Just Blog Baby has been getting great response to the segment titled, “Ask an Oakland Raiders Fan.” As promised, any reader who connects with me will get their chance to be heard. Next up is Paul Wilbur.
Paul is a 43-year-old Raiders fan. His earliest Raiders memory is Super Bowl XI, and that may be the reason he thinks Oakland is going to win the Super Bowl every year. He has been a season ticket holder since 2003, and he lucked into purchasing a pair of tickets in the Black Hole from a co-worker at a radio station he worked at. He hasn’t missed a home game since becoming a season ticket holder in 2003, and he has only missed one away game on television since becoming a season ticket holder. He owns over 65 Raiders jerseys. Name the player, he probably has it. If he doesn’t have it, he probably wants it. You aren’t allowed to say JaMarcus Russell, Randy Moss, or Rolando McClain at his house. He still hates the Seahawks because he is old school. He recently paid a visit to Al Davis’ tomb and forgave him for going to Los Angeles, and he thanked him for coming back home.
Paul answered the following questions for me, and these were his responses:
1. How well do you think the Oakland Raiders will perform in 2013? Discuss.
“I think the team will be lucky to go 5-11 this year. I’m a realistic Raider fan, and that prediction comes from my head, not my heart. There are only a few players that are locked in as starters at their positions, and, again, this year the Raiders aren’t very deep at any position. The biggest question is still quarterback, and I am not convinced Matt Flynn is any better than a Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Duante Culpepper, or any of the other “stop the bleeding” QB’s Oakland has blown through since 2003. However, I can guarantee you that if he doesn’t play well early on, the whole Raider Nation will want to see Pryor out there to at least keep it interesting.”
“Defensively, I think the Raiders will be much better than last year. With Woodson coming back to lead the young talent, I think there is a chance we could see some exciting play out of some young and hungry men looking to make a name for themselves in the NFL. I never got the feeling that Tommy Kelly or Richard Seymour were in Oakland to win games. Both seemed like they were wrapping up their careers while collecting some retirement money. That culture seems to be rapidly disappearing under Reggie McKenzie. That’s something all Raiders fans can be excited about.”
2. What is your favorite off-season move that was made by the Oakland Raiders? Explain.
“Bringing Woodson back is my favorite, but he might have the least on-field impact. Even if the Raiders under-achieve in 2013, I still like the idea of Woodson bringing that energy to the Coliseum every Sunday, as long as he stays healthy. Being a season ticket holder in the Black Hole gives me an opportunity to interact with the players a lot, and I look forward to Woodson getting the crowd in the game with his attitude, and his ability to make big plays.”
“I also really like Sio Moore. It was totally oblivious as to who he was before the Raiders drafted him, but after some time on YouTube, I am convinced he is going to be a pistol in Oakland. Combine that guy and Nick Roach at OLB, and I think the McClain days at linebacker are over, thank God. It’s all speculation, but I am far more excited about the competition at all positions in Oakland this year. As we know, guys you have never heard of before week one become local heroes by week 5. I think there is the opportunity for that in Oakland if any of these players want to take it.”
3. Can Denarius Moore become an elite receiver? If so, what must he do to become one?
“Oh Denarius, can he stay healthy? I remember him getting some daylight in front of him in Kansas City last year, and he was slow because he was coming off injury. He seems to be humble, and level-headed, but I don’t see him as an elite receiver. I would love for him to prove me wrong. Same goes for Jacoby Ford. Both these guys have absolute flashes of greatness, and then get hurt. Now Rod Streater, that guy is the wildcard this year. I see consistency out of him that Oakland hasn’t had since… man… the 2003 Super Bowl? Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but Streater isn’t afraid to go across the middle and he has the natural ability that Raiders receivers have been lacking over the last several years. You have a hard time remembering single plays from Streater like you might with DHB, Ford, and Moore, but you see him doing the basics better than anyone else on the team. He quietly does his job. I see the same intensity in Streater that I see in Marcel Reece. You were asking about Denarius Moore, right? I hope he lights it up in Oakland, but right now I don’t see it.”
4. Who is your favorite Oakland Raider of all time, and why?
“There is no question that my favorite Raider of all time is Cliff Branch. I’m 43, so when I played football in the park at the age of 8, I pretended I was Cliff Branch. I would come off the line with the Monday Night Football theme in my head, imagining that the guy across from me always thought I was going deep. I even had a #21 Raiders jersey from Sears back in the 70’s. Back then they didn’t put names on the back, but I knew who #21 was. Cliff Branch was never flashy. He made great catches, but he would just hand the ball over to the referee after his TDs. I bet you can’t find a single clip of him running his mouth the way receivers with half his talent do today. He has 3 Super Bowl rings, statistics that make Lynn Swann look like a back-up, and he gets no attention from Canton? That’s a guy I can respect and admire. I had the chance to meet him on a train once, and he was gracious and polite. If Cliff ever wants to come sit in the Black Hole, all he has to do is tell me which game. I’ve got a seat for him, and I’d pay for the nachos.”
5. What is your favorite Oakland Raiders memory and what is a typical tailgate party like for you at home games?
“How much time to you have? Getting to go on the field before the Raiders vs. Colts game a few years back was one. That’s sacred ground, and I got to walk on it. I brought a friend to that game and won a pair of passes to go on the field. It was his first game ever, so he lucked out. I also had Roger Goodell come to my seats not once, but twice. I told him that as a Raider fan I felt the referees really seem to make unfair calls on my beloved Raiders. He said something about “looking into it”. Bringing my mother to watch the Raiders beat the Chargers after the Raiders lost 13 straight to San Diego will always be special. She was not a big football fan, but my excitement must have inspired her because she was laughing, smiling, and enjoying the day in the Coliseum. She passed away about 2 months ago, but that memory lives on with me until I leave this earth. I actually own Tyvon Branch’s game jersey from that game, and it makes me think of what a great day that was with my mother.”
“I have a routine, but I don’t want to give away too many secrets. I park outside the stadium to save that $30 parking fee. I bring my own food and beer. I do the same thing every game, so if I was superstitious I guess I would need to find a new routine. It makes the 8 games a year more affordable considering my tickets set me back $1400 before preseason even starts.”
Wow, I just lost my dad this year, too. I would like to offer my condolences, and give a salute to your mom for being at a Raiders game with you. One of my fondest memories is attending the September 23, 2007, Oakland Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns game with my mom. We won by a 48 yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal, and the Raiders blocked a game winning field goal attempt by Phil Dawson. What a game! I totally get the whole Seattle Seahawks thing. I can’t stand them either. My favorite moment from that era was when Bo Jackson was called out by Brian Bosworth, and Jackson took care of business. Enough said.
I would like to extend my thanks to Paul Wilbur for taking the time to conduct this interview. Again, if any of Raider Nation would like a chance to answer a few questions themselves, please contact me via email. I will be continuing this segment through July 25th (The start of training camp).