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Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden's Oakland Raiders Hardcover – September 14, 2010
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*Starred Review* The black-and-silver uniforms hinted at lawlessness or, at minimum, football noir. The roster was populated by renegades overlooked or passed on by other teams. They had more attitude on one team than today’s sanitized NFL has in total. They were the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. Under head coach John Madden, they won seven division titles, one conference title, and one Super Bowl. It was an amazing, successful, and stylish run. The Raiders’ legacy is excellence enhanced by personality. When Stickum was allowed on receivers’ hands, Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff used so much he had to have his mates pry his fingers apart in the huddle and hold his cigarettes to his lips at halftime. Quarterback Ken Stabler felt there was nothing wrong with studying the playbook by the light of the jukebox. Through interviews with primary and secondary sources, sports journalist Richmond captures the attitude and, more importantly, the love of the physical nature of football that drove the Raiders. The book is a celebration of the freewheeling NFL that created the multibillion dollar industry it is today. It will also expose the blandness of the pro football we currently watch. These Raiders are legends. Today’s players are forgettable pixels on the NFL logo. Read it and weep. --Wes Lukowsky
“No NFL team ever strutted any better on the dark side than the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. In Badasses, Peter Richmond chronicles the treacheries, debauchery, and yes, the winning, with appropriate literary gusto. Lock the doors, close the windows, send the kids to bed before reading.” (Leigh Montville, author of Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero)
“I always thought the Raiders were bad, but I never realized how bad -- and how good - until I read Peter Richmond’s smart, funny, rowdy tale.” (Robert Lipsyte, former NEW YORK TIMES columnist and author of CENTER FIELD)
“Once upon a time, there lived a band of larger-than-life misfits who lorded over the NFL. Dirtbags! Castoffs! Has-beens! Deviants! You name ‘em, John Madden’s Raiders had ‘em. And, thanks to Richmond’s tireless reporting and vibrant prose, so does Badasses.” (Jeff Pearlman, New York Times bestselling author of Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty)
“Richmond’s book is a treasure trove of uproarious anecdotes skillfully woven into a seasonal chronicle spiced with sharp player profiles...This rollicking read reminds us that football is a game that’s meant to be played hard—and to be fun.” (Library Journal)
Download an excerpt from Badasses [PDF].
Top customer reviews
One does not necessarily have to be a fan of the Oakland Raiders to appreciate this book as Richmond's work should prove to be an interest to a wide range of readers. Fans of sports, history, business and human interest stories should be able to appreciate this book. As someone with a nostalgic interest of growing up in the 1970s, I particularly enjoyed the time warp aspect of this book because it brings back memories of trading football cards, as my collection of cards included many of the players highlighted in this book (and the Raider players always seemed to look more menacing on those cards). Another personal benefit is that it reminded me of the only NFL game I've ever seen live ... the December 24, 1977 playoff game at Baltimore where the Raiders won in double over-time with Dave Casper's Hall-of-Fame worthy performance. Although the 1977 team isn't the focus of the book, the residual talent of the previous season's Super Bowl winning squad was quite evident the following season.
Richmond starts with a chapter that served as the ashes from which the eventual Super Bowl champion team was born ... the 1972 controversial "Immaculate Reception" playoff game vs. the Steelers that spawned a heated rivalry between the 1970s two most dominant AFC teams. Richmond presents this as the catalyst that spurred owner Al Davis to buy, deal, inherit and assemble the parts of a championship team of players and coaches. With the seeds of the dream firmly planted by the controversial results of that playoff game, Richmond takes us back the inception of the Raider franchise and how a shrewd and business-savvy Davis finagled ultimate control of the Raiders. Paralleling Davis' ascent is the progression of John Madden's coaching progression that eventually leads to the helm of a talent loaded Raider team with a history of regular season success and playoff failures.
With the general framework of coaches and core talent in place, Richmond dissects the guts of team, by taking us into the locker room, on the practice field and out into the decadent Oakland nightlife that occupied so much of the Raider player's time once practice ended. Individual chapters introduce us to groups of men that comprise elements of the team from linemen to defensive backs. Richmond spends a great deal of the book detailing the men, their personalities and the exploits both on and off the field that often generated colorful nicknames like: Foo, Rooster, Dr. Death and Snake. The most amazing aspect is that such an odd band of divergent personalities with virtually no rules could bond so well, work so hard and function totally as a team on a mission. The author successfully corals a majority of the 1976 Raider ensemble to contribute to his book with personal reflections, hilarious stories and affirmation of the bond the men had with each other and their beloved Coach Madden. Even the elusive punter Ray Guy contributes! The details provided in these particular chapters present an addictive reading element as we feel we are actually witnessing these events, both on and off the field.
The book culminates in recapping a successful 13-1 regular season record and a post-season run to the Super Bowl that includes yet another rumble with rival and current Super Bowl champion Steelers. Super Bowl XI is deemed "the Promised Land" and although it was a snoozer of a game (and I remember it as being the first Super Bowl I watched in entirety as a kid), the book captures the energy, excitement, drive and ultimate confidence that Raider team displayed in overpowering the Minnesota Vikings. The game itself may have been unexciting, but the build-up leading to the victory and the euphoria experienced by the players is ever-present.
Peter Richmond took me back to my first real memories of enjoying pro football as a kid. The manner in which he presents this particular group of men is both entertaining and endearing. Additionally, Richmond's book may be considered a throwing-of-the-gauntlet by arguably presenting the 1976 Oakland Raider team as one of the best teams in NFL history. Although I'm not a Raider fan, after reading "Badasses", I might actually agree with him.
The author chronicled how the Raiders evolved from coming close to eventually beating the Steelers and winning a Super Bowl.
The personnel changes were discussed and some of the players participated with interviews.
Monte Johnson tells about something he saw on film with the Vikings goal line offense. There was a lot of material about Kenny Stabler, the defensive backs and linebackers- especially Phil Villipiano.
This book does not go into much off-the-field detail like Stabler's book "Snake" does.
It's an interesting book and there is some Raider organizational history in it. For that I give it 4 stars.
The Raiders were a fun-loving group of guys who partied hardy after practice but always showed up on Sunday ready to play. Richmond uses the Raiders' sense of fun and family to
contrast the pro football of the 1970s with the modern game of the 21st century, where end zone dances celebrate "me" and corporate rigidity has replaced the joy that use to mark the pro game.
The book provides a series a excellent portraits of some of the key Raider players, Coach Madden and the legendary owner Al Davis. As someone who has written about sports in an earlier era (Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s), I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in sports history or anyone who remembers the badass Oakland Raiders of years ago.
Reason for that, I was a Miami Dolphin fan.
And back in that football era, it was the Dolphins, Steelers,
Raiders, Oilers and Colts, that beat the stuffing out of each other.
But this gang of Outlaws, that John Madden put together, was always
the Baddest of the Bad.
And they knew it, and enjoyed living that attitude.
Was it all just an act?
I don't believe so.
What you saw, was really what these guys were, then and now.
A gunslinger, never stops, being a gunslinger.
And the year, that this book tells about, it all came together......
There has never been a team like this Raiders team again, the 1985
Chicago Bears, came close, but did not have the same swagger.
Of course, with the "new" NFL, we will never see, a team like that
Raider team again.
And that is a pity.