In their continuing Best of the NFL series ESPN took to ranking the franchises that comprise the AFC West. Bill Williamson ranked the Raiders as the class of the division in 3 of the 5 categories including best training camp venue, best celebrity fan and best tradition.
Naturally Williamson went with the Raiders and the picturesque setting of Napa for training camp. In fact he went one step further by declaring the Silver and Black camp as the best in the NFL.
This is not simply just the best camp site in the AFC West, but it’s the best camp site in the entire NFL. How can it be argued? While many NFL teams hole up in college dorms during training camp, the Raiders stay at a Marriott resort in the heart of wine country. It’s the only private camp in the NFL, and it’s first class all the way.
As for celebrity fan…well…off hand I can’t name any celebrity fans of any of the AFC West rivals. My attention is usually focused on what’s on the field as opposed to who’s in the stands. But again, I’m not going to argue with Williamson for his choice of Ice Cube. While I’m no fan of the current Cube that peddles crappy beer in even crappier commercials, my youth is filled with vivid memories of listening to NWA and buying all his solo albums the first day they were released (Kill at Will and Death Certificate are among the best in the history of Hip Hop).
Ice Cube directed an ESPN 30 for 30 film “Straight Outta L.A.” on the team, and he is often on the sideline during Oakland games. He has also been known to tweet his thoughts on the Raiders (and the officiating) during games. There are lot celebrities who show up to games, but Ice Cube’s loyalty to the Raiders runs deep.
Now the truly bold decision was to rank the Raiders as the best when it comes to tradition. Naturally I won’t argue and have to agree. Still there is ample tradition in the AFC West. Aside from those bandwagons down in San Diego, every AFC West franchise is rooted in great tradition. Come to think of it, some of the most memorable moments, iconic figures and greatest rivalries can be found in the AFC West.
Everyone equates the colors Silver and Black with the Raiders. There’s Al Davis, who has been with the franchise for 48 years. There are all the great Hall of Fame players, there were great battles with Pittsburgh in the heyday of the 1970s. There’s the three Super Bowl titles. You think of the AFC West, and you think of the Raiders.
As much as I hate the evil four letter it’s nice to know somebody in the Disney sports world can see through their Raider Hater goggles clearly enough to be logical about the franchise. Now all of the aforementioned love is nice but hardly any of it relates to the actual product we currently see on the field. The two categories the Raiders lost out on were for best talent evaluation (Chargers) and best coaching staff (Chiefs).
I’m not going to say much about the coaching staff just yet. Time will tell on that one as this is Hue Jackson’s first time as a head coach. As for talent evaluation, I do have a bit of a bone to pick there. The guy that used to wear #2 weighs down the argument but I’m willing to bet if we revisit this topic in another two or three years there might be a little more love for Oakland’s player evaluations.