No matter the opponent, Chiefs fans get fired up for game day. But when it’s the Raiders, of course, the fires burn the entire week.
Of all the rivalries in the NFL, the 50-year-old, regularly renewed feud between the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders is one of the bitterest and best. You don’t have to take my word for it. As unimpeachable a source as Wikipedia has this to say about it: “The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL) are considered to have one of professional football’s most bitter rivalries.” See? It must be true.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons why this rivalry is so intense: The we’re-so-sick-of-you familiarity resulting from such a long, unbroken history of competition (CBS’s coverage of the game Sunday is all but certain to open up with some grainy ‘70s footage of Bobby Bell chasing down Daryle Lamonica or Jack Tatum spearing Otis Taylor); the heightened level of emotion and the potential for on- and off-field “incidents;” the fact that no matter how good or bad the teams have been (and this year, they’ve both been pretty good), the game is likely to be close—11 of the last 13 contests have been decided by seven points or fewer, and in the 102 times they’ve played, the Chiefs have only eight more wins, with two ties (thanks again, Wikipedia!).
But all of that on its own isn’t what makes hating* a rival fun. We despise(d) John Elway for his fourth-quarter comebacks, but he was fun to hate because he also had the toes of a pigeon and the teeth of a horse (more on that, perhaps, next week). Likewise, there are plenty of intriguing reasons to hate the Raiders. After the jump, I’ll share ten, in no particular order.
*Of course, I do not advocate “hate” as it exists in the real world, where it is almost always a product of ignorance. In sports, it’s the opposite: the more intimate the opponents, the more powerful the release of negative passion. Another reason why sports, in perspective, is a healthy emotional outlet. Just sayin’.
1. The White Track Suit. Al Davis doesn’t always wear it, but the one time I saw him up close in person, trolling the sidelines before a game at Arrowhead, he was fully draped in white parachute silk, oversized silver sunglasses, and gaudy silver bracelets and rings, like a North Jersey housewife—and that’s the image that will remain with me. True, it is a little sad to watch Davis slowly disintegrate with age until, like George Steinbrenner before him, his Darth Vader morphs into a feeble Emperor. But that’s how it is: evil always, ultimately, devours itself from within.
2. The Quotes and Slogans. “Just Win, Baby?” (Yes, that would be a good idea.) “The Silver and Black are Back?” (Sorry about that whole Los Angeles thing.) “Pride and Poise?” (A good one for the second-most penalized team in NFL history.) “Commitment to Excellence?” (What is this, an accounting firm?) By the way, these are all actually registered trademarks of the Raiders organization. Oh, and then there’s the “Black Hole.” I think you know where you can stick that one.
3. The Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders are the last NFL team to still play their home games in a baseball stadium. So ugly. Even by November, they can’t seem to re-sod the A’s infield. “He’s at the 30… the 25… 20… 15… And…Ohh! He’s brought down just short of the third-base line!” The Chiefs, on the other hand, have the decency to play all the way across the parking lot from a baseball stadium (where, if memory serves, an actual Major League team used to play).
4. Bo Jackson. Speaking of the Royals, their two-sport megaman was probably the first national sports hero to play in Kansas City in my lifetime. I still remember: The bats broken over a knee…or his head. The rifle throw to the plate from the warning track. The longest home run in Kauffman (then Royals) Stadium history. I used a chunk of my allowance to buy a special Lucite case to display his rookie card. Bo knows baseball. Bo knows football. And on January 13, 1991, Bo knew a baseball-and-football-career-ruining hip injury while trying to pick up a few extra yards for who? Those ungrateful Raiders.
5. Rich Gannon. Of course, I don’t hate Rich Gannon. With the Chiefs, he was the beloved, scrappy backup who always seemed to play beyond his innate talent but never got the full opportunity he deserved. He was the fan’s man, so much like you or me (except that he earned a seven-figure salary for playing—or, in most cases, not playing—a game). But to see him finally get his rightful chance to shine with the Raiders, to feel even the slightest bit torn when obligated to root against him—damn, I hated that.
6. January 2, 2000. The last time the Raiders managed to do real damage to more than just the Chiefs’ pride was in the final game of the 1999 season. All the Chiefs needed was a win at home against already-eliminated Oakland to secure the AFC West title and a playoff spot. A loss would leave them with neither. Kansas City fans, confident with an early 17-0 lead, got to watch Rich Gannon (remember him?) bring his new team all the way back. The Raiders won it in overtime on a Joe Nedney field goal. Two days into the new decade, this was the Raiders’ statement that the early 2000s would be their turn to dominate the rivalry. In fact, when it came time to get married, I made sure we did it on January 2, just so I could override the bitter memory linked to that date with a much happier one. (Okay, that’s completely untrue—it’s just a coincidence I realized when researching that game. But it still makes me feel a little better. Incidentally, January 2, 2011, will be my first wedding anniversary—and the Raiders will again be at Arrowhead. I can’t think of a better place for us to celebrate.)
7. Sebastian Janikowski. Heartbreaking field goals would become even more familiar once the Raiders reeled in old Seabass the following year. Like Al Davis, Janikowski provides all-important continuity: We’ve hated him for so long now, it just feels right. With his bar-fight rap sheet, that gut protruding from his pads, and a scruffy double chin hanging out under the goofy single-bar of his kicker’s helmet, he is a reliable target for the juvenile personal attacks that give texture to any good rivalry.
8. Chuck: Wait, that’s not relevant here. It just happens to be what’s on TV in the other room while I’m writing this. And I don’t like Chuck. Seriously, I don’t even know what it’s about—he’s a CIA agent who owns a bowling alley or something? Maybe that was Ed. Whatever. I bet every Raiders player and coach loves it.
9. Chucky: Okay, Jon Gruden hasn’t been the Raiders’ coach since 2002, and yes, he then moved on to Tampa Bay, where in short order he used Tony Dungy’s team to crush those very same Raiders in the Super Bowl. But while I can respect Gruden for his success, the “Chucky” persona will forever be linked to the Raiders in my mind, and was just so much fun to hate. The memory is good for getting riled up at times like this. I mean, try screaming “Tom Cable!” at me while I check my pulse. Nope. Nothin’.
10. This guy:
So? What would you all add? Ten is just a beginning—there’s no reason we can’t get this list up to at least a hundred by Sunday.