Tag Archives: Oakland Raiders

Paving the way for women sports writers in the locker room

The Baseball Hall of Fame saluted a pioneering female sports reporter the other day in noting that a couple of her press passes from the late 1970s will be on display in a new exhibit on women in baseball.

The reporter was Melissa Ludtke, who was writing for Sports Illustrated during the 1977 World Series between the Yankees and the Dodgers. The Dodgers were going to let her into the locker room to do her job interviewing coaches and players. But Major League Baseball said no. Sports Illustrated and its parent company, Time Inc., sued and won, giving female reporters equal access to reporting from baseball locker rooms.

That controversy caused a commotion back in the late 70s as I was entering grad school in journalism. Although I’ve written hundreds if not thousands of sports stories over my career, I only set foot in a pro locker room once. And that was enough.

I was helping cover a Raiders-Packers game at County Stadium in Milwaukee, probably in 1982, when I was sent down from the press box to catch some quotes after the game. My impressions? Hey – there are a lot of naked guys in here snapping towels at each other, and it doesn’t really smell too good.

I was part of a cluster of reporters huddled around Raiders (they were the L.A. Raiders then) coach Tom Flores, who — I still remember with relief — was fully clothed. I also got to chat with Jim Plunkett, which was cool. I remember watching the locker room interviews on TV that night and telling my wife something along the lines of: “See that guy? HE’S TOTALLY NAKED.”

Suffice it to say I was not a big fan of cruising a professional sports team’s locker room for quotes. But that’s where much of sports reporting happens, and it was absolutely right and proper for baseball and the other pro sports to grant access to reporters who happened to be women.

While I got the Raiders assignment, a colleague got the opportunity to run quotes from the Brewers’ locker room during the 1982 World Series.  I can’t recall if it was she who told me or one of the other guys on the staff who was there. But as the reporter arrived, one of the Brewers’ relief pitchers spotted her and, pointing this way and that, said, “There’s a naked one.”

As intimidated and somewhat repulsed as I was at setting foot in the locker room, I can only imagine what my colleague, Melissa Ludtke and other women who dared to enter these man caves must have experienced. They had more guts than I ever did.

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Oakland Raiders cut Cable, and other musings on big-league coaching

Word is out tonight from the Bay Area that Al Davis has given the heave-ho to Coach Tom Cable, who guided the Raiders to an 8-8 record this season, their best in recent years. Evidently improving operations is not enough in Oakland, where it’s “just win, baby.”

Or so it’s supposed to be.

The Raiders have been a sorry spectacle the past few years. Cable may not have been the most articulate or dynamic figurehead for the Silver and Black, but at least he figured out a way to improve the team. That can’t be said for Mike Singletary, who got sacked with one game to go in the 49ers’ disappointing season.

Being the head coach or manager in the NFL, Major League Baseball or any other top-level league has its rewards. But in the end, most coaches get kicked in the hindquarters.

In the mid-70s, my father dropped a mid-summer note to Cleveland Indians manager Jeff Torborg, who was soon to be chucked after another dismal season by the Tribe. Torborg sent my dad a postcard with a picture of him in uniform on one side. On the back, Torborg’s handwritten note thanked my dad for whatever kind words he had sent. I can’t remember precisely what Torborg wrote, but it was a gentle note, something along the lines of “this stuff comes with the territory.”

I asked my dad what he’d written. He’d sent a note of sympathetic encouragement, noting that the managers never get enough credit if the team wins and certainly bear the brunt of the blame if the players fail.

That’s the way it has always been in pro sports. The coaches-to-be of the Niners, Raiders and multiple other franchises about to announce dynamic new leadership should keep that in perspective as they head to the rostrum to announce their commitment to winning, to reaching the “next level,” to bringing glory back to this storied franchise, yada, yada, yada.

Savor the day, mi amigos. This may be the best day you have at the helm.

Jumping on the Cleveland Browns’ bandwagon

Getting to watch the Raiders’ game on TV from Oakland is hard enough to fathom. But the Browns’ winning back-to-back games against stud teams is incredible.

The Browns drilled the New England Patriots today in Cleveland, a day after the first snowfall of the year there. The victory comes two weeks after the Browns knocked off the New Orleans Saints, the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Browns had the advantage of home turf and a bye week to prepare, although in recent years neither seemed to be much of an edge for the woeful expansion franchise.

A 3-5 record is hardly a return to glory. But as a Cleveland native who has paid scant heed to the resurrected franchise, I must admit the team has finally gotten my attention. That’s been a long time coming.

The incomparable Jerry Rice nominated to the football Hall of Fame

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Jerry+Rice&iid=2932495″ src=”b/5/3/8/Super_Bowl_XXIV_afcd.jpg?adImageId=9973428&imageId=2932495″ width=”234″ height=”355″ /] Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith head the class of seven NFL players who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Canton, and I write today to lavish praise on Rice.

He was incomparable, the dominant receiver of his era. He played superbly in the biggest games, and he played superbly in games that had little effect on the standings.

The San Francisco 49ers had a wonderful run of great seasons, and Rice was surrounded by a stellar cast. But his star shone brightest of all, whether he was catching touchdown passes from Joe Montana or Steve Young.

He rewrote the NFL record book for receivers. Even on his last legs with the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, Rice still managed to be productive well past his prime years at Candlestick Park.  Not a bad career for a guy who played his college ball at Mississippi Valley State University.

Ravens peck the Patriots in the NFL playoffs

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The Baltimore Ravens thrashed the New England Patriots today in the NFL playoffs 33-14 in a lopsided game in frigid Foxboro, Mass. I’m having a hard time getting interested in the playoffs, and runaway games don’t do much to lure me in.

It’s obvious that the Patriots’ dominating run is over as they’ve succumbed to age, injuries and bad breaks. Not that I care. Years have passed and I’m still ticked off about the blown call that helped the Pats defeat the Raiders one snowy night in 2002.

As for the Ravens, it’s nice to see one of the non-elite franchises advance. I have mixed feelings about this one, however.

The Ravens were wrestled away from Cleveland by the petulant Art Modell. Although he no longer owns the team and the last ex-Browns player on the roster is long gone, I have not been able to get behind the Ravens.

Counterbalancing that franchise move is the travesty of how the Colts were ripped from Baltimore in the middle of the night for a move to Indianapolis.

Wrong is wrong is wrong.

So I hereby bury the hatchet with the Ravens and wish them and Coach John Harbaugh (above) well next week. May they kick the Colts in the keister.

Thanksgiving ritual: Lions and Cowboys games on TV

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Thanksgiving Day in America means turkey, cranberries and football, not necessarily in that order. The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys have been featured on national TV for as long as I can remember, and both teams will be in action this year.

I’ll be paying more attention to the Cowboys’ game against the Oakland Raiders, who will start Bruce Gradkowski (at right) at quarterback for the second game in a row.

Living just outside the San Francisco Bay area, I’ve become a student of bad and underperforming football teams in recent years. The Raiders and San Francisco 49ers have introduced high-hype first-round draft picks at QB in that time, and the teams have sputtered. I’ve been drawn to their less-heralded backups, Gradkowski and Shaun Hill for the Niners. When they’re playing, their teams move the ball and, at least in Hill’s case, win more often than not. It’ll take a few more games before we see how the Silver & Black perform with Gradkowski leading the way.

Speaking of the Silver & Black, here’s an unadulterated plug for the Silver & Black blog written by a friend and colleague who’s followed the Raiders for years. He actually knows what he’s talking about when it comes to pro football, as he actually goes to the games. I can only give you the armchair perspective.

Football Night in America – sacrilege

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The show has been around on NBC for a few seasons, but only today as I awoke from a snooze brought on by 49ers, Raiders and Packers losses did I discover Football Night in America. It’s the show that airs before the Sunday night NFL game of the week, and I can’t recall watching it before.

The show, featuring the entertaining Dan Patrick, Peter King from Sports Illustrated and others, is pretty good. But I object to the title, a thinly veiled rip-off of the great, long-running CBC series, Hockey Night in Canada.

NBC, can’t you come up with something a little more original, eh?