Reprinted from Truthdig
As a recently suffering Oakland Raiders fan, I greeted the death of Kenny "The Snake" Stabler with a cocktail of fond memories of being in the Rose Bowl Stadium delirium as he led the Raider Nation to victory in the 1977 Super Bowl in Pasadena.
But it's a cocktail laced with the bitter news from this week that Stabler, like so many of his peers, had suffered terribly for years from the effects of concussions incurred during those glory days. The autopsy of his tortured brain, and the accounts of his longtime partner about his suffering, confirmed what the NFL and its slavish camp followers had long denied as to the barbarism of the sport.
I haven't had a chance to fully survey the reaction of my fellow Raider Nation fanatics, no longer being a habitue of the once exquisitely seedy Oakland bar scene now boringly gentrified by the spillover of the Silicon Valley elite, so I can only rely on the inanity of Raider radio chitchat to take the pulse of a fan base that, like all others, tends to glory in rather than be repulsed by excessive violence.
There is little talk of the mental health of the athletes, unless a needed player is forced to sit out the season because of possible criminal behavior or unless there is a more innocent case such as when a Raiders center went AWOL in Mexico the last time the team got into the Super Bowl, a game played in San Diego in 2003.
Luckily that day I failed to complete a deeply suspect ticket purchase at a gas station with a Hell's Angels type that would have emptied my bank account for the privilege of watching the Raiders go down badly to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aside from our lack of a proper center, the opposing coach, Jon Gruden, had the advantage of being familiar with much in the Raider playbook, memorized before he departed as head coach in Oakland.