Oakland Raiders: Off Season Reading
David Wilson – Jun 19, 2012
In the unbelievable long six weeks it will take for the Raiders to get to camp, what are we to do with ourselves as members of the Raider Nation? You want to know about your team, but there is no information out there. Well actually there is.
It isn’t news, but history, and you can find it everywhere.
Of the hundreds of players and coaches who have been in Oakland over the years, many have had books written about their lives, or have written books themselves.
As a Raider fan, they make great reading.
Here are my top five, in reverse order.
5. Cruisin’ With the Tooz – Jon Matuszak. The legendary Tooz talks about his life, and exploits both on and off the field. The problems in his youth, his wild side and brushes with the law, and his relationship with his team mates are all recounted here. The book is well written, and is very much a ‘players book’ (not all of them are), and tells some good stories over 236 pages that you just don’t find elsewhere. There is some excellent content here, and the ‘Tooz’ tells it well. Given his lifestyle, any book about the ‘Tooz’ is bound to be worth a read.
4. Marcus – Marcus Allen. This book is an excellent read, and is as you would expect from the intelligent and eloquent football player who was Marcus Allen. In some ways less shocking that other autobiographies (such as Matuszak and Stabler), but in many ways more so. As much as Marcus will always be remembered as one of the great Raiders, his bitterness & hatred towards Al Davis is abundantly clear through several chapters, and leaves you feeling that it was so intense it came to dominate his life. I found that quite sad. Also, when Marcus talks about his friendship with O.J. Simpson, it leaves the reader with many unanswered questions as there appear to be a number of inconsistencies. When our heroes bare their souls like Marcus does in this book, it isn’t always what you want to read, but it certainly is compelling, and I would certainly recommend it to any serious Raider fan.
3. They Call Me Assassin – Jack Tatum. This book was published in three formats, starting with the original title, and then with an addition in They Still Call Me Assassin, and yet again with Final Confessions. I will admit that I am high on this particular book as Jack Tatum is one of my favourite players of all time. A gentleman off the field, and a hard as nails player on it, Tatum’s book pulls no punches, and his forthright opinions will come as no shock to those that saw how he played. He lets loose his opinions on team mates (such as Daryl Larmonica), those in authority (Pete Rozelle), and talks about other issues such as the tragic incident with Darryl Stingley. He doesn’t ask for sympathy, he just tells it and doesn’t care if you like it or not. This book is famous for a reason, and was written by one of the greatest defensive football players of all time.
2. Slick (Al Davis) – Mark Ribowski. It must be a tough job writing a biography of Al Davis. Not only is he a hugely polarising figure, either loved or hated, but real information about his private life is so hard to come by as Davis was such an intensely private individual. Ribowski does a fantastic job in being both thorough and entirely objective in regard to the Raider owner. He talks about why former Raider partner Wayne Valley hated him, and why his players loved him. It is easy to see both points of view from this book. Davis’s political power plays, and the way he operated are all well evidenced and explained here. It chronicles his rise from obscurity to the very top by a combination of talent, street smarts, and almost unbelievable audacity. The true and lasting loyalty that Al Davis showed to those close to him (and many former players) directly contrasts to the vicious and relentless way he went after those who crossed him. If you want an objective, enjoyable book about Al Davis, then this is the one for you.
1. Snake – Ken Stabler. Of all the football books and biographies ever written, this is the classic. It is the football version of Errol Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways, and is hugely entertaining from the first page to the last. There are other biographies and books that try to tell stories about the same Raider team that Stabler was on, but they are all pale imitations of a fantastic original. All your favorites are here, Belitnikoff, Villapiano, Hendricks, Upshaw, and the Tooz to name but a few. This is not the longest or most detailed book (244 pages), but is completely readable and interesting. What also sets this book apart as a players book, is that when things have gone wrong for Ken Stabler, he gives himself plenty of the blame. No other players have done that in their books. ‘Snake’ is just an honest reflection of Ken Stabler, and I can’t imagine a better person to be out drinking with. A must read for every Raider fan.
There are other great books and biographies about the Raiders, such as Bo Knows Bo (Bo Jackson), The Jim Plunkett Story (Jim Plunkett obviously…), The Pain of Glory (Jim Otto), and Badasses by Peter Richmond that looks at the 1970’s Raiders as a whole.
So just because we are in that horribly quite period between mini camps and the start of training camp proper, doesn’t mean you can’t read about your favorite team.
It is also a way to remember those legendary Raider players who gave us so many great memories.
You can pick them on line, mostly for just a couple of dollars plus postage
Happy Reading Raider Nation!
Like Raider Nation Times
How Would You Grade the Raiders Free Agency So Far?