I could just as easily titled this blog post “reflection”, but then maybe you wouldn’t read further. Cuz we all know the issues with my self reflection – self absorption. Right?!?
1976 was a big year for many reasons. It was our country’s 200th anniversary. That was just a bit complicated by the end of the Vietnam War being less than five years previous. Plus it being the decade after the 60s (in my opinion the most impactful decade certainly of my lifetime). I mostly grew up in very rural Northern California. Very rural translates directly into conservative. Huh? How did I turn out this mostly liberal (at least socially) person from that? I have come to believe it has to with my exposure to Oakland. My Dad (Bill) was born and raised there. AND he was as conservative as they come. His Mother and Father (Edna and Lacy) lived in Lower Diamond District, East Oakland. And they lived there from 1932 until 1986. And WOW did they witness dramatic change. I believe it is why Dad became his conservative self. If you want to read about an interesting city, read about Oakland and the change it has experienced in the last 100 years. Pretty amazing, and complicated.
I like to say I inherited my intelligence mostly from my Grandma (Edna) and my work ethic from my Papa (my Mom’s Dad – Niels Nielsen – you know what I think of him. I named my oldest and only son after him as I hoped some of him would get from him, to my Mom, through me and land into my Niels three generations down. I know it has!!). I also got my love of baseball (especially the A’s) and the magic of the combination of baseball and numbers we call statistics from Grandma. It just so happens Edna graduated from college (Colorado College) with a degree in mathematics. I am convinced, were she born in a different time (perhaps a century later) she would have been a woman of accomplishment in some field of applied mathematics. It is what she loved.
I spent a great deal of time with my Grandma in Oakland, particularly in the 60s. I love my Grandma dearly and am grateful for everything she contributed to me and what I have become. AND the truth is my Grandma was a raging racist. So, living in Oakland was complicated for her. And made a huge impression on me. The Giants moved to SF in the late 50s. And Willie Mays (still the single best baseball player I have ever seen in person, just a bit better than Ricky Henderson – #2 on my list, Reggie Jackson in 1969 (what a year) is #3) came to SF at 27 at the height of his powers. He became my first baseball hero. And while I was at Grandma’s at 5 or 6 (1963 or 1964), I told her he was my hero. Well, that just wasn’t right by my Grandma. She dropped a few N bombs using a tone I had never heard before. It has left an impression nearly 60 years later.
Oakland, in the 60s, was the home of the Blank Panthers. I never reacted negatively to their cause. I never felt threatened. I always saw it as a fight for social justice. I admired Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. They were a part of the Great Migration that has contributed so thoroughly to what Oakland is and will always be.
Oakland will always be the home of the Raiders. It is so thoroughly imbedded in their soul.
1976 was also the year that I graduated from high school. It was the first presidential election I was able to vote (by the way I did not vote for a winner until 1992). I was 18 and all that represents!
On December 21 1969 my Dad took Steve (oldest brother), Mike (middle brother) and I to the Raider – Houston Oiler playoff game (if you want a kick, YouTube the game). It was a rainy, some would think miserable, day AND the Raiders won 56-7. I WAS hooked. Even at my apathetic worst, I am at my core a Raider fan. Can’t help myself, I’ve tried!
Steve was living in Berkeley in 1976 attending Cal carrying on my Dad’s legacy as a Bear. I was floating after graduating from high school mostly not attending classes at Sierra College. Smoking way too much weed! So, I was visiting Steve in Berkeley and on Saturday December 18, 1976 the Raider’s had snuck by the New England Patriots (google that game you youngsters, it is the precursor to the sack catastrophe that robbed a later Raider team). On Sunday the Steelers punished the Colts. So, the Raiders were hosting the Steelers. This would be one of the last Raider – Steeler classics from the early to mid 1970s. So, I said to Steve, I wonder if we could get tickets? They were going “on-sale” on Monday. In those days, the Raiders executive offices were across the Nimitz (old HWY 17, now 880). The “doors opened at 8:00 AM. Maximum 2 tickets per person, cash only. So, Steve and I proceeded to their offices and got there at 7:00. AND the line was HUGE! This wouldn’t do for Steve. You see, he knew we would never get tickets. AND being the experienced concert goer that he was, he had a trick. You see, we got in line. Steve then said I’m going to “go up”. Come find me in 5 minutes. So, we did this 6 or 7 times and by the time the doors opened promptly at 8:00, we were in the first 100 in line. I’m not proud of this on one level, but I also know were it not for this I wouldn’t have one of my top three sporting event experiences of my life (others include game 20 of the A’s 20 game winning streak, that play by Derek Jeter versus the A’s (slide, Jeremy, slide!!, etc.)).
Steve and I had 4 tickets. So, were took brother Mike and family friend Brad Walker. AND what a game we got to see. Raiders 24 – Steelers 7. A DOMINATION!! We sat in the end zone where Pete Banaszak scored the sealing touchdown. We were no more than 20 rows up from the end zone. So, we were part of a huge mass of people that rushed the field. The game ended with a Lynn Swan reception. And as he went off the field I grabbed the ball from him. An official took the ball from me. I sure wish I had that ball. It is the one and only time I have ever rushed a field. AND I likely will never again. Seems fitting to me as it was the game before the Raiders 1st Super Bowl victory.
So, you ask, why today? Well, the Raiders played the Steelers today. AND all of the wonderful memories and more came flooding back. As I have said before, I have lived a long life full of many blessings.
AND I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEXT EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFETIME.