In fact, there's a strong feeling that Oakland doesn't have a drummer. Owner Al Davis relishes the role of renegade for himself and his troops. "Things are always different around here," says Chandler. "One day we're trying to bail a guy out of jail and another day it's something else. Not all of our guys are model citizens, and they couldn't play for the Cowboys or the Eagles. The truth is, a lot of them wouldn't want to. I think 45 individuals create a much truer atmosphere than 45 dress-alikes. Besides, the Raiders are always Darth Vader walking into a stadium, and I love it. Everybody hates the Raiders and thinks we're all creeps. But I know that we're really good guys."
Yet, Chandler is not so sure about the opposition guys. "I'm an idealist," he says. "I hate to think there isn't compassion among the players in the league. But there are a lot more dirty shots and strong efforts to hurt now than there used to be. Maybe the reason is the intense competition for jobs and the fact that the killer instinct is now taught hard in high school. Intimidation is a big part of pro football, but you can be intimidating and be fair."
No wonder Chandler's main feeling after a game is that he survived. "What I've done," he says, "is bought another week, and management thinks I'm real neat." So do the fans, and Chandler admits that "without their fanaticism, we wouldn't have jobs. There might be healthier things to do than get riled up at a football game, but I'm not making judgments. I just think if I weren't playing I'd rather do something else than watch football on Sunday afternoons."
Above all else, it's a good thing that Chandler isn't encumbered by a foolish pride. Consider, for example, that near the end of the 1979 season when he asked Bills Coach Chuck Knox to trade him, Knox subsequently told him, "Nobody's real excited about trading for you." Oakland Coach Tom Flores expressed some interest but said that because Chandler had been injured he wanted him to try out. Understand that rookies try out, veterans play. Nevertheless, Chandler replied cheerfully, "I can swallow my pride." He tried out. In recounting the deal made before the 1980 season, in which the Bills got Linebacker Phil Villapiano, Chandler says the Raiders wanted him so much that "they first offered an assistant trainer to get me."
In truth, nobody has ever much wanted Bob Chandler. Oh sure, his parents did, and they were proud when he could walk on his hands by age 3 and juggle oranges by age 7. And Marilyn did. She was a USC song girl who took one look at him on the football field and told a friend, "I'd sure like to go out with him." They now have a daughter, Marisa, 4½.
But when Chandler showed up at Whittier High, Coach Vic Lopez recalls thinking, "What a skinny little kid." Now what does Lopez think? "I look at him and I think, 'What a skinny little kid.' " In high school Chandler was an average quarterback, but Lopez defends him, saying the problem was "I couldn't figure out a way for Bobby to pass and catch the ball." Only two universities were interested in his athletic abilities: BYU and Whittier College. "What nobody understood," says Lopez, "is that Bobby has no pain threshold and a heart bigger than his body."
At the last minute USC found itself with one extra scholarship and Trojan Assistant Coach Rod Humenuik (now with the Cleveland Browns) recommended Chandler after seeing him play basketball. "I think he liked the way I knocked down a guy who had just knocked me down," says Chandler. At USC Chandler figured to be a defensive back and just one of the boys in the band. But injuries soon depleted the wide receiver corps, and in his sophomore season Chandler was given a shot. In his first start, against Cal, he caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. The next year he was named the Rose Bowl's player of the game after catching a 33-yard pass for the only touchdown in USC's 10-3 win over Michigan.
The 1971 pro draft was another lesson in humility. Chandler was sitting with some of his friends when the news came on the radio that "a USC wide receiver was just selected by the 49ers in the third round..."
"Great," Chandler said. "I love San Francisco."
The announcer continued, "...Sam Dickerson."