An open letter to Al Davis:
During baseball season, three out of four might be acceptable: Three hits in four at bats is fine. But we're talking about the need for a four-for-four during football's most important season, the second round of the NFL playoffs: four very important games involving the eight remaining teams vying for the two Conference Championships leading to Super Bowl XX.
But Al, because of you, only three games will be on local TV this weekend, and that's just not acceptable. Today, the Cleveland Browns (8-8) take on the Miami Dolphins (12-4) on NBC, 9:30 a.m. over Channels 4, 36 and 39. And then the Dallas Cowboys (10-6) go against the Los Angeles Rams (11-5) on CBS, 1 p.m. over Channels 2 and 8.
On Sunday, your day Al, there's the New York Giants (10-6) versus the Chicago Bears (15-1) on CBS, 9:30 a.m. over Channels 2 and 8. And that's it! No New England Patriots vs. your Raiders on NBC (except in San Diego on Channel 39) at 1 p.m., Al, unless you decide to really live up to your "Commitment to Excellence" pledge. Which, according to Webster, means ". . . surpassing goodness, merit . . . particular virtue. . . ." Doesn't that also imply goodness of heart, the right action and thinking, all the good things you've apparently overlooked in your dictionary?
Forget all that Madison Avenue and network palaver about TV markets, demographics and ratings. That's not important now. We're talking about plain old local down-home good will.
As of Thursday afternoon, Al, you lost your "Commitment" banner. It was torn down and presented to Georgia Frontiere, owner of the Rams. That nice lady exercised good thinking--and good public relations--by buying up the remaining tickets to make her commitment to lift the blackout curtain to allow pro football fans here to see the telecast of the Cowboys-Rams game along with the rest of the nation.
Say yes, Al, before it's too late. Don't be pro football's "Scrooge." Get off that unrealistic, ridiculous pedestal, that 92,000 seating capacity figure that you demand must be met (you know darned well that 10,000 of those Coliseum seats are like sitting in East L.A.). Re-establish a sensible seating limit to equal that of the 76,000-80,000 capacities of other large stadiums in the NFL.
It would be a beautiful gesture on your part, an expression of thanks to the loyal supporters of the Raiders: those shut-ins, senior citizens, people who can afford to buy tickets but who are always set-side rooting when your Raiders are on the road. All season long they proudly display Raider bumper stickers, wear Raider caps. Don't you wear the dunce cap now, Al.
Terrible thought: Listen, Al. Do you realize you're playing right into the hands of that misguided minority group--sadly, including some of my colleagues who couldn't care less about sports, faking a negative stance to see how much hate mail they can attract--who don't know a football from a watermelon. They snub team sports. They're poor lost souls who have never risen above such "exciting" individual "sports" as flying a kite, kicking a can on a dirt road, or throwing rocks.
They are to be pitied for never experiencing "the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat." They think "Chariots of Fire" must be an old C.B. DeMille movie.
And now, Al, since they heard of your stand, you are their hero, Pete Rozelle forbid! "Good," they shout in their lonely sanctuaries. "Now we don't have to put up with the neighbors gathering around their TV sets and cheering some guy named Marcus whatshisname? In our solitude we can play solitaire all Sunday afternoon."
ROUNDUP: Today, Basketball, North Carolina State vs. North Carolina, 10:30 a.m. ESPN . . . Basketball, Cal State Long Beach vs. Cal State Fullerton, 1 p.m. (56) . . . Basketball, UCLA vs. Oregon State, 2 p.m. (51); 4 p.m. (2) . . . Basketball, Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt, 4 p.m. ESPN . . . Basketball, Dayton vs. DePaul, 5:30 p.m. WGN . . . Basketball, Duke vs. Maryland, 6 p.m. ESPN.
SUNDAY: Golf, Nassau, Bahamas, finals, 11 a.m. ESPN . . . Equestrian, horse jumping championships, 1 p.m. (2)(8) . . . Skiing, World Cup Switzerland, 1 p.m. ESPN . . . Basketball, Oregon vs. USC, 2 p.m. (2)(51) . . . Women's Basketball, Old Dominion vs. Cal State Long Beach, 5 p.m. Prime Ticket Cable . . . Hockey, Minnesota vs. Chicago, 5:30 p.m. ESPN.