By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, June 20th, 2010 at 12:52 am in Oakland Raiders.
It couldn’t be, it shouldn’t be, but it was.
If on some level I thought the Andre Ward-Allan Green WBA super middleweight title fight would be a temporary diversion from all things Raider, I was wrong.
Unlike the last Ward fight, which took place during the season in November, there wasn’t a Raider to be found at or around ringside Saturday night at Oracle Arena.
Then, with Ward having his way with Green throughout to the thunderous cheers of the home crowd, came a familiar figure.
Walking right past the press area where I sat near the aisle with columnist Monte Poole, I looked up as Ward was doing his work and saw . . . JaMarcus Russell.
He was wearing a University of Alabama red leather jacket and a new red Alabama hat. He was wearing sunglasses. Maybe Russell thought nobody would recognize him, given that he went to LSU and that sunglasses aren’t necessary in an arena.
Boy, was he wrong.
The boos started growing as an usher helped Russell find his seats. A Raiders fans wearing a crisp, new Rolando McClain jersey (No. 55), stood up and began taunting Russell, asking him for his money back on his season tickets. He’ll have to get in line, given that Al Davis wants $9.55 million of money he paid out to Russell as part of a grievance.
Russell attended the Nov. 21 fight between Ward and Mikkel Kessler, and although he got booed there as well, he stuck around and posed with sympathetic fans.
After Ward completed his 12-round shutout of Green, Russell heard the hoots again as he departed, with many fans standing and waving their hands in derision. There were a handful, however, that greeted Russell warmly, and one that even gave him a hug.
It was at the same time surreal and predictable.
Surreal that Russell would show up in Oakland at all. Surely he knows he’s well atop the list as the most unpopular ex-Raider.
Predictable that when Russell did get to the fight, it was two-thirds over.
It brings to mind one of the first qualities wide receiver Louis Murphy identified about Bruce Gradkowski when he took over for Russell last season.
Gradkowski, Murphy said, was punctual.
A strange appearance to be sure, but a remarkable contrast. Ward is earnest, serious about his craft and does little to draw attention to himself. Punctual, too.
Russell? None of the above.
Not sure whether Russell having the nerve to walk into that environment is something to be admired or pitied.
Green must have been OK with it though. For a couple of minutes at least, fans were diverted from the beating being administered by Ward.