OAKLAND — I feel like hell about this. The Raiders winning, I mean. The least they could have done, out of respect for Oakland, was lose.
Instead, they looked pretty good beating Seattle, which made many of my friends up here miserable, being as how they were recently abandoned by the Raiders.
"You know what it was like?" a guy at the Golden Bear sports bar said after watching the team win on television. "It was like seeing your ex-wife on the street, looking trim and happy, when you secretly hoped she would have grown fat and miserable without you."
I had come north to be in Oakland for the first Raiders game since Al Davis announced he was going to keep the team in L.A., rather than return it to the city of its birth.
I wanted to know how the people felt about the Silver and Black now.
"It's simple," Emily Fernandes said out on 94th Avenue. "The name of Al Davis' game isn't football. The name of his game is money."
"Wave enough cash in their faces," bartender Mad Dog Johnson said one day at the King's X, "and they'd be the Baghdad Raiders today."
The contest between the Raiders and the Seahawks was watchable here only if you owned a satellite dish, which not too many do.
Oakland is not a rich town, despite the recent willingness of its leaders to spend $660 million to get back the Raiders. The people cannot even conceive of $660 million.
"That much money," the Electric Shoe Shine Man once said, trying to get a fix on it, "would sure buy a lot of pork chops."
Not enough, as it turned out, to feed Al Davis' hunger.
I ended up not watching the game but \o7 listening \f7 to it. There was practically nobody at the King's X or the Golden Bear, where once a Raiders game would have drawn maniacal crowds.
True, Ricky's was jammed, but only because it's the kind of bar where they will watch anything that involves the possibility of injury or sudden death.
"The attitude here," bartender Paulo Barreto said, "is love the team, hate the owner."
Paulo calls himself the World's Most Dangerous Bartender. I don't know why, because I didn't drink at Ricky's. I drank at Herb's.
Herb's is not a sports bar but the home of Herb and Esther DiFazio. I have known Herb for many years. We once worked together in the basement of the Sunshine Biscuit Co., dumping tins of cookies on packaging belts.
Herb almost ODed one day on those chocolate cookies with creamy stuff in the middle. I think they're called Oreos.
He ate so many that the foreman, a fat lady named Julie, had to drive him to the hospital. When Herb recovered, she fired him.
We remained friends, however, even though I went on to more challenging pursuits and Herb ended up in a foundry, continuing the intellectual equivalent of dumping cookies on a belt.
He was a dedicated Raiders fan right from the beginning, even before the Oakland Coliseum was built. They were playing in a temporary field near the auditorium in those days and were thinking of calling themselves the Oakland Senors, without a tilde. The Oakland Sen-ors.
In what Herb calls "the days before L.A.," or D.B.L.A., friends gathered at his home off East 14th Street to watch the Raiders on television.
Those were good times.
As far as Herb is concerned, human history began when the Raiders played their first game in Oakland and ended when they moved south. Thereafter, a cultural darkness lay upon the land.
I went to his house a couple of times on Raiders Day, in the D.B.L.A., not for the conviviality, but for the linguisa and scrambled eggs Esther served.
I ate so much of the sausage that today one of the arteries to my heart is 60% clogged with linguisa. I left Oakland just in time.
There was no party at the DiFazios this Raiders Day Sunday. Herb had the radio on for the Raiders, but also watched the San Francisco 49ers on television. Esther wasn't even home, so there was no linguisa.
"I never thought I'd do this," he said, gesturing toward the game on TV. He used to say he would rather watch dogs eat his mother than watch the 49ers. He meant it.
The afternoon passed in almost funereal silence, except for those times Herb spoke of Lamonica's passes to Biletnikoff in the D.B.L.A.
When I said I had to leave early to return to Southern California, he shrugged and said, "Et tu, Brute?" I think he'd learned that just for me.
It wasn't until I was on I-5 that I heard the Raiders had won and everyone was saying it would be a great year for L.A.
I could have cried.