DENVER -- The Raiders return to relevance on Sunday.
Is that good or bad for the Broncos and Denver?
It’s good. The Broncos need the Raiders. Denver fanatics need the Raiders.
The National Football League needs the Raiders, just as it needs the Cowboys. And just as the NBA needs the Knicks and the Lakers and the Celtics. And the NHL needs the Montreal Canadiens and, well, all Canadian teams.
And just as Major League Baseball needed the Chicago Cubs to win . . . finally. And the sport needs the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Dodgers.
No matter what you may think, “Two And A Half Men’’ needed Charlie Sheen. The Cleveland Indians probably needed Charlie Sheen to throw out a first ball one home game in the World Series.
Sometimes, the world just needs certain teams and people, hate ‘em or love ‘em.
Without the Raiders, the league had a missing link – especially since Al Davis died in 2011. The Raiders have been irrelevant, immaterial, extraneous, inapt and inept.
And, even as a Broncos’ loyalist, deep down inside, you have to admit you missed the Raiders. When the Broncos were beating Oakland those eight straight times, the Raiders had become just another common garden-variety team. They weren’t the Great & Powerful; they weren’t Pride & Poise. They weren’t The Team of the Decades or The Team of the Decadent.
They were just the harmless Oakland Raiders. You couldn’t poke fun at them and those silly people who still wore the Raiders jerseys. The Black Hole had become just a hole to go hide in. Silver & Black was a sliver black in the depths of the division.
Now, though, The Oakland Raiders are back.
The Los Angeles Raiders never sounded right, and the Las Vegas Raiders never would be the same.
But Oakland -- of which Gertrude Stein once offered: ”There is no there there’’ – now has some there there again. And Jack London is no longer square. And the Bay Bridge leads from San Francisco to somewhere instead of nowhere.
Another Jack, Jack Del Rio, has helped bring the Raiders credibility again. He grew up in northern California a Raiders fan himself, going to the games with his dad. When he was a rip-roaring linebacker at USC, he would attend the Raiders games in L.A. and cheer them on. He wanted to play for the Raiders, but never got a chance. He coached Jacksonville and with the Broncos, but he always was a Raider guy, unlike Mike Shanahan, who wasn’t comfortable as a Raiders coach, and it didn’t last long.
Al would have liked this hire. Del Rio has given the vertical offense a home again with Derek Carr and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (who wandered over from the other side of the Bay), and the Raiders are setting record with penalties (last week), just as they did with John Madden, and they’re the mean, awful Raiders once more.
In Denver, they were always the insufferable Raiders. Then they just became the suffering Raiders.
Suddenly, though, they got the Broncos attention last year by coming into Denver and winning a squeaker. And that winning attitude has carried over.
The Raiders are 6-2, and the Broncos are 6-2, and they fighting for the division title again, and all is right with the world.
The Raiders, in fact, have become the only Pacific Coast Time Zone team to go to the East and win five consecutive games. They could become the Florida state champions this year after beating Jacksonville and Tampa Bay back-to-back.
And they will become the AFC West leaders in the clubhouse if they beat the Broncos on Sunday.
The Raiders, in my opinion, will beat the Broncos in a tight one, 24-21.
As I’ve suggested this week, it’s O vs. D. Of course, Oakland vs. Denver. But it’s just like 1977 when it was Oakland Offense against Denver Defense. Remember Stabler & Company against Gradishar, Alzado (who turned coat when he went to the Raiders) and Jackson, who screamed at Madden, “”It’s all over, Fat Man,’’ when the Broncos intercepted Stabler seven times, and the special teams scored on a fake field goal when holder/backup quarterback Norris Wees threw to kicker Jim “Mile High Tops’’ Turner for a touchdown.
And the Broncos beat the Raiders again for the AFL Championship 20-17.
In the James Bond movie “Never Say Never Again,’’ Q said to Sean Connery: “It’s good to have you back sir. Does this mean we’ll have gratuitous sex and violence again?’’
It’s good to have you back, Raiders. Does this mean the rivalry is reborn, and we can expect some gratuitous stuff on Sunday?
The Broncos and The Raiders deserve each other. They get after each other on Sunday night. As it should be.