On Sunday, December 29, a group of men took the field at O.co stadium. They weren’t there to play football. They were there to recognize an achievement reached roughly 30 years ago, a 38-9 victory in Super Bowl XVIII, when the LA Raiders took it to the Washington Redskins, 38-9.
When I say group, I don’t mean just the players. They had people from the public relations office like Bill Glazier, to equipment personnel including then teenager Rob (Bobby) Romanski, to the head coach of one of the greatest teams to ever take the field, Coach Tom Flores.
The players were walking around the sidelines before the loss to the Denver Broncos. That gave me an opportunity to speak to some of these guys, players that were,( did I just say were?), ARE still heroes in my eyes.
Well, let’s start with the obvious. They were not supposed to win. The Washington Redskins were reigning Super Bowl Champions. They had been there, done that, and were over the nerves. They also were 14-2, meaning they had the better regular season record largely because of “The Hogs”, their dominant offensive line, which was matched on the other side with their #1 ranked rushing defense. Then one had to consider they beat the Raiders in the regular season, 37-35. What many people forget was in that regular season game, the ‘Skins scored 17 unanswered points in the final 6 minutes of the game after the Raiders had taken a 35 to 20 lead on a Greg Pruitt 97 yard punt return for a touchdown.
Getting back the big game, the 29 points separating the winners and losers was the biggest point differential in the Super Bowl to that date. It still remains in the top 5, and no AFC team in a Super Bowl has matched or put up more than the 38 points scored by the Raiders on that day.
I wish I could have been at the dinner they had together the Saturday night before the game, but alas, as a mere fan, that wasn’t in the cards for me.
So to catch up with a few of these people was pretty easy. Obviously, after leading the Raiders, Coach Flores went up north to the Seattle Seahawks. He started off as the president and general manager before hitting the sidelines as their head coach. He was unable to duplicate his success from his Raiders days, and was fired after only 3 seasons as HC. He is currently color commentator for the Raiders, the team he quarterbacked and coached.
Bill Glazier is now editor-in-chief of the South Pasadena Review which is published every Wednesday by SCG Publishing,LLC. He is happy to still be involved in the media, and also does a lot of writing for thr SPR.
Rob “Bobby” Romanski is now the equipment manager for the Raiders, after taking over for his father, Richard Romanski. Little tidbit, I have known Rob since the 3rd grade, where we both attended grammar school.
So now onto the good stuff , the players.
I have to admit I can get really tongue tied around the players that I admired for years.
Briefly on offensive guard Charley Hannah, he’s a proud father of 5, with a teenage son that plays basketball, and twin daughters, at least one of whom is pretty good at volleyball.
Lester Hayes still has smooth moves and keeps in great shape shooting hoops. His vertical is still as high as some of the guys that will be at the combine, and I don’t mean the big guys, either.
Don Mosebar was a rookie back in the ’83 season. He is looking good, but was rather quiet. I didn’t push much out of respect.
Mike Davis tried to photo bomb me, and instead, I changed the picture, and he ended up in the frame with me. For those that don’t remember – I just have 2 phrases for you : Mistake by the Lake and Red Right 88. I told him we could use a player like him on the team again. Oh , and a quick message tohim- I waited by the sideline, in vain, post game.
Don Hasselbeck was a tight for us in the ’83 season. We talked some about the NFL wages, and he was happy that at least his son Matt Hasselbeck was able to take advantage of the NFL pay scale as it is structured now.
I talked briefly with quite a few players, asking as my first question what their best memory was. Most picked the Super Bowl game, though some referenced the Dallas Cowboys game. That game, was a 40-38 win at Texas Stadium. That game was back and forth, with 3 lead changes before the teams tied at 17 in the 2nd quarter. Half time had the Raiders leading 31-24. The final scoring drive ended with a 26 yard Chris Bahr field goal for the Raiders victory. Halfback Frank Hawkins with his 118yards had out-rushed the entire Dallas offense, and had a rushing and receiving touchdown. This with Marcus Allen on the team, who had 15 carries for only 55 yards. But Marc Wilson needs to share the glory, too, as he was the man under center. He threw for 318 yards, 3 touchdowns, and was intercepted once. He also 5 rushing attempts for 46 yards.
For the record, ladies, watch yourself around Mr. Hawkins, he’s very smooth with the lines.
I spoke to Steve Sylvester and Bob Nelson, center and linebacker respectively, about the current culture of the game. They looked on Mount Davis being tarped off with dismay, as they spoke of it having to be blocked off to lessen the seating to allow for sellouts. They spoke of the difference in the culture of the fans. They believe that booing does nothing but dishearten players. Then again, when they played, they were not booed, not even in L.A., which is notorious for not supporting teams. They don’t understand the lack of support and the lack of respect of the current so-called fans. I got the same reaction from Jack Squirek, Greg Pruitt, and Frank Hawkins. I found myself wanting to apologize for the people that boo and throw things at players. Then again, I am an old school fan, with old school ideas. I understand that instant gratification is not something one can find in today’s NFL. And when players that took the field and have the ring(s)to support their play and success agree with me? I consider myself in damned fine company.
But the most talkative of all the players was one Henry “Killer” Lawrence. When I asked him about memories, he regaled me with the refrain from the song, and he has the voice to do that. He does sing, does some karaoke. He does some acting. He is interested in a couple of websites that help people learn and develop, one being the kahnacademy.com , no fee charged, and the other being Lynda.com , which does have some nominal fees for its programs. He helped one young man to the point where this self-proclaimed “stupid” guy learned how to do coding. The same young man is also a musician, and helps Mr. Lawrence with his web site. I also heard rumors that we may see more of Mr. Lawrence in the 16th District with the word “Congressman” attached to his name. My understanding that it is a very real possibility he will be running for Congress, so we need to keep an eye out for that.
Getting back to the football side of things, his favorite memory isn’t regarding a game. It goes back to draft day. Now back when he was drafted in 1974, the draft had 17 rounds, with 26 teams selecting players. Doing the quick math, over 400 players were drafted. Henry Lawrence was picked number 19 overall. He was called by then head coach John Madden himself, with a comment to the effect of the Raiders just drafted you, you’re my guy. That had to be pretty amazing for the Danville PA native. Another favorite memory ? The Ghost to the Post game, the double over-time game against the Baltimore Colts almost wasn’t . Fred Biletnikoff had an uncharacteristic fumble. If it weren’t for the quick action of Lawrence, who recovered that fumble, that game could have had a completely different ending that didn’t end with the Raiders as the victors. That famed pass led to an Errol Mann field goal that tied the game. All the accounts of the game that I have read don’t mention this little bit of history which is so key. I appreciate that he shared it with me.
I know many call the late great Todd Christensen a true “Renaissance Man”, which he truly was. But I am thinking that Henry Lawrence may be right there with him. Football player, not at a finesse position, but at the oline where one had to be tough, singer, actor… and possibly Congressman.
I think it shows something about the character of the players the Raiders had then, and possibly what we are trying to get back to.
Just something to think about. Life after football, and maybe, just maybe, the Raiders are trying to get back to what made them great, quality players like the ones I have mentioned here.
Win , lose, or tie, RAIDERS til I DIE!