Their fans love them but hate their owner. Their emblem is a guy with a patch over one eye and two swords sticking out of his head. During the week before the Oakland Raiders beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 Sunday to win Super Bowl XV, their coach collected $15,000 in fines. "Actually, that's a conservative figure," said their captain, Gene Upshaw, the left guard. "We're not a bunch of choirboys and Boy Scouts. They say we're the Halfway House of the NFL. Well, we live up to that image." Here Upshaw paused in his postgame oration for dramatic emphasis, and a smile split his face. "Every chance we get."
It was late. The last bus had left for the Raiders' team party. The locker room was almost empty. Only a few stragglers remained—Al Davis and his brother, Jerry, from New York, Lester Hayes scrubbing the last remnants of stickum from various parts of his anatomy, Jim Plunkett recounting for the umpteenth time the tale of his resurrection. And Upshaw, still wearing most of his uniform, savoring the moment, prolonging it. El Capitan. Fourteen years an Oakland Raider—hey, he started in Super Bowl II against the Packers and Henry Jordan—202 straight games, 24 in postseason.
He has seen almost all the whackos and misfits and hit-men who've worn the silver and black: Dan Birdwell, who used to hurt people just by bumping into them in the locker room; Big Ben Davidson; George Buehler and his electronic toys; 7-foot Richard Sligh, who carried a gun on his hip. And when someone reminded Upshaw of Eagle Coach Dick Vermeil's rejoinder that John Matuszak, a curfew-breaker during Super Bowl week, would've been on his way home before the game were he an Eagle, Upshaw threw back his head and laughed. "If Tom Flores sent home every guy on this football team who screwed up," he said, "he'd be the only guy on the sideline."
The sidelines Sunday, that's another story. A league official who was near the Oakland bench reported that when they weren't on the field, the players were busy eating peanuts. "The place was littered with shells," he said. Upshaw said the pregame locker room was typical Oakland—"one or two card games, radios going, a few guys rolling dice, nothing special."
When Cliff Branch caught his touchdown passes, of two and 29 yards, from Plunkett, when Kenny King grabbed another—an 80-yard play, a Super Bowl record—when Chris Bahr booted his two field goals, the bench didn't erupt. There weren't many high fives, fists in the air, we're No. 1, any of that stuff. Cool it, guys, where's the party tonight?
When Pete Rozelle presented the trophy to Davis in the dressing room and Davis mumbled, "Thanks very much, uh, thanks very much, Commissioner," you could barely see this odd couple for the innumerable cameras that sprung up like weeds. It looked like a Japanese bus tour as the Raiders hoisted their cameras in the air to capture the moment forever.
Oh, they're different all right. When Vermeil sits down with his projector and cans of film in the still hours of the night, there will come a time when he'll rub his tired eyes and ask himself, "How did they do it? We covered all the angles. We worked on everything—man, did we work. Two practices, in pads yet, on Tuesday, picture day. Team dinners, evening meetings. We attacked that soft zone they used, threw underneath it and moved the ball on them. We used the same pass-rush scheme that got us eight sacks when we beat them 10-7 in Philly in November. How did it happen? We're a team of character, of dedication, and we lost big in our biggest game ever. To a bunch of loose hangers like that. How?"
It starts with the offensive line, the heart and soul of the Raiders. Let's go back to August, when we were all picking the Raiders to go 7-9 or 6-10 and finish last in the AFC West, all us geniuses. What did we see then? An in-and-out quarterback named Dan Pastorini replacing The Snake, Kenny Stabler, and a backup quarterback named Plunkett, who'd worn a hole in the bench. A defense that finished 21st in the league in 1979 and had hardly changed. An aging and crippled offensive line. Yep, that's the place to start rebuilding all right.
We didn't look at that line carefully enough. It doesn't really fit the Oakland image. No refugees there. Every one of the front five was a high draft choice: two No. 1s, a No. 3 and two No. 4s. Proud people, solid citizens, three of them with Pro Bowl credentials. They smile and shake their heads when the wilder guys do a number, but they're basically serious people—Guards Mickey Marvin and Upshaw, Tackles Art Shell and Henry Lawrence, Center Dave Dalby—and in November the Eagles had embarrassed them and dusted their quarterback eight times.
"Watch this game carefully," Lawrence had said on Monday, when the Raiders arrived in New Orleans. "Last time they did things to us that they won't do this time. They stopped our running, but they won't do it Sunday. They won't get to Plunkett. As for me personally, I was embarrassed by Claude Humphrey [3½ sacks]. This time I'm going to try to become the first offensive lineman to win the MVP in a Super Bowl."