Arrrrr! Judge Lacey Worrell is a drunken Bay Area pirate!
Oakland Raiders fans are known for their rabid love of their team, which began as a ragtag, scrappy band of underdogs and morphed into a formidable force to be reckoned with. This two-disc set is a must for any fan, not only of the Raiders, but of football in general, for it features historic footage and extensive interviews with players, coaches, and commentators.
The discs are best viewed in order, as Disc One shows early footage of Oakland and San Francisco and discusses the team's formation. As the last team selected to play for the long-defunct AFL, operating on a shoestring budget so unlike the mega-budgets professional football teams enjoy today, it is easy to understand why the early Raiders struggled to find fans and came close to folding completely. In fact, according to this disc, they once had the dubious distinction of being the "worst team in football."
There are interviews with former head coach / current owner Al Davis, as well as an intensive analysis of the team's brutal mid-'70s rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The interviews convey just how badly the Raiders of the 1970s wanted, and fought for, respect. The 1976 season, which culminates in Super Bowl XI and an amazing victory over the Vikings, is also highlighted, with plenty of footage from the crucial games leading up to the Raiders' ultimate achievement and the fans' jubilation over their team's win.
A great deal of care has been put into this collection, including present-day interviews with former Raiders Jack Tatum, George Atkinson, and Marcus Allen (the 1985 NFL MVP), as well as coach Art Shell. Even renowned golfer Tiger Woods joins in to proclaim his love for this team, stating that he became a fan during his childhood. Fans will also enjoy reminiscing about fan favorite Bo Jackson's heyday; Jackson was well-known for not only his memorable Nike advertisements, but for the fact that he excelled both in the NFL and in Major League Baseball before injuries ended his career.
The extra features are not to be missed. The best is most definitely the recollection of the November 17, 1968 match-up between the Raiders and the Jets, commonly known as the "Heidi Game." This game is historic not because of the on-field action, but because of a stupendous gaffe by network television. At 7 p.m. it looked as though the Jets were going to win the game, so NBC cut over to its planned airing of the kiddie-oriented melodrama Heidi. Within just a few short minutes—now off-camera of course—the scrappy Raiders made an amazing comeback, and the NBC switchboards were flooded with calls from angry football fans who wanted the game put back on. The director of Heidi even provides analysis in this retrospective, and those involved look back in wonder; it wasn't until this moment the full impact of just how important football was to the American culture was realized.
Male fans will enjoy the exhaustive segment on the 1992 selection process for the Raiderettes cheerleaders. These tryouts come across much like a beauty pageant, with lots of big hair and (inexplicably) evening gowns, but with plenty of emphasis on the fact that "cheerleaders are athletes, too!." Yeah, um…athletes who use lots and lots of hairspray, lipstick, and eye shadow. Just like all those other athletes. Because of the outdated hair and fashion of the contestants, this segment looks dated, but it is a fitting inclusion.
There is also a touching retrospective on the life of beloved Raider Lyle Alzado, a steroid user for over two decades before his death in 1992, who in the last years of his life attempted to educate people about the effects of steroid use. There is footage of his days with the Broncos and the Browns, a look at his professional and personal life, as well as footage covering the charity work he did with young children. Former teammates look back pensively at Alzado's mood swings as an obvious symptom of his steroid use and comment on the fact that, at the time, it just appeared to be part of his personality.
As if the interviews and history included on Disc One weren't enough, Disc Two features the complete 1977 AFC playoff game between the Raiders and the then-Baltimore Colts, with commentary and recollections of those who played in the game, as well as two retrospectives featuring Al Davis. For that reason, fans of the old Colts would enjoy this collection as well. Even though the ESPN Classic channel runs old football games, fans of either team will most likely jump the opportunity to have a crucial game like this captured on DVD.
Overall, The Oakland Raiders: The Complete History is excellent. Keep in mind that old television footage does not exactly make the best transition to DVD; but considering what the producers had to work with, the video and audio are great. Just listening to the commentators call the games will bring back a flood of nostalgia for the more innocent days of football, before professional sports appeared to consist, as they do today, of inflated contracts, rampant product endorsement, and appalling behavior. Fans of the Raiders are sure to be delighted by this careful compilation of great moments in the team's history.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• John Madden
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