|Thursday, May 3
Updated: May 4, 3:02 PM ET
A 'beautiful' Raider ... what's next?
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
Jon Gruden is on People Magazine's list of the 50 Most Beautiful, well, People, which leads us to the obvious conclusion that sucking your face into your mouth until the only things left are your eyebrows and thorax became the hot look while we weren't looking.
Not that we begrudge Gruden this profound honor, mind you. After all, there are worse things for a football coach who prides himself on his prickly exterior -- being thrown off a building, being set on fire by a torch-wielding maniac and coaching the Cincinnati Bengals come immediately to mind.
But a Raider, beautiful? What next, dogs commingling with cats, Tom DeLay dancing with Barbra Streisand, and Al Davis forming a biking-shorts-only human pyramid with Art Modell and Jerry Brown?
"Raiders" and "beautiful" are in fact mutually exclusive terms, and what is more, they should be. The Raiders stand for something, damn it . . . in fact, in some ways, the Raiders stand for just about anything . . . but beauty is not high on the list.
But now here comes Gruden, of all people, a man whose reputation was made first on the tricks his mug could do and then on his ability to overcome and then eradicate the defeatist elements on the roster -- one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is wrong. Plainly, simply, comprehensively wrong.
After all, Jon Gruden does not look like the sort who would break away from an early morning of film study to spend a couple of hours with a film crew from "E!" or do a fashion shoot for Esquire ("And here he is, the man of action, in a black visor by Fendi and double-knit coaching shorts by Hugo Boss").
But there are little cracks in the fašade. He's done Jay Leno, for God's sake. He might like this non-football fame thing, at least a little.
And yet, his obsessions for early mornings, late nights, and work in-between would seem to mitigate against his doing a 20-minute sit-down on "The View" or some equally soul-draining bit of mid-morning pap.
Besides, in direct violation of Raider custom, the team has sprung upon an unsuspecting world the odd show-biz talent -- John Madden, Matt Millen, John Matuszak, Marcus Allen.
Plus, they are trying to tunnel their way back to Los Angeles, which at last look still has more movie and television studios than Oakland.
And finally, there is Al His Own Bad Self, who is an award-winning documentary waiting to happen. All he needs do is say the word, and there's an Academy Award tale to be told.
A look in his closet at his 44 white/black/silver sweatsuits, organized neatly next to his 44 black/white/silver sweatsuits . . . an excerpted conversation of him explaining the vertical game to a bemused Rich Gannon . . . his opening gambit in negotiations, which involves pulling the wings off a local politician with blowhard tendencies . . . that gloriously improbable hair.
God, this is reality TV even the people like reality TV aren't ready for. Al, hosting "Total Depositions Live." In a word, "yipes!"
So maybe we're looking at this Jon Gruden/People Magazine thing the wrong way. Maybe "beautiful" is the wrong word to use here, but "interesting" would work better. So would "refreshing," and "morbidly fascinating."
Either way, maybe we should open our minds to the possibility, at least a little bit. Being one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People is hardly an honor to match, say, going 3-1 in the exhibition season, but it may open up whole new vistas for a team that has always considered its audience to be a mostly drink-it-straight-from-the-bottle demographic.
On the other hand, if we so much as hear a rumor about Pat O'Brien reciting the words to "The Autumn Wind Is A Raider," we're off the train. Same thing if Steve Wisniewski does a turn on "Good Morning America" exchanging recipes with Mary Stuart Masterson. There are, after all, some aspects of show business that simply cannot be countenanced.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle is a regular contributor to ESPN.com