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SCOTT OSTLER

Coliseum Comes Up Empty, Not Raiders

October 05, 1987|SCOTT OSTLER

Attention Raiders! Attention Raiders! You fellows out there on the Coliseum picket lines. Can you hear me?

Of course you can, you're standing right in front of me and I've got a bullhorn. What can I say, I'm into bullhorns. This is a Todd Christensen autographed model. OK, I'll turn it down.

You guys want a report on today's game, right? I was there, inside this very Memorial Coliseum, for the whole depraved spectacle. No, I won't tell you who won, not yet. You'll leave and I won't get to finish my speech.

First, I know that there are serious issues and volatile emotions involved in this strike, but someday we'll all look back on this day and laugh.

Ah, what the hell. Why wait? Let's do it now.

Look, I know this was the first and last scab game. You Raiders are ready to march back to work en masse, and you will this week. By Tuesday, the strike will be over, free agency will sail out the window like a paper airplane and the world will resume its journey around the sun. So be it.

You were ready to come back last week, but Al Davis said no, he wanted to give the strikebreakers one day in the sun for their efforts.

Let me give you a quick rundown on how that day went. A half-hour before kickoff, there were more people on the field in uniform than in the stands. A Raider official, code name Polyanna, mentioned to the boys in the press box that the crowd would be late arriving.

"Yeah, about three weeks late," one guy said.

The official attendance was just over 10,000. On a normal Sunday, that many Raider fans get arrested. Let's just say the crowd was about 40,000 shy of a wave.

Some of the fans were probably turned away by Todd Christensen, who prowled Gate 4 before the game, got into some angry verbal confrontations with fans, and even tried to reason with some fans, a serious mistake.

Now you're a bright kid, Todd, but why would anyone try to reason with people who would go to the Coliseum in 106-degree heat and pay premium prices to watch the Pic 'N Save All-Stars?

Personally, I'd sooner spend the day in Death Valley, hitting fungoes. But these are Raider fans.

"I noticed that the fans are very young, and very enthusiastic," Raider agent Polyanna said on another swing through the press box.

To me they looked old, lethargic, lonely and dangerously sun-baked, but it's a judgment call.

The National Anthem was performed by, I believe, an Elvis impersonator.

The game? How did the game look? Like the dawning of a new era. Just kidding, guys, put down the sticks. It was sandlot football at its finest, two of the best pickup teams desperate money could buy.

The game had no connection with reality, of course. That was apparent when the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. The last time you fellows did that was in Oxnard.

By the way, would any Raider starting quarterbacks in this group please step forward? Not so fast, Rusty. Vince Evans looked pretty slick today. He can move around and throw the ball.

I asked Al Davis why the Raiders played Evans instead of Marc Wilson, the million-dollar kicking tee, and Davis said, "Because he (Evans) might be real." A star is born?

The New Raiders were enthusiastic. Going off the field at halftime, defensive end Phil Grimes flashed the fans a "We're No. 1" index finger.

They're also creative. When running back Ethan Horton scored on a pass from Evans, and bumped into defensive back Jack Epps in the end zone, Horton invented the Really Low Five. He fired the football at Epps' shoes.

And when the Chiefs attempted an on-side kick in the fourth quarter, they had eight guys offside, eight yards apiece, for a cumulative 64 yards offside, a world record.

But I don't want to dwell on this game. It's history. You'll be back to work Tuesday, admitting that the owners outsmarted you this time. This scab-ball stuff was a great gimmick. Most fans were smart enough to avoid it, but having scab teams made it easy for guys to jump the picket lines and go back to work, one by one or all at once, leading to snowball city.

The owners knew you guys would be OK during the week, but would squirm like bait worms on Sunday, when scabs were playing in your uniforms. You would pace outside the stadium like prisoners on death row. One Sunday of hearing the cheers, however feeble, from outside the stadiums, and union confusion would turn to surrender.

The scene after the game was peaceful, although the authorities were taking no chances. The LAPD had its "Special Problems Unit" stationed outside the dressing rooms. That sounds like people you'd call if you have trouble with your math homework, but it's really 14 steel-eyed, riot-ready cops.

The team buses were loaded behind guarded fences, and I heard one official say, "Let's go, we're taking two of them out," just like in a war movie. But there were no incidents. Where were you guys?

The strikebreakers left the Coliseum quietly, never to be seen again.

By the way, you guys won the game. The Raider strikebreakers put you in first place in your division. Now don't screw it up.

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