And now, an ode to $6.45 million, and how it will heal an entire community.
The Oakland Raiders released JaMarcus Russell on Thursday, giving the 2007 first draft pick a $3 million golden parachute and saving Al Davis $6.45 million that he will turn into another player or players who will restore the Raiders to their rightful place at the top of the football universe.
Or not. I mean, it isn't like Russell came to a happy world and ruined it. The Raiders were crummy before he arrived, and the chicken-egg argument of whether he broke the Raiders or the Raiders broke him is truly valueless.
SI.com: Releasing Russell right move
But as a restorative move among the players, and more so among the fans, it couldn't be assailed. Even the typically head-scratching Raider move of giving Russell one last OTA (and risk an injury that could have cost the Raiders the full $9.45 million) will be swept aside in the general euphoria of no longer having him as the blame magnet.
The Raiders, after all, have been among the nation's leaders in mockery and scorn, and Russell has ranked high among their list of mockable offenses. Indeed, in the last seven years, the only comparable standard would be Lane Kiffin.
Russell, though, didn't provide the amusement that Kiffin did, even though Kiffin was in his way as uninspired by his surroundings as Russell was, and knowingly sabotaged himself, as opposed to Russell, who only might have knowingly sabotaged himself.
Russell was more actively reviled among the Oakland fan base, because while Kiffin offered himself as the anti-Al, Russell didn't offer himself as anything. He arrived late in his first year, didn't ever get himself up to speed, and regressed utterly last year.
Thus, while Kiffin's departure left the Raider fan base (shrunk down from a full-fledged "nation") split on who was more guilty, Russell galvanized not just the base, but the nation as a whole. If there was anyone who defended him, he or she kept his or her voice very very low.
So it goes, and now Russell is gone, leaving us to wonder only about that $6.45 million, and whether it can be successfully traced to the player who can help make the Raiders less of a laughing stock. If we can say, "Oh, JaMarcus Russell turned into Player X, and Player X did Y, and that helped the Raiders do Z," we can provide closure to both the organization and the fans who still believe in it.
And Russell? Closure will have to come further down the road, if it ever does. Nobody thinks him a hateful, mean-spirited person -- just someone who simply may not like football all that much.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.