Football fandom is supposed to be fun. It's meant to distract us from our miserable lives, not reinforce the worst qualities of them. It's supposed be something light hearted, not a soul killing experience. Football is supposed to supplement our enjoyment, not be an emotional burden. And yet that is exactly what football has become for me. You see, it's the Holiday Season, and Raider Fan's alcoholic dad just fell off the wagon. Now some of you reading this are probably saying to yourselves "How dare this clown make fun of a real issue like alcoholism! My father is an alcoholic!". I'm not mocking alcoholism. Far from it. My dad is a recovering alcoholic, so I've been down that road. Here's the thing: I'm drawing an illustration using an extreme like alcoholism to prove a point, and you're going to have to deal with it. So do us all a solid and turn in your outrage badge for a few minutes and revel in my malaise. Or don't. I don't care.
I've made the comparison of being Raiders fan to having a drunk for a father before, but for some reason I'm at a point now where it actually affects me more than it used to. It's almost as if I actually expected better. You know how it goes: things were good when you were little then one day dad gets laid off and loses it. Rather than deal with things like a man, Dad chooses to crawl into the bottle. Lies are told, promises are broken, words are said. Mom gets good at making excuses and soon is able to predict when Dad is about to blow. She sends you to bed and turns the volume up on the TV, but you can still hear her crying as Dad rambles on and on before passing out on the couch in a puddle of his own piss. The next morning he shows his shame and tells you that it won't happen again and that he loves you and Mom and he's going to change. You give him a hug but you know deep inside he's the same bitter prick and the next time he hits a bump in the road he's going to come unglued again. You know this, and you're 7 years old. Did I mention you're 7 in this scenario? Yeah, you're 7 and you already know Dad is seriously messed up. A week later the car breaks down and Dad downs a bottle of Kessler and takes a bat to the car. Mom grabs you and you head off to Grandma's house for an indefinite stay.
Weeks go by and there's no sign of Dad until he shows up on Grandma's front lawn at 2 in the morning, screaming at Mom before hopping into his car, backing over the mailbox and fishtailing out of sight. At this point you know Dad is beyond repair. He can't change. He won't change. Mom knows this too, so she hires a lawyer. You sit in his office and tell this total stranger who Mom says is cool all the crazy shit your dad has pulled. The lawyer calmly writes it all down and says some things you don't understand to Mom and you go back to Grandma's house. A couple days later Dad is on the front lawn again, but it's different. The car is properly parked. He's not jumping up and down. In fact, he's on his knees. He's not screaming. He's speaking to Mom with kindness in his words. There's tears in his eyes. Her eyes, too. Mom wipes the tears away and smiles as she tells you to go inside and back your bags because we're going home. Things are going to be normal again. Well, normal for us, at any rate.
On the way home Dad tells you about how much he missed you and how hard he's working to change. He's got a new job working at the plant. He's going to meetings. He's going to church. Everything is going to be better. Except it's not, and you know this, but you play along anyway. Man, you are pretty damned cynical for a 7 year old. For the first few weeks it looks like maybe Dad really did turn the corner, but inevitably the cracks start to show. You start to notice unusual quantities of mouthwash in the house. Dad starts missing a few days of work. Sometimes he comes home really late. Mom doesn't want to believe the collapse is coming, but she knows it is. Still, she put on the brave face because Christmas is coming and she's having the family over to show just how far dad has come in his recovery. Christmas Day arrives and Dad says he got called in to work some overtime. You know his plant is closed on Christmas. Mom knows the plant is closed on Christmas. She knows the collapse is at hand, but she packs a lunch for his fictional overtime anyway and kisses him as he walks out the door and reminds him that dinner is at 5. Your entire family shows up for dinner. 5 o'clock comes around without Dad. Then 6 o'clock. At a quarter to 7 Grandpa says "to hell with it" and starts to carve the bird just as the door flies open and in walks Dad. The REAL Dad. Drunk Dad. Even from 15 feet away you catch a whiff of his trademark scent, Kessler, and you sit back and get ready to enjoy the show. For a 7 year old you sure have a demented sense of humor. Dad starts yelling and screaming as mom hands him a plate of food that he promptly throws at the wall before punching out Grandpa, knocking over the Christmas tree and yet again passing out on the couch in a puddle ofhis own piss. Then you're back and Grandma's house where the whole idiotic cycle will start again.
This is what being a Raiders fan is all about. I can't give up because you never give up on Dad, but we're 2 losses away from spending the rest of the winter at Grandma's house until Dad shows up on the front lawn towards the end of summer and Mom takes him back again. And so on and so forth.