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It's OK to cheat

Page 2 columnist

I know, I know ... you've lived and died with the same team your whole life. But the special teams played like mildly retarded pacifists, your first-round pick had the sniffles, your QB and your coach weren't speaking -- one way or another, you're sitting in the collective whirlpool we call an early offseason.

Andre Rison
You want tradition? Well, Andre Rison is a classic Raider reclamation project.
The fact is, a typical NFL season gets your hopes raised in training camp, only to be dashed at some point before Super Bowl weekend for 29 of the 31 teams. What are you supposed to do with your passion? Your needs? Your lust? Put 'em on a shelf and settle for some meaningless NBA games? As my late, great father used to say in his thick Hungarian accent: "Permit me to vomit."

The gaping maw of the offseason is licking its chops, ready to swallow you whole. So come on. You know you want to do it. Lord knows you deserve it.

So go ahead ... cheat.

Find yourself a new team to have a fling with. No harm, no foul -- they got eliminated, not you. It's like locking yourself in a hotel for two weeks with a stewardess.

I'll admit this year I've been cheating with the Saints. Always liked the team, love the town, and could you find a better story line to seduce you? Week after week, they defied the spread and the pundits and played like they actually enjoyed playing the game. What's not to love?

But reality finally knocked on their door, and now I'm faced with four survivors.

I like the way Gruden mixes a young stud's swagger with the perpetual brow-crease of a constipated old man.

For me, it's a no-brainer: I'm going with the team that got me through the late '60s and the '70s, when my own Buffalo Bills were suffering through some butt-ugly years, and I got into the rhythm of choosing a surrogate to cheat with in the playoffs -- the Raiders.

I always pictured Oakland as Buffalo's sister city on the West Coast; Blue collar, ethnically diverse, the brunt of all these jokes that they could never be San Francisco. The fact that I also had Oakland to thank for The Tower of Power sealed the deal.

I like NFL films "Raiders' Theme." I liked the way they became a halfway house for lawless miscreants and rejects, transforming dead careers into Pro Bowl berths. And yes, dammit, I liked the vertical game.

When I see the Silver and Black, I think Hendricks, and Stabler. I think Warren Wells, University of Mars grad Otis Sistrunk, and by god, my all-time favorite Raider back, Hewritt Dixon.

In the current millennium, I like the way Gruden mixes a young stud's swagger with the perpetual brow-crease of a constipated old man.

I like Rich Gannon's career reclamation.

And tell me Andre Rison doesn't have the classic Raider mystique -- bounced checks, burning mansions, and big plays.

And yes, I like Al Davis, the only owner who actually scouted, coached, and can still turn Machiavelli in the boardroom. Part loon, part genius, Al's the man -- a maverick then, a pariah now, when the league's boardroom is split between second generation boobs and Gordon Gekkos. The only owner left with more charisma than wallet, and he does it wearing shiny warm-ups normally associated with crack barons and Pai Gow tables.

So, while the Bills mull over a new coach and how the heck to sign Eric Moulds, I'll be rooting for the Raiders. It's kind of like cheating ... and kind of like getting back together with an old girlfriend.

Just for a couple of weeks.

Humorist Nick Bakay, currently a writer for the CBS sitcom "King of Queens," is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Page 2. He has a Web site at

ok to cheat 

Bakay: Old school vs. new school

Bakay's 2000 unexpurgated NBs

Bakay: The line on prima donnas

Bakay: The look of a winner

Bakay: What would Facenda say?

Bakay: Wrestling with the XFL

Bakay: When roasts go bad

Bakay: The two-QB system

Bakay: Reveling in rivalries

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