Snake eyed: Stabler embodied attitude that was backed by toughness and talent

07/11/15 by Rennie Detore



I wasn't fortunate enough to watch Kenny Stabler play for the Oakland Raiders.
Stabler, who died July 8 of colon cancer at the age of 69, was a tough talking, hard throwing lefty for the Raiders and helped the notorious silver and black attack win a Super Bowl in 1977.
That's two years before I was born.

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None the less, the internet and a father who loved football and was a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan in the 1970s was the perfect storm to really get a sense of the kind of quarterback Stabler was in his prime.
Before Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and even Joe Montana and John Elway made fourth quarter comebacks cool, Stabler was the epitome of accepting that his team was down late in the game and putting that squad on his proverbial back to win games when all hope was lost.
His teammates and his legendary coach John Madden all proclaimed Stabler's affinity for winning after his passing the past week. They commented that Stabler had that innate ability to win when it counted.
My dad, who will recall just how wonderful and tough the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the 1970s, a decade that saw them win four Super Bowls, couldn't help but opine about Stabler and laud him for how he'd never back down from those same Steelers and fought back against a defense labeled the Steel Curtain.
Stabler's on field accolades speak volumes for a player that seemed well ahead of his time in how he played and won. But equally amazing was Stabler and how he exuded a coolness about him. I mean his nickname was "The Snake." It doesn't get much better than that. Talk of Stabler and how he was always flanked by female fans or how he'd be hanging out in places that if it were 2015, he'd be on Twitter and Facebook and be caught by a camera phone or video so often that he'd be dominating the pages of NFL.com on a daily basis.
But that decade and generation of football isn't like 2015. Stabler oozed and epitomized Raiders' football during a time when being bad was good. History shows in sports that often the bad guy becomes beloved because he plays by his own rules, and if his personality is such that fans flock to him out of respect and admiration for his passion, toughness, skill and ability than what he or she does when they're not participating in a professional sport is moot.
You can argue that Johnny Manziel, the embattled Browns' quarterback, is one of the more despised figures we have in sports. Manziel hasn't earned anything. His reputation in college was that of someone who reeked of entitlement. He's done nothing on the field to earn anything, so when journalists and broadcasters alike compare Manziel to Stabler in the sense that why was the latter player allowed to get away with being bad and actually revered for it, while the former is chastised, it often is laughable even beyond the fact that the 1970s and 2015 are two completely different time period.
Much like the Raiders' mantra, Stabler just won. Manziel is floundering by his own accord.
A player like Stabler is tough, rugged and appealed to both sexes for a multitude of reasons. Had he not won on the field, he'd be in the same boat as Manziel. I'm not suggesting one is right or better than the other, but often winning soothes all.
Stabler's career is one that is beloved and looked fondly upon because of not only his wins and losses but how he cultivated and carved out his niche by playing on and off the field by his own rules.

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