“The Snake.” “The Mad Stork.” These were legendary creatures to an 8-year-old.
Growing up in Fresno, California, you really had two choices when it came to picking a favorite NFL team — the San Francisco 49ers or the Oakland Raiders. Considering the Raiders’ super-cool pirate logo and collection of colorful characters during the early 1970s, it was an easy decision to root for the Silver and Black.
With players such as Kenny “The Snake” Stabler and Ted “The Mad Stork” Hendricks, the Raiders had been good but not good enough to win a Super Bowl.
Oakland lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl II and had not been back, thanks to a string of painful losses in the playoffs (Immaculate Reception, anyone?).
The Raiders rolled through the 1976 regular season at 13-1. When the team advanced through the playoffs, I was all-in on the Raiders.
That Christmas, I had gotten one of the truly great gifts a kid could get: A replica Raiders football uniform.
Super Bowl XI was at the Rose Bowl. I watched the entire game — the first game I recall viewing from start to finish — sitting inches in front of our RCA TV-stereo console decked out in my Raiders gear.
Willie Brown’s 75-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter iced the game. The Raiders’ 32-14 victory over Minnesota not only produced the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, it created a lifetime memory.