Dr. Bob was our family name for Dr. Robert Rosenfeld, the legendary orthopedic surgeon. Among his blue-ribbon patients was the entire Raider football team; a serious injury was worth a visit to the L.A. doctor, especially since he happened to be one of the team's biggest fans. You may have seen him before. He is the distinguished white-haired gentleman grinning like a damn fool in the locker room just behind Raider owner Al Davis's right shoulder while Davis is telling an enormous television audience how happy he is that the Raiders have won the Super Bowl.
Anyway, Dr. Bob took our blood and wished us well. But something came up, and the 30 days whizzed by before we could get ourselves to the altar. Or rather, before I could get to the altar. I'm pretty sure Red was available. So we took another blood test. And 30 days later, yet another. It finally dawned on Red that the blood tests were nothing more than a high-class ploy to stall for time. Even Dr. Bob was miffed. "I'm not giving you any more blood tests," he said to me after our fourth. "Go somewhere else."
Now the plot thickens.
While these machinations of mine were going on, the Raiders began what was supposed to be a very promising season. They opened with a 27-14 victory over Kansas City and were looking forward to destroying archrival San Diego and making it two in a row. While Red and I waited for our monthly bloodletting, I could hardly help noticing the cockiness over the upcoming Charger game among the Raider behemoths lounging about Dr. Bob's cubicles. The prognosis was unanimous: The Raiders were going to make mincemeat out of the favored Chargers. Though not a gambling man by nature—winning is O.K., but losing is catastrophic—I couldn't resist cashing in. "I'm going to bet on Oakland Sunday," I told Red as we left Dr. Bob's office, our right arms held high in the air.
"How much?" she asked.
"Fifty!" I blurted out. It was a staggering bet for me.