Renowned author Peter Richmond, who penned the quintessential Oakland Raiders history book, Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders, joined us on our Sunday CBS Sports Radio 1140 show and talked about how his opinion on the team’s move to Las Vegas has evolved.
Like so many Oakland Raiders fans, author Peter Richmond doesn’t fit one particular mode or group. He’s an Ivy League-educated writer who grew up on the East Coast during the 1970s. Although a New York Giants fan, seeing the Raiders on television while a student at Yale made him an instant fan of Al Davis and John Madden‘s rag-tag group of tough guys and football crazies.
“There was always a West Coast game on (when I was in college) — forget college I wasn’t about to do any work. I had to watch the second game,” Richmond said. “The first time I saw the second game from the Oakland Alameda County (Coliseum), the quarterback had longer hair than mine and the guy he was throwing to, (Fred) Biletnikoff, also had long hair coming out of the helmet. I said: ‘OK, this is my team.'”
The social unrest of the late 1960s was still alive and well on college campuses, so for Richmond, this working-class team of misfits and agitators was the complete package. Not only did they have long hair and attitude, they seemed to revel in the rebellious spirit established by owner Davis and the individuality preached by Madden, the coach.
“The Raiders — and not just how they played the game, which was beautiful with reckless abandon — had that attitude of ‘we can do anything we want until we get caught,'” Richmond recalls. “And they didn’t get caught much. It was part of that time, but not a single one of those Raiders of ’75-76 was ever arrested.”
Richmond’s 2010 book fast became the unofficial 197os Raiders “bible” for fans young and old. Chronicling the stories and players of that golden era of Oakland football, it’s considered by many as one of the best football books ever written. Much of that is attributed to Richmond’s talent, but more so due to the larger-than-life stories (all true – although some are embellished now) from the mouths of the players themselves. That includes the unofficial fourth host of Silver and Black Today — a good friend of the show — Phil “Foo” Villapiano.
Listen to Part 1 of our Silver and Black Today interview with Badasses author Peter Richmond.
“Before we can talk anything about — what I think is the best man-for-man football team ever — you have to talk about Foo,” Richmond said. “I still don’t know why history hasn’t understood that there was Phil Villapiano, and then there was everybody else.”
Following a great discussion on the book and the significance of Davis, Madden and the Oakland area as the team’s home base, we had a bit of a bone to pick with Richmond. Back in December of 2016, as the team’s move to Las Vegas seemed more imminent, Richmond wrote a story for Vice that was both critical of the NFL and the Raiders, but also vicious toward Las Vegas itself.
Describing Las Vegas as a “cartoon town,” and calling it “Gomorrah,” Richmond didn’t pull punches in taking shots at the Raiders new home.
“But attempt to replant that in a theme park city, and the eye patches and crossed swords will become just another piece of kitsch, like the fake Eiffel Tower and the fake New York skyline and the fake breasts at Spearmint Rhino,” Richmond wrote in 2016. “Beneath its R-rated neon packaging, Las Vegas is basically a dry-heat retirement town, a place that vibes bland as hell. People there won’t appreciate the Raiders, not the way that Oakland has.”
Richmond didn’t stop there.
“When was the last time you met someone who was born in Las Vegas? Me neither,” he wrote in 2016. “Vegas is getting an NHL team, just like warm-weather Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina—which rank No. 27, 28, and 29 in attendance in a 30-team league—but all that really tells you is that professional hockey would play in Oxford, Mississippi, if someone ponied up an expansion fee.”
But it was the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, and their captivating season in 2017-18, that has Richmond completely reversing his view of the Raiders move to Sin City.
“My thinking has changed having watched the Golden Knights,” he said. “After seeing what happened with that amazing hockey team, which captured everyone’s imagination — even making the NHL interesting to friends who don’t even watch the NHL — that might have started something that will lead to something truly special.”
Listen to Part II of our Silver and Black Today interview with Badasses author Peter Richmond.
After sharing with Richmond the news about the support Raiders alumni have thrown toward the team’s new home, including legendary players already committing to buying homes in the area, he now agrees the move makes sense and is something the late, great Al Davis would have done himself.
“If anyone had grown up, as I did, with Davis the rebel, Davis the football mind, and Davis the chip-on-the- shoulder guy — a healthy chip on his shoulder,” Richmond said. “If they grew up with that Al Davis, they’d be giving a standing ovation for going to Las Vegas. This is Al Davis to the core.”
Richmond loves the Raiders, and now, after seeing what Las Vegas has to offer beyond The Strip, gambling, and vice, he’s excited to see the team play in its new palace come 2020.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there to see a game,” Richmond said.
You can hear the full interview with Richmond by listening to the archive of our Silver and Black Today show on CBS Sports Radio 1140-AM from earlier today.