"RE-JECT-ED!!!" First Edition: The Raiders Are A Lost Art
Prologue: Being a free-lance writer means being able to deal with rejection, much like finding the right girl does. There will be some bumps in the road, as well as some bruises to your ego. You have to believe strongly enough in what you have to offer to deal with all those little L’s that life is gonna hand you. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You still should always give it your best shot anyway, let the chips fall where they may and sometimes things not working out is just the price you pay.
“Whoopty-Damn-Do” as Derrick Coleman once famously said. He was talking about his teammate Kenny Anderson missing a practice at the time, an attitude that made him the perfect bodyguard for AI in his later years, still it feels re-applicable here when talking about a writer experiencing rejection.
Perhaps one of the advantages that I, having just turned 40, possess that some of these younger, millennial-and-under blogger types may not: the hard-earned confidence to know that I can write, while also understanding not to take it personally if I churn out something that someone who's in the position to green light it happens not to like.
In this particular sample, I was quasi-commissioned to do a written audition of sorts, for a sports website I’ve never heard of called EndZoneScore.com, which is part of the Fox Sports/Fox Interactive network. They had liked some of the other samples I’d written for Something In The Wudder: Bird Droppings: The Carson When Era?, Bomb Knows Bo, The Big E(mpty) and A Child Of The Buddy Ryan Era Reflects On The Final Curtain Call For Buddyball.
They are looking for writers to cover each NFL team for EndZoneSports, while basically farming out localized talent or fans/bloggers to do this at bargain-basement prices, paying a small chunk of change which then will increase by tiers depending on how many clicks it gets. If you wish to give it a shot of your own, you should try going to their site and do so because...why not?
I didn't quite see how I’m expected to “cover” a team 3000 miles away that my employer is providing me no assistance or access to, so figured I'd write some stuff that functions more like a column, based mostly on my own personal knowledge.
So under the recommendation of my boy (of 31 years) Roy along with my fellow South Jersey-bred, Prince Fanatic, OKP homegirl/early-internet-big-sis, Huffington Post Writer Fire Burgess…I chose the Raiders, because well, it’s the Raiders. They were both right in that selection. So I cranked out this piece in my own way, almost as a litmus test or dare for them to run and because I thought it would be fun.
Roy would probably blame this one landing in the rejection pile on the lack of "Cannon" Gannon mentions in the piece.
I have zero interest in having to do homework on a team that isn’t mine, scouring the web for information to regurgitate like I’m a real reporter on a story I wasn’t actively present for or involved with and then just slapping some filler content together just to get myself another byline somewhere. Especially not writing stuff like previews for NFL preseason games as if someone cares or talking about Fantasy Football that I no longer participate in playing.
If it was the Eagles, I wouldn’t need to do the work because I’m already gonna know, however they’ve already got an Eagles writer apparently…with less than 1/10th of the Twitter followers as @nostrabombus, despite writing for a Fox affiliate for a couple years but I digress ;)
I say all of this “not to be mean, wish bad luck or pop junk” as MF Doom once said. Eagle coverage dude may be decent writer and probably even a nice kid, while the recruiter/editor over at EndZoneScore was nice and perfectly professional. I say this because I figure it might be interesting to let people see behind the curtain of my fledging (two months so far) journalistic/professional-writing career experience and for you to learn a bit about the process in real-time just like I’m doing here. Plus, ya know, if I’ve already taken the time to type it out, I’m gonna at least use the platform that I can control to get something out of it even if the outside forces don’t feel I fit their vision.
“I don’t really mind if it’s over your head, because the job of resurrectors is to wake up the dead”-Q-Tip
I feel this piece would have gotten a few clicks from Raider Nation, they seemed to be cool with how I write just maybe not what I wrote…since I did in my own Ralph Wiley, Hunter Thompson, Matt Taibbi, Hip-Hop Head version of Bill Simmons kind of way, basically just doing what I wanted since there was few guidelines and they hadn't paid me yet.
I’m guessing it could have been any one, some or all of my tangential sideswipes at Jerry Jones (I am, after all, an Eagles Fan), the Dip Set reference, pointing out gambling’s role in football, talking about the ginger Raider Owner’s Dumb & Dumber haircut, the steady digs at the worst commissioner in pro sports history or the Ice Cube first album amalgamation in the team name.
Maybe it was referring to pro football's current regime as an "increasingly draconian, antiseptic, anonymous incarnation of blood sport we can't stop watching".
Here is the first installment of *Marv Albert NBA Jam Voice* “RE-JECTED!”, this one from the files of #WudderSports.
“One man gathers what another man spills”-Robert Hunter.
Now that this intro is probably longer than the actual piece, without further or do, here’s the Indiana-Jones-inspired-title-piece on the Oakland/Los Angeles/Irwindale/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders below…getting shot down can sometimes be fun:
The Raiders Are A Lost Art
By Matt Koelling
August 27th, 2016
The Raiders are a lost art. The Raiders are what the game’s been missing for more than a decade like a Juelz Santana album. The Raiders are our professional sports-spectating soul on ice. There is no replacement in this increasingly draconian, antiseptic, anonymous incarnation of blood-sport we can’t stop watching, for who the Raiders are and what they represent. Which means, now more than ever, the NFL needs the Raiders to matter again. Roger Goodell himself may not want this outlaw organization, these pigskin pirates, this brigade of bandits to rise again and to plant its iconic flag upon this newfangled Disney-fied death march we call pro football; but why on earth would we expect him to get it now? What, pray tell, does he know…besides how to hold onto a job despite displaying staggeringly decreasing levels of sense or competence?
The late Al Davis ate far stronger, smarter men than Roger Goodell, such as Pete Rozelle, for breakfast back in the day; both on the football field and in the courtroom. We can only dream of what would have happened if Prime Al determined he had reason to draw down on this Lame Kiffin, currently sitting in the Commissioner’s chair. Even Well-Past-His-Prime, Aging Al could have caught this buffoon in his crosshairs, made him the next contestant on his overhead-projector’s Summer Jam screen and burnt him like a bug under a magnifying glass. Alas, Al Davis is no longer with us. We do have the phony, meddling, cosmetically-mutated, oil-tycoon knockoff version of Al Davis down in Dallas but “ain’t nothing like the real thing”, as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell used to sing. So it’s clear based on his need to do weekly radio/TV shows plus conducts his own press conference after each game that Jerry Jones desperately wants to be “all up in the videos”. However pretending Jerry Jones can replace Al Davis as a renegade, bona fide football man is akin to pretending Frank Ocean is an adequate substitute for Prince. Which is just another reason why we need America’s Team Ya Love To Hate to be relevant once more and the sooner, the better.
For the first time in at least a few years, we can realistically entertain the notion that this season’s squad may help the organization accomplish this goal. Could this be the first winning season for the Oakland Raiders since Barret Robbins went missing on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVII? Anyone feeling too certain in answering this question might also buy the “wardrobe malfunction” excuse from that game’s halftime show.
The Raiders are currently trending upward, as you eventually should be when you’ve been this bad for this long, with even the Bills looking like a live dawg to hunt down a Wild Card spot this year. It seemed easy to write off David Carr on Draft Night in 2014 for a couple primary reasons: 1) He was drafted by the Raiders and 2) He’s a Carr. However, with the help of one of the most talented young wide outs in the league in Amari Cooper catching his passes, he now seems poised to overcome those two roadblocks as one of the best 25-and-under signal callers in the league. While by year two, he’s already pole-vaulted over the bar set by Jamarcus Russell’s short, lean-soaked and shortened Raider career. Carr has also demonstrated the single-most important thing an NFL QB can do: be available to make the start. So far so good on that front thru Carr’s first two seasons, a trend that will need to continue in order for The Raiders to finally make the leap for the first time since Bill Callahan failed to change Jon Gruden’s audible calls while coaching against Chuckie in 2003’s cataclysmic Super Bowl FAIL.
An added bonus with the young and spry Derek Carr is his mobility, however the Raiders are counting on Latavious Murray to do the bulk of the grunt work required by taking three hundred-plus carries, as well as relieving some of the pressure on the Carr/Cooper tandem at the NFL’s official human-meat-grinder slot: running back. Head Coach Jack Del Rio has provided the Raiders with some semblance of stability in that role following the decade-plus clown-car cavalcade of coaches that began with the aforementioned Callahan in ‘03. He is also the first Raider Head Coach hired with prior head coaching experience, unless you count Tony Sparano’s interim stint at the end of 2014 or Art Shell’s disastrous 2006 second turn as Raider Head Coach. They will need Del Rio to keep chopping wood at the expense of counting sheep in the defensive-meeting room this year, because while the Raiders have some solid young talent led by 2014 steal draft selection Khalil Mack; they’ve also lost team leader, franchise legend and 2021 lock Hall of Fame inductee, defensive back Charles Woodson.
The Raiders came up a final game loss at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City away from a surprisingly respectable .500 finish. This year the odds makers in Vegas have set the Raiders over/under season win total at 8.5 games. Which means the money, much like the season, could go either way. While speaking of Vegas, yesterday’s headlines about the Raiders trademarking “Las Vegas Raiders”, possibly re-locating to the city if Oakland doesn’t step up to the plate to get a new stadium rebuilt, was probably the Raider-est story to emerge so far in the social-media era. It was the kind of story that has Al’s son Mark starting to show some of his old man’s pugnacious promise and league-cattle-prodding ways. Meanwhile, Raider Nation’s biologically appointed new leader’s steadfast refusal to ever reshape his ginger-hued Lloyd Christmas hair cut reminds some of the old man’s unwillingness to ever take his tracksuit.
Why bother? Leave the fussing over fashion for an organization who doesn’t already have great colors accompanied by one of the most iconic logos in the history of American professional sports. This is the Raiders, a team who currently still has more fans in Los Angeles than the Rams do despite being back and whose fans in Oakland will still root for them should they say goodbye to the city for the second time if they don’t build them a new playpen with public funds. If the Raiders somehow did end up changing the face of the league again by heading to Vegas? Then everywhere south of Washington and west of Salt Lake City will be shouting out “Just Sin, Baby” as the burgeoning Raider Nation goes crazy. And why not? It’s well past the point where we can admit that gambling has been almost as elemental to the NFL’s reign of sporting dominance in this country as the bone-shattering violence or all the extended breaks to sell beers and show beer ads. Let’s all be big enough to admit that movies become more fun when we occasionally get to see the villain win. In the stale air of self-flagellating sanctimony that The Goodell Discipline Era has come to represent, it’s high time the silver-and-black got back to putting some numbers on the board; because without the Raiders, things have gotten a bit boring.