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By The Californian
By Steve Flores
The start of each football season brings me back to a memorable Sunday morning several years ago in Hollywood.
My family spent Saturday in Tinseltown and rather than take the long drive back home to Bakersfield, we decided to splurge a little and spend the night in Hollywood.
Early Sunday morning, I snuck out of the hotel room to find doughnuts for my still-sleeping family. It was football season so I was proudly wearing my team colors...my #16 Jim Plunkett Oakland Raiders old school jersey.
For the uninitiated, Jim Plunkett is a former National Football League quarterback who played college football for Stanford University, where he won the Heisman Trophy. He also led my Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders to two Super Bowl victories.
As I strolled through the spacious hotel lobby, I thought I was alone but then noticed an elderly gentleman slowly walking toward me. He was very distinguished, almost statesman-like in his dark grey pin-stripe suit, crispy white shirt and purple tie. I would guess he was in his early 70s. I thought maybe he was the hotel manager but he wasn't wearing a hotel name tag.
Because of the serious look on his face, I thought maybe my family and I had too much fun in the bar the night before or made too much noise in our room.
He walked directly up to me and stopped me mid-step. He looked straight at me with his blue unemotional eyes and without a hello, or even a how are you...he said, "Do you know how Raider fans count to 10?"
I am sure he was happy with the perplexed look on my face. Without giving me a chance to respond, he leaned into me and as though he were telling me an earth-altering secret, whispered in my ear, "0 and 1, 0 and 2, 0 and three...0 and four..." and then he walked away. Not a glance back, not a smirk, no giggles, no emotion. Like a Ninja assassin who just delivered the five finger exploding heart move on me, he just turned and walked away satisfied that I would crumble in the hotel lobby in my Raider jersey.
I looked back to see him walk away. I certainly wasn't going to give this anti-Raider-senior-citizen-Ninja-joke assassin the pleasure of hearing me laugh. Like the sun beam riding movie character K-Pax, he silently disappeared into the morning glow of a real Hollywood sunrise. Or at least that's how it seemed.
It took me a minute to get my land legs back. The whole encounter was surreal at best. It was a funny joke delivered in a very memorable way. I just stood in the lobby for a few seconds, proudly straighten my Raider jersey and nimbly walked outside to continue my quest for doughnuts.
As I walked through the hotel courtyard just outside, a maintenance man was busy watering the beautiful flowers along the walking path. He looked up at me and noticed my Raider jersey, and with a smile, and with what I thought was going to be a "good morning," said, "Hey, who you guys losing to today?"
Wow. They must be giving free lessons at the Hollywood Raider Hater School.
I eventually found the doughnuts and returned my bruised Raider ego to our hotel room to my awakening family. I explained what happened on my doughnut expedition and they all laughed, as I do now whenever I recount that special football morning in Hollywood.
The Raider jokes have been relentless over the past years. The best part is they have usually been delivered around a smoking BBQ pit while sipping a cold one with family and friends. And really, that's what I look forward to the most each football season...spending time with great company.
So, good luck to you all on the start of many Monday Night Football games and throughout the season. I hope your teams win, but just not when they play the Raiders. And I hope your wins include being with your family and friends.
And to that elderly statesman and maintenance man in Hollywood, see you and my Raiders in the 2014 Super Bowl!
Just win baby.
Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.