- OPENING LINE
- PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY
- THE PLOT
- THE AUTHOR
- THE NARRATION
- THE PRODUCTION
- FINAL THOUGHTS
- QUICK FACTS
‘Tales From the Oakland Raiders Sideline’ is one of several books that were released to chronicle some of pro and college sports most historic and iconic franchises. Out of the several that were released, the Raiders one interested me for two reasons.
The first is that I am a card carrying member of Raider Nation. I have been a fan of the silver and black for over twenty-years and it has been a journey of ups and downs with sadly far more downs than ups as of late.
The second reason is because I love wacky stories. The more absurd the story is, the more I am likely to enjoy it. These two reasons are not exclusive. Going through the history of the Oakland Raiders you are going to come across an abundance of characters and big personalities.
The Raiders organization possesses something that very few other organizations in sports have which is a franchise specific personality. Yes, there are teams that have won more games and more championships but not all of those franchises have personalities that are so easily defined. The Raiders are renegades, they are underdogs or cheaters depending on your vantage point. They are the ultimate villains but that is far from an insult. Often, the villains are remembered long after the good guys who opposed them have been forgotten by history.
If I tell another football fan that a certain player is a prototypical Raider, they are able to call up a mental picture of what that means in there head. There are not that many other teams in professional football or sports in general for whom the same thing can be said. What does a typical Jacksonville Jaguar look like, or a typical Atlanta Hawk?
Fans will agree that few can compete with Tom Flores for inside knowledge about the Oakland Raiders. First a quarterback for the team, then coach, and now a broadcaster, Flores has a wealth of stories about the team, which has tended to attract colorful eccentrics that would have trouble fitting in elsewhere. Gary Littman’s upbeat performance embodies the iconoclasm and quirky charm of these players. Listeners will enjoy stories about characters like Ted Hendricks – whose pranks included riding a horse onto the field while holding a lance – delivered with a dose of good humor and “Can you believe that?” attitude by Littman.
It’s almost impossible to talk about Oakland football without bringing up the name of the consummate Raider, Tom Flores. Legendary for both his skills on the field and his coaching guidance from the sideline, Flores has been an integral part of the Raiders organization since its inception in 1960. Now Flores shares the greatest stories and anecdotes from his time with the team in Tales from the Oakland Raiders Sideline. Flores relives the heart-stopping thrills and adrenaline-surging passion of Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII, and provides behind-the-scenes humor from greats such as former coach and owner Al Davis and coach Eddie Erdelatz. Flores also shares tales of other Raiders greats such as Billy Cannon, Jim Otto, John Matuszak, Bo Jackson, and more. Without a doubt this is a must-have for any Raiders fan.
©2003, 2007, 2012 Tom Flores and Matt Fulks (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
The first thing I feel it is important to note is that the book originally came out in 2003. Revisions have been made over the years and the audiobook covers the most recent edition which includes comments on the passing of the team’s legendary owner, Al Davis.
The stories told in the 2003 version appear exactly as they did originally. This means that someone memorialized early in the book after having passed away is discussed as though they are still alive and well in later portions.
The tales are often humorous because of the personalities involved or the situations that they were facing. Traveling in the earliest days of the American Football League was quite interesting. I have read books on the earliest days of the NBA, The American Basketball Association and other organizations over the years and they all seem to contain stories of difficult travel conditions. This is undoubtedly because in the earliest days of any type of sports league, they tend to want to keep costs down and that can create some difficult travel conditions.
The stories are often disjointed, however. They do not flow as naturally as one might like. Flores will tell a story about nightmarish travel, then a story about a game, then one about his time with the Bills or Chiefs and then another story dealing with travel. This might sound like it is difficult to follow but it really isn’t the case. In fact, it adds a little charm to the book because you feel as though you are sitting across the table from Flores and he’s just telling you stories from back in the day that come off the top of his head. When it comes to the section about individual players, it does flow better because of the decision to handle them in alphabetical order.
The chapter dealing with the players is the book’s biggest bright spot. It is interesting how the tone of the comments are different depending on whether or not the player in question is one that was a teammate of Flores, a player under him as a coach or one that he observed as a broadcaster. As this section was done in 2003 there are no profiles for guys like Tim Brown, Charles Woodson, Steve Wisniewski or other more modern Raiders.
Any criticisms about story order or things being brushed aside without much comment are minor. This is not the complete history of the franchise up to this point and was not meant to be. This is a time capsule that deals with an era that for better or worse is gone for good. I would love it if someone compiled an oral history on the Raiders some day but as each year passes more and more of the legends you would want to hear from have passed away.
Matt Fulks is a journalist who has written several books and a few of them in the same vain as this one. However, Tom Flores is really the person speaking. As a quarterback, assistant head coach, head coach and broadcaster, Flores has been around the Raiders for almost the entirety of the team’s 55 year existence. There really is not a more qualified person to tell the story of the Raiders. It is clear that Flores loves the franchise but does not view things through rose colored glasses.
Gary Littman does an acceptable job with his narration. The first thing I noticed is that he reads at a pretty brisk pace. He does make it a point to slow it down when something is really supposed to sink in the listener’s mind.
I can’t help but feel that Tom Flores should have been the book’s narrator. This is not meant as a criticism of Littman’s performance but a comment on the familiarity that long-time fans of the team have with Flores’ voice. Flores is a broadcaster for the team and is not afraid to dole out praise or criticism when appropriate. His experience as a broadcaster does not guarantee that he would have been a good choice as a narrator because it isn’t exactly the same job. I have know knowledge if there was any thought to having him narrate the book or if he even would have been interested.
The production values for ‘Tales From the Oakland Raiders Sideline’ are less than impressive. There are no musical cues or sound effects and there are the appropriate number of chapter stops put in the right places. However, the track itself just sounds weird.
It often does not sound like it was recorded with the same equipment from session to session. Things sound heavily spliced together and the sound of Littman’s voice is not consistent. I thought it might have been a case of my ears being fooled by a change in his inflection but that seems unlikely.
The only real criticism I have with this book, aside from the production values, is that it isn’t long enough. I feel like there is enough material for a second volume and possibly a third. The Raiders have been involved in some of the NFL’s most historic moments and a few like the Heidi game are only barely mentioned. For instance, it would have been nice for Flores to talk more about the team’s first Super Bowl victory.
I think I would be willing to read another similar book covering a different franchise. There is one out for the New York Mets and I would at least consider that one. I am far from a Mets fan but that organization had some difficult early years and off the wall personalities and that is often times all you need for something like this.
|Title||Author||Narrator||Publisher||Genre||Release Date||Running Time||Score|
|Tales From the Oakland Raiders Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Raiders Stories Ever Told||Tom Flores, Matt Fulks||Gary Littman||Audible Studios||Sports||02/13/2013||4 hours, 49 minutes||6.5/10|
A copy of ‘TALES FROM THE OAKLAND RAIDERS SIDELINE: A COLLECTION OF THE GREATEST RAIDERS STORIES EVER TOLD’ was purchased from Audible for review.