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Stan Mataele Jersey For Sale

In 2011, when I blogged at TucsonCitizen.com, I put together the top 10 list of badasses in Arizona football during the Wildcats’ Pac-10/12 existence. To this day, it has developed somewhat of a cult following with even some former Arizona players talking about it.

The story is one of the most popular this growing Web site has produced receiving at 1,200 likes on Facebook.

Former linebacker Scooby Wright III was the latest entry in the list in 2014. He embodies the characteristic of a badass that is synonymous with how the Desert Swarm played at the time of his birth. In fact, Wright was born on Aug. 28, 1994, the same week Sports Illustrated ranked Arizona No. 1 and labeled the Wildcats as “Rock Solid”. Five members of the Desert Swarm, including College Football Hall of Famer Tedy Bruschi, were on the cover.

The dictionary definition for “badass”:
badassdefinition

Bruschi was a badass similar to Wright, both of whom were under the radar when it came to recruiting during their high school careers in northern California. Wright is Arizona’s greatest sack threat since Bruschi and he recorded 29 tackles for lost yardage this season, second in school history.

Where does Wright, war paint and all on his face, rank among his badass brethren? Here are the top 10 rankings for offense and defense:

NO. 10
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OFFENSE: NICK FOLES, QUARTERBACK (2009-11)
Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly once labeled Foles a “warrior” after Foles stomached five sacks and still completed 34 of 57 passes for 398 yards in the Wildcats’ 56-31 loss to the Ducks on Sept. 24, 2011 at Arizona Stadium. “I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes,” Kelly said. “Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country.”

Jimmie Hopkins served in the Army after his football playing days at Arizona (Hopkins photo)
Jimmie Hopkins served in the Army after his football playing days at Arizona (Hopkins photo)

DEFENSE: JIMMIE HOPKINS, DEFENSIVE END (1990-93)
Hopkins opted out of spring practice in 1993, leading up to the season that the Wildcats finished 10-2 and beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. What’s so badass about that, you say? Hopkins missed spring practice because he joined the Army. His goal was to become an Airborne Ranger. And he later did serve in the military. Hopkins, overshadowed on the defensive line by Rob Waldrop, Ty Parten, Tedy Bruschi and Jim Hoffman, remained on campus, rejoined the team for fall drills and was an important contributor to the Desert Swarm defense.

NO. 9
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OFFENSE: DENNIS NORTHCUTT, WIDE RECEIVER (1996-99)
Northcutt, Arizona’s season receiving yards leader, caught eight passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s 31-24 win over USC in Tucson when he was a senior in 1999. That was only half of his contribution to the Wildcat victory. Also playing cornerback, Northcutt virtually shut down USC receiver R. Jay Soward, according to an Associated Press report of the game. Northcutt was on the field for 90 plays. As a freshman in 1996, Northcutt switched from cornerback to tailback to wide receiver to tailback to defensive back to receiver. He had two interceptions against Illinois that season, returning one 63 yards for a touchdown.

TyParten
“He gave the pregame players-only scream down. When we left that room, we knew it was gonna be a war.” — former Arizona offensive lineman Eric Johnson said of Ty Parten (pictured), who gave a rousing pre-game speech before Arizona lost at No. 1 Miami 8-7 in 1992.

DEFENSE: TY PARTEN, DEFENSIVE TACKLE (1989-1992)
The Godfather of Arizona’s famed Desert Swarm defense arguably is Parten. As a senior captain in 1992, he lit a flame under the Wildcats (reeling from a 1-1-1 start) as they prepared to play on the Orange Bowl turf against top-ranked Miami. One of his teammates, offensive lineman Eric Johnson, once said: “He gave the pregame players-only scream down. When we left that room, we knew it was gonna be a war.” Arizona coach Dick Tomey sent the entire team to midfield for the coin toss and Miami answered by sending all of its players. Words were exchanged. The Wildcats, with Parten at the forefront, did not back down an inch.

NO. 8
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OFFENSE: HICHAM EL-MASHTOUB, CENTER (1991-94)
El-Mashtoub, a 295-pound center born in Beirut, Lebanon, and raised in Montreal, was viewed as reckless, engaging in a few fights during his Wildcat career. `If you’re not careful, he’ll put one right past you,” former Arizona offensive lineman Warner Smith told Anthony Gimino in an Arizona Daily Star article in 1994. “He’ll make people do what he wants them to do without them knowing it.” El-Mashtoub had a crucial fourth-quarter personal foul when he came off the bench and decked a tackler on the sideline after freshman Gary Taylor returned a kickoff to the 31 in the Cats’ 24-20 loss at California in 1993, a defeat that cost Arizona a spot in the Rose Bowl. El-Mashtoub was held out of the Hancock Bowl at the end of the 1993 season for fighting with a teammate in the locker room after a practice.

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DEFENSE: BRANT BOYER, LINEBACKER (1992-93)
Brant Boyer embodied the merciless image of Arizona’s Desert Swarm defense as a team captain in 1993. Boyer, a senior inside linebacker, talked tough and played that way. The Wildcats lost 8-7 at No. 1 Miami in 1992 in what was the coming-out party for the Desert Swarm. When Arizona was afforded the chance for a rematch in the Fiesta Bowl, Boyer did not hold back.
“This program will be on a new level,” Boyer was quoted as saying by the Miami Herald three days before the game. “When we beat Miami, it’s going to be a different story.”

NO. 7
RobGronkowski
“As a coach, sometimes you try to put players in that situation — you try to break them down, you can see how much they can take — but Rob has a lot of resilience and a lot of physical and mental toughness.” — New England coach Bill Belicheck commenting on his All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski

OFFENSE: ROB GRONKOWSKI, TIGHT END (2007-08)
Gronk can make this list by his name alone, but there is more to his badass image than that while at Arizona and now with the New England Patriots. The play that introduced Arizona and its fans to Gronkowski’s toughness happened a month into his freshman season in 2007. His 57-yard touchdown hookup against Washington State was Gronk-esque. Gronkowski caught the pass from Willie Tuitama at the Wazzu 31, bounced off a defender like a battering ram, Stan Mataele Jersey For Sale
almost lost his footing at the 10, and reached the end zone to give the Wildcats a 41-20 lead. New England coach Bill Belicheck told the NFL Network about Gronkowski: “Rob works very hard. He comes early, he stays late. He’s very physically and mentally tough. You can’t really get him down, you can’t break him. He can really fight through it. As a coach, sometimes you try to put players in that situation — you try to break them down, you can see how much they can take — but Rob has a lot of resilience and a lot of physical and mental toughness.”

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Training academy graduates 13

South County Fire recruits

South County Fire will have 13 new faces.

In total, 30 recruits graduated in December from the Snohomish County Fire Training Academy’s 14-week program.

Jonathan Bailey, Anthoy Casanas, Brendan Cleary, Tracy Finch, Kyle Johnson, Everard Lewis II, Karl Long, Julian Markfield, Keenan Metcalfe, Daniel Nelson, Thomas Perillat, Ryan Scott and Michael Swanson will join the South County agency after additional weeks of training.

Bailey and Nelson were recognized with the First Whip award for leadership. The award dates back to when fire apparatuses were drawn by horses. The first whip was the driver and the captain’s most trusted helper, a news release said.

Sky Valley Youth Coalition awarded by Seahawks and Boeing

Some 30 kids from Sultan’s Sky Valley Youth Coalition were treated to an MVP experience at the Seahawks game on Dec. 22.

Free tickets, food vouchers, swag bags, sweatshirts, a pre-game buffet and a visit from former Seahawk Rico Tipton were the prizes for the Legion of Youth 2019 honor.

The program from the Seahawks and Boeing recognizes students who are committed to their school, demonstrate leadership and are active in their community, a news release said.

The Sky Valley Youth Coalition is a branch of the Volunteers of America Western Washington.

Money raised for Snohomish Veterans of Foreign Wars

More than $1,400 was raised for local veterans by about 180 guests at an inaugural dinner, Dining Out, for the Snohomish National Guard 176th Engineer Company.

The money raised last month goes to local veterans and their families through the Soldiers and Family Readiness Group of the 176th Engineer Company and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 921 in Snohomish.

Farlan Dubarry was the guest of honor, and spoke about his experiences storming Okinawa, Japan in April 1945. He described how the 96th Infantry Division made an assault landing on the Hagushi beaches of Okinawa. Within three days the group overcame all resistance in the large Sunabe Hill mass which dominated April 1, 1945, while motivating current soldiers to have integrity and live the Army values.

For more information about the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 921, contact Tom Kreinbring at [email protected]

Arlington Fire collects 11,000 pounds of food

During the Arlington Fire Department’s annual Santa Run, firefighters, their families and Santa collected more than 11,000 pounds of food and $2,213 in donations for the Arlington Community Food Bank.

This year’s total set a record for the 30-year-old tradition.

The drive runs for 10 nights in December, when firefighters and their families escort Santa through town on a decorated fire truck.

“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, citizens of Arlington, for your incredible good will and generosity,” Chief Dave Kraski said.

Lewis Neal Jersey For Sale

Black and Red United has been writing stories about D.C. United for ten whole years now, and it’s been a strange trip. We’ve seen this team flirt with greatness, but we’ve also gone through full seasons of catastrophically bad soccer, and just about everything in between. With only a few hours left in 2019, we thought it’d be appropriate to take a look back at United’s decade and highlight some of our favorite moments. Hope you enjoy!

LEWIS NEAL! LEWIS NEAL!
by: Jason Anderson

D.C. United had missed the postseason in four straight seasons, and lost Dwayne De Rosario to an MCL sprain on international duty just as the stretch run was starting up in 2012. Facing a Columbus Crew side that was in a similar battle for one of the last available playoff spots, United had the backing of a packed RFK Stadium…but they couldn’t take charge. Eddie Gaven put the visitors up early, only for Nick DeLeon to equalize before halftime. However, Columbus took the lead back just 3 minutes later (via future D.C. striker Jairo Arrieta), and United’s chance to clinch their spot looked like it would slip away.

However, hard work from Brandon McDonald turned a deep cross from Andy Najar into a shooting chance for Marcelo Saragosa, who equalized from 23 yards. Both teams desperately pursued a winner, but stoppage time came with a 2-2 scoreline. And then…well, let’s let Dave Johnson talk you through it:

Is that a penalty for the Crew? Uh…no comment. What I’ve always loved about this play is that it starts with “luxury player” Hamdi Salihi pressuring Danny O’Rourke into a mistake from a clearance, and involves one of my all-time favorite passes by a United player: Branko Boskovic, an even more luxurious player, in a stadium full of screaming fans, still somehow knew that Lewis Neal was making a wide open run up the middle, and picked him out with a no-look pass.

Neal calmly tucked his first touch past Andy Gruenebaum, United clinched their first playoff appearance since 2007, and that’s how Lewis Neal became LEWIS NEAL around these parts.

They can’t hold us back!
by: Donald Wine II

Want a best moment of the decade? Try November 8, 2012. D.C. United over the hated New York Red Bulls in the conference semifinals. It starts with the legs being switched because of Superstorm Sandy. They draw the first leg, which sets up a 2nd leg in Jersey. The first attempt was canceled because of snow from a nor’easter, so the next night the two teams go at it.

In the 69th minute, Bill Hamid gives a penalty and gets a red card in the process. Joe Willis comes on to and saves the 2nd attempt at a penalty (the first being called off due to encroachment from Thierry Henry). “COME ON! COME OOOOON! YOU CAN’T HOLD US BACK!” An ecstatic Bill Hamid screams in the tunnel. Rafa Marquez got a red card soon thereafter, and in the 88th minute, it’s Nick DeLeon with the game winner, the series clincher. United advances in dramatic fashion, and the 300 fans that were there break out in euphoria. It’s easily one of the greatest moments in team history.

2013 US Open Cup
by: Ryan Keefer

United has had some rough campaigns in their existence, and the 2013 one ranks up there with the worst of them, chalking up the fewest wins and second-highest total of losses (24) in MLS history. That included defeat in 10 of 13 at one point, effectively sinking their playoff chances by the end of spring. New signings left just as quickly as they came, with three international signings in the 2013 winter window being let go by the club by mid-June.

DC United v Real Salt Lake – 2013 U.S. Open Cup Final
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
So at some point the goal of focusing on the U.S. Open Cup became a priority and the team rallied around the cause, and a team that only won 3 MLS regular season games total and none on the road won 4 Open Cup games over MLS opposition, including victories in the semifinal and final over a formidable Real Salt Lake side. With a goal from LEWIS NEAL and some sound defensive work and goalkeeping from Bill Hamid, they did the improbable in a 1-0 win.

When looking back on the fifth anniversary last year, I noted that the relief Ben Olsen showed after the win was conspicuous, that a weight was lifted off his and the organization’s shoulders. It served to jump-start the franchise from a roster building perspective and serves as a fond memory for those who followed the team that year and a reminder of the power of possibility.

Audi Field groundbreaking
by: Ben Bromley

“I won’t believe it until there are shovels in the ground.”

This common refrain protected D.C. United fans for over a decade. Even when the team was founded, we all knew that RFK Stadium could not be the permanent home of the team. In 2003, there were proposals for a $75M stadium, which morphed in 2005, 2006, and 2007 into the Poplar Point proposal. 2009 saw the potential stadium moved to Prince George’s County in Maryland, and 2014 saw the proposed land swap with the Reeves Center as the centerpiece of a United stadium deal. Baltimore was mentioned a number of times, and Terry McAuliffe tried to through Loudoun County in as an option at the last minute. But eventually, through thick and through thin, an industrial site in the District’s smallest quadrant was chosen.

After almost 20 years, a bunch of city officials and team leaders moved some dirt, and a small bulldozer helped take down a shack. The shovels were in the ground, and we started to believe.

Last Call at RFK
by: Jason Anderson

Caitlin Buckley
As the sun came up on October 22, 2017, I tried my best to sum up how I felt about leaving RFK: “I’m not ready to hear United chants echo off of different walls.” The truth is, I’m not over it. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be over it. RFK Stadium was the first venue that mattered in MLS, and the true home of US Soccer on top of that. Somehow, a multi-use stadium that didn’t truly make sense for any of the games it hosted ended up being the perfect venue for soccer: simple, stripped-down, and loud.

Last Call at RFK wasn’t perfect. United lost to the Red Bulls 2-1, after all, with Paul Arriola’s first half goal not enough. But as much as it meant to me at the time to close the place out with a win — and I was absolutely desperate for United to walk off victorious that night — I find myself barely remembering the actual scheduled MLS game that night. What I think back on is one last tailgate in Lot 8, or he pure joy of a DCU Legends game featuring Jaime Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, and dozens of other former Black-and-Red players. One last time making the stands bounce, one last game spent bumping my knees against an orange seat while standing in section 232.

Audi Field is great, and it’s necessary, but I’m always going to miss RFK

Wayne Rooney arrives
by: Jason Anderson

It was hot. Temperatures in the District hit 103 the day United officially introduced Wayne Rooney, D.C. United player to the world. Every normal person was completely drained by the heat, trying their best not to appear to be a sweaty mess. Media members swarmed the supply of complimentary water, commiserating about hauling their gear from the Metro to the Newseum.

And then there was Rooney, in jeans and long sleeves, looking completely at ease. For him, a packed conference room full of media from various countries is the norm. It was a glimpse of United’s new world, one where major English papers were going to send people out to cover the Black-and-Red, as opposed to the typical disinterest in MLS clubs. Press scrums suddenly seemed to double in size every week. Expectations went from “hopefully make the playoffs” to “win something!”

Things change quickly. The Newseum is closed, Wazza’s already back in England, United (pending reinforcements) is back to merely hoping to be in the mix in the postseason. But at the same time, Rooney’s short time with United was densely packed with moments: great goals and assists, yes, but also tales of his generosity to teammates and fans. We might not see something similar around these parts for another decade or more.

Audi Field opens
by: Adam Taylor

I remember sitting at my desk at the FCC as a summer intern in 2007 and reading the news that Adrian Fenty was pulling out of the deal that would have allowed D.C. United to build their already long-overdue new stadium at Poplar Point. It wasn’t a pleasant experience! And we got to repeat it often enough that Steve Goff famously captioned any stadium news with “zzzzzzzzz” and fans’ mantra became “I’ll believe it when I’m watching a game there.”

A decade later, I was at the Wilson Building, testifying in support of a complicated land swap to allow United to build on Buzzard Point. After we were sure every hurdle had been cleared and every obstacle was in the past, an election intervened, and again a mayor, this time Muriel Bowser, was seemingly pulling the rug out from under the team. It was an existential moment for fans of the Black-and-Red, knowing this was the last best chance to keep the team in the District. Bowser undid the land swap but with the D.C. Council found the capital funding to obtain the land under what is now Audi Field.

On July 14, 2018, my sixth wedding anniversary, we watched a game there. I walked into the new building with clouds under my feet. I’ve never seen grass as perfect a shade of green as that. It really was a state of euphoria. I mean…

HEAVY BREATHING #dcu #UnitedAtHome pic.twitter.com/QBJtNA85l3

— an Adam Taylor (@the_amt) July 14, 2018
There was a lot that day that could have — should have — been better. But the fact of that building is a triumph, and I’m grateful for it every time I walk in. It ensures D.C. United’s continued existence, and it’s the single biggest thing to happen in the organization’s last decade. Opening it with the debut of Wayne Rooney in Black-and-Red and a dominant 3-1 win over a pre-$22 million Alphonso Davies and his Vancouver Whitecaps was really only the smallest part of that, but it’s the moment when we finally felt release from two decades of waiting and preemptive mourning.

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Getting To Know: Ricardo Mathews
Ricardo Mathews Defensive End University of Cincinnati 7th Season Who is your football mentor or inspiration?This dates back to my rookie year with the Colts and it would be Antonio Johnson. He showed me the ropes from both sides, inside the locker room and off the field. He taught me how to be a veteran at a young age and it’s pretty much stuck with me. This will be my seventh year in the league and I took all his words to heart.

**

PHOTOS: Steelers sign Ricardo Mathews
Steelers agreed to terms with DL Ricardo Mathews on a one-year contract. Photos by AP.

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What motivates you?**
The most-high power motivates me. Positivity, love, my teammates motivate me. Anything positive.

What is your football mindset?I approach it like every day is my last. I approach it as a professional, first and foremost. I approach it as being a positive role model to younger kids, to inspire them in ways that everybody else can’t. I always want to be positive, give a positive look to the public eye.

Why do you play football?
I do it because I love it. I do it because I’ve been doing it for a very long time. It’s kind of second nature now. Not as long as some of these guys, but long in my book. I play it to also to provide for me and my family.

What is your proudest football moment or memory?
Probably in college my senior year, last game of the season against the University of Pittsburgh. We were down 30 some points and we actually came back and won. That was the first time ever in history that the University of Cincinnati went 12-0 for a regular season. That was a really proud moment of mine. Being on that team, being one of the leaders.When you hear Steelers football, what do you think?Steel Curtain. I think of six championships. I think of the best organization in football. This is a privilege playing for this team. I think of it as an honor they took me on. It’s all good, I’m here, and I’m trying to get number seven.** Wat do you like about Pittsburgh? *I haven’t really gotten a chance to really go out and explore yet. I know this is definitely one of the best fan bases I’ve ever been around. I’ve only been here a couple of months, but there have already been a couple people who noticed me and it’s just kind of weird a little bit but something to get used to.

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US Department of Homeland Security officials will share individual citizenship data with the Census Bureau, according to a recent privacy notice from the department.

It’s an undertaking assigned by President Donald Trump, who last summer announced the administration would abandon its effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census form after a legal battle that ended up in the Supreme Court.

Trump ordered the Census Bureau to compile citizenship data through existing government data, known as administrative records.

The records from US Citizenship and Immigration Services and Customs and Border Protection will match up with other demographic data the Census Bureau and Commerce Department capture on each citizen and individual in the country.

The expected result is detailed statistics on where voting age citizens live. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that in the 2010 Census, officials were able to match administrative records with 88.6% of the population. A similar rate would leave about 27 million people for whom the Census Bureau must make an estimated guess about citizenship status.

The Justice Department requested the data to enforce voting protections. But disclosures in lawsuits revealed the involvement of a consultant who found re-drawing congressional districts while taking into account citizenship would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

The administrative records are also being challenged in a lawsuit that accuses the President and Ross of being “motivated by a racially discriminatory scheme to reduce Latino political representation and increase the overrepresentation of non-Latino Whites, thereby advantaging White voters at Latino voters’ expense.” The government has asked a federal court to dismiss that lawsuit.

The DHS notice was first reported by the website Federal Computer Week.

It was published in mid-December and says there is “no opportunity to consent to sharing or opt out of having an individual’s information shared.” Census officials face prosecution for sharing an individual’s personal data or making other unauthorized disclosures.

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Let’s wrap up this year’s “Ballers & Busters” and put a bow on it. In a season with ups and downs, it ended with a lot more lows than highs. But even while losing five of their last six games, and squandering a golden opportunity to sneak into the playoffs (the loss to the Jaguars), there were many positives. So, as (almost) always, we will list those positive performances before moving on to the negatives.

Top Baller: RB Josh Jacobs

Seven times over the first nine games Jacobs was named a “Baller.” The final two of those times, he did it with a broken shoulder. Then he did it two more times, still nursing that broken shoulder. He was twice a “Top Baller.” Eventually, his season would be cut short by the injury, but not before he ran for 1150 yards, just eight yards shy of the fifth-best rushing mark in franchise history. He surpassed the best rookie rushing mark by midseason. He is the odds on favorite to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Baller: DE Maxx Crosby
Crosby was seeing few snaps in the first quarter of the season, but once the Raiders cut him loose, he exploded. He was named a “Baller” eight times over the final 12 games of the season, and thrice a Top Baller. He just got better as the season went on too. Five of his Baller nods came over the final seven games even while the Raiders only managed two wins over that time. He finished with 10.0 sacks on the season, just a half-sack away from tying the franchise rookie record set by Greg Townsend way back in 1983.

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On the evening of October 11, 1993, 23-year-old would-be standup comedian Gary Gulman, a towering, well-put-together man from Peabody who had failed as a tight end at Boston College and was in the process of failing as an accountant, stepped onstage at Nick’s Comedy Stop on the edge of what used to be known as the Combat Zone. His first joke went like this: “I guess you saw that Michael Jordan retired from basketball,” a nervous Gulman told the Monday-night audience, inflated by the club mandate that each comedian bring along at least three friends. “He had accomplished everything there was to accomplish in basketball…plus, he knew he wouldn’t be able to concentrate with Joey Buttafuoco behind bars.”

A beat. Silence. He could almost feel how much the room hated the joke. Then, a sickening idea flashed through his mind: Oh my gosh, I was really wrong about my talent.

He told a second joke—a routine about Seinfeld’s Kramer calling a foul on Jerry during a pickup basketball game. It got laughs, and so did the third. The rest of the set went well, and Gulman knew that his accounting career would soon be in his rearview. He would quit his job at Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) and pursue comedy full time. From the vantage of the tiny stage at Nick’s, the future looked bright.

Now, 26 long and sometimes painful years later, Gulman is finally finding the success he had dreamed of, but he can still remember that disastrous first joke. “It’s a classic Letterman setup where you say a funny name and add a weird twist,” he tells me, spreading his arms in a sweeping shrug. “But it bombed. People hated it.” Vividly reliving his lows is something Gulman has always done because, as he spent a quarter-century building his rep with long-form, tightly constructed, mostly apolitical PG-13 narratives, he also harbored a secret of which only his family and a few close friends were aware: He suffered from debilitating bouts of anxiety and depression that at times made him suicidal. These feelings go back a long way. In second grade, he wrote a story called “The Lonely Tree,” and in middle school, after failing miserably for his synagogue team during a basketball scrimmage— “I shot 0-for-chai,” he says, spitting out the guttural Hebrew word for 18—he remembers wanting to kill himself.

Gulman delivers that line, and dozens of others, in a similarly self-deprecating fashion that hides the existential misery of depression, in The Great Depresh, his comedy special now available on HBO. About a year ago, Gulman decided, through some combination of self-examination, managerial coaxing, and maybe even professional necessity (after all, standups need material), to open up onstage about his mental illness. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer—no standup he—would have counseled Gulman against it. “If I maintain my silence about my secret it is my prisoner,” Schopenhauer wrote. “If I let it slip from my tongue, I am its prisoner.” A few members of Gulman’s audience who caught a tryout version of the HBO show would concur with the dour German. “I didn’t come to hear a comedian talk about his damn depression the whole night,” said one man as he stormed out of a show in Wilmington, Delaware, several months ago. Gulman recovered quickly. “Man, I’m sorry I comped that guy,” he quipped from the stage.

It’s undeniable that what Gulman does in The Great Depresh, and is now doing onstage during a tour of comedy clubs, is doubly dangerous for a performer—laying bare his inner darkness while also brush-stroking a coat of dark gray over what is normally an hour of escape. But this fine irony is also undeniable: As Gulman runs through the field of mental land mines that preceded his 2015 descent into almost two years of soul-crushing despair, his worst bout yet with the confounding disease, it becomes clear that what he once held inside has finally set him free.

If this is Gulman’s moment, it may be one for the rest of us, too. “Everyone feels some sort of depression in their lives,” says comedy giant Judd Apatow, who coproduced the Gulman special. “Depression is a discussion people want to have. And now Gary is the one you want to have it with.”

Gulman is the youngest of the three sons of Phil and Barbara Gulman. He is 13 years younger than his brother Rick, a semiretired CPA who lives in Florida, and 10 years younger than his brother Max, who owns an interior-decorating company and lives in Newton. Phil left the family when Gary was one-and-a-half (though they remained fairly close until Phil’s death in 2015), so part of Gulman’s evolution as a comic is predictable—the young cutup bartering for love and attention at the dinner table. Gulman is also part of a strong Jewish-comedian tradition. “I grew up watching David Brenner and then all those other Jewish comedians came along, like Garry Shandling, Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser, and, of course, Seinfeld,” says Gulman, 49. “I connected with their neuroses and all the observational stuff.”

He also feels attached to a long line of Boston-area comics, but pays particular homage to two who are not widely known out of the area: Don Gavin (“a Robert Klein type who could really write”) and Paul D’Angelo (“extremely helpful to me when I was starting out”). Gulman saw Lenny Clarke (from Cambridge) several times when he was at Boston College; vividly remembers his mother taking him to see Jay Leno (Andover) at a Beverly theater (Gulman can still recite verbatim one of Leno’s jokes from that night, about Nancy Reagan); and traipsed around with Dane Cook (Arlington) on Cook’s 2006 HBO docu-series Tourgasm, though Gulman, who was in the middle of a depressive state at the time, clearly looks like he’d rather be somewhere else. He attended BC at the same time as Burlington’s Amy Poehler (“She did mostly improv and we didn’t know each other well”) and remains closest with Lexington-born Pete Holmes, who says that he “sat shiva” with Gulman during his most recent and challenging depression.

There may not be one single Boston style of comedy, Gulman says. “But what I do think is that Boston, this area in general, is just such good inspiration for us. The way we work is kind of—it sounds crazy—but kind of a Larry Bird thing, you know, being so intense on the court, so serious, so centered on getting it done. That Boston work ethic is what propels so many of us.”

The sports metaphor is apt. Gulman has long drawn material—not to mention a volcanic level of anxiety—from sports, into which he was, well, directed because of his 6-foot-6 height. At first, Gulman gravitated toward basketball because, as he says in The Great Depresh, “It’s the only sport where if somebody so much as slaps you on the wrist, they stop the game, separate everyone, let you make two easy shots, while everyone else is forced to watch quietly…as if to say, Think about what you did.” But his sporting life, as well as his inner life, was altered dramatically when John and Joe Taché, twin brothers who coached at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School and called themselves “The Jetsyns” (“They thought they were out of this world,” Gulman says), happened to catch him dunking in gym class. They relayed the intel to the football coach, and Gulman was all but forced onto the team for his senior year.

Gulman’s size and natural ability helped him shine—an article in the Salem News by the late Bill Kipouras labeled him “Mr. Raw Potential”—and he came to the attention of Boston College coach Jack Bicknell, who sent assistant coach Pete Carmichael to Peabody for a recruiting visit. Next thing you know, Gulman, after one reluctant year as a high school football player, was an Eagle, though he viewed himself more as a pigeon. “Two years prior, [Bicknell] had coached Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie,” Gulman says in The Great Depresh, “and then two years later he’s recruiting future participation-trophy advocate Gary Gulman.”

The central contradiction was that Gulman looked like a football player (he added 10 pounds of muscle before college and in 1989 reported for his first preseason training camp at 265 pounds) and sometimes performed like a football player (in most physical tests, he was surpassed only by future NFL star Mark Chmura, BC’s first-string tight end). But it was illusory, for inside he felt intimidated, anxious, and desperately alone to the point that he contemplated suicide.

It was a stroke of luck that, during the not-always-enlightened ’80s, Gulman opened up to Thomas McGuinness, a BC counselor who provided him with some simple advice: You could quit, you know. Appearing many years later as a guest on the The Hilarious World of Depression podcast, Gulman broke down when he discussed how with that simple message—Stop trying to force yourself into being something you’re not—McGuinness had sprung him from the prison of someone else’s expectations. (Citing confidentiality, McGuinness, to whom Gulman remains close, would not comment.)

Gulman didn’t see action during his freshman season, but decided to keep going and entered BC’s 1990 Spring Game full of hope and determination. Well, not really. What Gulman desperately wanted was a sign that he should quit. And he found it early on, after missing a block that enabled linebacker Mike Marinaro to crash into Glenn Foley, the prospective starting quarterback. “Jack Bicknell came running across the field and smoke was coming out of his ears,” Gulman remembers. “He really laid into me. On the one hand it was terrible, but on the other I thought, This is my sign. I’m sure it was self-fulfilling, but it still was dramatic. That Monday, I went into his office and quit.”

Gulman kept his scholarship, earned good grades even as he hit the local comedy clubs—including Giggles, the Comedy Connection at Faneuil Hall, and Dick’s Beantown Comedy Vault—and graduated with a degree in accounting. Then he took a job with Coopers & Lybrand, told a mediocre Joey Buttafuoco joke, and was on his way.

Sort of.

Over the past two decades, Gulman has made a solid living from club appearances across the country, residuals from TV and movie appearances, and the royalties from five comedy albums. He has developed both a steady following and the respect of his peers by turning himself into an oversize, 21st-century Mark Twain, spinning out long disquisitions on “the hierarchy of cookies” (“I never saw a fig outside of a Newton in my life”), the vileness of Blockbuster (“Why is this a new release…because it’s in color?”), and the disappointment of viewing The Karate Kid as an adult (“I don’t remember rooting for the Cobra Kai, but this time around I was like, ‘Ugh, just take him out’”).

Gulman’s stuff was funny, and, sure, sometimes silly, but he delivered it all with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. His six-minute riff on an imagined documentary about the group charged with assigning distinctive two-letter abbreviations to each of the states—the problems begin with Alabama and Alaska—has become a comedy classic. “This is one of those rare…perfectly written, realized, and executed comedy routines,” Patton Oswalt posted on Facebook after seeing the bit on Conan. Gulman avoided easy targets, breezy one-liners, and dick jokes. He burrowed deep, even if his material came packaged with a goofy smile and an I’m-just-up-here-having-fun attitude.

Religion and Judaism were—and still are—major topics for Gulman, who was influenced, he says, by the Jesuit intellectualism at Boston College. Some of his Jewish material is quick-hitting, such as the absurdity of installing breakaway rims in Jewish community center gyms (“In the history of the NBA, only four people have smashed a backboard, and not a one was a 10-year-old Jew”). In a somewhat more reflective set, he suggests that the Old Testament should be renamed “He’s Just Not That Into You” and says he finds the New Testament to be a refreshing sequel. “I like to call Jesus the ‘Frasier of Nazareth’” is one of his favorite jokes. “I love it when I can combine all my obsessions into one piece,” Gulman says, “and I’m obsessed with both Jesus and Cheers.”

Still, if you charted the success of Gulman’s 20-year career, it would be more or less a straight line. He never broke through in even a Dane Cook way, never mind a Seinfeld way. “It’s always some kind of combination of luck and timing if you hit it big,” says A-list director and producer Apatow, whose credits include Knocked Up, Trainwreck, and Girls. “Some comedians get pilots and take off. Okay, that didn’t happen with Gary. But however far Gary’s star rose was due to one thing—the quality of his work.” Gulman heard and appreciated the encomiums, but over time, he wanted more—a wider audience and an upward bump from the B-list.

Gulman was sure that he had the ammunition to make the jump as he prepared for a 2015 special at the Highline Ballroom in New York City. “I remember thinking, This is when I’m going to break through enough that I won’t have to worry about selling tickets, that I won’t have to be concerned about whether the audience is half- or three-quarters full,” he says. “I thought it was my best work, but the reception was lackluster. It just didn’t work. And then it took a year to sell the special to Netflix and it didn’t get a good reception there, either.” He started to doubt himself. “I started to worry I wasn’t going to be able to come up with a new hour, and I’d turn into one of these comedians that I dreaded becoming, the one who sees his audience dwindle because he’s doing the same act every year.”

No one is sure if a single event is needed to trigger a depressive incident, but Gulman is positive that his Highline show had a major effect. Soon after that, his father died, and that threw him for a loop, too. “So it was a combination of a number of things,” he says, “that sent me into a depression that lasted pretty much from the summer of 2015 until the fall of 2017.” It was the mother of all depressive spells, his worst yet. He worked only sporadically during this period, and one night, after a gig in Denver, the urge to end the pain almost got the better of him. Alone in his room, Gulman held a butcher knife over his wrists and contemplated using it. “Comedians are known for being slobs,” he says, “so what would the poor cleaning woman think when she came in Monday morning and had that to contend with? So I backed off.”

Lines like that are Gulman’s way of coping—take the pain and marinate it in mirth. But it was no joke. Gulman was scared. Those close to him were scared. Everything in his life was tinder to his mental illness. He was only six months into an exclusive relationship with Sadé Tametria, a budding comedian, when she found herself living with a man who spent most of his days crying, sleeping, or combining the two. “There was a point when I honestly wondered if Gary would come out of it,” Tametria says. “My philosophy became: Make the best of every day because I don’t know how long I’m going to have him.”

Gulman canceled most of his bookings. He endlessly juggled prescriptions, consulted with shrinks, and studied the shade angles and wind currents of Manhattan street corners because he thought he might soon be living on one. On two occasions—once for three weeks and another for one week—he checked in to the psych ward of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), once a reliable cinematic horror vehicle but now considered the gold standard for treatment-resistant depression. “I was contemplating retiring from comedy, and then I thought about it some, and realized that retirement is a bit pretentious for what was going on,” Gulman jokes in The Great Depresh. “Johnny Carson retired. Michael Jordan retired. Gary Gulman, you’re giving up.”

At a loss for how to help him, Tametria eventually made the suggestion that he move back into his mother’s house in Peabody. “Gary was having a hard enough time pulling himself together without all the stress and economic anxiety of living in New York City,” Tametria says. “Money seemed like the one thing we could control.” They moved out of their midtown Manhattan apartment and got rid of their furniture. Tametria went home to spend time with her mother in Georgia, and Gary Gulman, all 6-foot-6 of him, decamped to his boyhood bedroom, stomach-roiling football photos all around.

Gradually, Gulman’s depressive fog began to lift, and at this writing it has stayed lifted. When you meet a person plagued by depression, it seems axiomatic that some of that nuclear-grade angst, some of the darkness, would have to show through, but that isn’t the case with Gulman. Over the course of three meetings in New York City, the only portrait that emerged was that of a joyful man at the top of his professional game, voluble and eager to engage, a Regular Guy with a fanatical interest in basketball.

There was no single dramatic aha moment in his recovery, and he believes that the latent effects of the ECT were a major factor. After 11 months, from June 2017 to May 2018, he left the safety of his hometown and moved back in with Tametria to an apartment in Harlem. With his depresh in remish, he began writing, took a couple of gigs, and began to talk onstage about depression. He sent some of that material to his manager, Brian Stern, who suggested that Gulman build an entire show around it. A well-known director, Michael Bonfiglio, came aboard, and he got his better-known friend Apatow on board, and next thing you know, Gulman had the potential for a hit. “It was like HBO granted us a Make-a-Wish,” Tametria says.

So The Great Depresh was born, and, in a way, so was a second career—and maybe a second life—for Gulman. “A lot of times comedians don’t get big right away,” Apatow says, “but they keep digging deeper and deeper and revealing more about themselves, and that’s what Gary has done. This is his moment.”

The Great Depresh begins with a short, sad scene filmed two years ago at the Comedy Studio (it was still in Harvard Square then) during a period when Gulman could barely get out of bed. He had asked for the spot because he thought it might help him, but he’s clearly lost, describing himself as being at “a cosmic bottom” while a dead-silent audience tries to figure out what the hell’s going on.

In retrospect, the Comedy Studio appearance was in fact a beginning, the first time Gulman not only talked in a serious way about depression, but also viscerally demonstrated its toll. Lord knows that comedy and depression are no strangers. Last year’s “Spark of Madness,” one of the eight episodes of CNN’s documentary series called The History of Comedy, was devoted to the mental-health struggles of comedians. So many celebrated standups—Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Sarah Silverman, Woody Allen, and Ellen DeGeneres among them—have talked about their struggles with depression, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness. “I despised myself pretty much close to getting out of the womb,” Richard Lewis, one of Gulman’s heroes, says in the documentary. The Australian monologist Hannah Gadsby has circled around the subject of depression, as well as autism, in her recent HBO specials.

Yet it is Gulman who seems to have found the ideal space—considering his affection for millennials, he might even call it a safe space—to talk about a mental illness that affects an estimated 11 million Americans. His long standup background allows him to shift gears between light and dark with an abject professionalism. As Kathryn VanArendonk of New York magazine’s Vulture put it in her review of The Great Depresh: “It’s affirming without being trite, and it’s warm without being simplistic.”

Gulman has managed to serve up an essential PSA dressed in comedy clothes. We learn things in The Great Depresh, among them the benefits of the horrifying-sounding ECT treatments and the you’ll-get-through-it mundane horrors of prescriptive side effects. “I will take impotence and diarrhea simultaneously,” Gulman says in the special, “if I can smile at a sunset!”

He offers advice, in his non-pedantic fashion, to those with depression—get out and interact even if you don’t feel like it; there is hope; you’re not alone—and, offstage, feels comfortable enough to have begun a kind of comedic advice column on Twitter. I found that when I stopped using any swears the audience greatly appreciated it. Being Gulman, he also reliably responds to most people who tweet at him.

Another reason The Great Depresh is a hit is Gulman’s essential likeability. He has long come across as The Guy You Root For. “I would hear that Gary was in a difficult period, and I saw how it affected everyone who knew him,” Apatow says. “And when you started to hear, ‘Hey, Gary is coming out of it,’ you saw how happy that made everyone, the love they have for him.”

But the real reason The Great Depresh succeeds is that it speaks to our times, a 74-minute window into the national zeitgeist. We are divided, upset, anxious, sad, and, yes, depressed, and along comes this good-looking, appealingly earnest ex-jock-in-disarray telling us that he feels depressed and anxious and alone, and that he’s been struggling his whole life with those feelings, but maybe, just maybe, you can come out on the other side.

And so, on January 18 it will be a different Gulman who takes the stage for two shows at the Wilbur from the lost soul who lifelessly occupied a stool at the Comedy Studio. He has new material, a role in a hit movie (he plays a comedian in Joker), and a new outlook on life, sprinkled, though it must be, with caution. “You can never say you’re cured with this disease,” Gulman says. “It can sneak up on you. But I know I’ve moved forward, with help from Sadé and a lot of other people. It’s really meant something to me when people come up after a show and say, ‘I really appreciate you talking about depression. It’s going to be very helpful.’”

Gulman says he prepares for his Boston appearances throughout the year. He expects to see friends he hasn’t seen since grade school and kids he taught at Peabody High School during a substitute gig he took to supplement his comedy income during the late ’90s. When he’s in front of a hometown crowd, Gulman says, he feels like “the best version of myself.”

But, really, there is no new version of Gulman, no Gary 4.0 or whatever the number might be. He is the sum and substance of all that tenebrous history, all those moments when he felt that he was lost, and all those times, too, when he climbed his way out. He has shown us the hurt and how it can get better, but we also sense that, for Gulman, as for many of us, life is a tightrope walk, and the time he gives us onstage is less a performance than a communion of common souls, all of us searching for the light.

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Retired Delta Air Lines captain John Bailey still has flying in his blood.

He admits every time an airplane goes overhead, he looks up.

“My mother said that I wanted to be a cowboy at first, but as I recall, even before college I think I wanted to fly,” Bailey reminisced.

Bailey eventually did so, first in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and then for Delta Air Lines as one of the few black pilots who earned their wings in the years following the Civil Rights movement.

PLANES IN HIS ROOM, PLANES IN THE SKY
As a child, Bailey was fascinated by flying. Airplanes hung from his bedroom ceiling at a time when flying was all but reserved for the military and for people who could afford the price of commercial flights.

Bailey received an officer’s commission in the U.S. Air Force, a common route for many would-be aviators who sought a career in a cockpit, but a medical examination almost kept him on the ground.

“This airman who gave me the physical, I don’t think he liked me,” Bailey laughed. “He said I had sickle cell anemia, he said I had poor eye acuity, poor eye accommodation, on and on.”

The results forced Bailey to work as a logistics officer. However, his time on the ground was brief, thanks to an invitation from his commanding officer to play basketball. After the game, the officer asked Bailey why he wasn’t on flight status. Bailey pointed to the results of his physical.

“You don’t have sickle cell anemia,” Bailey recalled his colonel’s response. “You couldn’t run up and down this court the way you did if you had sickle cell anemia.”

A new examination confirmed the colonel’s on-the-court test of the young pilot, and soon, Bailey was back on flight status. His Air Force career included 120 combat missions and hundreds of hours in the cockpit.

However, Bailey knew his future as an aviator would eventually lead him to a career as a commercial airline pilot.

“It’s more humdrum, flying passengers and flying through weather, as opposed to being shot at, so it’s much nicer,” he joked.

FROM THE AIR FORCE TO DELTA
Bailey’s commercial career began at a time when few black pilots flew for airlines. Racial discrimination in the 1950s and early 1960s kept commercial cockpits as whites-only. In 1957, Marlon Green, a U.S. Air Force pilot, applied for a job with Continental Airlines, only to be denied after the airline discovered he was black.

Green’s subsequent lawsuit led to a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found he was the victim of discrimination. The landmark ruling broke the color barrier for commercial pilots, and the following year, American Airlines became the first commercial airline to hire a black pilot. Continental would eventually hire Green in 1965.

In 1968, Delta Air Lines hired its first black pilot, Sam Graddy. Though Bailey, then in the U.S. Air Force, never met Graddy at that time, his name was almost legendary.

He was “bigger than life,” Bailey said of Graddy. “I’d heard about Sam, even in Vietnam.”

Bailey called Graddy to discuss several job offers from competing airlines. The two spent an hour on the phone, and later met in person for dinner. Bailey recalled Graddy left him with an unforgettable piece of advice.

“Black pilots fly with white pilots every day, but they fly with a black pilot maybe once in a lifetime. It’s up to you to establish a degree of comfort in the cockpit, so they’re comfortable flying with you,” Bailey recalled from his meeting with Graddy, “Let them know that you’re just another pilot.”

Bailey followed his mentor as a new Delta pilot. The two even flew together, which Bailey remembered as a “great time,” though he admits he was nervous because “I wanted to prove myself.”

“Imagine the thought of flying with the Sam Graddy,” Bailey said with a smile on his face.

Bailey flew numerous planes for Delta in his nearly 30 years as a pilot. One of them, the Spirit of Delta, is now on display at the Delta Flight Museum, within sight of an exhibit honoring him and Delta’s other pioneering black pilots and crew members.

He took CBS 46′s Tracye Hutchins on a tour of the plane, which is mostly a museum itself, but the cockpit is still the same as Bailey remembers.

“It’s a gorgeous airplane, it really is,” Bailey said as he looked over the Boeing 767 and its glass cases of Delta flight memorabilia from prior decades.

INFLUENCING THE PILOTS OF TOMORROW
Now retired from Delta, Bailey hopes his experience will convince more people to follow in his footsteps as a pilot. He speaks to students about careers in commercial and military aviation, from pilots to mechanics and air traffic controllers.

“It’s important now that we get kids interested in flying,” Bailey said. “It appears the magic, the mystique of flying, isn’t there anymore and we’ve got to somehow convince more kids to want to become pilots.”

Government and industry statistics show aviation remains mostly dominated by older white men. The average age of a licensed pilot is nearly 45 years, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Nine out of 10 pilots are white men, data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, and fewer than one in ten are blacks or women.

These statistics are something Bailey hopes to change by encouraging more people to pursue aviation careers.

“It’s not just African-American pilots,” he said, “I want more female pilots, I want more Asian pilots. As one of my kids said, the airplane doesn’t know your skin color, it’s just an airplane.”

At Delta, two pilots made history at the airline in 2017 by being the first black women to make up the cockpit crew on one of the airline’s main flight routes.

Capt. Stephanie Johnson and First Officer Dawn Cook flew an Airbus A320 from Detroit to Las Vegas in February of that year. Johnson had already made history as Delta’s first black female captain.

“There were no pilots in my life growing up, and I think I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college,” Johnson said in a video on Delta’s website. “But for as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with airplanes and would think, ‘What a great thing it would be to know how to fly.’”

Such milestones are a source of pride for Bailey as he looks back on a long career and a future he hopes will be filled with pilots who shared his dream as a child.

“I do remember asking myself, why me, why was I selected to do this? Maybe a few years ago, after I retired, I thought, why not me,” Bailey said, “I’ve worked hard, I deserve it. That’s what I tell [students], why not you?”

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Throwback Thursday: The time a rookie punter held out for a whole season

Josh Keatley
June 27, 2019 7:32 am ET
When most people think of holdouts they think of superstar skill-position players like Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson or Kam Chancellor. The fact is a punter doesn’t really come to mind, let alone a rookie punter. And it happened with the Browns.

The Cleveland Browns selected Ohio State’s Tom Skladany at No. 46 overall in the 1977 NFL Draft. Thanks to his hardheaded agent, Howard Slusher, Skladany never put on a Cleveland uniform.

Way back before the rookie wage scale, it was not completely unheard of for a rookie to sit out an entire season or never see a snap with the team that drafted him. Kelly Stouffer and Cornelius Bennett in 1987, both traded by their original teams halfway through their rookie seasons, are good examples. Even star Bo Jackson re-entered the 1987 draft after sitting out all of 1986. Even though the names above are extremely notable, the first rookie ever to sit out an entire season was Skladany.

Drafting a punter in the second round was high even for 1977, but Skladany was the first specialist in Big Ten history to be offered a scholarship. He left Ohio State with three All-America selections and the school record for longest field goal at 59 yards. So clearly he was worth the second round selection, but in classic Cleveland fashion, Browns owner Art Modell couldn’t get his name on the dotted line.

Skladany’s agent was another Ohio State graduate in Slusher, the man loathed by NFL owners because of his reputation of having his clients hold out. Modell once called Slusher the No. 1 thorn in pro football’s side. The Skladany holdout made an impact on how Cleveland handled the 1978 draft too. If a rookie is selected and never shows up, he is eligible to re-enter the next draft, and that forced Cleveland in a mad dash to try and find not only a trade partner but also a team willing to pay Skladany what he wanted.

Skladany had to be dealt by May 2 or he would have been eligible for the next draft and Modell apparently had a number of teams inquire. A deal was reportedly close with the Los Angeles Rams that would have given the Browns a pair of second-round selections, but they couldn’t swallow his giant price tag and that caused the Browns to scramble for a suitor deep into April. Eventually the Detroit Lions snagged Skladany for a much less-impressive third-round pick in 1978 and seventh-rounder in 1979. After this debacle, Modell swore to never draft a Slusher client again.

Not only did Cleveland lose out on a great punter, they went back to the well at that position during the 1978 draft. Cleveland selected punter Johnny Evans out of North Carolina State in the second round; yes, the Browns took another punter in the second round and he struggled, lasting three seasons as a Brown before moving on to the Canadian Football League.

Skladany ended up being a stud in Detroit, earning All-Pro honors four seasons in a row before he and Slusher decided to hold out again during the 1982 season. After that year, the Lions refused to budge and forced Skladany out. He only contributed in seven games that season with a noticeable drop in production. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1983; he injured his back, was released after the season and failed to land with an NFL team again. Most felt that the reason he failed to land anywhere else was Slusher being so tough to work with.

It is a situation that would happen only to the Browns, and Skladany’s career is a perfect example of how important and impactful having the right agent can be. After Skladany was released by the Eagles, Modell said it was a shame what happened and noted that he would have likely had a longer career had he signed with Cleveland after being drafted.

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OAKLAND — With a quarter of a century of Raiders home football coming to a conclusion Sunday, the number that comes after 252 is zero.

I’ve covered 252 Raiders games at the Coliseum since 1995. There were 48 exhibition games of which I remember almost nothing, expunged immediately from my brain as being the pointless exercises they were. Five postseason games, of which the Raiders won four. And 198 regular-season games, of which the Raiders won 94 and lost 104, with No. 199 coming up Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I did miss one game in 2003. My 6-year-old son needed a hospital visit after an asthma attack and croup and wasn’t released until 6 a.m. Sunday. The Raiders lost 27-24 in overtime to the Jets that day. Since the game was blacked out locally, a common occurrence at the time, I never did see it.

I do remember senior executive Bruce Allen and CEO Amy Trask both calling me the next day to make sure he was OK. He was fine and outgrew the asthma. Sixteen years later, the Raiders have outgrown the Coliseum.

Truth be told, for the most part I saw a lot of bad football in a special place.

If your standard of being a “good” team is a winning record, I’ve seen four good teams in 24 years, with the Raiders needing to win two of their last three to get to five in 25.

It was nothing like my youth, my dad taking me to my first Raiders game in 1968 when I was 10 years old. Daryle Lamonica was the quarterback for the Raiders, Marlin Briscoe for the Denver Broncos and the roar of the crowd was unlike anything I’d ever heard at a baseball game.

My dad eventually scored some seasons tickets into the early 1970s so I was able to see a lot of great Raiders teams. Was standing in the end zone concourse when Clarence Davis made the “Sea of Hands” catch against the Dolphins. Used to argue with friends in high school who thought Roger Staubach was a better clutch quarterback than Ken Stabler. (No chance).

By the time the Raiders left for Los Angeles after the 1981 season, I’d disengaged, having chosen a media path in college and settling in as an unbiased observer.

When the Raiders came back after 13 seasons, I went from general assignment jack-of-all-trades to mostly covering the Raiders, which has been my primary responsibility ever since.

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The team was seldom as good as the one I saw in my youth other than a three-year run ignited by Jon Gruden from 2000 through 2002 and then one outlier in 2016 under Jack Del Rio.

Local Raiders fans, however, kept rising to the occasion at their much maligned venue.

Raiders fans look different, sound different and are more diverse than any other in the NFL. It’s the best tailgate spot in the NFL (good luck duplicating that in Las Vegas) and the hard core among the fan base turned out despite getting comparatively little in return from the team they worshiped eight times a year.

They hung in there despite an owner in Al Davis who was a Hall of Famer but no longer the seer and icon who helped shape the sport. They instead got a man chasing his own mortality, hiring nine coaches in 21 years in an attempt to stay relevant before his death in 2011.

Yet that didn’t shake their most serious fans, who remembered Davis for the good, set aside the bad and embraced the organization under his son Mark as he tried to hire the right people to pick up the pieces.

For that, what came to be known as Raider Nation deserves praise and a salute, without getting into city, county and stadium politics.

Twenty memories from a team and organization that became a bigger part of my life than I’d ever imagined:

A fan gets a head start on saying goodbye in last week’s loss to the Tennessee Titans. Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group
1. The whole back-to-Oakland seeds were planted on Aug. 26, 1989, when the Raiders hosted an exhibition game against the Houston Oilers. Tickets sold out instantly. Totally insane parking lot scene. Todd Christensen getting standing ovations in pregame warmups. The Oilers won. No one cared.

2. An unexciting but significant 17-7 win over the San Diego Chargers to open the 1995 regular season. The Coliseum and its fans took center stage in their return to Oakland.

3. Andre Rison catching a 33-yard touchdown pass from Elvis Grbac as time expired as the Raiders lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 28-27 on Monday night in Week 2 of 1997. Coach Joe Bugel couldn’t even address the media, leaving it to cornerback Albert Lewis.

4. The Chargers and Raiders combining for 28 punts (17 by Leo Araguz, 11 by Darren Bennett) in 1998 and somehow winning when third-string quarterback Wade Wilson completes his only pass of the day — a 68-yard, third-and-10 pass to James Jett on a play called “Bingo Cross.” The Raiders win 7-6.

5. The Raiders beating a playoff bound Tampa Bay team 45-0 in Week 15, putting both Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kaufman over 100 yards rushing and looking like they might be on to something the next season.

6. Cornerback Tory James intercepting a Jay Fiedler pass and returning it 90 yards for a touchdown on Miami’s first possession in the Raiders first playoff game since their return to Oakland following the 2000 season. Still the loudest I’ve ever heard the place. The Raiders won 27-0.

7. Baltimore defensive tackle Tony Siragusa bellyflopping on Rich Gannon the next week, injuring his shoulder in the AFC Championship game. The Ravens win 16-3 and go on to win the Super Bowl.

8. Tim Brown, owner of more catches than anyone in Coliseum history with 393, catching his 1,000th career pass with his mother in attendance in a 26-20 win over the Jets on Dec. 3, 2002.

Tim Brown is the all-time leader of receptions at the Coliseum with 393. Mercury News file photo
9. Charlie Garner dragging his injured leg out to his car on a Friday at the team facility, then somehow playing the next night against the New York Jets in the playoffs after the 2001 season. He rushed for 154 yards and had an 80-yard touchdown run. Jerry Rice found the fountain of youth with nine receptions, 183 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders win 38-24. They go on to play the New England Patriots the next week on the road and . . . well, you know what happened.

10. Charles Woodson coming off a six-week absence with a cracked bone in his shoulder, being asked to cover Terrell Owens one-on-one and giving up 12 receptions for 191 yards in a 23-20 overtime loss to the 49ers in 2002. That wasn’t the amazing part. Woodson faced the media afterward and steadfastly refused to consider his injury and layoff as an excuse. It told you as much about the man as any of his successes.

11. The Raiders beating the Tennessee Titans 41-24, confetti falling at the Coliseum and the Raiders winning the AFC Championship and returning to the Super Bowl. After that . . . never mind.

12. Brett Favre passing for 399 yards and four touchdowns the day after learning of the death of his father on Monday night as the Packers annihilate the reeling Raiders 38-7 on Dec. 22, 2003.

13. Gruden coming back to town in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Raiders jumping to a 30-6 lead en route to a 30-20 win. Gannon, NFL MVP in 2002, injures his neck in a collision with Derek Brooks in the first quarter and it ends his career.

14. Art Shell returning to the sidelines in 2006 and the Raiders looking shockingly inept in all phases in a 27-0 season-opening loss on Monday night. Got more bitter Raiders fan posts on a first-year “Inside the Raiders” blog than at any other time.

15. The Raiders losing 38-26 to the Chargers in the 2011 regular-season finale, missing the playoffs at 8-8, and coach Hue Jackson airing out his team in the aftermath and promising to make changes in the organization. Mark Davis, who assumed control following his father’s death on Oct. 8, has other ideas. Jackson is fired.

Derek Carr calls for help after breaking his leg after being sacked on Christmas Eve, 2016. Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group
16. The lone exhibition memory — Derek Carr throwing three touchdown passes in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason finale in 2014 and winning the job as starting quarterback from Matt Schaub.

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17. An 0-10 Raiders team gets its first win despite a Sio Moore-Khalil Mack sack dance which causes Justin Tuck to call a time out with the Raiders leading 24-20. Hilarity in the press box. The Raiders hold on.
18. Charles Woodson announces his retirement to the media during the week, and the Raiders beat the Chargers 23-20 in overtime on Christmas Eve, 2015. Woodson makes an emotional speech to the fans following the game.

19. With the organization rejuvenated under Del Rio and poised for an AFC West title and maybe more, Carr is sacked and suffers a broken leg in a win over the Indianapolis Colts on Christmas Eve, 2016. They lose the division title to Denver the next week, then are blown out in the wild card game.

20. The 2019 season opens with a 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos, with Carr completing 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards and rookie Josh Jacobs rushing for 85 yards. It’s considerably more impressive than any of the four wins in Gruden’s first year back in 2018.

After a dress rehearsal of sorts a year ago against Denver — the Raiders were threatening to play elsewhere for a year before going to Vegas because of their ever-present disputes with the city and county — it’s time for the real thing Sunday.

The Raiders may not win the game, but their fans have consistently won the tailgate. They didn’t deserve this. Raise a toast in their honor.