SPORTS

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November 19, 2002

Nolty Says

Well, where are we? You, you have been staying the same, because you are always the same: reading, keeping up your silent end of the bargain. I am assuming Nick Nolte's identity.

A bit about why I am doing that, because I failed to explain this last time: this picture, it's pretty evocative. It gives me cause to wonder what Nick Nolte was (and was not) saying and thinking at the time this picture was taken. My first suspicion was that he could not properly spell his name at that time. My second suspicion was that he might bring a lot to a discussion of sports. So here is Nolty, the alter ego of Nolte, discussing sports.

Raiders fans, who will eventually be the topic of this article, had reason to become angry over the past year or so. They were made angry by an item which has various titles. Some refer to the "tuck rule," some refer just to Tom Brady, but most refer to a game that has come to be called The Snow Bowl.

The Snow Bowl is the most recent episode in the NFL's tradition of identifiably non-traditional football games, which is to say, football games decided, to some recognizable extent, by things other than football plays. I don't have the time or inclination to rehash the events of this game. Here is a recap: at some point last December, a big scary Oakland Raider jumped on Tom Brady, who was moving the football around at the time. Brady dropped the ball. The refs said it was a fumble. Then they said it was an incomplete pass. Raiders fans said it was a fumble, but it wasn't because the refs said it was an incomplete pass, i.e. not a fumble.

There were (are) various consequences, not all of which I will list here. But here are some relevant ones:

1. The Patriots did not lose the football and subsequently won the game, and also the Super Bowl thereafter.

2. NFL referees talked a lot about the ruling, and may or may not change various official rules of NFL play later on so that if the same play happens in the future, they will be able to say it is a fumble and not be wrong.

3. Raiders fans hate the Patriots, and possibly Patriots fans, who are largely indifferent to the Raiders.

The reason I bring all this up is that it, especially (3), explains, maybe, why there were so many crazy/rabid/extremely painted fans at Sunday's Patriots-Raiders game. Many of them had posters that said things like "It was definitely a fumble," or "This is payback," and one fan had a piece of cardboard roughly the size of an eighth of one of these pages that just said "fumble." Inexplicably, the ESPN camera crew located this extremely small item and displayed it prominently on national television.

A tangent: Al Davis is the owner of the Oakland Raiders, and he has a pair of sunglasses, which are the weird orange-y kind you find on old people who live in Florida and other warm parts of this country.They are by all accounts a strange pair of sunglasses that are on a strange face. These sunglasses are similar to the ones that Nolte, by all rights, should have been wearing when he was a cop in Affliction.

Lots of owners are oddballs and draw lots of attention from people who like to talk about things like how weird owners can be. This does not excuse Al Davis or his sunglasses. It also does not excuse Nolte for not wearing Al Davis-style sunglasses when he was a cop in Affliction. (This is the end of the tangent).

A return to my point: Oakland Raiders fans, as a crew, are strange and rabid with shocking regularity. One guy was wearing an alien suit, which was apt. Maybe all the Raiders fans are aliens. In any case, the connection (apparently extant in this fan's mind) between football/the Oakland Raiders and aliens is tenuous.

Not all Raiders fans wear alien suits, of course. Most, in fact, wear silver and black face paint. Many have skulls on their faces and clothing. There are also people with extremely bald heads and fat on the backs of their necks who are unafraid of wearing complete pirate outfits.

I admit that many a fine football fan has painted his face and/or body with his team's colors in the past, and even more fans have held up posters. But that doesn't account for the amazing number of painted fans, a number which clearly exceeded the NFL average.

This phenomenon is not caused by something in the Oakland drinking water. Oakland A's fans are really a pretty agreeable bunch, and yellow-and-green-faced folks are extremely hard to come by at the pertinent games. The phenomenon is also not caused by football games themselves, because, once again, the number of crazy fans at this football game was considerably higher than the average.

No, it is some unusual constellation of facts that brings a bunch of kooks out to the games. Maybe it comes from the legacy of The Snow Bowl, but that hypothesis is suspect inasmuch as, so far as I can remember, Raiders fans have been crazy for a long time. Sunday's spectacle served only to reaffirm this.

One possibility is that the tangentially-addressed Al Davis attracts this crowd. As his sunglasses indicate, he is a big weirdo, and as his age indicates, he has been around for a long time. There is little about Al Davis that attracts aliens, as far as I am aware, but I am open to arguments that he is an alien, which would explain all that handily.

Fans like these are probably good for football, really. Far be it from me to condemn people who make themselves look silly in the service of sports, but there is definitely something suspicious about the whole alien-poster-facepaint proposition. Unfortunately, the kind of person who covers himself in black paint or alien-type garb is often leery or incapable of explaining his actions. So, for the time being, we will all have to be content to wonder and marvel.