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For 27 minutes last Sunday, it looked as if the Oakland Raiders, who haven’t won a game since Nov. 17, 2013, might finally turn things around. The opponent was none other than the Denver Broncos — with Peyton Manning at the helm – so no one was surprised when the Raiders lost, extending their losing streak to 15 games in a row. Scott Ostler, sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, joined Bill Littlefield to shed some light on the Raiders' futility.
BL: Scott, what’s it like to cover a team that hasn’t won a game in nearly a year?
SO: Well Bill, it's kind of exciting. As a sportswriter, I think the two kinds of teams you want to cover are a team that's really good, or a team that's sort of epically bad. Not to be a ghoul or anything like that, but there's a certain excitement in a team that's got a chance to lose every game.
BL: The Raiders are only five games shy of a franchise record — 19 consecutive losses, set back in 1961 and 1962. Approaching that mark has led some reporters to call up the folks from that ill-fated team for comment. Must be kind of fun to hear from them again, huh?
[Raiders fans] wake up everyday to this horrible reality ... They've had 12 seasons in a row of extreme losing.Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle
SO: [Laughing] The Raiders have a great, great, great history. And they were so good for so long that it's hard to find the old guys. You have to go way back, so they're digging back in the history books.
BL: Raiders defensive lineman Antonio Smith has actually participated in 23 losses in a row. Smith played for the Houston Texans last year -- he racked up his first 14 consecutive losses there. But I suppose nobody is suggesting that this is all because of the curse of Antonio Smith?
SO: [Laughing] That's a good one Bill, I was not aware of Antonio Smith's streak. I went to the Raiders' media session and Derek Carr, their rookie quarterback, was there and I was feeling kind of sorry for him. Here's a guy who's now nine games into his pro career and became a surprise starter this year and in some ways is really a feel-good story for the Raiders. And here's a guy who's never won a football game in his pro life, and there's no immediate prospects that he ever will. It's got to be kind of discouraging.
BL: The NFL record for consecutive losses will likely always belong to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost the first 26 games they played. The Raiders have three Super Bowl wins, but they haven’t had a winning record since losing the Super Bowl in 2002. Does a history of success make failure harder to take?
SO: I think it does, because it's like you have this fan base, these people who still believe in those old Raiders. And it's like they wake up everyday to this horrible reality that those days are long gone. They've had 12 seasons in a row of extreme losing. So, it's got to be a pretty depressing thing. I sound jovial and upbeat because I'm a sportswriter — I don't care. But if I was a fan I'd be kind of bummed out.
BL: [Laughing] I hope all those fans are listening to this. Ostler doesn't care!
SO: No, I do care. I like to see the local teams do well. It helps my readership and all that stuff. But I just don't live and die like a real fan, I guess.
[sidebar title="Cardinals' Surprising Start" width="630" align="right"] At 8-1, the Arizona Cardinals lead the NFC West. [/sidebar]
SO: Well, I'm not a betting guy Bill, but if I had to bet I'd bet against that happening because they've got seven games left. And the way the NFL's set up with parity and scheduling and all that stuff, it's really, really, really hard to go 0-16. It's not an easy thing to do. So they've got their work cut out for them.
BL: The Raiders can leave Oakland at the end of this season. Team owner Mark Davis is reportedly being courted by Los Angeles and San Antonio. Why would any city want the Raiders at this point?
SO: [Chuckling] Well, it's an NFL team. San Antonio would love to have them because they don't have an NFL team, and they're considered by many people kind of a lesser city. Having an NFL team boosts your stock in some circles. Los Angeles, we don't know. They haven't had an NFL team in many, many years — basically since the Raiders left. Nobody knows if they really want one. We know that the TV executives and so forth want a team there for the ratings and for the huge market. But the whole Raiders moving situation is so up in the air, it's crazy. They could leave tomorrow for all we know.
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This segment aired on November 15, 2014.
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