Tonight ESPN aired the Ice Cube-directed documentary "Straight Outta LA" about the Los Angeles Raiders connection to the local gang culture in the 1980s and 90s. The documentary was part of ESPN's 30-for-30 series, which has 30 documentaries covering different sports topics in ESPN's 30 year history.
The documentary certainly brought back memories as I vividly remember being a Raiders fan in that time period. My father took me to several Raiders games in the early-1990s, and I remember pathetic crowds of barely 50,000 at the Coliseum. Most parents at my school didn't feel safe taking their kids to games because of the rowdy fans and the perception that the area was dangerous. Raider fans were famous for being violent in the stands and the Raiders had become synonymous with gangs. It was a much different time in LA, with Daryl Gates' LAPD and the '92 riots all affecting the area around the Coliseum.
Ice Cube's documentary chronicles the Raiders 13-year stay in LA, and in slightly self-serving fashion, discusses how his group NWA identified with the Raiders. NWA regularly wore Raiders gear and team merchandise soon became a major part of the wardrobe for all local gangs.
One of the most stunning parts of the documentary is watching Al Davis interviewed at length. Once regarded as one of the best owners in the game, Davis looks nearly decrepit today. While he tells some great stories about the good old days, and you have to admire his ability to consistently to beat the NFL in court, you can't help but wonder what a lousy businessman he's been for most of the last 20 years.
Davis originally moved to LA because he claims the Coliseum Commission promised him luxury suites and club seating. That never happened, and I think it's entirely possible that they lied to him. I almost forgot about it, but the documentary reminded me of Davis' flirtation with the city of Irwindale, which even paid him $10 million basically to consider a stadium that never got built.
But we also hear from Davis about why the Raiders never moved to Hollywood Park. To this day, I'll never understand why Davis never took that deal. From what I understand, the deal was completely finished, and a press conference was literally scheduled to announce it. Davis backed out though for reasons only he understands. Back then, I read one report claiming that Davis didn't want to wait four years for it to be built. Another report I read in 1994 said that Davis had a conversation with John Madden who convinced him that the "real" Raider fans were in Oakland. In the documentary, Davis claims it's because the NFL wanted him to share the Hollywood Park stadium with another team, and Davis wanted it exclusively for the Raiders.
Today that decision looks beyond idiotic. Davis may not have wanted to share a stadium with another team, but it's hard to believe that another team would have moved to LA, considering we haven't gotten one in over 15 years. Even if they had been enticed by a new stadium in Hollywood Park, I'm not sure if too many owners would want to share a facility with Al Davis. And regardless, sharing the LA market sounds a lot better than sharing the smaller San Francisco Bay Area market, which the Raiders are doing now.
The irony is that over 15 years later, Davis is still waiting for a brand new stadium, and the best plan on the books might involve the Raiders sharing a facility in Santa Clara with the 49ers. Back in LA, we have the Lakers and Clippers sharing Staples Center, and both seem perfectly fine with the arrangement.
Davis comes across as bizarre when talking about his reasons for leaving, but out of the blue, he says: "As LA knows, if they can get a new stadium, they can knock on the door."
It's almost funny to see Davis still playing California cities off one another, all these years later. That being said, with a City of Industry stadium having earned all the necessary political and legal approvals, I'm sure someone has already come knocking on his door.
Overall, it was a fun documentary to watch, and I think it's important viewing for anyone who is interested in football in Los Angeles. I only had two minor quibbles with it though. First, I don't think there was a single mention of Bo Jackson, who was the most popular LA Raider for a period of time. And second, the documentary makes it seem as though the Raiders struggled from about 1986 through the rest of their time in LA.
In reality, the Raiders were a playoff team three times from 1990-1994. I'll never forget people honking their horns on the streets and freeways celebrating a playoff win over the Cincinnati Bengals that catapulted the Silver and Black to the AFC Championship Game in 1991. The 1994 Raiders were a popular Super Bowl pick before Napolean McCallum suffered one of the most gruesome knee injuries in NFL history in the Monday Night Football opener. Without a decent running game, the Raiders wound up going 9-7 and missing the playoffs, and they would soon depart for Oakland.