Raiders Playing It by the (E-mail) Letters

ALAMEDA, Calif. - Jason Campbell is the quarterback the Washington Redskins traded to the Oakland Raiders so he wouldn't sit on the bench behind Donovan McNabb, who has been told to sit on the bench behind Rex Grossman, who was unwanted by the Chicago Bears even though he helped them get to a Super Bowl.

You still with us? Is McNabb still with the Skins? Campbell very much still is with the Raiders, who with two games left in the season still are in the chase for the playoffs.

Don't try to make sense of this. Just accept the reality.

Out here in Fantasyland by the Bay, logic has never been terribly important. The guy who finished first in the recent Oakland mayoral election didn't get the job because the woman who came in second was allowed to add votes to her total from the woman who finished third. And you thought there was hanky-panky in Chicago.

The Raiders host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at the Coliseum, assuming the whole state of California doesn't get swept into the Pacific by runoff from the endless rain.

Oakland, the team, has a 7-7 record, which if it isn't New England Patriots-impressive is big stuff after seven consecutive seasons of losing no fewer than 11 games each year. Oakland the city has an 0-1 mark after the election.

Maybe the unexpected improvement with the football team has something to do with the weather. Maybe it has something to do with a couple of obsessive e-mailers who apparently reside in Southern California and who in truth may be one obsessive e-mailer, not two.

They sign their names Larry Robbins from Encino and Sal Perricone of Arcadia. But the letters are sent from the same e-mail address and are virtual copies of each other. From the content, you'd swear Larry and Sal resided in the same home or even right here in Raider Central, receiving instructions from the Man Upstairs.

For the longest time, the e-mails belittled various journalists who wrote about the Raiders for the Oakland Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury-News because the journalists belittled the Raiders, who, not having had a winning record since they went to the Super Bowl in 2002, hardly deserved accolades.

Larry/Sal called the writers "dumbos'' because the writers called Raiders owner Al Davis much worse. Then a couple of weeks ago, the theme changed.

It wasn't the people typing the words who were the problem, according to Larry/Sal; it was the people sending in the plays. Or sending in the players. "Terrible coaching,'' summarized Robbins.

So who cares what a fan says? We're talking in the same category as North Korea's ruling officials. Any little gesture or comment must be interpreted. If, as the conspiracy theorists have proposed, the letters about the Raiders come from someone with the Raiders, there is disenchantment within.

Nonsense? Indeed. Just as making JaMarcus Russell the first pick of the 2007 draft turned out to be nonsense. Just as trading for DeAngelo Hall and giving him a contract guaranteed for $24.5 million was nonsense.

The Raiders have overcome those financial blows as well as the literal ones rained down on an assistant coach at the team's training camp in 2009, which resulted in the wrong kind of national headlines.

The Raiders make news even when they don't make sense. Right now the debate is whether offensive coach Hue Jackson is taking over for head coach Tom Cable.

In most places, any man who could turn a loser into a winner - or at least a team that is going to have its best record since most of its athletes were undergraduates - would be appreciated. But, as pointed out, this is Oakland.

Cable is seen as a caretaker, someone who merely carries out Davis' philosophy and orders. He's certainly taken care of the Raiders, who until Cable did more whining than winning, much more. His approach is to play football, hard and well, putting forth the mantra, "Just cut it loose."

In other words, shut up and hit the receiver. Or the opponent's ball carrier. "We're not the old Raiders,'' said safety Mike Mitchell.

That's evident from the record. That's evident from the commentary by Larry/Sal, whoever or wherever they are - or he is.

"Al Davis has brought the Raiders back to the level of greatness in the future,'' was the latest from Larry/Sal, an exaggeration that could have come straight from team's media guide. "We knew he would do it, and the Raider Nation can hardly wait to see these exciting young players each week. Raider football is fun again."

Let's see how long that lasts.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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