DENVER — Death, taxes and the Raiders. No, that isn’t a list of life’s certainties.
Ask any accountant dressed as the grim reaper heading into Sports Authority Field tonight: Certainty has been a foreign concept at Raiders headquarters in Oakland for the past decade.
Instead, the aforementioned list is comprised entirely of things Coloradans love to hate. For some of us, the Raiders might even rank a little higher than kicking the bucket or paying the government.
Take Kevin Drako, the chief operating officer for 13 Appliance Factory stores in Colorado. If the Denver Broncos hold the Raiders scoreless when the two teams square off this Monday night, Drako will give you a free refrigerator as part of an ongoing promotion that’s been in place for the better part of a decade.
Whether it’s a spiked-shouldered buffoon spewing black goo and obscenities or a well-groomed Rich Gannon dishing out completions and complete sentences, if you’ve ever donned the silver and black, there’s a good chance we’ve found a way to disparage you in Denver.
It’s hard to blame us. The Raiders haven’t exactly made themselves hard to hate. A great deal of the fans they’ve drawn to the stands tend to be lousy human beings, and the talent they put on the field embarrassed the Broncos’ lousy excuse for a team in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Before that, there was a competitive back-and-forth between these age-old franchises. The rivalry, which dates back to the AFL in 1960, had always been one of football’s greatest. But in the last 10 years, there has been a whole lot more back in Oakland, and a whole lot more forth in Denver.
For starters, it has been 10 years since the Raiders last had a winning season. By comparison, the Broncos have had just two losing seasons over that span.
Forget battling to win games, for the better part of those 10 years, Oakland has been battling to build a stadium that would keep their Raiders from jumping ship to Los Angeles. By most accounts, Los Angeles is getting the better of that battle, thanks largely to — wouldn’t you know it? — Denver’s Philip Anschutz.
The Raiders even lost the man who built their franchise from the ground up when an 82-year-old Al Davis succumbed to a bevy of heart ailments two years ago.
So what’s left of this team we love to hate so much? If you take a good look, you actually might find a few guys who aren’t so despicable.
You can start at the top with the team’s head coach, Dennis Allen, who used to be one of us. Forget devilish, the former Broncos defensive coordinator was downright angelic in orchestrating a defense that helped secure a playoff win for the then-perceived savoir of football, Tim Tebow, who, by the way, is now out of football.
Go one step down to Oakland’s new quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, who’s finally getting his shot a redemption. You might remember Pryor as the guy who got paid for signing a few autographs in college. When the NCAA found out he sent some of that money home to help pay his mom’s gas bill and rent, he was run out of Ohio State and banned from the NFL combine. By contrast, when Johnny Manziel, the son of an oil tycoon, got paid for signing autographs, the NCAA gave him a Heisman trophy and a half-game suspension.
The Raiders are also currently employing a slew of Colorado’s native sons.
Starting guard Mike Brisiel began his career as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State. Now he’s part of a patchwork Oakland offensive line that is performing much better through two games than the pundits predicted.
Andre Gurode is also a member of that Raider offensive line. The last time he wore black it was as a member of the Colorado Buffaloes football in the now-distant glory days. He was named a consensus All-American in 2001.
Rookie tight end Nick Kasa hasn’t done much yet in the NFL, but the former Buff did bravely blow the lid off a controversial line of interview questioning from NFL executives about their players’ sexual preferences.
And oh yeah, Raider defensive end Lamarr Houston went to Doherty High School and is the son of two Colorado Springs ministers for Pete’s sake! (Sorry for the blaspheme, Houston family. It’s for a good cause.)
Look further outside the Colorado box and you’ll find a few more sympathetic stories.
There’s Darren McFadden, the oft-injured running back who’s finally healthy and playing well. Starting cornerback Tracy Porter is another former Bronco and was a locker room favorite in Denver. Yes, fellow cornerback Charles Woodson turned down a contract offer from the Broncos this offseason, but he did so to take a less-lucrative deal in an effort to repay the team that drafted him. Hard to hate a guy for that.
If all that isn’t enough, there’s also the fact that competition makes the Broncos better.
Think it’s any coincide the Broncos have fallen flat on their faces in the playoffs the last two seasons after facing the lackluster teams of the AFC West? Well, here’s to hoping you think about that before dumping your Coors Light on the belligerent Raider fan who’s proud that his beer gut bears an uncanny resemblance to Sebastian Janikowski’s.
And make no mistake: That Raider fan still exists. And that’s why no one is asking you to commit sacrilege by rooting for his team this Monday night.
But maybe you don’t have to hate this year’s bunch from Oakland with every bit of your undying soul, either.