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April 20, 1992 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-04-20

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The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - April 20,1992 - Page 3


Jeff Sheran

"The Snake"

shares his


about the Raider mystique

Ken Stabler was the admiral of
the Oakland Raiders' intimidation
cruiser for ten years. He personified
the Raiders' mottos of "A Commit-
ment to Excellence" and "Pride and
Poise." Clad in silver and black,
Stabler took part in some of the most
memorable games in NFL history
during his 15-year career. In Super
Bowl XI he quarterbacked the
Raiders to a victory over the
Minnesota Vikings.
After a stint with the New
Orleans Saints and his retirement in
1984, among other projects, Stabler
has worked for CBS television as a
color commentator on NFL telecasts.
Daily Sports Writer Brett Forrest
spoke with "The Snake" recently
about the NFL, Al Davis and the
Daily: Do you feel the Raiders'
move from Oakland to Los Angeles
. changed the image of or hurt the
team in any way?
Stabler: I don't think it hurt the
team at all. As far as the image is
concerned, I think, naturally, a dif-
ferent image playing in Los Angeles
as compared to Oakland. I think they
will always have that reputation of
being a very physical, intimidating
team as long as Al Davis has any-
thing to do with it.
That's the style of play he enjoys,
and the image he enjoys, and the im-
age he would like that team to enjoy.
Of course, wearing the color black
doesn't hurt anything, either.
But I think when you go to Los
Angeles, as spread out as it is, as big
as it is, you are going to carry a little
bit of a different image as compared
to Oakland. But it's hard to com-
ment without being in the middle of
the team and seeing how it maybe
affected the team.
D: Why does Al Davis continu-
ally toy with the people of Oakland
by hinting that the Raiders might
S: I don't know if he is toying
with them or not. That would be
speculation. Maybe he legitimately
feels like he may go back there. But
who knows why? When you look at
it from an economic standpoint, you
can understand why he left. If NFL
football ever goes to pay-per-view
TV and the teams take a percentage
of those pay-per-view revenues, then
there are a hell of a lot more TV sets
in Los Angeles than in Oakland. So
you can see from that standpoint.
There is also something about the
atmosphere you play in and the
home-field advantage. I don't know
how much of a home-field advantage
they have playing in the (Los
Angeles) Coliseum. But I guarantee
you that playing in the Oakland
Coliseum, there is a home-field ad-
vantage, because I was a part of that
for 10 years.
D: What is it like playing for Al
Davis and being a part of the Raider
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S: I can't think of another situa-
tion that I would rather be in. I like
the image of that ball club. Playing
for Mr. Davis, you are always going
to be compensated. Not that that is
the most important thing, but it is
sometimes. He has always been in
the top five in payroll.
He has always supplied the team
with the caliber of players and the
talent that it takes to win. He has al-
ways had a knack of getting a guy
from another situation who didn't
perform very well, or didn't live up
to their potential, and getting good
years out of them - John Matuzak,
Willie Hall, Carl Garrett and Dave
Rowe - people of that nature, and
he got great years out of them.
To answer your question, every-
thing was always first class and you
were playing with a team that was
very committed to winning and do-
ing whatever was necessary to win,
get the players that were necessary
to win, and had a great tradition of
winning. You knew that it was going
to be a very competitive team. It was
a good situation to work and play in.
D: You speak of Davis' penchant
for getting players from other situa-
tions that did not quite work out. In
the case of Todd Marinovich, he
came from a controversy-riddled ca-
reer at USC and the Raiders give
him your number. He is a left-
handed quarterback. What do you
think of him? Is he the second-
coming of "The Snake?"
S: I don't know. I think he has
the ability. I talked to Art Shell
(current Raiders head coach) and
Freddie Bilitnikoff (receivers coach)
and they like his attitude. He has that
'Everything was
always first class (with
the Raiders), and you
were playing with a
team that was very
committed to winning
and doing whatever
was necessary to win.'
gunslinger mentality - that be
doesn't really give a damn. Just keep
throwing the ball until you make
something happen. I think that's the
mindset you need occasionally.
I think it's just a matter of him
getting a little bit stronger physically
and a little bit stronger mentally and
learning all the ropes of being a
quarterback, going through the learn-
ing process and paying his dues. If
they surround him with the same cal-
iber players they surrounded me
with, I think he can probably do the

same thing.
D: How do you explain the mys-
tique and success the Raiders have
enjoyed on Monday Night Football?
S: I don't know what it would be.
We had a lot of success on Monday
night and I'm not so sure that we all
really cared all that much about
playing on Monday night. You waste
all day on Monday waiting around to.
play and everybody else has finished
'(Steroids) is a problem
in our society ... just
like every other
medical crisis of drugs
in our society and
AIDS in our society.
It's just a part of that.
I don't think you can
single out the NFL.'
up. I guess with the fact that every-
body is watching you, you always
want to perform.
We were a talented team. I'm
thinking of the 10 years I was there,
we were a very talented team. We
had a great offensive line, great re-
ceivers, a tough defense and a great
kicking game. We were an exciting
team that threw the ball a lot. We
were fun to watch and had a bunch
of characters doing it. Maybe play-
ing at night brought out the best in
everybody. But I don't know if you
can say any particular reason why.
D: You mention a great offensive
line and one guy who has done a
great job since his playing days is
Art Shell. What is your opinion of
the job he has done at the helm of
the Raiders?
S: Well, he's turning out to be
the same kind of coach as he was a
player - a damn good one, a Hall-
of-Fame type. As a player, he's in
the Hall of Fame. He's an All-Pro
player and a great guy.
He's a real credit to the coaching
profession. He has always known
what he wanted to do. He had a great
deal to do with my success. I don't
think we can expect but one thing
from him, and that's to win. I think
he will win. I think he'd be an awful
lot of fun to play for. I think he'd be
a lot of fun to even work for. He's
just a really quality guy. It doesn't
surprise me that he's already had a
great deal of success.
D: When I spoke with Bruce
Jenner, he said something which I
adamantly disputed. He said that 95
percent of NFL players were taking
steroids. What do you say to that?
S: What qualifies Bruce Jenner? I
would want to know what qualifies
Bruce Jenner to say that. I wonder

how many NFL lockerrooms he has
been in over the course of a 10-year
period. I would bet very few.
D: But do you feel steroid usage
is a big problem in the NFL?
S: I don't know how big of a
problem it is. It's a problem, but I
don't know how big of a problem
without being on the inside of the
lockerrooms to see what's going on.
It's a problem in our society, not
only in the NFL. It's already filtered
down to high school kids. It's a
problem in general, just like every
other medical crisis of drugs in our
society and AIDS in our society. It's
just a part of that. I don't think you
can single out the NFL.
D: Do you enjoy broadcasting?
Do you miss the competition on
S: I enjoy it. It keeps me around
it. It's something I've enjoyed and
liked an awful lot. It's a good way
for me to stay close to the game. It
was very good for me. I enjoy the
broadcasting end of it.
I think we all miss the competi-
tive aspect of it. You can't be a
competitive athlete from the time
that you're 7, 8, 9 years old until
you're 35 or 38 and playing
organized sports and compete for
that long and then say, "I don't miss
it." I think everybody does. "'
D: What kind of coach was John
Madden to play for?
S: Oh, fun. It was like playing for
a good friend, like playing for a
buddy. Not really a father-figure, it
was like playing for a good friend, a
good buddy. He gave us a lot of
room to be the individuals we were.
He gave me a lot of room to be the
kind of quarterback that I wanted, let
me run the game the way that I
wanted to. He had a lot of confi-
dence in me. That motivated me
about him because he believed I
could get it done and he let me go do
it the way I wanted to. That was the
motivating factor for me.
D: Was he the same type of per-
son as he is in the booth today?
S: Very similar, real animated,
real funny. He's a frustrated stand-
up comic.
D: How did you get your nick-
name "The Snake?"
S: It goes back to the eighth
grade in junior high school. I was
running back the football, running
back a punt, zig-zagging across the
field three or four times. The junior
high school coach was a guy by the
name of Denzel Hollis. Coach Hollis
said, 'He runs like a snake,' and the
kids kind of picked up on it.
D: And it just stuck?
S: I'll say.

The memories will
last forever ...
Emotional basketball fans filled the vast blacktop lot outside Rupp
Arena within minutes. Some danced across the pavement in jubilation;
others trudged with disappointment.
Those clad in maize and blue, the jubilant ones, shouted with an arro-
gance understood only by their fellow celebrants. They screamed things
like, "It's good to be the best," and "This is why we're elitist."
I was one of the celebrants, and I understood. Long scorned for our
cockiness, Michigan students think the sun is maize and the sky is blue.
Well, we're right.
And when Michigan beat Ohio State that afternoon in Lexington, Ky.,
cut down the nets, and advanced to the Final Four, it was just one more
reason why students here think like we do.
A lot of students measure the quality of a semester by how successful
our athletic teams were. Winter 1989 blows away all other competition by
these standards. It's probably not the ideal way to evaluate an academic
career, but it works better than the grade-point average.
And we will forget our grades eventually - some of us over time,
others as soon as possible. But we will never forget Rumeal's two free
throws or Desmond's Notre Dame catch.
I will leave Michigan stocked with countless memories:
A handful of classes. George Bush speaking at graduation last year. The
Daily. Preacher Mike in the Diag on a sunny afternoon (both of them).
Shakey Jake's streetcorner cacophony. Be Bim Bop at Steve's Lunch. And
above all that, the freedom, the idealism and the friends.
But the sports will occupy a separate place in my heart. I don't mean
the rushes up the middle or the inbounds passes, the actual playing of
games. I mean the emotions - the spirit of Michigan athletics that invades
the souls of students.
When a horizontal Desmond Howard rescued that spiraling, 25-yard,
fourth-and-1 prayer centimeters above the rear chalkline of the Notre
Dame endzone, one of the most powerful surges of excitement I've ever
felt shot through me. God, I love writing about that catch.
And consider the effect of Rumeal Robinson sinking that fateful second
free throw in overtime against Seton Hall. So many people's happiness or
sadness hinged on a common instance. Robinson made the shot, and
people were happy. Only then does the power of sports really become
The sadness is a part of it, too. Both my first and last major Wolverine
sporting events as a student were defeats. The last one was a basketball
loss to Duke, bearable, and the first was the 31-30 last-second football loss
to Miami in September 1988. Unbearable.
But the bitter disappointment results from caring, a deep caring which a
precious few things elicit from us.
It's not just the sports, as evidenced by the difference in response to pro
sports. It's the whole package - the school, the colors, the songs, the
tradition, the participation, the immediacy. And the success.
Michigan gave us all of that, especially the success. Two NCAA
Basketball Championship games, one title. Four Big Ten Football
Championships, three Rose Bowls, one Rose Bowl trophy. An NCAA
Hockey Final Four. Big Ten swimming titles that date back to before we
came here.
And when we include the individual athletes - the Mike Barrowmans,
the Desmond Howards, the Glen Rices - the list of successes becomes in-
This is my last column, the last opportunity for me to get my ideas on
paper. I've always cherished this space every Monday as an outlet for com-
mentary, a reason to talk to interesting subjects, and a medium for personal
Now this block of print at the top of Page 3 becomes a log for some ex-
traordinary memories.
Thanks for sharing.




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