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NFL Quarterback Ken Stabler the man I hated and loved

Updated on July 11, 2015

Kenny "The Snake" Stabler 1945-2015

American Football League Begins

I was born in Denver in 1960 the same year that the American Football League (AFL) a rival to the longtime established National Football League (NFL) played its first ever football game. The AFL consisted of 8 originals teams Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans, Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Titans, My beloved Denver Broncos and the team everyone in Denver hated the most the Oakland Raiders. All eight teams are still alive and kicking today after the AFL and the NFL merged together in 1966. Some of the original eight moved to different cities and some changed their names, but all eight hail from the beginning of the short lived American Football League.

Growing up in Denver I was raised in the beginning of one of the greatest American football rivalry the Denver Broncos Vs. Oakland Raiders. In Denver you were born a Bronco fan and with that title you just automatically hated the Denver Broncos division foe the Oakland Raiders. It was something that bonded all Denverites together, our hatred for the Raiders. It was a grand and wonderful time. I look back on this time in awe, it truly was love and hate relationship.

Outside of my home, my youth was some like the TV show "The Wonder Years". My mom would kick me out of the house when the sun rose in the east and didn't expect me home till supper time, in those days my mom didn't know nor did she worry how I spent my days of summer. My friends and I rode our stingray bicycles with the banana seats, sissy bars and playing cards cloths pinned to the spoke to make a rattling sound as we sped down our block. We swam and tubed down Bear Creek and after supper we would play "Kick The Can" a hide and seek game that used the light pole in the center of our block as home base. But several days a week my pals and I would play football during the heat of the day and in the middle of the street with cracks in the pavement as our crooked but all important goal lines.

Denver Broncos logos through the years

Oakland Raiders logo hrough the years

"The Snake" greeting the press

Why the hate?

As I remember it the Oakland Riders during the time of my impressionable youth was that they owned my loved Denver Broncos. What I mean by owning was during the years from the years of 1960 till 1977 they the Raiders kicked our butts in what it seemed almost every game. In 1977 that changed when the Bronocos defeated the hated Raiders in the American Football Conference (AFC) championship game 20-17 and earned the right to represent the AFC in the Superbowl against an Americas team the Dallas Cowboys. My most loved Broncos would go down in defeat in the Superbowl to the Cowboys. But winning the AFC championship over the Raiders was a defining moment not only in my life but in the city Denver. It gave us that strutting and cocky edge, not unlike what the Raiders had in the 16 years prior.

From the years of November 1963 till October 1977 in a span that lasted 30 games the Oakland Raiders had an outstanding 25 wines, 3 losses and 2 ties against the Denver Broncos. As a diehard and lifetime Bronco fan what is there not to hate about the Raiders.

The Oakland Raiders of the 60's and 70's were an assembled lot of what seemed as misguided and possibly dangerous outlaws who happened to play professional football, the gang was led by none other than their outlaw quarterback Kenny "The Snake" Stabler. Their head coach John Madden seemed like an out of control loud mouth who ranted and cried on the sidelines. The Raiders general manager and later their owner was Al Davis, who by all accounts earned the title of the most hated man in the National Football League (NFL). Al Davis challenged the NFL time and again, thumbing his nose at the establishment with a smirk on his face and the whole time his ball club was winning football games. The silver and black, "Commitment to Excellence" and "Just Win, Baby" were all the brainchild of Davis.

The Raiders during this time use to beat the Bonocos with ease with a team which seemed to be consisted of hard cases and possibly criminals. They did not seem to study the game at all and it was believed that they drank and smoked pot right up until kickoff against the Broncos. Stabler was known for his womanizing and partying and if the stories are true, he actually would play games hung over with no sleep from the night before. The team had several strange but interesting characters down through the years such as Jack "The Assassin" Tatum, John Matuszak (He played the deformed Sloth in the 1985 movie "The Goonies" and Tonda in the Ringo Starr movie "Caveman", Fred "Stick Em" Biletnikoff, Jim Otto (Whose number on his jersey was the double 00) and the Raiders even acquired Denver Broncos bad boy Lyle Alzado (Who fought an exhibition match against Muhammad Ali during his stay in Denver).


Kenny Stabler and Fred "Stick Em" Biletnikoff

Denver linebacker Joe Rizzo tackling Kenny Stabler

Why the love?

In those early years and with all the butt kicking the Oakland Raiders handed out to my Denver Broncos I could not help but wonder what if I lived in Oakland and how I would love for them to be MY team.

What I failed to mention when I spoke earlier about playing football in the streets was we were never the Denver Broncos back then we were the branded outlaws of the NFL the Oakland Raiders. My pals and I won all our Superbowls on that hot cracked pavement of Grove Street. We wanted to be associated with the Champs and we would rock, scissor and paper to see who got to be Kenny "The Snake" Stabler and throw long down the street. My next door neighbor to the north of me was named Archie who was tall and super skinny like a scarecrow and Archie was also retarded. In our innocent youth we always thought he looked like Fred "Stick Em" Biletnikoff so Archie our friend never got to be "The Snake" he was always "Stick Em".

Don't get me wrong my friends and I loved the Denver Broncos more, but we loved the mystery and the romance of being an outlaw, a swashbuckling one eyed pirate. And to top it off they were winners and seemed to get all the girls. And Kenny Stabler was the leader of the pack. Kenny Stabler was the man.

I loved growing up in a town that had such a rivalry such as the Denver Broncos Vs. Oakland Raiders. I learned early on it was fun to hate and cuss the Raiders along with owning a dog every young boy should grow up loving a sports franchise and hating another, sort of an American tradition.

So in my hate for the Oakland Raiders and Kenny Stabler of my youth I also learned to love the man that he was. I never met Mr. Stabler but if I had I would have told him that in a lot of ways I idolized him for being a man that could care less what others thought of him. He was a winner, Superbowl champion, All pro, womanizer, drank too much, cuss too much, a man's man and one hell of a football player. Rest in peace Mr. Stabler and thank you for the memories of my youth.

Kenny "The Snake" Stabler quotes

"I started my life third and long. I got kicked off my high school team. I got kicked off my college team. I have had third and 15 my whole life. Everybody has rocky moments from day one. But sometime you pick up third and long, and that is where the money is. That is where the satisfaction comes, from the game and life".

"There is nothing wrong with reading the game by the light of a jukebox"

"I would never second-guess. I can't do it any other way. I did it that way. That was me"

"I don't know if I was wilder than most. I don't know if I did what other kids don't.... But there has to be a fire in you. I don't know if there is a wildness...But I think inside of you there has to be something that makes the fire burn harder than others".

Ken Stabler

No. 12, 16

Position: Quarterback Personal information

Date of birth:(1945-12-25)December 25, 1945

Place of birth: Foley, Alabama

Date of death: July 8, 2015(2015-07-08) (aged 69)

Place of death: Gulfport, Mississippi

Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)Weight:215 lb (98 kg)

Career information

High school: Foley (AL)

College: Alabama NFL draft: 1968 / Round: 2 / Pick: 52

Career history

Career highlights and awards

Career NFL statistics


Passing yards:27,938

QB Rating:75.3


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    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Kevin Goodwin 

      3 years ago

      I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame.

    • kurtreifschneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Kurt James 

      3 years ago from Loveland Colorado

      I agree and as a Bronco fan he was fun to hate. Read a story about a game where Madden was the coach and Stabler the QB and it was a close game and raiders were moving the ball for the go ahead touchdown with less than a minute in the game. Stabler gets behind center than looks up and called a time out and runs to the side line and Madden almost lost his mind and was screaming and yelling at Stabler. Stabler runs up and tells Maddeen "Hey Coach look around at all these people in the stands sitting on edge, these is what it is all about" Stabler turned around and ran back in to make the play and win the game.... how could you not like that?

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Stabler not being in the Hall of Fame is one of the most disgraceful omissions in sports. He was clutch; a leader of one the most iconic franchises in NFL history. What are these guys are thinking? Great article. Voted up.

    • kurtreifschneider profile imageAUTHOR

      Kurt James 

      3 years ago from Loveland Colorado

      I agree Ty Tayzlor after hearing of his death I was actually surprised he wasn't already in the Hall of Fame....

    • Ty Tayzlor profile image


      3 years ago from Anywhere

      I know his career numbers aren't anything that jump out at you, but his reputation as a clutch quarterback and notably victories make him more than deserving of the Hall of Fame


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