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T.J. SIMERS

Raiders show a commitment to the opposite of excellence

The greatness that is the Raiders, as owner Al Davis likes to say, is far gone, with the team becoming a league joke and Davis a pathetic figure.

September 15, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM OAKLAND — It was hard to argue with the accountant, John Shaw, recommending to Georgia Frontiere she move her Rams to St. Louis, where she would collect more than $25 million a year.

A woman has to shop after all.

The blunder of all blunders, though, belongs to Al Davis, who has become a blithering idiot with the passage of time and so many losing years, the Rams handing the Los Angeles market to him in 1994, and Davis fumbling the opportunity.

A brand new stadium at Hollywood Park was waiting on his signature, luxury boxes and oodles of money to be made. But Davis' ego and emotions got the best of him when the NFL suggested a second NFL tenant might be in the works at Hollywood Park, as he left in a huff almost overnight.

Welcome to Oakland, a pit, maybe just a cut above the one in Irwindale, but an appropriate dump for the worst team in the NFL the last six years.

The greatness that is the Raiders, as Davis likes to say, is so far gone -- the latest issue of Forbes' magazine placing the Raiders last in the NFL in franchise value.

Just imagine how much more valuable this franchise would be in L.A. in a Hollywood Park Taj Mahal, celebrities dressing like hooligans rather than the parolees this team now draws.

The Raiders have become a joke, all right, the NFL getting the last laugh and how Pete Rozelle would have enjoyed this, putting them on "Monday Night Football" so everyone can be reminded how far they have slipped -- matched against one of the teams favored to advance to the Super Bowl.

The NFL's version of USC versus San Jose State.

What makes the joke so much funnier is how the Raiders take themselves so seriously, "the team of the decades," still plastered across all their propaganda, a "commitment to excellence" now the pride they take in improving from 2-14 in 2006 to 4-12 and last year's 5-11.

If only Davis wasn't so delusional, maybe talking rationally about plans that have gone wacko instead of blabbering on and on about what happened in the '60s. Something, anything to remind folks -- that at one time in his life -- he wasn't loony tunes.

Wouldn't you like to know what he really feels, really thinks about being considered the very best and now the very worst? If only he could be human.

To hear him talk now is difficult. One doesn't know whether to laugh at him or feel sorry for someone so out of touch with reality. He should be a sympathetic figure, rather than one so pathetic.

Up on the scoreboard here at halftime, they showed a look back at the Raiders when they weren't the Clippers. You get the feeling that Davis sits in the dark watching old-time films such as this over and over.

This team lives in the past better than any other in the league because what else is there to sell? When the Raiders took the field to start the game, they did so with the public address announcer saying, "and now professional football's winningest team."

No matter that the Chicago Bears have almost 200 more wins, or the Dolphins have a better winning percentage. Just lie, baby.

Maybe this season turns in the Raiders' favor, and they finish .500, building on a spirited opener, but they are still headed down a dead end. They will continue to pull up the bottom of the NFL in franchise value if they play in this economically challenged city, and where else are they going to play?

There were already a number of empty seats at the top of the stadium here, the NFL extending the deadline to keep the game from being blacked out locally, and this was the season opener against an attractive opponent.

Hard to imagine Raiders fans having any more incentive, their heroes playing a team that has embarrassed them 11 straight times, playing at home, playing the season opener on Monday night TV, and getting the advantage of playing against a Norv Turner-coached team.

You don't have to be a hooligan to know Turner specializes in heartbreak. After all, like almost everyone else in football, he was a Raiders head coach at one time.

The Raiders also caught Philip Rivers on an erratic night, Rivers penalized at one point for taunting the Raiders, presumably saying, "I'm nowhere near as horrible as your quarterback."

If so, he was finally on the mark, JaMarcus Russell not looking like anyone who is going to sell tickets around here. If you're a Raiders fan, whose jersey do you buy? Jim Otto?

Russell limped off with 6:13 to play, bringing on someone named Bruce Gradkowski. They sell one of those jerseys and they will have sold one.

Never mind, 3:48 left, Russell was back, and while Chargers defenders Antonio Cromartie and Clinton Hart were pointing fingers at each other, he threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders the lead.

The highlight of the Raiders' season -- before, of course, losing.

TODAY'S FINAL word comes in e-mail from Michael J. Whittle, captain, Los Angeles County Fire Department, retired: "I am acutely aware of your relationship with the Parking Lot Attendant and the Screaming Meanie.

"I attended the memorial for two brother firefighters killed while trying to find an escape route for their crew. When nobody else would step to the plate, the McCourts opened their house to the families and friends and thousands of firefighters from around the nation. They did it for free, parking included, T.J.

"Although you may not agree with some of their past decisions, I feel a person's character comes out when someone is in need. During our time of need and grief, the McCourts showed class and dignity. . . . As Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp said in his closing words, 'Please leave this house as we found it.' I hope we did."

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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