Never saw it coming, what he said. Not at all. This was an interview about one man’s love and heartbreak for the Oakland Raiders. Not that David Carrillo had to say much. His office is a shrine to the team, with the 70 Raiders pictures hanging from the four walls surrounding the nine Raiders coffee mugs and drinking glasses, the five Raiders helmets, the four Raiders clocks, the two pair of infant Raiders baby shoes. All that was missing was a Raiders partridge in a Raiders pear tree.
Carrillo, a Cloverdale resident since 1987 who works as a material control manager for an air-brake manufacturer, had been filling his sentences with phrases like “they are like a family to me” and “they are an extension of who I am.” Tears were in his eyes. He was clutching the words before they came out, weighing their import. He was setting himself up for the courage to say the horrible, the unspeakable, the so incredibly tragic.
“My dad killed my mom when I was four months old,” Carrillo said.
The sentence hung silently in the air, inviting no response. Not like one could say, “And who’s your favorite Raider?”
Carrillo, 51, had his 22-year-old son, Isaac, with him. Both had moist eyes. The office walls disappeared. There was just That Sentence floating between us. Without saying so, I was begging David to say something. Anything. He did.
“That mother’s love,” Carrillo said, “I never had it.”
That family love, he never had it.
His dad went to prison, did his time, and was released. Killed again, went back again. Released again. The pattern repeated one more time and this time his father never left prison. He passed away a few years ago. Carrillo, 51, made a sour-apple face when asked if he had communicated with his father. Carrillo was sent from San Jose to Fresno to live with his grandparents. Emmet and Elma did their best to ease his pain, but sometimes it wasn’t enough.
“I’d hear a kid say he got into a fight with his mother because she was such a b----,” Carrillo said. “It would hit me really hard.”
His temperature would boil. Didn’t the kid know how lucky he was to have a mother? Carrillo would complete that question with a punch or two. “The last time, I was 15,” he said.
That’s when the Oakland Raiders came into his life. That’s when David Carrillo found someone to love. It was the ’70s. The Raiders were wild and reckless and daring and Carrillo plugged his emotions into the team, hard-wired he was to every injustice they suffered, every mountaintop they scaled.
The Raiders were his second skin. Carrillo felt good because they felt good. Every time they won, Carrillo took another step away from loneliness. The Raiders were outside the norm, not part of the good ol’ boy NFL owner network. That made them even more appealing to Carrillo. With no mother and a felon for a father, Carrillo had been outside the norm ever since he could remember.
“My passion (for the Raiders) definitely stemmed from that,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo poured his love into the Raiders. He’d take his annual vacation and go to the Raiders’ training camp in Napa. As a season ticket holder when they returned from Los Angeles in 1995, Carrillo’s favorite Raider is Marcus Allen. Carrillo thinks so much of the retired Hall of Fame running back that he named his four dogs and two birds “Marcus.” Of course, the dogs didn’t all exist at the same time. When one pit bull Marcus died, he was replaced by another pit bull Marcus (there was a Rottweiler in there). Same with the parakeet and cockatiel.