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DEARLY BELOVED, we are gathered here to bury the Oakland Raiders. Rest In Pieces.
For Raiders Haters everywhere 1/26/03 shall be blessed: The day the big, bad Raiders turned into a lukewarm tub of Metamucil.
'Twas the day all the helmet spikes went limp. The day the Silver and Black came in like a checkpoint doberman and left like Joan Rivers's poodle. Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21.
In the Black Hole that was the Raiders' postgame locker room, 73-year-old owner Al Davis ambled from locker to locker in his black silk sweat suit with silver lettering, and with enough oil in his hair to lubricate a 1978 Chrysler New Yorker. He shook hands and whispered to each player, as if at a wake.
Maybe it was. It had been 19 years since the Raiders were last in a Super Bowl. And now, weaknesses laid bare, a projected $45-4 million over next season's salary cap and with more aging veterans than the local VFW, it may be 19 more before they're back. Just when, baby?
The Evil Emperor doesn't get around like he used to. Staffers say Davis takes a lot more naps. Still, his mind is sharp, and he's as charming as ever. When a sportswriter approached his dinner table one night last spring with hand outstretched, Davis snarled, "I'm not gonna shake ya hand. I got food comin'."
But even Davis doesn't deserve a weekend like this last one. On Saturday morning one of his least favorite people, Marcus Allen, was voted into the Hall of Fame. Then his Pro Bowl center, Barret Robbins, who had missed a Friday-night team meeting, was AWOL for a walk-through.
When the Prodigal Son finally showed up less than an hour before the Saturday-evening team meeting, looking disoriented and shaky, he was not forgiven. Raiders coach Bill Callahan "dismissed" him from the game and sent him home. Reportedly Robbins, who has been treated for depression, then entered a San Diego hospital.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, four teammates, all speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Robbins spent Saturday in Tijuana.
Who among us, after achieving our lifetime dream of finally making a Super Bowl, wouldn't disappear into Mexico 48 hours before the game? Maybe bring back a colorful ceramic burro with a clock embedded in its belly?