Today was the first time Greg Papa had his show on Bay Area Radio station 95.7 The Game since the day it was revealed he would not be returning as the radio play-by-play voice for the first time in 21 years. He and Tom Flores will be replaced by Brent Musburger and Lincoln Kennedy.
There had been a lot of speculation as to why the team made the change now. Papa told of how the story began and just how much of a long time coming his firing was.
As Papa explains, it stemmed from nearly four years ago, when it was revealed Mark Davis interviewed Mike Shanahan of all people for the team’s vacant head coaching position. This didn’t sit well with a lot of people who know how much seething hatred there existed between Shanahan and Al Davis. Papa, being a radio voice, expressed his displeasure over it on the air, as one would expect.
“[Al Davis] took his hatred for those men to his grave and I was well aware of it, we all were,” said Papa. “This to me crossed a line. So, the show went on that day in January.”
Soon thereafter, Jack Del Rio was named head coach and at the same time Marc Badain was named team president; a move of which Papa approved and said positive things about on air. Badain thanked Papa for his kind words and the two had dinner. At which point Badain revealed that Davis was not happy with him over his on-air criticism of the Shanahan interview.
“So I called Mark Davis the next morning very early and the phone conversation did not go well,” Papa said. “He wound up hanging up on me. I don’t know exactly what he wanted me to say — if he wanted me to apologize for my feelings — I said I am sorry you feel this way, it was not a direct shot at you, it’s just sometimes I feel as though there’s nobody around here to defend Al. And I knew how much this would... and it was just too close to Al’s passing to have this happen.”
Davis was also upset Papa didn’t call him before he went on the air with his complaints. But as Papa explains it, he had only found out 15 minutes before going on air.
“He wanted me to call him and talk about it and honestly I said ‘anything you would have said 15 minutes before me going on the air was not going to soothe my emotions.’ It really would not have helped.
“As the owner of the team, I understand he felt that way, but for him to want me to say I’m sorry, I’m not. And I’m not sorry to this very day. And I lost a job that I did for over 21 years at the highest level, a job that I love beyond any job I’ve had, I’ve done it the longest. This is painful for me personally to lose this...um (voice cracking).. association with this particular team. But I do not take back those words and I do move on in my own life.”
From that point forward, Papa says he was “Public enemy number one” around the organization. He was taken off the preseason simulcast and removed from the Silver & Black Show which he had done since Jon Gruden’s second season in 1999.
Papa thought that was his punishment and everyone would move on from there. But it was far from over.
“I took my penance and I understand,” Papa continued. “I thought it was really over. We never were able to mend fences, Mark Davis and I. Whenever we were around each other, standing right next to each other many, many times, I reached out to him to say hi, he ignored me and I thought over time it would dissipate, I thought over time it would really go away. And Jon, initially, in the offseason wanted me more involved in the organization and so to get informed of this so late in the offseason...and when I asked Mark Badain on July 5th and he told me I’m not coming back, couldn’t he have told me in March or April? Why now? And his response basically was ‘You’ve been doing this for 3 1⁄2 years and I’ve lasted 3 1⁄2 years.’”
In case you’re wondering why Papa would see the timing as suspect, July 5th is the day after Al Davis’s birthday. The timing would seem to be sending a clear message.
Among the natural speculations with his departure is the Las Vegas move. That always seemed odd in and of itself because the team isn’t scheduled to officially move the team for two years. So, of course, the thought was that Papa had said he was unwilling to keep covering the team once they leave. He says that was not the case.
“[T]he Las Vegas angle to this discussion was never at play here,” Papa said. “It was never brought up to me. And while I was away, there was a laughable defense raised out of issue far greater than this, one of the greatest issues in our country today of the difference between the words ‘would’ and ‘wouldn’t’ which is amazing to me.
“But in any respect as it pertains to me, I was never asked would I go to Las Vegas. I never said I wouldn’t go to Las Vegas. It was never presented to me. And I never said I wouldn’t go, I would certainly be open to going to Las Vegas . . . what’s so bad about flying down to Las Vegas on a Friday, having a nice weekend there, doing the game there on Sunday with a hangover and coming back? It was never presented to me and in light of where I stood now in the organization...I don’t work directly for the Raiders. . . I never was a direct employee of the team, so the Las Vegas angle is not a part of this.”
Then, with the air cleared, and the reasons behind his sudden and surprising removal from the booth, Papa went about saying his heartfelt goodbye to the Raider Nation. As only this long faithful voice of the Raiders can.
“I think the bottom line, as I say goodbye to the Raider Nation formally today, I don’t fit anymore with this team. I just do not. It’s not just me, it’s John Herrerra, it’s John Kingdon, it’s Bruce Kendrick, it’s John Ott, it’s Jimmy Ott, it’s Dave Nash, so many. I just don’t fit anymore. So I wish them luck.
“It’s going to be a hard year for me. You know how much I love this game. The hardest day for me is the day after the Super Bowl every year, because I’m not going to have a game to broadcast for months. . . This is not Al Davis’s football team anymore and maybe that’s my own mistake that I never realized it. The day he died, that Saturday in Houston, I should’ve realized it years ago, but I’m only realizing it now (chokes up again and goes off the mic).”
Co-host Bonta Hill took over speaking for Papa at that time.
I have nothing to add. Greg Papa said all that needed to be said. The Raider Nation is the worse without his voice.