Raiders, Call Nader 

Go see the classic NFL underdogs

Sun 1/2

And now ... the last Raiders game of the season. For the second year in a row, the team that competed in Super Bowl XXXVII failed to make the playoffs, causing dismay in the Black Hole while establishing themselves as classic NFL underdogs. Penalties, miscues, and turnovers have dogged them through the season, and injuries to such would-be stalwarts as defensive tackle Warren Sapp have sapped the team's enthusiasm. Meanwhile, veteran quarterback Kerry Collins has kept the Raiders' passing stats respectable -- but something always happens. Defensively, they could use some help. Sunday's home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1:15 p.m.) could be a chance to salvage a glimmer of hope, but listen for the sound of trucks backing up in the off-season. -- Kelly Vance

Sat 1/1

To the Woods

Suit up for the Nature Bowl

Here's an alternative to spending New Year's Day slumped in front of a desultory college football game on the tube or standing in line for forced merriment and stale popcorn at the multiplex -- the Nature Bowl at Livermore's Sycamore Grove Regional Park. As sponsored by the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District and hosted by LARPD naturalist Sharon Peterson, it's a chance for everyone, from toddlers to geezers, to get out and romp around in the woods, playing games and learning about the land, a 742-acre former Ohlone enclave. The fun begins at 1 p.m. at the park, 1051 Wetmore Rd., Livermore. Parking is $2 per vehicle, and a $2 donation is requested. Visit to learn more. -- Kelly Vance


Flattery Row

Get away to Monterey

Winter is milder in Monterey. Butterflies and whales cross paths on their migrations, and sea otters wink at kayakers. Beginning January 1, the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau is promoting a Wild for Nature package for admirers of wildlife and the outdoors. Take a gander at a multitude of birds in the wetlands of Elkhorn Slough Safari. Go for a whale-watching boat trip and glimpse the world's largest mammals -- blues, grays, humpbacks, orcas, and minkes. View bald eagles at Lake San Antonio, and kangaroos at Wild Things. Visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary and learn why monarchs prefer Monterey pine trees. Meditate amid the rocks and surf at Point Lobos State Preserve -- but keep an eye out for deer and sea lions. And naturally, spend at least an afternoon at the marvelous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Kelly Vance


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