In 1973, on the United Airlines charter flight home from Baltimore carrying the Oakland Raiders, who had just beaten the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium, head coach John Madden was complaining to two reporters sitting with him and me in the front seats that faced each other.
“They have us playing on different days, in different time zones and we still haven’t even played a game in our home stadium,” Madden griped. The ‘they’ Madden was referring to was the powers running the National Football League. Team owner Al Davis had promoted an environment where everyone was out to get his beloved Silver and Black, and we operated from a mentality that we had to do more to overcome their obstacles.
While I think it could be accurately stated that the feud between NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Davis was such that the Raiders were not going to get any breaks, the complaints about scheduling and officiating was as essential to the Raiders game plan as 17 bob trey oh, one of the team's favorite offensive plays.
“They tried to screw us with all their scheduling crap and we are returning home after seven weeks and six road games in first place,” Madden said as the reporters, Frank Cooney and Art Spander, scribbled notes.
It is true that the Raiders hadn’t played a game in the Oakland Coliseum until November that year, but the reason for that was not sinister. It was Davis and his top assistant, Al LoCasale, who chose to move our second week game out of the Coliseum and to the stadium on the campus of Cal Berkeley because they could sell more tickets at Cal than the Oakland Coliseum could accommodate. LoCasale had convinced Davis the Raiders could fill the 80,000 seats at Cal for our matchup against the Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins who were coming off their perfect 1972 campaign. The Coliseum capacity was just over 54,000.
The NFL schedule makers also had to consider the Oakland A’s home baseball schedule in September and their likely participation in the October playoffs because the Raiders and A’s shared the same stadium. In 1973, the NFL regular season schedule was limited to two days a week, the Sunday games and Monday night primetime contest, until a couple Saturday’s were utilized the final two weeks of the regular season after college football had completed their regular season. The Raiders were often scheduled for Monday Night Football and the late season Saturday games. The Raiders also often played in games that started at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time because they were a draw for television ratings.