When I heard Tom Flores’ name selected as a member of the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, I teared up. Not trying to hide that or lie, the announcement struck a chord with me that I never knew existed. While I’ve followed and rooted for the Raiders for the majority of my life, I try to maintain a semblance of impartiality. For those that read my columns about the Raiders, no punches pulled and abject honesty. Yet, Coach Flores’ announcement brought me to the point of happy tears.
Nostalgia and Success
Defeating Washington in Super Bowl XVIII marked the last time the Raiders sat atop the football world. On my little bedroom TV, nine-year-old me cheered. I remember telling my father that the Raiders would keep winning Super Bowls. ” Nothing in life is a given”. To this point, thirty-seven years later, no Raiders team lifted a Lombardi Trophy. Watching the video of that game before writing this, you could see the level of calm and confidence Coach Flores displayed, walking the sidelines. While the film appears grainy, the memories stay vivid and crystal clear. The Raiders won their second Super Bowl under Tom Flores in five seasons. The last great era of the team.
While ecstatic for the induction announcement, the internal pettiness within me struck. What took the voters so long? Flores last patrolled the sidelines in 1994. Twenty-seven years and twenty-two years of eligibility. Why? The conspiracy theorist surmised the decades-long feud between the league and Al Davis played a role in the delay. Yet, would the writers take sides? Granted, the vote and deliberation are held behind closed doors. So, no one will own their arguments. Instead, that veil of secrecy will always conceal what transpired for two-plus decades of conversation. In all honesty, the previous selections of Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher will never sit right.
Next month, Tom Flores turns 84 years old. Many, including myself, worried that the former Raiders head coach would receive this honor posthumously. To paraphrase a popular saying, Coach Flores received his flowers while he could smell them. That is to say, he can blow out his birthday candles with the thought of entering the Hall of Fame. Health willing, the former quarterback, assistant, and coach will take the stage in Canton. Donning the gold jacket and seeing the bust will mean the world to a man that handled his entire career with class and composure. Flores will look out and see his contemporaries, old rivals, and players, knowing that he takes his place among the immortals in Canton.
In any other case, the axiom” Good things come to those who wait”, should be a mantra. Yet, it doesn’t feel appropriate. Tom Flores deserved the honor long ago. Now, that snarkiness slides to the side. For a man that broke down doors as a Latino quarterback, assistant, and head coach, he adds another honor to his resume. Tom Flores stands alone in so many respects. Canton called, he answered. A man that saw both sides of an ugly rivalry finally goes to Canton. All is right, for at least tonight, in RaiderNation.