What The Raiders Mean To Us

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel met his wife, Lauren Killian, a gorgeous, leggy brunette worthy of the finest things that I would surely provide her were she to someday be mine, long before he became the $63 million franchise quarterback that he is today.  He met her back at USC close to the start of the new millennium, and the Cassels would tie the knot sometime in 2007, forever inciting my eternal jealousy of the man (though that jealousy has inspired some pretty good work).  I had to marry a leggy brunette of my own in 2010 just to keep pace.  By my calculations, I’ve got until this time next year to be the franchise QB of a professional football team.

Pop quiz: Who was Matt Cassel’s best man?

I’ll give you two hints: he’s a Heisman winner who Cassel backed up at USC, and the Raiders just traded two first round picks for him.

The trade of Carson Palmer to the Raiders has been heavily discussed on the micro level of the AFC West.  Will Carson Palmer be a good fit in Oakland (yes)?  Did the Raiders fork too much over in acquiring him (hell yes)?  On and on we’ve gone.  I loved the trade, personally, because I’m a Chiefs fan and this makes Chiefs-Raiders a damn near epic showdown now.  So long as these two best friends are guiding bitter rivals against one another, I want a front row seat.

This trade, in a way, is proof that for all the Broncos-Chiefs hatred (and I’ll confess up to hating the Broncos more, these days) and for the timelessness of Raiders-Broncos, there is no more classic rivalry in the AFC West than Raiders versus Chiefs.

More reflection after the jump.

It takes me back to a factoid that has started making the rounds a couple weeks ago: Al Davis paid for Derrick Thomas’ funeral.  It’s the perfect encapsulation of Chiefs-Raiders: two franchises and fanbases that have been pitted against one another as the ying to each other’s yang for 40 years (a rivalry that stands at 54–47–2 in the Chiefs’ favor, might I add), connected through one unifying factor: that both franchises and both fanbases and both histories are obsessively dedicated to great football.  They haven’t always achieved that standard, but both franchises have been fighting tooth and claw for it in ways that have earned respect from one another.

The Chiefs, from the organization to their fanbase, have historically “cared” about their players and their coaches.  Players most highly regarded in Chiefs lore are ones of unassailable character.  Talking with Chiefs fans about their favorite players usually involves discussions of what those players “meant to the community.”  Meanwhile the Raiders have historically celebrated some of the insane talent they’ve had over the years, have been less invested in character guys and, if the Raider fans I talk to have been any indication, are in love with the nasty, villainous aura the team has generated through.

The Raiders are flash and pizzazz.  They make huge, controversial moves meant to fundamentally shake up the division and the league.  The Chiefs, even under the relative flashiness of Carl Peterson, are more measured and conservative in their acquisitions.  The Raiders earned a dynasty during the ’70s, and cratered in the ’00s, and rarely have they ever been anything in between.  The Chiefs have a Super Bowl here, an extraordinarily lousy season there, but for the most part have middled the league or played slightly above it.  The Raiders occupy the West Coast, the Chiefs, middle America.

It’s not good vs. evil, it’s Bird vs. Magic.  It’s Yankees vs. Red Sox.  It’s Manning vs. Brady.  It’s two sides that are fundamentally different and alien to one another, except for the fact that they want to beat the tar out of the other side.  And Rich Gannon.

I like the Chiefs this week.  I really do.  I see a team still hungry and willing to prove themselves against a team that has something other than a zero in the win column.  I see a hungry — nay, starving — quarterback ready to beat his best friend who lorded over him on the depth chart.  And I see a Raiders team that is temporarily wary of the decision to mortgage their future acquire Carson Palmer.

And if Cassel and Palmer find a way to stay on their respective teams past this year, I think a really special new version of an old rivalry has been born.

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